Don’t let fruitcake anxiety ruin your holidays

imageNote: In observance of National Fruitcake Appreciation Day today, I thought I’d offer this rum-laced flashback…

Recent studies show that anxiety during the holidays is not only common but, in many cases, the result of FDAD — Fruitcake Disposal Anxiety Disorder. On one hand, your fruitcake is often given as a gift and therefore deserving of some measure of appreciation. On the other hand, you may have already tossed it into your neighbor’s yard, where it has become a chew toy for their pit bull.

This often leads to feelings of anxiety, particularly when you see “Buster,” still intoxicated with rum, struggling to dislodge the sugar loaf from his tightly-clenched jaws.

So, as a service to our readers, we assembled a group of psychiatrists to help provide insight into dealing with FDAD. At a cost of more than $200 an hour, we held an informative, three-minute discussion to create the following self-help guide:

I’m OK — You’re OK. But Give Me a Fruitcake and I’ll Kill You.

What follows is an easy, four-step guide to help FDAD sufferers control their fruitcake anxiety.  Continue reading

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Separating Thanksgiving fact from fiction with the help of Mr. Knowitall

image It’s been more than 300 years since that first Thanksgiving, when the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians sat down together in celebration and, much like the Americans of today, made a solemn vow not to eat more than your standard bull elk.

We know this because of a passage recently discovered in the diary of Pilgrim Edward Winslow, who described the first Thanksgiving like this:

Our harvest be large so that we might rejoice! Our plates and bellies be full to swelling! We have feasted on meats and gathered crops, and pies of sweet fruit!
Aye, I say! I think it be time to vomit!

— Edward Winslow, Dec. 13, 1621

In spite of this kind of irrefutable historic documentation, many myths still exist about one of our most celebrated holidays. For example: Did anyone actually eat the Indian corn, or was it just used as a decoration? Continue reading

Don’t forget the cat when taking down your Christmas tree

imageFor our family, packing up the Christmas decorations is never easy. Not only because it means the official end of the holiday season, but also because it means it’s time to pry the cat out of the Christmas tree.

What makes this process especially difficult is sap. You see, it’s not until after spending the better part of December attached to the mid-section of our tree that our cat realizes she can no longer retract her claws.

A few years ago, this actually resulted in a front page story in the National Inquirer under the headline:

Holiday Tree sprouts CAT TUMOR!

It’s not like we haven’t tried to keep this tragedy from happening. In fact, we’ve even taken our cat to a pet psychologist, thinking that maybe she suffers from a traumatic experience that is somehow triggered by the site of Christmas trees — such as an unresolved conflict with a strand of tinsel.  Continue reading

Ned’s Low-cal holiday treats that won’t cause vomiting

imageUnless you’re a hyperactive nine-year-old fueled by Pixie Sticks and Hostess Cupcakes without an ounce of concern for weight-gain because concern is the ONLY ounce you’re going to gain this holiday season, then you’re like the rest of us trying to get through the next six weeks without looking like Jabba the Hutt’s stunt double.

What this means is finding a healthy balance between satisfying your God-given right to partake in all of those delicious holiday treats while, at the same time, adhering to the God-given Commandment to avoid gluttony.

Yes, the Lord does indeed work in mysterious ways. Take fruitcake for example…

No, seriously. Please take mine.

That’s because over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing quick and easy holiday recipe tips that are both low-calorie and delicious! And not just because “quick and easy” is my pet name.

Today, I am going to show you how to make a cup of hot chocolate that you can drink as an alternative to buttered rum or egg nog, which are not only high in calories but also lead to drunken fights about that time you — again, after too many buttered rums — made a snow angel in the front yard wearing nothing but a Santa hat.

In August.  Continue reading

Don’t let your Thanksgiving turkey become memorable for the wrong reasons

imageThe countdown has begun. Before long, thousands will be in the kitchen preparing their very first Thanksgiving turkey. As a service to readers, I felt a responsibility to help educate people about foodborne illness by offering a special holiday feature that I’d like to call:

Don’t lose your giblets this Thanksgiving.

Being a writer, I’ve naturally spent a good portion of my career working in the food service industry. And like most writers, it was there that I was able practice my craft and eventually acquire something that ALL good writers must have: A Food Handler’s Card.

Because of this, I can stand before you as someone highly qualified to talk turkey.

So let us begin. Continue reading

Camping with your teenagers is like one big (search) party!

image Our family loves to go camping. In fact, we make sure to get out and pitch our tent — without fail — once a year.

Traditionally, this takes place during the busy Labor Day Weekend so that as many people as possible can witness a 49-year-old man being attacked by his own tent. In my defense, I have to say our tent is very large; especially when it is laying flat on the ground.

If I hadn’t lost the step-by-step instructions that came with it, I’m sure the assembly process would be a lot easier because, as a man, I could use them to, step-by-step, blame everything on having lousy instructions.

What this means is that over the Labor Day Weekend my handiwork will again be mistaken for a hot air balloon that has crash-landed into our family’s camp site. Continue reading

Portion control probably won’t be one of my New Year’s resolutions

image I won’t graze before my meal,
I refuse to overeat, doggone it;
I swear to stop feeding my face
at some point before I vomit.

I had repeated this mantra to myself in preparation for the Christmas holiday meal, hoping to curb my normal routine of eating so much that I’m forced to change my breathing pattern to something that sounds like a cheetah in heat.

In the past, I’ve simply given in and accepted my fate, preparing for it by wearing one of those long sweaters which hides the fact that, once my pants are unbuttoned, the only thing holding them up is a small strip of packaging tape on each hip — a technique which allows my new center of gravity to shift, and therefore keep me from toppling into the gravy boat when leaning across the dinner table.

It was while standing in line at the hardware store with a roll of double-sided, maximum-hold packaging tape that I had an epiphany — a life-changing moment sparked by two important realizations:

• First, I was setting myself up for failure by purchasing the tape.
And second,
• I’d forgotten my wallet at home. Continue reading

Just like Justin Timberlake and sexy, I’m bringing May Day back

(Don’t Panic! It’s only Monday! While it’s true I don’t generally post until Tuesday, this week is an exception because someone has misplaced Monday. Probably one of my kids. So if you’ve seen it laying around anywhere, please let someone know. Oh, it also happens to be my turn over at Long Awkward Pause! So until we find Monday, feel free to read why I need your help in bringing May Day back…)

image Somewhere, lost between the risen Lord of Easter Sunday and the more laid-back Dos Equis guy of Cinco de Mayo, is the Roman flower goddess Flora, who used to reign supreme as THE party icon this time of year.

Nowadays, any May Pole dancing is purely coincidental, at strip clubs, with the only reference to Flora the flower goddess being dancers named “Daisy.” How did a celebration dating back before Jesus somehow get lost in the shuffle between Easter eggs and Mexican beer bottles? Even when I was a kid, which I’d like to point out was well after the resurrection and as recent as the 1970s A.D., I remember dancing around the sixth-grade May Pole and savoring the opportunity to hold hands with Sara Getlost as she cried out in springtime rapture, “Ewww! Ewww! Your hands are SWEATY! Ewww!”

It’s that kind of wild, springtime ecstacy that May Day and the goddess Flora were all about… (More at Long Awkward Pause)

More often than not, the Easter Bunny wears boxer shorts

(With it being Easter, I thought I’d skip this week’s edition of Post Traumatic Sunday and run a different kind of flashback, reminiscent of when my children were small and the Easter stakes were always high. Whether this day is observed in your family or not, we can all agree any day that you can be together is worth celebrating…)

Easter dad in boxers In the wee hours this morning, something magical happened in backyards all across America as, one by one, each of them was visited by …

You guessed it! A half-naked father hiding Easter eggs.

That’s right, the same fathers who were stomping on the roof with sleigh bells Christmas Eve were out in the yard in their boxer shorts with an arm load of colorful eggs not long after sunrise.

Their mission?

Keep this tradition alive while trying not to step in anything that could elicit a response deemed inappropriate for Easter morning. Continue reading

Why National Hot Dog Day always leaves me feeling inadequate

“After realizing the size and scope of this assignment, I was feeling a little inadequate.”

Given that 1) yesterday was National Hot Dog Day, and 2) I have just returned to eating solid foods, it seemed like the perfect time to reminisce about the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile, which visited our town exactly one year ago today.

After more than a decade of working in the high-pressure environment of our newsroom, where at any given moment you could find yourself surrounded by as many as two other journalists all typing at once, it takes a lot to get our adrenaline pumping.

In fact, we have been at the epi-center of the national spotlight three times here in Florence. Sure, two occasions came after being singled out as having the nation’s highest rate of … (yawn) … retirees.

But the third time involved REAL explosives.

And a dead whale.

And quite possibly an unlicensed demolitions expert going through a divorce. This would explain using half a ton of dynamite to dispose of a rotting whale carcass that washed ashore, and how one onlooker literally chewed the fat after being struck by a piece if flying whale blubber. Continue reading