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Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Traditions, Part 1

This is the fourth Christmas season MJ and I have lived in Texas.  Neither of us travel back to Iowa to visit our families, so over the years, we have developed a new set of traditions. Here are some:

1) Merry Christmas from the Family.  Every year, MJ listens desperately to hear Robert Earl Keen's holiday classic, "Merry Christmas from the Family" on KNBT, our local Americana music station here in New Braunfels, Texas.  We finally heard it last Saturday morning (Dec. 22) as we were pulling into the Shipley's parking lot for a half dozen doughnuts.  
Mom got drunk and Dad got drunk at our Christmas party
We were drinking champagne punch and homemade eggnog
Little sister brought her new boyfriend
He was a Mexican
We didn't know what to think of him until he sang
Feliz Navidad, Feliz Navidad

Brother Ken brought his kids with him
The three from his first wife Lynn
And the two identical twins from his second wife Mary Nell
Of course he brought his new wife Kay
Who talks all about AA
Chain smoking while the stereo plays Noel, Noel
The First Noel

Carve the turkey
Turn the ball game on
It's margaritas when the eggnog's gone
Send somebody to the Quickpak Store
We need some ice and an extension cord
A can of bean dip and some Diet Rites
A box of Pampers, Marlboro Lights
Halelluja everybody say cheese
Merry Christmas from the family

Fred and Rita drove from Harlingen
I can't remember how I'm kin to them
But when they tried to plug their motor home in
They blew our Christmas lights
Cousin David knew just what went wrong
So we all waited out on our front lawn
He threw the breaker and the lights came on
And we sang Silent Night, Silent Night, Oh Holy Night

Carve the turkey turn the ball game on
It's Bloody Marys
Cause we all want one!
Send somebody to the Stop 'N Go
We need some celery and a can of fake snow
A bag of lemons and some Diet Sprites
A box of Tampons, some Salem Lights
Halelluja, everybody say cheese
Merry Christmas from the Family

Feliz Navidad!

2) Picking pecans.  We're lucky enough to have a pecan tree in the front yard and a pecan tree in the back yard, plus one on the neighbor's property that extends into ours.  Every other year when the trees produce, we're out there on hands and knees filling up the nut bucket.  So far, from the front yard alone, we've got a bushel basket full.  I make pecan pies from a Betty Crocker recipe and they consistently turn out very well.  What I like is that they're so easy to make yet look impressive; they've kind of replaced pumpkin pie for the holidays in the WetDesert household.

3) Driving to Austin on Christmas eve.  The stores were so busy that evidently no Austinites had begun Christmas shopping before today.  We went to Whole Foods for some last minute Christmas dinner things, including corn syrup for the pecan pie.  Of course, though, the only corn syrup there was $5 for a very small bottle, so I didn't make that investment.  I was not yet willing to experiment making the pie with agave nectar.  Maybe next year.

4) Driving around Austin on Christmas eve looking for a restaurant that is still open.  We knew our favorite, the Green Mesquite, was closing at 4.  We remembered that Guero's Taco Bar was closed for the day.  We were actually counting on the Magnolia (open 24/8 as the website advertises), but alas, they too had closed their doors.  Thinking desperately, MJ suggested the Baker's Street Pub and Grill by the Half Price Books on South Lamar.  It was indeed open and I had a Lone Star and fish 'n' chips. MJ had the Shepherd's pie.  
Frosted glass at the brewpub.

5) Kat insisting upon going to see the Zilker Park Christmas tree while MJ waits in the truck.  The lights are strung in a spiral pattern such that standing under it, looking up, and trying to spin induces immediate and extreme dizziness.  MJ and her delicate equilibrium prefer not to participate, as she does not want barfing in Zilker Park to also be a holiday tradition.  About the tree:
The Zilker Tree stands 155 feet tall and is composed of 39 streamers, each holding 81 multicolored, 25-watt bulbs - totaling 3,309 lights. At the top of the tree, a double star measures 10 feet from point to point. The double star displays 150 frosted bulbs. This unique spiral pattern of lights was created by City of Austin electricians. At its circumference, the tree measures 380 feet. The diameter is 120 feet. The base of the tree is made up of 19 utility poles, each 14 feet tall, arranged in a circle around the Moonlight Tower.
Kettle corn, tamales and glowsticks sold conveniently at the Zilker Park tree
Under the tree.  Use caution when looking up and spinning.
6) Driving around looking at Christmas lights.  I feel this one is fairly common.  We used to do it when I was growing up in northeast Iowa.  Saw a light up reindeer that was supposed to be flying but more just looked like it was stuck in a tree.  Actually, the real treat was peeping into people's houses at *their* family gatherings in lieu of having our own. 
Texas' oldest dancehall, Christmas Eve 2012
7) Shopping at Walgreens.  If there ever is a time to need a 24 hour drugstore, Christmas is it.  At about 8pm on Christmas eve, we hit up the Walgreens just a few blocks from our house and the place was packed.  We got the following: Alka Seltzer, corn syrup, orange juice (for Christmas morning mimosas and MJ's cold) and a couple of candy bars.  

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