Sunday, December 30, 2012

Bugging Out And Bootlegging

It has been one busy and long Christmas for us. We celebrated 4 days in a row and now we are exhausted. Though I had a chance to go to work to get a little bit of "rest". We took the Revcon for the first trip hoping that all the issues with the fridge and what ever else would have been resolved. We were pleased to notice that indeed they were. As expected the dogs were all fine, excluding Pixie, who always freaks out if we go somewhere. Just a matter of getting used to that sort of thing, or so we hope. The drive itself down to South of Texas to meet the family was uneventful, though once we had a deer run in front of a rig. That was not entirely unexpected, there are lots of deer around, but what surprised us was that it was in the middle of the day.

We arrived to our destination and camped out at Lee's cousins house, where they have repeatedly provided us with their RV hook up and this time we almost blew up their Christmas lights. They have a nice level driveway that we were allowed to use. This might not sound like anything special, but I can tell you that it felt luxurious compared to our driveway which is not level nor is it long enough for our rig. We have done some creative parking blocking the use of our garage, but let's get back to the story.  We spent the first night thinking that only the greyhounds would be able to climb up to the bed above the cabin and we were right. We did not expect though that the old girl Nelli would decide that she wants her place between our pillows, but as soon as we decided to hit the hay, there she was staring up at us and making noise and we knew that there would be no end to that if we didn't give in (14 years of training us has paid out). Plus she is surprisingly easy to ignore, since she doesn't really take a space that we would use anyways. We slept our night tightly and warm despite of the close to freezing temperatures. We also came to a realization that we need to add a rail and a step to our bed to keep the dogs from hopping down to the floor from that high. All of them did jump down at some point without requiring any broken bones, but it will be just a matter of time if they keep doing it.

The next day the weather warmed up nicely and we went for a Christmas dinner with Lee's mothers side of the family. I only wish I had taken pictures there, the house and the few acres of a lot is simply amazingly beautiful, it is surrounded by the fence and cattle guard, and they usually have cattle too, but due to last two years of drought the cattle has been sold and the donkeys are claiming it as their territory. The old crooked oaks shade the lot nicely and every time we visit I dream of finding as lovely place for us. I would never even consider moving again! Oh yes, the dinner... The dinner was like usually nothing short of delicious and it fed tens of people. The dishes were beyond the drooliest dreams and we stuffed ourselves silly and drove back to our dream spot on our cousin's driveway.

How lucky do you have to be to have views like this every day
 from your porch?

Before going to bed, the cousin's husband, Lee's sister and her husband plus we two hang outside talking and the discussion for some reason geared towards zombie apocalypse, prepping and they decided that the Revcon should be the bug out vehicle when the crap hits the fan. The plans to mount some heavy artillery and  to use dry erase board as lining inside was brought up and of course nobody would take us seriously without run flat tires. This conversation pointed out the direction for days to come too and this Christmas will go into the history as Zombie Christmas. Alas, the time goes fast and soon it was the time to crawl back into our cave to sleep. The night was hot, and the dogs were restless, making our sleep a bit sporadic.

The next day we drove to the city to Lee's grandmother's house to meet the father's side of the family. We were greeted as soon as we walked in with a cold beer, of course Shiner, since we are in Texas. The cousins and aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, boyfriends and girlfriends and what not all filled up tummies with another amazing setting of holiday foods and all kinds of appetizers and deserts. If anyone left hungry, it was their own fault, food was delicious and there was plenty of it. We also took a yearly family picture, this year being special, since we are pretty sure everyone made it, not one person was missing of the fun. The next part of the day was the high light of the year. The big bootlegging: liquor exchange, there is no better fun that it is. We do the Chinese Christmas where we either open a concealed present or steal someone else's present. And each present is available for stealing three times. And the liquor is high quality and there is plenty of it, the stealing goes on for quite a while. The plotting and planning is so fun. I left with a keg of my favorite beer Newcastle and Lee got two bottles of Texas wine with a stack of scratch offs.

Soon we had to head out to Dallas. The dogs slept most of the way home, they were too tired of all the excitement and about worrying when ever we left them into the RV alone. Next time they will know better what to expect.

Louie, pretty perfect travel dog
The next day would be Christmas Eve, the day Finnish people celebrate their Christmas. We have now for few years had the tradition that I make the Finnish Christmas meal and Lee's sisters family and mother will come over and we will eat all together. So we did this year too, except that it is becoming more of a tradition and we actually sat down almost till midnight talking and having fun. At least I really enjoyed it. The three kids are all old enough to be able to take a part in our conversations and we really enjoy their sense of humor. They are all really great kids, so much fun to be around them. The clean up was really easy too, we had dogs to do the dishes ;o)

The weather turned back to really cold again in the wee hours of Christmas Day and it started hailing and raining and the aluminum roof was very loud keeping us awake. We also realized that getting the greyhounds to potty outside became a serious chore. So the next morning we headed to Lee's mother's house for the actual Christmas celebration. We were hours late, since the weather kept us awake the night before and getting the dogs settled took longer. I am sure that the kids were just about to go bonkers waiting for us to come over so that they can open the presents. First we ate breakfast, which is traditionally corn beef gravy with some toast. I remember thinking it was strange food when I first ate it, now I am expecting it as a breakfast every Christmas.

We told everyone not to buy us any presents this year, but that of course didn't happen. But we really can't complain, we received some really amazing present, like a table top grill for the RV from my sister in laws family, some LED lanterns and lights and the cutest flip flops ever, just to mention some. All in all, Christmas was lots of fun and for a very long time. It remains as my favorite holiday and next time it might be very different if we get our plan in action. We shall see! For now I am happy this Christmas is over. I enjoyed it a lot, but considering all our dinners around Christmas they just all happened one after another and it can be kind of tiring. Still I wouldn't miss any of those days!


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Preparing for Christmas

So it is not a secret that not much has happened since last time, it is almost quite shameful really, but there has been reasons for it too. And then on the other hand, I am sure we could have gotten something done, but the holiday season sort of took our time. The house has been without any attention for now, we have been waiting on some financial actions to be finished, and this must be the record waiting for it. It has been almost 3 months ago since we started the process, and we are still waiting. Lots of things will have to happen before we can move on with the remodeling and foundation issues, but they all are waiting for the finalizing of the financial matter.

While it seems that the clock is just ticking away, yet another holiday is approaching us, and man, we Finnish people don't fool around that holiday. The decorating, presents and most of all food is taking over our lives for at least a month ahead of time. I have to admit that I am not going to quite the whole distance with any of it this year, we are trying to keep it more about family and spending time together. But there are some things that you just have to have, or it is not Christmas. Well, snow isn't high on my list anymore after moving to Texas and the presents are really on the lowest of our priorities this year, though I feel a bit quilt about it, but the upcoming lay off will make me hopefully think it was better this way.

Most of the Christmas foods are fairly inexpensive but take a long time to prepare and since I don't live in Finland anymore, I can't get them ready made from the stores. The must-haves are ham, beet root salad called Rosolli, carrot casserole, rutabaga casserole and sweetened potato casserole (which this year we are switching to mashed potatoes, waaaaay easier, and for my American family a little more familiar tastewise ;o) ). Gingerbread cookies and Glogg (kind of spiced glow wine) are appetizers, and prune cream is the dessert. This is very simplified list of the must-haves, on top of all this most families have other meats, fish served several different ways, all kinds of side dishes, ton of cookies and cakes, coffee, wine, cheeses, fish roe and cold cuts, mountains of candy and sweets.

The traditional Christmas in Finland is celebrated on Christmas Eve, and since that is when Santa leaves to deliver all the presents for the nice kids (lucky for Finns Santa Claus lives in Finland) they are the first ones to get their presents. The Christmas has started usually already few weeks ahead of time with frantic baking and decorating. The night before Christmas Eve is when the ham is baked in the oven, this generally takes hours and hours, depending on a size of a ham, quite often the typical size is around 40 pounds. On the morning of the Christmas Eve the typical breakfast is rice pudding with some fruit compote. Typically people go to the grave yards to light candles on the graves of their loved ones, some people go to the church at 5 am to sing Christmas carols. The traditions vary, and it depends also which part of Finland you live. But everyone agrees on one thing: when the clock hits 12 o'clock at noon, the work seizes and from then on it is Christmas peace for all.

The Finnish Christmas is filled with traditions, starting from the foods. Every family has their favorite foods, but they are always add on for the ham and casseroles. The foods are what used to be available in the dead of winter hundred or two hundred years ago, the root vegetables in a cellar and then the fattened pig got butchered just for the holidays.

Finns tend to love all the traditions, and also decorating follows the old style. The typical decorations are made out of straw, pine cones painted with silver or gold paints, candles and what ever the kids were able to come up with, like snow flakes cut out of paper. The colorful and loud decorating is still today frowned by many. But the times are changing and today the candles are changing into electric lights, though many still insist on lighting up real candles even in a tree.

I miss my family especially around the holidays and I try to hold onto the traditions for the sake of feeling closer to what used to be my normal, and that was close to my family. My mother in law and my sister in law's family has made it feel like I am where I belong, and I miss my family less because of that. But holidays are always bitter sweet, since we have the same tradition Americans do, we are supposed to spend it with our families. I have been lucky in last 10 years that I have lived here, I got to spend two of the Christmases with my youngest brother who visited me twice, and there is no better Christmas present than that.

Now that Finns celebrate the Christmas on the Eve and American on a Christmas Day, and since I still want the Finnish Christmas foods, we have started a new tradition, two days of Christmas! I make the Finnish foods and everyone comes over on Christmas Eve, and then on the Christmas Day we mooch on somebody else's house. :D I love it, suits me, since the Christmas has always been my favorite holiday, and this way I get twice the fun!

This year feels different, not just because we aren't buying the presents, but because we know it might be the last Christmas for a long time that we are spending all together. I am bit upset and sad about that, but I guess we will just have to make it to Texas for the holidays.