I sure hope that everyone’s Christmas was beautiful, meaningful and filled with love. Our home was a little quieter this year, as much of the family was unable to make it due to weather, but those of us who were together had a lot of fun. The grandbaby was here and so all was well. Can’t go wrong with a one year old and her first real Christmas!!
The tree was bare underneath until presents magically appeared Christmas morning! They must have come by train.
I can’t resist waxing philosophical after this past holiday season. Shopping was a truly different experience this year. I don’t know if I have just become more observant or if my patience isn’t what it used to be or if I just naturally see the absurd in my surroundings, but I picked up on a phenomenom at the department stores that I just hadn’t noticed before. People don’t read signs. The best way to get an individual to do exactly what you don’t want them to do is to put up a sign and watch them do the exact opposite – like the lady who was trying to force a baby stroller, full of baby, onto an escalator beside the sign that stated, unequivically, “Absolutely no strollers on the escalator!!!”. It’s like people’s minds go into reading in a foreign language because they obviously don’t understand the English before them. “Je ne comprend pas.” “No comprende.” “Me no speaka de English.”
Now, I try very hard to be a patient line-stander. The reality of today’s society is that we stand in lines. We stand in lines at checkout stands. We stand in line for concert tickets. And we even purposely CHOOSE to stand in lines on Black Friday at 3:00 in the morning just to be first to make a dive for a Doggy Doo game where the child who gets three piles of dog poop on his shovel first, wins the game. I’m not sure if this teaches a child environmental responsibility or the best way to get worms, but it was certainly popular at Toys R Us. But I digress. I really do try to be a very patient line-stander. I use the time in line to pray for those people in front of me or for the checkout personnel. I browse over the titles of the magazines and make mental notes of Jennifer Aniston’s latest flame and what Vladimir Putin’s alien baby looks like. But on Christmas Eve afternoon, I’m ashamed to say, I kind of lost my patience – and I tapped my foot in frustration.
I needed one, measly item that I had forgotten in all of my weeks and weeks of careful planning and lists (yeah, right). A run into Walmart gave me that item – and cheaply I might add – and I decided to go through the express ‘self-checkout’ line because it said “express”. Now, express to me means “faster” or “quicker” or at least “moderately speedier than nonexpress”. It means that the normal person would recognize the word and take it to dictate the necessity to have just a few items. Oh no. People on Christmas Eve can’t read. I think that they read the word “express” and think that it gives them permission to express themselves about every, single item of the 300 in their basket as they swipe them across the barcode reader.
In the particular line in which I was standing, one such woman was at the stand with a buggy piled so high with purchases that she had to get a second buggy in which to place her finished bags because there was no room in the first buggy. There were 6 more people between me and her and these six people each had a maximum of 5 items. The first woman did not know how to use the scanner and contemplated each item, of her pile of approximately 400 things, to determine where in the world she was supposed to swipe for a price. She announced the price as there was final success and carefully moved to the next of her 600 items. The man in front of me held tightly to an ice scraper of which he must have been sorely in need because he tenaciously stood in this line with the optimism of Eeyore. He turned to me, rolled his eyes and said, “You would think that they would put ’10 Items or Less’ on the sign.” I thought to myself that if the word “Express” hadn’t been interpreted correctly, what made him think that this woman could count (with her basket heaping with 700 items)?!
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw that the self-checkout to my left and in front of me was miraculously void of all but one customer. I hated to do it to the young man in front of me, but I made a beeline for that stand, careful not to knock him to the ground in my escape. I was also careful not to look smug at my stroke of luck. The woman, who was checking out at that moment, pulled out her card and pressed, “Finish and Pay”, right under the sign that stated, “Credit card, Debit card or Cash Only”. She ran the red card through the reader and promptly got a “Read Error” flashing light. She contemplated the card and tried again. Same response. She turned to her daughter and said, “I guess it wants me to pay the balance first and then use the gift card.” Gift card? The sign didn’t say anything about a gift card. But then, it didn’t say anything about a check either which didn’t stop her from writing one and trying to force it into the cash recepticle of the machine. The check was spit back out and a voice screeched, “Please wait for assistance!!” 15 minutes later, the store clerk, after working on the machine with no resolution, and continually reprimanding the customer for attempting to use a gift card on the machine, flatly stated, “Just go to my stand and I’ll have to check you out there.” She promptly wiped out the entire order and left the lane open for me and my one item. I quickly paid, turned to look at the line of people which had formed behind me and then, as I headed toward the exit, I noticed the young man with his ice scraper still standing in line behind the same lady with the two baskets who was evidently working on item number 800.
I have a recipe for which my family stands in line. It is our traditional “New Year’s Day We Have To Have It To Watch Football Games” recipe. I always wind up making two batches – one before Christmas to give as gifts to neighbors and then one for munching. I have been making this for as long as I can remember and it is one of the recipes that you will find in my family cookbook at the shopping page. I really think that you will enjoy it if you like toffee popcorn and nuts crossed with Cracker Jacks. It is truly yummy. Oh, and my favorite popcorn to use in this is the Act II Butter Lovers brand. It takes 3 – 4 bags of popped corn to make a recipe. I pop it and then make sure to remove any unpopped kernels. This brand has no trans fats and quite a bit of the good fats.
Candied Popcorn and Nuts
5 Quarts freshly popped corn
1 cup salted cocktail peanuts
1 cup butter (you have to use the real thing!)
2 cups packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup traditional pancake syrup like Karo
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp butter flavoring (optional)
Variation: Use pecans or roasted almonds instead of peanuts
Preheat oven to 250º
In a very large bowl, place popcorn and nuts and toss
In a medium sauce pan, melt butter with brown sugar and syrup and bring to a boil.
Boil until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage. You can check this with a candy thermometer or by dropping a little of the syrup into a bowl of ice and water. Feel to see if the syrup forms a soft ball in the cold water.
When the soft ball stage is reached, remove the syrup from heat and stir in vanilla
And add the soda, stirring quickly. The soda will make the mixture start to bubble and turn to a foamy light tan color
Pour the mixture over the popcorn and nuts and then begin turning and mixing the popcorn and peanuts to coat
When all of the popcorn and nuts are coated, spread the mixture onto a large, buttered cookie sheet and bake in 250º oven for about an hour, stirring and turning about every 15 minutes to keep it from burning. When done, remove from oven and quickly transfer the hot popcorn by spatula to an airtight container. The popcorn will be a little sticky, but it will come off of the cookie sheet easily. It gets harder to remove as the popcorn candy begins to harden. Once the toffee coating has hardened, shake the popcorn to break it into individual pieces.
This is all that is left of the batch that I just made. Oh wait. No. I’m sorry. I just ate it!!
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