Open Christmas Day.

slowburn

The boss told me I gotta work on Christmas day – oh, jeez!

Just to help a bunch of jerks their appetites appease.

It’s hard to catch the bus so I must get up way too early;

Don’t expect glad yuletide hymns when I am feeling squirrely.

 

You want the soup and salad, with a diet Coke you say?

(I’ll give him Shasta Cola and some tepid consommé.)

And you, madam, are ordering our famous egg foo young?

(I’ll fill it full of cayenne so you’ll have to bite your tongue.)

 

If you demand fast service on my holiday revoked,

You have imagination that should be completely cloaked.

I don’t care if you tip me like a maharajah, chum;

You can go to hell and I will go back to my slum.

Aunt Cecelia’s Christmas Cookies.

spritz

My Aunt Cecelia was a Christmas cookie maniac.

She began gathering her supplies at the beginning of November, riding herd on Uncle Jim to make sure he got the right brand of sugar (C&H), the right butter (Land O’Lakes), the right flour (Pillsbury, of course) and the right kind of brown speckled eggs from her cousin who had a farm out in New Ulm.

Her crockery for mixing the ingredients was from some long-forgotten pottery in Bohemia, bright red and yellow predominating, and her utensils were either stainless steel or wood so burnished and mellow that they threw off a nimbus of light.

In her cellar were dozens of old tins, mostly stamped with cheap imitations of Currier & Ives winter scenes.  Uncle Jim was commanded to roust these out, along with about two miles worth of wax paper.

Her pride and joy was her tin spritz cookie extruder.  She had bought it back in the 1920’s by mail order from a company in Wisconsin called Mussehl & Westphal.  Oddly enough I got to know the company well when I became a circus clown, because besides tin cookie dough extruders they were the only American manufacturers of musical saws – one of which I learned to play.

The baking began right after Thanksgiving.  During this crucial period there was no time to spare for complicated meals, and so Uncle Jim and his boys, my cousins, subsisted on a diet of baloney sandwiches, canned soups, and an occasional hardboiled egg grudgingly served up by Aunt Cecelia as a concession to humane nutrition.  The penalty for snitching a Christmas cookie to supplement their meager diet was instantaneous death-by-glare.

My mother would drop me off at Aunt Cecelia’s house in New Brighton on a Saturday before Christmas so she could go shopping for Christmas presents, unmolested by my whining churlishness.  I was supposed to play with my cousins, but instead I sat quietly in a corner of the kitchen watching my aunt concoct a galaxy of figures that would be iced and sprinkled with an avalanche of assorted rock candy foofaraws.

Tray after tray of spritz cookies, or meringue cups, or macaroons, passed under my quivering nose, on their way to be wrapped in wax paper and entombed in a square tin box.  The smell of cinnamon, nutmeg and almond caused my slavering tongue to lash about in futile desire. Those cookies were not for me.  Nor for the neighbors; Aunt Cecilia was rather opinionated, especially about other people’s affairs, and she did not mix well in a neighborhood that thought “Mind your own business” was a quote from the Bible.  No, those tins were wrapped and mailed at the post office to her numerous relatives in Iowa, Arizona, and California.

I do not wish to exaggerate or give out flagrant misinformation, but it seems to me that over the years she must have produced about a million cookies.  Certainly she kept Uncle Jim from ever buying that Evinrude outboard motor he always pined for, what with the cost of supplies and postage from her annual Christmas cookie binge.

Being such a fanatic paid off, because her cookies were beyond the realm of human delight.  How do I know this if none were ever made for me?  Simple.  Even in the best run bakeries there are accidents.  Aunt Cecelia, despite her best efforts, occasionally produced a maimed gingerbread man or a distorted star that was hurled across the kitchen in an artistic rage – usually landing near the sink.  At such times there was no law for those of us who were in the immediate area; it was strictly first come first serve, and devil take the hindmost.  My cousins and I, and sometimes even Uncle Jim, would dive under the sink as if we were going after pearls in the South Pacific.  The brutalities exhibited by those in that dark, damp and cramped place for a shard of cookie do not bear scrutiny.  Suffice it to say that I often paid for my cookie with a thumb in my eye or a blow to the solar plexus.  But I gave as good as I got.

Those cookies were worth it.

Where is the White House Christmas Tree Coming From This Year? (Hint: They Eat a Lot of Lefse There.)

xmastree

For the first time in 20 years, Minnesota is providing the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree.

And Jim Scheff, who is the state’s top logger, will do the honors.

“One little fun thing in the middle of a difficult election season, but also a lot of tough things going on around the country,” Klobuchar said.

The 88-foot tall white spruce from the Chippewa National Forest is coming down this weekend.

“So not for my living room.” she joked.

It will be stationed on the west lawn of the Capitol and decorated with thousands of lights and locally-made ornaments.

“It’s going to be a pretty exciting thing for our state,” she said.

Klobuchar said it’s good publicity for the state, and it showcases the state’s logging industry.

“My grandfather after the mines shut down became a logger, so it’s a part of our family as well,” Klobuchar said.

The tree is scheduled to make 30 stops along its 2,000-mile journey to Washington D.C, including at a Cleveland Browns football game.

Poetry, Schmoetry!

another-rainy-night-ryan-radke

I used to read poetry when I was idle,

Before learning how my cruel passions to bridle.

But since hypertension has entered the scene

I rarely if ever on poetry lean.

 

I have life insurance; the policy reads

More comforting than all the telling of beads.

And bank statements, with their rococo extremes,

Are the stuff of my practical investment dreams.

 

I used to read poetry when life was ducky,

Before I had learned of Fort Knox in Kentucky.

But poets are mountebanks of the fine arts;

They prate about romance, but not of K-Marts.

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This artsy-fartsy blog is NOT brought to you by America First Credit Union.  They won’t even let us use their logo.

Our Annual Christmas Poem . . .

scroogehappy

(Editor’s Note:  The big box stores have started selling Xmas trees already, so we thought it advisable to put out our annual holiday poem asap,)

Scrooge reformed kept Christmas well, of this we have been told.

He carved a splendid turkey and was open with his gold.

No beggar from his door was turned, no reveler reviled;

The iron winter evenings at his home were all beguiled

With festive songs and dancing and a bowl of right red punch.

At work he gave Bob Cratchit leave to dawdle over lunch.

Old Scrooge was now a merry soul; his firm in London town

Reflected his munificence and loaned, with nothing down.

His miser’s life was dead and gone, and generosity

Urged him to make presents of his boundless currency.

They flooded in to float a loan for homes and boats and carts;

For brewer’s yeast and all the latest maritime sea charts.

‘Collateral’ was not a word that Scrooge let pass his lips;

To him it was a nuisance like a mealy bug or thrips.

Soon other banks were taking heed and followed where he led;

They somehow thought it was all right when all their ink ran red.

And for a while it seemed that finance would turn topsy-turvy,

And perhaps the bankers could be treated less like scurvy.

Finally the bubble burst and stocks and bonds deflated

And pension plans were falling like old temples desecrated.

Foreclosures blossomed like the rust on shut-up factories

And the people had to live in crates beneath eldritch elm trees.

A scapegoat was demanded and old Scrooge was still at hand;

The government decided he had had the whole thing planned.

The  very name of Scrooge became a deep and dark offense,

And everyone did blame him for the loss of pound and pence.

He had to go to Downing Street and beg to be acquitted.

The Cabinet to New South Wales soon had his soul remitted.

Now Scrooge amidst the dingoes celebrates on Christmas Day.

He carves a roasted platypus for those at his soiree.

Thus we see how goodness can bring on deep complications

When it gives to people nothing but Great Expectations.    

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carls

This holiday poesy is brought to you by Carl’s Jr.  Honest food.  Honest pleasure.