Sunday, December 30, 2012

It's All About The Ham Around Here

It's been a busy week at our house. Well, I should clarify. LAST week was a very busy week at our house. This week, I have, some days, not even changed out of my pajamas.

Every Christmas Eve, we have an open house for friends and family to stop by, eat a little food and hopefully, have some good company. It's pretty informal and we don't send out invitations. It's all pretty much done by word of mouth. I am sure there a lot of people we miss, but it's usually not intentional.

We have a few regulars - a few that give us the pleasure of their company each year. And we love getting new visitors.  We don't really expect anyone to come. We understand that Christmas Eve is a time for families. But we do sure hope that people will stop by. Some years, we have a lot of leftovers, if you know what I mean. Some years, not so much. Either way, we love it! 

While we were getting things ready early Monday afternoon, Lobster asked me, "Why do we do this again?" 

I told him it's because he likes to show off his ham - wink, wink.

Seriously, though, he really likes to show off his ham.

A lot of time and effort goes into this ham. It had sure better be worth showing off.

It all starts around Thanksgiving. That's when Lobster decides how much ham we're going to "need". This year, he ordered 2 - you didn't read it wrong - two 20 pound hams. He was paranoid  worried that we wouldn't have any left over after the party. Leftovers are good. 

Then a few days before Christmas Eve we head to Gartner's Country Meat Market to pick up the prize. This is a raw (green) ham that has been cured in a brine instead of being smoked. If you are a meat lover in the Portland, Oregon area, Gartner's is the place to go. I love looking at all their cuts of meat, in-house sausages, rubs, and sauces they have. They hand out pepperoni sticks or hot dogs to the kids and if it's around the holidays, you need to come early or expect take a number and wait in line. 

We usually make a day out of it by heading over to IKEA afterward to pick up lingon berries, mustard, cheese, pickled herring, candy and pepparkaka (crisp ginger cookies).

Lobster was born in Sweden. All of his family is from Sweden and Norway. Yep, I married myself an alien viking.  Although he has spent most of his life in the United States, he is very proud of his Scandinavian heritage. In Sweden, Christmas Eve, or Julafton, is when most of the celebrating happens. Family and friends get together for a celebratory feast.  A traditional smorgasbord includes ham, pork, fish and plenty of sweets. We have added items that might not be so traditionally Swedish,  but it's what we like and it's become traditionally ours.

But, back to the ham.

The ham(s) then take up way too much precious real estate in our refrigerator as we get the other menu items ready for the party. I gripe a lot about how much space it takes up, but it all works out.

The morning of Christmas Eve, Lobster gets up and starts the water to boil in the 42 quart pot. About an hour later, the ham along with white and black peppercorns, whole allspice, and bay leaves go into the pot. The ham then simmers for 5-6 hours, depending on its weight - roughly 20 minutes per pound. Then the ham comes out of the water, gets dried off and rests for a bit. 

Lobster then mixes egg whites, mustard, and bread crumbs together and slathers the mixture all over the top of the ham. It then bakes in the oven until nicely browned. 
Doesn't that look tasty? My favorite part is a nice chunk of ham with some of the crust on top. Swirl that in some sweet lingon berries and tangy, spicy mustard, and it's a perfect bite. 

In tight years, Lobster has asked for his ham as his Christmas present. It's that important to him. One year, we had a rare ice storm and our power was out up until Christmas Eve. Roads were icy and we weren't able to get up to Gartner's for our ham. We ended up serving meatballs, and while they were good, it just didn't feel the same.

Why is food such a big part of our celebrations and traditions? And why can't I leave leftovers alone? I had the same problem with Thanksgiving - where I do well the day of, but then I eat my way through all the extra. It took me all month to lose the weight I gained at Thanksgiving. My goal was to just maintain through the holidays. 

I failed. 

I logged a 2.6 pound gain this week. I'm hoping some of it is water gain. I have not drunk nearly enough water this week and entirely too much Diet Coke. My sister gave me a Soda Stream for Christmas, though, so I'm hoping that change will be a positive one as well as saving us some money, honey!

As much as I love Christmas and all the decorations and food, I'm SO looking forward to getting back to normal - and filling my crisper drawer with my salad stuff again instead of everything except the salad stuff. I've missed my salads. 

Happy New Year, friends. May this new year bring much more joy and many less pounds!

Monday, December 24, 2012


May your stockings be filled with sweets, 
                                                  your hearts filled with a giving spirit,

                                                                                   and your homes filled with love and laughter.
Image from

Monday, December 17, 2012

Real Life

I don't typically watch or listen to the news during the day. I feel that my life is "Real Life" enough. I admit that is short-sighted and self-centered, but sometimes, it's all about protecting myself. "Real Life" can be scary. 

Lobster called me mid-day on Friday and asked if I had heard about the shootings in Connecticut. He explained to me what had happened and then I turned to the TV for more information. I was horrified to learn the details. 

While I waited for our boys after school that afternoon, a wave of emotion came over me. I couldn't help but think of the parents rushing to that elementary school to pick up their little ones. Can you imagine watching other parents reuniting with their children and finding out that you wouldn't be?

As the tears rolled down my cheeks, I prayed for peace for those
 families and emergency workers that would be forever changed.

I, like anyone else, cannot hide from the "Real Life" that's out there. We don't know what each day may bring. So, I'm going to hold my little family close and express my love to them and my gratitude to my Heavenly Father for my time with them.

In a world where there is little peace and much to be afraid of, I take much comfort in the 27th verse from St. John, chapter 14:
"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Not-So-Short & Sweet Christmas Poem

'Twas the sixteenth night before Christmas and all through the home,
The mother was sighing, too much to be done!
Stockings were flung 'round the room without care
And off in the corner were crumbs and dog hair.

The children had finally succumbed to their beds,
With visions of torturing Mom in their heads.
The father was snoring away on the couch.
The mother, regretful for being a grouch.

The mother - she wondered how to get it all done,
The cooking, the cleaning, the laundry, the fun.
Christmas, the magical season, is here!
But, somehow, it seemed any old time of year.

The presents were bought, the Yule Tree was lit
But Mom didn't feel it, not one little bit.
She wanted her house to feel festive and warm,
The kiddos to show brotherly love - arm in arm.

She thought of  homes all over the place
Families laughing together and in loving embrace.
Baking goodies, and singing carols within,
Then she recalled how her own day had been.

It started too early, as most of her days,
But that is only the fault of her long, late night ways.
She could hear the children, their words getting hot.
Time to get busy - ready or not.

Her children were fighting to possess the remote
Boy 1 had Boy 2 in a grip, round his throat.
Turn off the TV, get a good breakfast down
Amid arm farts and butt jokes and unearthly sounds.

It's raining and their dog smells like skunk when she's wet,
And to top it all off, "She's got fleas." said the vet.
While trying to fold laundry, the Mom heard such a clatter,
She ran to their bedrooms to see what was the matter.

Boy 2's floor was covered with toys, clothes, and trash,
And Lego's flew from ceiling fan blades, with a crash.
"It wasn't me!" they both said, barely hiding their grins,
Those grins disappeared while putting things in their bins.

Outside, they threw rocks and kicked balls over the fence.
Inside, the yelling and fights made Mom tense.
She said, "Feet on the floor." and "Keep your hands to yourself!"
"Crack eggs IN the bowl." and "That vase stays on the shelf!"

The father came home, gave the mother a kiss.
He looked at his children and asked, "What did I miss?"
Their boys filled Dad in on their adventures that day;
"We made cookies, and cleaned up our rooms, and we played!"

They got through their dinner, even earned themselves sweets.
Then jammies, then reading, maybe a show; They were beat!
The mom sang the boys' songs, the dad heard their prayers.
And soon quiet started to creep through the air.

The mom felt discouraged, looking at all still to do.
Her checklist just seems to get longer, it's true!
She remembered the days before the children came.
And if she was ready for this claim to fame.

But then she remembered the old ache from the past.
And the way those small hearts filled that damned hole, at last.
Days will not be perfect, but we shouldn't compare
Others' best with our worst - that just leads to despair.

So for those two boys, snuggled down in their beds, 
Though torturous visions may be filling their heads, 
Mom is ever so grateful for the challenge they bring;
The chance to grow, to wonder, to sing.

Though twisty and turvy this tale may have been,
The point is that Mom can enjoy Christmas again.
You can hear her exclaim, perhaps with delight,
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

Sunday, December 2, 2012

That's the Plan

I love Christmas time. Don't you just love this time of year? All the Christmas lights glimmer and look so festive and we get to enjoy it all longer since it's dark by 4:30. See what I did there?  It gets dark early in December, but look at me seeing the positive. 

This is the first year in a very long time that we planned for Christmas. In January, I opened a Christmas Club account and started tucking money away. Between that and a bonus Lobster got at work, we are set. We can do exactly what we'd like to for Christmas.

Maybe you've heard it somewhere that I have a problem with planning. Because I'm no good at it, I talk about it a lot. I like to pretend I'm organized and people may even laugh at me and think it's a big joke when I say that I'm not, because I fake it pretty well. I usually get things done. I complete assignments. But what others don't see, is the last minute scramble - the late nights, the other responsibilities that get cast aside.

Lobster and I have been married for over 18 years. And this is the first year that we set our own budget for Christmas. We aren't limited by whatever is left over after the bills get paid or using credit that we shouldn't. He and I are actually buying gifts for each other this year - not just for our extended families and our boys. 

We made a plan and followed through. Imagine that. We - he and I - did that.

This planning thing works.  

Most successful people know about planning. It's how most responsible people live their lives every day. It's how the new roof gets paid for, it's how they shop for a month's worth of meals, it's how days get scheduled and items get checked off the To-Do list.

I started this blog with the idea of keeping a record of my weight loss. I'm doing that, albeit S-L-O-W-L-Y, and that's OK with me,  but it's turned into something more. I've remembered how much I love to write. Although not many read my words, it helps me feel better connected to those around me. Writing every week helps me to examine my feelings. Sometimes, until I start writing, I don't even know what I'm feeling. I've learned that well to hide and stuff them.

I think I've lived my whole life waiting for something. When I was young, I was waiting to be an adult and live my own life. When I was a young adult, I was waiting to find the love of my life and get married. When I was a wife, I was waiting to have children...and waiting...and waiting. 

Now we have our beautiful boys and what am I waiting for? Well, I've decided I'm tired of waiting. It's not a happy way to live a life. It's like saying, "I'll be happy when..." but there's always something else to look to for happiness. 

I don't want to just chronicle my weight loss. I want to write about my life. Weight loss is, of course, a big part of that. But do I wait until I'm at a healthy weight to be happy? There is so much more to enjoying where I am. Enjoy the journey, as they say. Make a plan and follow through. Not every thing goes according to plan, but that's all right. Some of the best things happen that way. The important thing is to have a plan.

My house is crazy. Really. No, REALLY.  I am not an expert - at, well, anything. But you're going to get to hear all about it. I'm going to write. I'm going to lose weight. I'm going to be strong. I'm going to learn to parent these, um...lively boys. I'm going to live my life well and be happy. 

That's the plan.