Monday, December 24, 2012

Mixed Plate: How Wasabi Got Her Holiday Groove Back

I know what you're thinking. You're looking at the calendar, the dwindling hours left to do all your holiday baking/shopping/social calls are looming like Marley's Ghost, rattling his chains to remind you that the time draws nigh to get that Christmas Spirit in your heart... OR ELSE. Fine, so I realize that's not everyone, but I know it's a few of you out there. And it's the ones who are the real doers of the family and household, the ones who make sure all their loved ones' needs are taken care of, that no one in their life feels left out. These are the Holiday Heroes who literally break their backs for every holiday/birthday/special occasion; they never forget a special date or anniversary, they're always quick with a card or a special little gift, and they are an endless font of heartfelt generosity. Baby, sit back for a spell, this post's for you.

Give yourself the gift of a day, or at least an afternoon to stop and enjoy the holiday lights - Photo by Wasabi Prime
I think of my mother during the holidays. She went into Christmas Mode early in the year, months in advance, whipping out her sewing machine and picking out patterns for some crafty, adorable handmade holiday gift for close friends and relatives. I remember one year she made a dozen or so wreaths decorated with sewn teddy bears made out of holiday quilting fabric. Another year she made these incredible stockings full of little pockets and places to stuff goodies and sweets -- exactly the kind of stocking made for kids. Every photo had the potential to be made into that year's holiday card, which would be sent out by or before the first week of December, and she'd be the one writing notes in all of them. Wasabi Mom is happily enjoying the life of leisure, in retirement on Da Islands with Wasabi Dad in temperate climate, where the Spam Musubi roam freely. She still sends a few cards out, but no photos, since it's been many years since I've lived at home for the yearly family snapshot. She puts up a few things, but nowhere near as much decor as when I was younger. But that incredible holiday spirit stuck with me all these years, and she's remained a great inspiration to stick with that tradition of making sure cards and handmade gifts never go out of style.

Holiday Hectic Mode starting...NOW - Photo by Wasabi Prime
Fast forward a few years, and many consecutive Christmases of never forgetting to send out a holiday card or making some sort of homemade baked sweets, I find myself in that Hectic Holiday mode that my mother probably felt many years ago. I would never give up the opportunity to let my loved ones know how much I appreciate them, whether it's with cards, cookies or some other weird handmade craft monstrosity I thought was a good idea at the time. And I would never consider myself the aforementioned Holiday Hero, but I understand the desire to make sure no one feels left out during the festive season -- because everyone should be reminded that they are thought of and loved! There are many people out there who truly give it their all during this time of year, with volunteering and giving so much of their time to others. If anything, those are the people who need to be remembered and thanked for their efforts, so maybe bake them a batch of cookies or something, why dontcha?

The baked good whirlwind that capsized our kitchen - Photos by Wasabi Prime
The gesture of giving means something, even if it isn't expensive or some diamond studded big screen TV. Oy, what an ugly thing that would be, no? After many weekends baking, sugar-dusting and card-writing, I finally hit the holiday home stretch of having all the goodies packaged to mail or hand-deliver. I was a multitasking queen, prepping shortbread dough, wrapping little parcels of homemade pretzels, cookies and brownies, while catching up on the last few weeks of TV on our iPad and slowly realized, Holy Crap... what about me?

Holiday baking HQ, powered by ugly cookies and iPad with recorded TV shows - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Sounds terribly selfish, I know -- ME, ME, ME. But after all that running around, I had a moment to catch my breath and say, I think I deserve a little break. And I think that goes for anyone else out there who's in the same spot as me: feeling like it's less holiday and more checking off boxes on a list of to-do's. Holiday Fail. In the pursuit of holiday magic, the spirit disappeared. Spending too much time worrying how many misshapen "Homer" cookies had to be sacrificed to a hungry Mister, and not enough time just enjoying the fact that dammit, this really is the most wonderful time of the year!

Relax, like the hookah-smoking caterpillar! - Photo by Wasabi Prime
And so I did it -- I gave myself the best possible gift one could give onself: Time. Take an afternoon or a morning -- a whole day if you can swing it. I sought out the holiday spirit in downtown Seattle, doing some simple pleasures that I'd done before, but were in danger of being sacrificed due to a busy schedule. Perish the thought! I was prompted by some appointments that went sideways, but stuck with the original plan to head into Seattle for the morning. I wanted to see the annual gingerbread village at the downtown Sheraton Hotel, near the Seattle Convention Center, now in their 20th year. They annually task local sugar artists to make these incredible gingerbread and candied creations. I saw it last year and it was such a blood sugar sight to behold, I couldn't imagine skipping it this year. This year's theme was Disney movies, or as near as I could tell, based on each gingerbread castle's design.

Sea Monkey palace never looked this great - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Right in the lobby of the Sheraton, you can tour the underwater Neptune's kingdom from The Little Mermaid, the sultan's palace from Aladdin, the Red Queen's castle from Alice in Wonderland, The Beast's rose-decorated castle from Beauty and the Beast, and even the land of Narnia. Kind of a fairy tale/Disney mashup, it's an impressive sight to see, and the display is up right now through the holidays. It's free to view, but they are accepting donations to benefit the Northwest chapter of JDRF, which focuses on the fight against diabetes. I admit, there's a part of me that finds a little irony in a charity for diabetes being involved in a sugar-coated gingerbread village display, but hey -- it's the holidays, I have to keep my snark to a minimum, lest I be given nothing but coal this year.

Ooh... ahhh... dazzled yet? - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Let's just take a moment to admire the fact that a lot of people went through some crazy-painstaking work to put these sweet sculptures on display, shall we? Cheshire Cat agrees, kick back and enjoy.

Disney movies and sugar -- what's not to love? - Photos by Wasabi Prime
I had a nougat-filled soft spot for the Beauty and the Beast castle. I'd say of all the more recent classic hand-drawn animated films of Disney, that is by far my favorite. I'm inclined to watch it with a big plate of pasta and a bottle of wine, like so many viewings of 50 Dresses or Pretty in Pink. Another gift of Me Time I look forward to indulging in.

Market shopping done right - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Another gift to myself was taking a walk through Pike Place Market. It's in its holiday finery, with the fresh tree mini-lot at the entrance. You get a lovely whiff of fresh evergreen, then likely another whiff of delivery truck exhaust, as I went during the middle of the day. Well, it is a working market after all. But I always love coming here, rain or shine, as cheesy/touristy as that sounds -- especially during the week, since weekends can get extra busy. It's a gorgeous historic market with some of my favorite shops -- I did a quick run-through of DeLaurenti to pick up some food gifts, admired the fresh mushrooms and loved seeing the winter fruit like pomegranates stacked high. There's always something to admire and marvel at, and a walk through Pike Place Market was a reminder to do so, every day.

Holiday Sanity Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself - Photo by Wasabi Prime
So if you're feeling the pressure of the holiday season, take a moment to breathe. Better yet, take a whole afternoon, if you can. Appreciate someone else's exuberance for the holidays, as that will reinvigorate your own spirit. If you're not certain you've gone mad with harried holiday to-do's, take one look at the four-foot high pile of boxes set for delivery, and the extremely worried look on your dog's face, wondering why silly hoomins gotta be so weird. Thanks for the reality check, Indy.

This is also my holiday post for the week, as I'm taking some time to just relax, so I hope you all have a very Happy Holidays, a Merry Christmas, survived another wild Hannukah, and looking forward rocking out the family love and fellowship of Kwanzaa. Merry-merry, y'all.

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