by Valerie Nusbaum

Okay, my friends, I hate to call anyone out, but quite frankly, I’m tired of all the whining and complaining about being forced to stay home and spend time with family. Yes, this pandemic situation has gone on way too long, and, yes, we’re all tired of not being able to live our lives the way we’d like, but this is the way things are going to be for the foreseeable future. With that in mind, I’m taking it upon myself to offer some instruction and tips for surviving the holidays in quarantine mode. 

First, let’s discuss gifts and shopping. Most of your holiday shopping should be done online to avoid crowd situations. In order to ensure that your family’s gifts will arrive in time for Christmas morning, you should order them in April. What? You didn’t do that? Neither did I. My family is getting gifts from Dollar Tree. I recently found out that I’m getting a Halloween throw for Christmas from my mom. She ordered it in July, and it just arrived. I’m also getting a lovely green quilt that Mom ordered for her own bed, only to find out that it was too big and heavy for her to deal with. In return, I get to buy my mother a bedspread more to her liking. At least now I know what she wants.  Don’t you feel silly for complaining about YOUR situation?

Another great gift idea is to give the gift of sanitation. Who knew that toilet paper and hand wipes would be the gifts we’d be asking for? A nice basket filled with all sorts of soaps and cleaning products, paper towels, and PPE is sure to elicit smiles and sighs of pleasure.

This year, it might also be a nice idea to thank the essential workers in your life, and I’m including the folks at the grocery stores, the fast food drive-thrus, and the postal workers, as well as medical professionals, law enforcement, and firefighters. Say “thank you” to anyone who’s helped you get through this mess. I’ll gift as many as possible even if it’s just handing out individually wrapped and sanitized candy canes.

At this point, we should talk about holiday refreshments and libations. I would not recommend that you add liquor to your eggnog. A few years ago, we got into trouble with that. There is a very nice drink called a Kris Kringle, made by adding cranberry juice to Prosecco. It’s pretty and looks like sparkling grape juice, which is what you can tell the kids you’re drinking. Shop smartly, though, and have a bottle or two of the grape juice on hand. Kids aren’t as dumb as you think.

Since we’ve been eating like little piggies all spring and summer long, maybe we should rethink the huge holiday meals and the baking frenzy that we traditionally associate with this season. Let’s make a nice tossed salad, grill some fish or chicken, and eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Don’t worry. I’m only messing with you.  Eat all you want and enjoy it. We have the added bonus this year of not having to wear pants at home, so it won’t matter if they don’t fit.  The grocery stores have done a good job of keeping shelves stocked and keeping food available in these difficult circumstances. It was dicey at first, but things have improved.  You’ve probably racked up lots of grocery points, so grab a free turkey and a cheap ham and make soups and casseroles to get you through the winter months. Randy is trying his hand at baking, and he’s doing a lot more of the cooking around here. He’s getting better at it, and I’m enjoying a nice break from the kitchen.

Decorate your home with whatever you have on hand. Use fresh greens from your yard (or the neighbors’ yards if you’re stealthy) and fruit and nuts from the markets. You can do all sorts of arts and crafts with the kids. Last year, Randy made some Christmas trees out of green wired tomato cages. They were so silly that I laughed every time I saw them. 

Randy and I have been very busy filling orders this season since more people are shopping online.  We created a tree ornament in the shape of a face mask, and I’m working on a Dr. Fauci bobblehead doll. If you push the little button on the bottom, you’ll hear the good doctor’s voice rasping, “Wear your mask @#%$&**!”  If you can sew, you might make some masks for your friends and family.  I don’t sew well, but I’ve made dozens of them. Some of them are painful to wear, but beggars can’t be choosers.

I feel certain that Randy will don his Santa suit on Christmas Eve, as he does every year. This year, though, he will likely only wear the jacket, wig, beard and hat. Pants, as always, are optional.  He may or may not take his annual midnight walk through the neighborhood this year, but if he does, I hope he remembers to cover himself. No child wants to remember Santa that way.

I want to give a shout-out to Jen Shesman, who took the time to write some very nice things about my column, and I truly appreciate it. Thank you, Jen!

My family and I are wishing all of you a happy, healthy, and safe holiday season. I’m hoping we all get through it and can find some things to laugh about.

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