Monday, 9 January 2012

Christmas 2011 - the recap

in honor of my puppy, I bought these English Sheepdog ornaments for everyone.  Not that he's a purebred anything, but it reminded me of him.
We are finally far enough away from Christmas that I feel like talking about it again.  And also, I've just been going through my photos, and realized that I took a bunch on purpose to demonstrate the typical Heller/Carling Christmas Madness.

Lets begin, shall we?  First family tradition: the wrapping room.

Current obvious choice for the wrapping room is the now-mostly-empty bedroom of my sister.  When she moved out, my parents made her take EVERYTHING.*  SO this lovely empty room is where we each hole up for a day, and wrap our gifts in secret.

Think we have enough wrapping nonsense in this room?  Obviously not, since that bag to the left of the table is wrapping paper I actually purchased this year, and decided to bring over.  Really?  This seems nuts, even to me.  Next year, no more wrapping paper purchases, I don't care how pretty.  Must. us. up. current. supply.  Or my basement will look like the bed above in 20 years.

Second family tradition:  We eat our body weight in delicious foods, and wash it down with booze.  This is a tradition I will be continuing, for sure.

Third family tradition:  We spoil each other ROTTEN.

careful Lisa, or some bugs might fly in there.
This Christmas tree contains gifts for 7 people, none of whom are children, this does not count the stockings, and it doesn't include gifts too big to fit under the tree (my letterpress, Lisa's new stereo, and Dad's photo taking backdrop setup.)

Tradition number 4:  The Christmas Morning "treasure" hunt.  This was a thing in my mother's family, and it has come down to us.  My Grandad, the distinguished gentleman in some of the following photos, is a word-game fanatic (as is my Grandma.)  They play Scrabble together almost every day, he prints out crypic crosswords from the Times, and then he actually solves them.  Without looking at the hints.  Whole other level of good with words.

So when my mom was growing up (and I am hazy on the details because I wasn't actually there) he would write them a series of clues, each one leading to the next hidden somewhere in the house.  We open our stockings first* solve the treasure hunt (which has the decoding system for how Lisa and I know which gifts are ours (Dad hates tags)) and then we eat breakfast, before going back to open the tree-gifts.

The way this translates directly:

  • Grandad, or Mom and Dad filling in when he isn't there, writes us a series of clues.  When we were younger, he would do two separate ones, so that they could be tailored to the ages we were.  Now, they are so stinking hard we just get one, for the three of us.
  • We spend an hour or so bitching about how hard the clues are.  Because they are! and there is very little more annoying that being 3 people on a treasure hunt through your house, walking past smirking parents and grandparents who already know the answers.  Bah.
  • We solve a bunch, and then we get to the one that Grandad secretly knew was way too hard for us.  There's always one...and is always gets us huffy, and wishing we could just stop.
    • We aren't allowed to just give up, one eats breakfast until we are done.  So the parents are at least motivated to give us hints...
  • Let me give you a sample clue.  "Lady Gaga, although no lady, holds US soldier captive."  This obviously tells you where to look in our house for the next clue, right?  Ha.  Lets break it down, cryptic crossword style.
    • My sister correctly guesses that although no lady is telling us to get rid of the word lady, and just use Gaga.  Ok, fine.
    • We then fixate on the fact that he used the specifc "U.S." when referring to the solider.  This has to mean something - in cryptic clues, every word means something. 
    • At this point Brandon, who had solved the last 2 clues himself and was holding up very well, wanders off in his patented method of problem solving entitled "something will come to me"
    • Mom, tired of waiting for her breakfast, comes in to help.
    • She has been solving these clues for most of her life now, so she figured out that the point of the clue is to make a word by taking the letters GAGA and wrapping them around a word standing for US soldier.
    • So we name all the different branches of the US military, and try and figure out whether ganavyga means anything. (nope, it doesn't.)
    • Then we have the breakthrough that when Grandad thinks of the US military, he is thinking of words that were used in HIS peak years, at the end and after WW2.  Mom realizes that the word for US soldier is probably GI.
    • Can you guess it yet?
    • I sure as hell hope not, because that would mean 1) you know what objects are in my house and b) it took us another 10 minutes.
    • The answer is: Gaggia, which is the brand of espresso machine my parents have on the kitchen counter.
  • And that was one of the easy ones.

After that, tradition dissolves a little bit, and we do whatever the heck we want, mostly.  We get together again after breakfast and actually open the gifts under the tree, and then we have lunch (this year we were so slow solving the hunt that we didn't even eat lunch.), and then regroup for a dinner of roasted lamb with shallot/merlot sause.  Truly, that sauce is unbelieveable, and its the reason we've been eating the same dinner at Christmas for the past 10 years, give or take.

The rest?  Just pretty photos

Hope you and yours enjoyed a great holiday, whatever you celebrated.  All the best in 2012.

*This caused a fight so large I actually walked out of the house on Christmas morning to blow off steam and avoid throwing things.  Lisa has a problem when she thinks people mess up her traditions, and I have a problem when I think she is making them up to suit whatever she feels like doing.  She has an interesting memory, my sister.  But it a pointless fight, because neither of us can be 100% right, and neither one of us is willing to not be stubborn in order to make peace.  Lisa, I will delete any and all comments you leave on this subject, so just fucking drop it.  You want to go complain about it, go start your own blog.


  1. We had a variation of your hunt, growing up ... but for us, it was on Easter. And my dad? He totally has a wicked streak when it comes to making up clues. Sometimes we'd be going on for HOURS (while my sister devoured her Easter basket ... being all of 6 years old, and therefore having easy clues) ... and he would never give hints!

    The funniest part, though, was that the baskets were always in the oven or the dryer. Once he realized we'd caught onto this, he made a rule that said we HAD to solve all the other clues ... and prove it to him ... before getting the prize.

    All that, and it was fun. Always.

    It sounds like you guys had a fantastic Christmas! And that wrapping room! I WISH I still had all my wrapping supplies!

  2. Found your blog through APW, must say I'm kind of in love with your Grandad (and your mad letterpress skillz!)