Friday 21 December 2012

Mommy Rotten's Christmas Special Drinking Game!

One of the things that used to make me feel super Christmas-y as a kid was figuring out which Christmas specials would be airing on TV when.  Those nights being allowed to stay up a little later than usual, eating my mother's shortbread cookies and making Christmas crafts while we watched was what really put me in the Christmas spirit.

But modern technology went ahead and ruined all of that.

Because now, instead of working our schedules around some moderate TV programming, we can have an entire library's worth of Christmas specials at our fingertips by popping in a DVD or whatever modern convenience you prefer.  Which means that, if we want to, we can have Christmas shit playing non-stop, all day long, as if we were the Hallmark channel.  Oh, and I guess there's also the fucking Hallmark channel.

I don't know about you guys but that is exactly what happens in our house.  I have so much to do at this time of year and sometimes the only thing that gets the kids off my back about Christmas is letting them watch "Frosty the Snowman" for the umpteenth time.

These shows are played un-endingly for the entire month of December and I can tell you, a year isn't long enough to make me stop being sick of them (even the good ones!).  "A Christmas Story" is probably my favourite, but I don't think I can bear to watch it one more time.

That sucks.

Well, when life hands you lemons...add vodka.

Instead of bemoaning the fact that I can never enjoy a Christmas movie again I have decided to cope with them, and the whole damned holiday, by making a fun drinking game!  So get your favourite Holiday mixer because here are the rules to...

Mommy Rotten's Christmas Special Drinking Game

 Are you watching yet another Christmas special?  I'm sorry.  Have yourself a drink.

2.  Is the title of that movie also the title of a Christmas song?  (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, White Christmas, The Christmas Shoes).  Take a drink.  Take two if the plot of the movie is based on the lyrics.  Then drink every time they sing it or play it as background music.  In fact....

3.  Every time someone sings a Christmas song during the special, take a drink.

4.  If the story is about a character who doesn't quite fit in (a "misfit" if you will), take a drink (Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Rudolph's Shiny New Year, Olive the Other Reindeer, Santa Claus: The Movie). Take two drinks if this causes the character to leave the North Pole for some hilarious fish-out-of-water adventures (Elf).

5.  Take a drink if Santa petulantly threatens to quit Christmas because people don't love him or Christmas enough (The Year Without a Santa Claus, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, It Nearly Wasn't Christmas, Once upon a Christmas).  Celebrate with another drink when the collective ass-kissing of the world brings him back.

6.  Take a drink if the main character "saves Christmas".  (Ernest Saves Christmas, Elmo Saves Christmas, A Flinstone Christmas, The Bears Who Saved Christmas).

7.  Take a drink if the main character is having a crisis over the possible non-existence of Santa (Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus, A Very Goofy Christmas, The Polar Express).  Take two drinks if the crisis is resolved by getting stuff from Santa (Miracle on 34th Street).

8.  Take a drink if the main character learns the "true meaning of Christmas".  (How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas, One Magic Christmas).

9.  Take a drink if one or more of the characters are treated like insufferable assholes if they fail in any way to profess their undying love for Christmas (A Christmas Carol, Christmas With the Kranks, Christmas with a Capital "C").  Drink again when they learn the "true meaning of Christmas" and change their Christmas-hating ways.

10.  Take a drink if the main character is given supernatural aid via ghosts, elves, angels, etc. (It's a Wonderful Life, Santa Claus: The Movie, Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July).  Take two drinks if this supernatural aid leads to them learn the "true meaning of Christmas" (A Christmas Carol, One Magic Christmas).  Take three drinks if the supernatural aid punches the main character in the face (Scrooged).

11.  Take a drink if Santa dies/wants to retire and the job of being Santa must go to someone else (Ernest Saves Christmas, The Santa Clause, Call Me Claus, Santa Claus: The Movie, Mr. St. Nick).

12.  Take a drink if young children travel to the North Pole sans parental consent or adequate adult supervision.  Talking snowmen, angels, elves, magical train conductors or Santa Claus do not count as "adequate adult supervision".  (Frosty the Snowman, The Polar Express, One Magic Christmas)

13.  Take a drink if the Christmas special involves heavy subject matter like poverty, death or homelessness (A Christmas Carol, Scrooged, The Christmas Shoes) .  Take two drinks if these subjects are unsatisfyingly resolved with "Christmas Magic". (Prancer, Santa Claus: The Movie, One Magic Christmas, Jack Frost).  Take a lot more drinks when you end up having to explain all that shit to your kid.

14.  Take two drinks if the Christmas special takes place in a time/universe where the existence of Jesus Christ or Santa Claus is impossible.  (A Flinstones Christmas, He-Man & She-Ra: A Christmas Special, Christmas Who?, The Star Wars Holiday Special)

15.  Take a double shot to counter the PTSD from watching any Christmas specials where the main character is forced to relive Christmas over and over again (Christmas Do-Over, Christmas Every Day, Stuck On Christmas).  Celebrate with another shot when it's finally over because they learned the "true meaning of Christmas".

16.  Chug down your whole drink if the Christmas special promises to ruin your childhood.  (How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Christmas Story 2, Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure)

17.  Drink the whole damned bottle if you're watching The Christmas Shoes.  Seriously.  It's the worst.

Monday 17 December 2012

A Scarf Too Far: Chronicling Celebrity Abuse of Man Scarves

When I was a little girl my Great Gran MacCrappy used to say "Allas weeeeearrr a grrreet mufflerr in th'winterrr.  Et maks all th'difrrrrrrence"  which, roughly translated means "Scarves are wicked cozy!"  And every winter of my childhood she bought me a great big colourful "muffler" which I loved.

Scarves are probably my favourite winter accessory.  Every time I see someone wearing their scarf I think of them as a practical and sensible individual.  The best part of the scarf in winter wear (unlike many winter coats) is that you don't have to sacrifice style for warmth.  In fact lately the scarf seems to be the fashion accessory for style-minded male celebrities.

So much so that they have now officially taken it too far.  I don't exactly know all the rules of fashion, but I'm pretty sure that these dudes are bordering on scarf-abuse.  It will totally kill your boner for these otherwise totally hot, Freebie List-worthy, beautiful, beautiful men.

David Beckham.  No apparent environmental reason for the scarf?  Check.  Sufficiently serious scowl indicating a deeply brooding personality beneath his pretty-boy looks?  Check.  Sleeves rolled up to further demonstrate that this scarf is not in any way utilitarian but is instead making a bold fashion statement?  Check.

Yeah, I'm sorry but I just can't take seriously a man who takes himself so damned seriously.

Colin Farrell.  Granted, there seems to be a clear environmental resaon for the scarf but the open coat says "Hey!  Did you notice my scarf yet?  Because I'm totally wearing a scarf and it is so badass I no longer even need to do up my fucking coat.  Because I'm a badass, scarf-wearing mothertfucker."

I'm not at all surprised to see him abusing the scarf.  It is just another sign of his inherent douchey-ness, as evidenced by his affinity for v-necks.  (Man, I love ripping on douchebags!)

Speaking of douchebags....

Here is John Mayer sporting the "scarf is the new tie" look.

John "I became a musician so I could bang hot chicks" Mayer combines pretension with douchey-ness in mind boggling ways.

First, he's just gross looking.  He is the sole exception on this list when it comes to any claims on manly beauty.  I think he looks like he's constantly recovering from a bender.  And yet he is indeeds banging hot chicks to the point that, according his now infamous Playboy interview "turning (him) down is the new sleeping with (him)".

Second, he esteems his music far more than "Your Body is Wonderland" will ever deserve.  He may be a great guitar player but a great song writer he is not.  Anyway, guy loves scarves so much he's selling scarves with his name on them.

Jake Gyllenhaal.  Has he been in any good movies since "Brokeback Mountain"?  I haven't noticed.  But his facial expression here and this indoor scarf seem to be saying that he no longer needs to be in good movies because he was in "Brokeback Mountain".

"Look at this scarf!  I'm Donnie Fucking Darko!"

Brad Pitt.  Here's Brad on the red carpet at a film festival screening of "Changeling" wearing a scarf-as-tie.  Which is a refreshing change from the scarf-as-scarf he wore to the "Changeling" photocall and this summer scarf he wore at the Cannes Film Festival.  As in the South of France, Cannes.

Because who doesn't need a scarf in the Mediterranean?

Daniel Craig.  Apparently starring in "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" and being the most badass version of Bond to date has led Daniel Craig to believe that he could pull this off.

He can't.

Ewan MacGregor.  No apparent environmental reason for the scarf?  Check.  Sufficiently serious scowl indicating a deeply brooding personality beneath his pretty-boy looks?  Check.  Sleeves rolled up to further demonstrate that his scarf is not in any way utilitarian but is instead making a bold fashion statement?  Check.


I like Ewan MacGregor.  In Ewan's case the scarf seems to be his only problem.

But it's enough.  Dude wears a LOT of scarves.

Speaking of dudes who wear a LOT of scarves....

 Johnny Depp.  When did Johnny Depp stop being a respected actor and start auditioning for the role of Steven Tyler's mic stand?

At least Ewan Macgregor et al. wear their scarves one at a time.  Johnny has a scarf for his pocket.

Read that again: He has a scarf.  For his pocket.

Doesn't he live in LA or the Bahamas or something?

Is this a pirate thing?

By all rights my list should have ended with me crowning Johnny Depp "King of the Man Scarves".  But then I saw this:

Just look at this fucking scarf!
Lenny, I know you're a rock star and all but Christ!  Buy a coat, dude!

Friday 14 December 2012

How to Make the Best Fucking Shortbread Cookies You Ever Had

This post has been inspired by my friend Jill Smo at Yeah. Good Times. who wrote this awesome post about her gravy recipe.  It truly does look like the best fucking gravy I ever had and I intend to try my hand at it.  Who knows?  Maybe this will start a trend with other bloggers and we can collaborate on a "Best Fucking Recipes" cook book.

I think everyone has a specific something that reminds them of Christmas like no other.  Perhaps the smell of pine, the glitter of tinsel or the sense of a panic attack looming on the horizon.  For me it's shortbread cookies.

My earliest memories of Christmas involve pilfering buttery little scraps of shortbread dough from the bowl, helping my mother poke the tines of a fork into the cookies and then my mother weeping over a plate of elaborately decorated, angel-shaped shortbreads, each of which were missing their heads because I thought no one would notice if I only took one bite.

Needless to say she was done with cookie decorating from that day on.  Which is fine because shortbread needs no frills.  It is best when it is simple.

When I was old enough to be a real help in the kitchen my mother painstakingly taught me the secrets of the shortbread: that beautiful buttery delight whose texture reminds me of walking in freshly fallen snow.  If that doesn't make any sense to you then you haven't eaten my mother's shortbread.  Because I can think of no better way to describe the experience of biting down on these tender, melt in your mouth treats.

Have I sufficiently impressed upon you the superiority of this delicious biscuit?  Are your mouths watering yet in anticipation?  Are you ready to make some fucking shortbread, or what?  All right!  Here's how to make...

The Best Fucking Shortbread Cookies You Ever Had

The first thing you should know is that there isn't really a secret recipe.  In fact the recipe itself doesn't exactly matter.  You can get a very decent recipe on the back of a box of Canada corn starch.

Why doesn't it matter?  Because any standard recipe you are given is always going to require some tweaking.  According to Wikipedia traditional shortbread is "one part white sugar, two parts butter and three parts flour".  This is too much fucking sugar.  Also, if you don't know what you're doing, three parts flour is likely too much flour.  If you're looking for an already tweaked, fool proof and kitchen tested recipe, here's mine:

1/2 pound butter
*a scant 1/2 cup of icing/caster sugar*
1/2 cup corn starch/rice flour
2 - 2 1/2 cups flour

So, a little science:  sugar + butter + heat = hard candy.  Ever notice how the crispier cookies like ginger snaps and ginger bread have a shit-ton of sugar in them?  It's the sugar that gives them that hardness and that is what we don't want.

I try to use as little sugar as I can possibly get away with by using this method: start with 1/3 cup of sugar.  Cream it with the butter and then taste.  Keep adding sugar by the tablespoon until the mixture is only just sweet.  It's always somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 cup.  It's also important to use a superfine sugar because it will incorporate into the butter more easily preventing accidental over-sweetening.

When handling the butter it is important never to touch it with your hands (Ne touche pas!), which is something we learned from the French-Canadian side of our family.  My mother used to slap our hands away from the dough when she caught us touching it, trying to steal a morsel.  She explained that once butter melts it's never quite the same again.  You've separated the water and milk fats and such and they won't interact properly with the other ingredients, resulting in a tough cookie.

So I use either an electric mixer or food processor to cream the butter and sugar.  After that I mix the rest of the ingredients by hand.  Mechanical mixers are too efficient at incorporating flour and too much flour also = a tough cookie.

Flour absorbs moisture differently depending on the humidity in the air which means that the amount of flour you need for your cookie might vary.  Add a minimum of 2 cups and then add whatever extra flour is necessary to get a good consistency for rolling your dough.  Shortbread dough is great for rolling and cutting into shapes.

But we're not going to do that.

Because doing that requires working the dough and touching it with your hands (Slap!  Ne touche pas!) and the more you work a dough the more likely you are to develop gluten and that = a tough cookie.

Instead we're going to press that dough into a prepared square or round pan (depending on the shape you like your cookies to be) with a spatula.  Then we are going to plunge our hands into a bowl of ice water for a couple of minutes.  Then and only then, we will use our now ice-cold, corpse-like hands to make the dough firm and even (about 3/4" - 1" thick).

Take a floured butter knife and score the pan into bars or wedges (depending on the shape of your pan), and then poke the floured tines of a fork about 1/4 of the way into the dough.  Let the dough rest in the refrigerator while the oven preheats to about 300 degrees.

Shortbread cookies are baked for a long time at a low temperature because you want them to be almost white when they come out so they kind of look like snow, too.  Delicious, buttery snow (aghaghagh...drooling).  They'll probably need about 30 minutes but it's a good idea to start checking them after the 20-minute mark.  They're ready when they are just starting to turn golden at the edges.

Take them out and let them cool.

In fact let them get very cold.

These cookies are delicious any time but I prefer to eat them after they have spent some time in the fridge.  It just seems to add to that snowy texture I was talking about.

As long as you remember the rules about sugar, butter and flour you can try many variations on this recipe with good results.  One year my mother and I experimented with four different recipes for shortbread.  We discovered she prefers to use rice flour for its slightly crispier texture instead of the corn starch I like to use.

You can add a little vanilla or ground up nuts or you can dip the final product in chocolate but for me I like my shortbread just plain and simple.

With a big ole glass of Bailey's, of course.

Friday 7 December 2012

Surviving the Hell That is Christmas: A Guide

As we head into the dreaded Holiday Season I can feel my anxiety ramping up.  It's going to be a rough ride.  It always is.  As I may have mentioned a few times before I am not fond of Christmas.  This is a holiday that usually leaves me crying on the floor.

But not this year.

Not this year.

This year I've got a plan.  Now that I'm a seasoned veteran of Christmas I should be able to anticipate most, if not all, of the insanity.  And so, in the spirit of giving I will share my wisdom with you.  In guide form.  May it serve you well.

1. Delay For as Long as Possible.

This really should be a no-brainer.  Why in the hell do we need Christmas to last so long?  I'm good with limiting my Christmas to the month of December, preferably to just about a week before the event, if not later.  In my house as soon as my kids get a whiff of Christmas they basically lose all sense of self-control and start making me fantasize about taking a little vacation in the psych ward.  We don't even say the word "Christmas" in our house (I call it the "C-word".  My kids will be so confused.) until we have no choice but to give in to the collective pressures of TV, school and the world in general.

2. Start as Soon As Possible.

This year I got smart and started planning Christmas 2012 shortly after Christmas 2011 ended.  Because that's the best time to buy Christmas stuff for half-price, which sometimes includes stocking stuffers and gift sets.  This wasn't easy because after Christmas is when I have pretty much no money left, so I also collected up my Christmas shopping throughout the year.  I'd been meaning to do this for years and now that I finally have I can say that my anxiety about Christmas shopping has been significantly reduced.  Like 75% less than normal.

3.  Stock Up.

In the effort to loosen up my available cash situation prior to Christmas, I also took advantage of the cheap and plentiful food available in the fall and stocked up.  My grocery store had a sale on whole chickens for $5 each.  I bought ten.  They had bacon on sale for $3/lb so I bought six.  For awhile we ate a lot of potato or french onion soup because I could buy 10lb bags for $2.  I bought huge sacks of flour and rice.  I froze all kinds of vegetables.  Every square inch of freezer space and pantry is occupied.

At this point I pretty much have enough food to get us through a small apocalypse.  (You know, one that doesn't involve nuclear destruction or mass-extinction causing asteroids.)  Which means aside from milk, eggs and fresh veggies I shouldn't have to spend much money on groceries.

4.  Stop Giving a Fuck.

Seriously.  Stop it.  In a normal Universe this would be a simple one day celebration.  Just because the whole rest of the world decided to go batshit insane for Christmas does not mean that you have to.  And the less you Give a Fuck about Christmas the less you will Give a Fuck when something threatens to ruin it.  So you broke the handmade Santa figurine that your mother made?  Clean it up and get over it.  So the store didn't have that toy your kid specifically asked for?  Get them something else, they have too much stuff anyway.  So your kids woke up early on Christmas morning and opened all their presents without you?  Ummm....

5. Stock Up on Booze.

I will purposely go through the month of November without drinking so I can save my booze money and low tolerance of alcohol for the Christmas Season.  There is some shit you just can't shrug off.  I have found that going through the Holidays in a mild alcoholic fog is the best way to Not Give a Fuck while experiencing ongoing and generalized shit like:

  • constant fighting between your kids
  • constant whining from your kids
  • constant shitty Christmas music (Christmas shoes, Jingle Bell Rock, Anything Mariah Carey)
  • constant shitty Christmas movies (Christmas Shoes, Jingle All the Way, Anything Tim Allen)
  • constant questions about Christmas ("Is it Christmas yet?  How 'bout now?")
  • constant questions about Santa Claus ("How does that fat bastard fit down our chimney?")
  • extended family

In a pinch, alcohol also helps you to not Give a Fuck when experiencing some of the more surprising and acute sources of possible rage stroke.  Like when your kids knock over the Christmas tree during a sword fight and break several antique ornaments in the process, or when one of them has not only eaten all the chocolates in his advent calendar but all the chocolates in his brother's as well.  (Helpful Hint: chocolate advent calendars are more trouble than they're worth.  Don't buy.)

Be careful not to overdo it with the drinking because Christmas with a hangover is something to be avoided at all costs.

6.  Make a List.  Then Burn That List.

Sit down and make a list of all the activities and fun stuff you'd like to do for Christmas.  Be sure to put all the things you can think of that would make your Christmas especially special.  Did you make sure you didn't leave anything out?  Good.

Now throw it on the fire.

Seriously, look at the size of your fucking list!  That is a lot of awesome fun shit that I can personally guarantee will be nowhere near as fun and awesome as you think it is going to be.  It is Christmas and your kids are pretty much determined to ruin every fun family experience you can dream up.  The level of experienced devastation will be directly related to how much you care about  just wanting to spend some quality family time together it's Christmas, damnit!

Stick to the stuff you absolutely have to do and if you have any time left over, do whatever is easiest.  My kids actually have more fun baking prefab Pillsbury cookies than the ones from scratch. They are just as happy with Rice Krispie treats as they would be with Gingerbread houses.  And the fewer crafts they make the fewer fights they have over glitter glue and scissors.  You don't have to feel guilty.  A magical fat man and flying reindeer are going to show up in the middle of the night and leave toys and candy.  Your kids are already having fun! 

7.  Themed Gifts

Another source of Holiday stress is shopping for that perfect gift for all the people on your list.  I get so worked up with wondering what will they like, do they already have it, will it fit, can it be returned for each individual that it takes several weeks to recover from the PTSD.  So I finally decided to get lazy and do themed gifts.  If you pick a good enough theme you can eliminate most of these questions without even having to worry about looking lazy.  Last year everybody got blankets.

This year I think I'm going with soap, booze or a combination of the two.  (Surprise, family members who read my blog!).  Themed gifts also has the benefit of limiting your time spent shopping.  If you do it right you should be able to get it all done with one stop.

8.  Shit All Over Christmas.

Finally the best thing I have always had going to cope with Christmas is to just shit all over it.  Don't get me wrong: there is plenty to love about the Holiday.  Maybe when my kids are grown up and moved out I can come to love it again, but in the meantime I just need to take the piss out of Christmas because it's kicking my ass.  I'm not out to ruin Christmas for everybody or declare war on it.  I don't hate people for loving it (there's much to love) and I don't go around "Bah! Humbug!"-ing everyone I meet.

But here, in my blog and on my facebook page, I have found a nice safe space where I can let off a little steam by flipping the bird at Christmas.