The Superfoods of 2018

Yes, here it is.  The much anticipated annual post regarding 2018 superfoods.  Faster than a speeding antioxidant, more powerful than an amino acid, able to leap tall viruses in a single bound.  Look, inside at your immune system.  It’s a flavonoid.  It’s an omega-3 fatty acid.  It’s superfood!  Strange visitor from another country who came to America with powers and abilities far beyond those of ordinary foods.

OK, enough with the dramatics.  A superfood obviously has little in common with a superman, but what, exactly is a superfood?  The handy online dictionary defines it this way: a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.

Essentially, a food full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and few, if any, empty calories.  Therefore, usually a fruit, vegetable, or nut that we’ve known about, but paid little attention to (cauliflower, pecans, or raspberries) or ones that have been around forever, but we’ve never heard of before (sacha inchi nuts, maringa, or jack fruit to name three from last year).

So why do they change from year-to-year?  Well, why do car companies put out new models every year?  The answer is the same, we get bored with the old and value the new.  So, with that being said, here’s this year’s list…

Tigernuts – And no, eating tigernuts is not in violation of the Environmental Protection Act as they’re a tuber and not actual tiger…well, nuts.  They kinda look like shrunken, desiccated brown prunes that grow underground similar to other tubers like potatoes, carrots and turnips.  They’re native to Spain and the Mediterranean region and are sweet and starchy at the same time.  They get mentioned as part of a paleo diet and are rich in fiber, vitamins E and C, potassium, zinc and iron and since tigernuts aren’t nuts, there’s no worry about nut allergies…obviously.  Aside from being eaten, they also come in the form of milk called horchata.

Maqui berries – Native to southern Chile and Argentina, maqui berries resemble fat, purple blueberries with a slightly tart flavor.  They are apparently stuffed full of antioxidants, fiber, and omega fatty acids.  Their promotors claim they combat arthritis, high cholesterol, colon cancer, heart disease and diabetes.  This year, they are THE ingredient to add to your morning smoothie.

Fermented foods – While this isn’t a specific food, anything with “healthy” bacteria are all the rage this year, to include fermented milk products and vegetables.  The word most associated with fermented food is “probiotics” which refers to the beneficial bacteria present in them that promote digestive health.  Examples in the fermented foods category includes sauerkraut (a German fermented cabbage), kimchi (a Korean dish of fermented cabbage, radishes and other vegetables seasoned with chili powder, scallions, garlic, ginger and jeotgal), kombucha (a fermented drink of black tea, vinegar and sugar) and kefir (a fermented cow, goat or sheep milk product that resembles drinkable yogurt).

Sorghum – This whole grain that grows in a manner similar to corn, has been popular in the South, in syrup or molasses form, for hundreds of years and in Africa for thousands due to its drought resistant nature.  It’s a versatile grain that’s high in riboflavin, vitamin B6, thiamin, niacin, and fiber.  Aside from a sugar substitute, it can be ground into flour, popped like corn and transformed into risotto.

Crickets – And small insects in general.  Apparently, crickets are almost 70% protein and contain all nine essential amino acids, vitamin B12, omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids, potassium, calcium and iron.  And there is good news regarding the “crunch” factor…the nocturnally active insects can be bought in flour form and baked into cakes, muffins, etc.

There you go, the superfoods of 2018 and there’s something for everyone on the list, from whole grains to fruit to non-anatomical tigernuts to creepy crawlies.  After all, variety IS the spice of life.


Just Like Mom Used to Make

There are just some meals that no one could make better than your mom, to include any of the Iron Chefs.  And those meals vary from person to person.  For me, no culinary specialist could top my Irish mom’s shepherd’s pie.  Shepherd’s pie is, as you would expect, a traditional Irish dish of ground lamb, carrots, onions, garlic and various herbs and spices topped with mashed potatoes and cheese.  Mom would bake the dish until a perfect cheesy/potatoey crust formed on top that provided a perfect consistency with the underlying lamb.  I’m doing my best impression of Pavlov’s dog right now, despite the lack of a bell and becoming a vegetarian as an adult.

Prior to going vegetarian, I had never sampled a shepherd’s pie that could hold a candle to mom’s.  However, I think if  made the dish they would come in a very close second.  Alas, they do not offer a shepherd’s pie, but they do offer other recipes that certainly give moms everywhere a run for their money.  Here are a few of our favorites and I bet at least one of them will bring back memories of your mother preparing it with love just as food critic Anton Ego’s (voiced by a marvelous Peter O’Toole) mother did for him in the movie Ratatouille.

Chicken Parmigiana – Our chefs coat the succulent chicken breast with freshly crushed panko breadcrumbs and bake.  They then smother the baked chicken with sauce made from Valoroso pear tomatoes straight from Italy, fresh basil, thyme, marjoram and garlic and then top it with Parmesan and whole-milk mozzarella cheese and bake again, just enough to melt the cheese into the sauce.  Mangiare!

Macaroni and Cheese – Just about every mom had a homemade recipe for mac and cheese that put the boxed versions to shame and ours does the same while taking you back to your childhood kitchen where your feet dangled off the chair, not yet reaching the ground.  Our elbow macaroni is made from scratch and we cover it with the finest mild cheddar and Parmesan cheeses.  We then add various secret spices and bake to perfection.  Simple is sometimes best.

Roasted Turkey with gravy – Our turkey breast is slow roasted, thickly sliced and then coated with our delicious turkey gravy seasoned with oregano, basil, sage, rosemary, marjoram and thyme.  Some “sage” advice from “Rosemary:” sounds like its “time” to order this dish and not just for Thanksgiving.

California beef stew – That’s actually perfect for a cold midwestern or northeastern winter’s day.  The prime cuts of cubed beef are slow cooked in a tomato and red wine gravy and a mirepoix of potatoes, carrots, peas, onions and garlic.  Throw in a dash of our perfect mixture of herbs and spices and you might not be able to tell ours from mom’s.

Cinnamon raisin bread pudding with caramel rum sauce – What adult cannot remember their mom’s sweet desserts that you could eat no matter how stuffed your tummy was?  Since smell is the sense most closely associated with memory, the smell of cinnamon wafting through your kitchen as you heat up this wonderful example of comfort food will, no doubt, evoke childhood memories aplenty.  This moist dessert has just the right amount of pure vanilla, plump raisins, caramel and, of course, cinnamon to cause you to loosen that belt a notch or two.  Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream…ahhhh, life is good.

Double fudge brownie – As with the mac and cheese, no artificial box version here.  We use fresh ingredients, to include gourmet Guittard chocolate, that make it worth walking around all day with brownie crumbs wedged into the corners of your mouth as you did as a youngster.  Oh yeah, I almost forgot the best part, the “double” in the title refers to the chocolate chips embedded into the fudge of the brownie.  No need to thank us.

Dutch apple pie – Gotta hand it to those Dutch, they created an awesome dessert that we improved upon, as did your mother, I’m sure.  We hand roll a flakey, single crust…no top crust in the Dutch version of apple pie, just a light covering of cinnamon crumbly goodness…and then mix our sun-ripened apples, picked at peak freshness, with brown sugar and vanilla, among other things, and then bake it until a golden halo appears.  It’’ll just feel like you’re in Heaven.

As mentioned, these dishes might not top mom’s, but they sure come darn close.  Try them and the memories of you and mom in your childhood kitchen will arrive thick and fast and that’s always a good thing.


Ten Romantic Ideas for Valentine’s Day

Yes, there actually was a St. Valentine (or perhaps two) that lived in 3rd century Italy, was associated with courtly love, martyred (maybe) and then beatified on February 14th of God only knows what year.  He and his day were then promoted by the famous 14th century English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer and now, here we are, in 2018 still celebrating what St. Valentine and Chaucer wrought.

It is now a day to celebrate love and romance that greeting card companies, rose farmers and chocolate manufactures should thank the ghost of Chaucer for promoting.  Regardless, if you’re in a relationship, this day can be fraught with danger.  And if you’re currently a free agent (unattached) it only serves to remind you of that fact.  Given the title, perhaps all the free agents out there should just skip this week’s post…

Yeah, back to that title, here are ten simple and inexpensive ideas that serve to let your significant other know that you love and appreciate them and where these ideas “lead” is entirely up to you and your partner.

Indoor picnic – Preferably at night with all the romantic fixins’…blankets, candles, rose petals, throw pillows, oh yeah, don’t forget the food and drink also.  Or “go all the way” and have a night of glamping (glamorous camping) and add an indoor tent to the evening.

Hidden reminders of love – You just need to decide on the source of the reminder from sticky love notes to Hershey Kisses, to candy hearts, to any small item that lets your partner know you’re thinking about her/him.  Hide them in coat pockets, the car, shoes, the office (may require a bit of stealth), on your pet.  And if your partner doesn’t find them all on Valentine’s Day?  Who cares, he/she will find them eventually and they will probably mean more if they’re discovered on March 14th rather than February 14th.

Mid-day get away — Steal your partner away from the office for an unexpected lunch or, dare I say, more.  You might even have a hotel room stashed around the corner.  Just give the song “Afternoon Delight” a listen prior to executing this plan.

“Our songs” playlist – Every couple has a list of “their” songs, and not necessarily romantic ones, that define their relationship, whether it’s the first song you danced to or one you both equally despise.  Quick story, I was in the process of courting my wife and we were at a local watering hole in State College, PA.  A song came on and I was certain she was clueless as to who the artist was (this is before the age of cell phones) and I bet her that she could not identify the artist and the bet did NOT involve money (use your imagination).  To my surprise, she accepted the bet and promptly went over to the DJ and asked, “Who sings this song?”  I lost the bet, but we both won in the end.  From that point forward “Escape (the Pina Colada Song)” by Rupert Holmes has been one of “our” songs.

Scary movie date night – Very similar to an indoor picnic, just with a scary movie or binge-watching episode.  Curl up on the sofa, dim the lights, pop some corn, pour some wine and bring up “It” or “Stranger Things” on the flat screen and just revel in each other’s company.

Animoto video gift – Just visit, sign up, sign in and create your video using your own personal vids or photos while adding personalized text.  It’s a great way to make a retrospective of your relationship using old photos or videos that is sure to bring a tear to your partner’s eye.

Date night grab bag – Think of various date options, place them on cards and then place the cards in a bag or bowl.  Your partner then picks what you do for the evening…no backing out, either.  Try to avoid the normal “dinner and a movie” option.  How about visiting a jazz club or going to see a band that was popular when you both were in high school or hitting an indoor water park?  We have imaginations for a reason.  Live a little.

Plan, prepare and create – a child…no, just kidding.  That’s too easy.  A romantic dinner.  Sit down in consultation with your partner and do every step of the process together.  Plan the menu, shop for the ingredients, prepare and cook the meal, set the table and then enjoy being in the presence of your partner.

“Find me” scavenger hunt – Leave various clues for your partner as to your whereabouts, just don’t make it too difficult.  Then hide yourself wherever you like…the closet, your friend’s house, a hotel, a restaurant, a museum…you get the idea.  Then see where the evening takes you both.

Write “Our Story” – with the help of  You provide the words, Storybird provides the art.  You can write the entire story of your relationship or just a part of it.  The choices are only limited by your imagination.  Storybird can then create an e-version of your story or a hard copy.

There you go.  Have fun this Valentine’s Day with your partner no matter the what you decide (just stay away from chubby cherubs.  They’re kinda creepy if you ask me.)


Are Your Elderly Parents Eating Properly?

Whew!  It’s finally over, the holiday season that is.  Now the grind of winter begins with the light at the end of the tunnel (in the form of spring) almost too far away to see.  We all settle in to our “winter routines” and tend to go about our own business with blinders on due largely to family demands and cabin fever.  Unfortunately, during these isolated winter months, we tend to forget…perhaps “forget’ is too harsh a word…we tend to neglect…no, that’s worse than “forget”…we tend to overlook our aging parents, especially if we’re separated by distance.  And these gray, dreary, chilly winter months are probably when they need us more than any other time of the year.

As your parents go back to their homes after the holidays, they too fall into their winter routine and that routine could include poor nutrition.  In a recent study, it was discovered that 65% of elderly patients who visited an emergency room were either malnourished or at risk of malnutrition (read about it here: ).  The reasons why seniors don’t eat properly are myriad: from loss of appetite, to dental issues, to side effects from meds, to being on a fixed income, to no desire to cook for one or two, to loss of taste and/or smell, to depression, to difficulty accessing a grocery store just to list the most common.

So now it’s time for you to re-pay your parents for all the years of love, care and affection they showered upon you as you grew from child to adult, whether they ask for it or not (because many seniors are too proud to ask for assistance).  Remember when mom (no, I’m not a closet sexist here, just referring to the most common dynamic) prepared all those meals for your family and ensured you got all the nutrition your growing body and mind required?  Of course you do, it’s usually one of our fondest memories.  Well, now it’s time to return the favor by checking up on them on a regular basis, again, whether they request it or not.  And part of checking up involves ensuring that their nutritional needs are being met, among many other things, but that’s a subject for another post.

If you discover that your senior parents are not eating properly, then the first step is to figure out why this is the case.  You may need to enlist the help of a doctor to figure this out.  If that’s the case, then, by all means, enlist the help of a doctor.  After all, mom carried you around for nine months, birthed you and then the two of them created the person you see in the mirror.  Once you determine the cause, then, more than likely, can assist you in rectifying the situation, especially if you cannot be there to prepare meals for your parents on a daily basis.

Look, if you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you know I tend to be a jokey jokester, but not in this case.  We here at take senior nutrition quite seriously and that’s reflected in the care we take in preparing and shipping meals to them and all our customers.

We offer a variety of delicious, nutritious and customizable senior meal programs, to include: gourmet, diabetic, dairy free, gluten free, low carb, and low sodium.

Our professional chefs use the freshest ingredients, with no preservatives, that they cook in small batches and then flash freeze to lock in freshness.  Your parent’s custom ordered meals are then quickly packaged in dry ice and then shipped to their door as often as you desire.  All that’s required of them (or you) is to heat the meal up in either the stove or microwave and enjoy!  This way, they have access to healthy meals that meet all their nutrition requirements without having to travel to the grocery store.  Also, there’s no preparation, cooking or cleaning up required and you get to be the good son or daughter!

Sound good?  Check it out here:


New Meals

We’ve got new meals! We’ve got new items on both the a la carte and the complete meals menus. Let me introduce you!

More meals are available, and even more are on the way. Keep checking our website!


Sensible Tips for Getting and Staying Healthy in the New Year

Yeah, no this isn’t a New Year’s resolution post.  It’s simply a post about how to improve your health that can be applied at any time.  I’m just simply writing about getting healthy on January third.  That, in no way, associates this post with the new year…just go with it, OK?

So why get healthier?  Oh, I don’t know, maybe to live longer, fend off obesity related diseases, feel better, have more energy, spend more time with friends and family, enjoy life more, or gain super powers like being able to run a 5K, bike 20 miles or hike to the highest point in your state.

Interested? If so, then here are some specific things to keep in mind as you begin your healthier 2018:

Be sensible – As the title suggests.  Don’t go frickin’ crazy and suddenly declare this is the year you run your first ultra-marathon or lose 100 pounds or get on American Ninja Warrior.  For if you do set frickin’ crazy goals you’re just setting yourself up for failure…and then depression…and then binge eating…and then you’ve just done the opposite of what you set out to do.

Establish reasonable and sensible goals – As Socrates was found of saying, “Know thy self,” although I think he said it in Greek.  Look in the mirror.  You know that person looking back at you better than anyone.  That being the case, set a challenging, yet achievable goal that you are more likely to achieve rather than not.

Set specific goals – rather than general ones.  For example: lose 20 pounds rather than lose weight; run an entire 10K rather than start running; eat five servings of fruits and vegetables every day rather than eat better; be physically active for one hour each day rather than exercise more.  Notice anything about the specific goals listed above?  They are all quantifiable.  They all have numbers associated with them that can be monitored and if you achieve them in July then set new ones.

Start slow – You have an entire year after all.  Don’t suddenly start fasting in an attempt to lose weight.  Don’t spend three hours in the gym on day one.  Don’t cut out sugar cold turkey.  Don’t go vegan on a whim.  Do gradually cut out junk food.  Do go to the gym for 30 minutes or so for two weeks or so to start.  Do track your sugar intake and then slowly cut it back without entirely eliminating it.  Do stop eating red meat for a week and see how it goes.

Be consistent – Come hell or high water, keep chasing your goal.  If you plan on exercising an hour each day, then, like Nike says, just damn well do it.  Yes, I know life intrudes on goal attainment, but if you’re sporadic in your efforts, failure soon will follow (Hell, now I sound like Confucius).

Go public – Shout your specific goal from the rooftops.  Tell anyone that will listen what your goal is and then tell them again.  Request that they ask you how close you are to your goal on a regular basis.  It’s amazing how sharing your goal with others serves as motivation.

Get help – In the form of others who have a similar goal and use them to help you achieve that goal.  Use them to get your lazy ass out of bed and/or out of the house.  Use them to slap that Snickers bar out of your hand.  Use them to forcefully tell you to back away from that massive piece of cake.  Use them to lace up your jogging shoes.  Use them to make you feel guilty if you backslide.  Use them to give you healthy recipes.  And finally, use them to cheer you on when you hit a significant milestone.

There you have it.  Your blueprint for a healthier 2018.  I’m not saying that if you follow all seven you’re guaranteed success, but it will sure increase your chances.  Happy New Year, good luck and stay strong!


A Look Back at 2017

This past year wasn’t just a year of turmoil and emotion for the country, it marked some big changes for, as well. Our company has reached a lot of goals this year, and we’re looking forward to 2018 for us and our customers.

First, and not least, we launched a completely redesigned website. It’s responsive for all phones and computer devices, and we hope more intuitive for our customers! We welcome feedback, let us know how you like it.

Further enhancements will continue to be put into the website in the coming months.  For example, coming soon is a whole search and filter system. You’ll be able to enter the types of meals you want, such as breakfasts or gluten free or low fat or only beef, and the site will show you all the meals that fit your categories! moved their Corporate office and Customer Service team from Northern California to Kansas! Kit, caboodle and staff, we packed it up and moved it to Lenexa, KS. Our distribution center is way over capacity and since we had a new distribution center in process, we felt it was a great time to consolidate all our operations into a single location.

Recently with all the extreme weather in parts of the US, we ended up with serious issues at one of our main production kitchens that made most of our USDA proteins, we have been scrambling to move production of many of these items to another one of our kitchens.  Hopefully most of the menu items will be relocated by year end and management is aggressively working to add additional items to the menu to ensure a varied number of options for our various sub-menus.

2018 is looking rosy! We hope that you enjoy your holiday season and that you have a healthy 2018.  All the best for the New Year from all of us at!


Less Than a Week: How Gift Certificates Saved my Derrière

Disclaimer: This is a tale of fiction.  Names, characters, places and businesses (except, obviously), events and incidents are either products of the author’s (very limited) imagination or are used in a fictitious manner.  Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.  The author also apologizes for the unnecessary, unjustified and liberal use of hyphenated words.

There I was, on the 18th with under a week to go until that jolly old elf squeezes his fat arse down the chimney (don’t you hate those kids who ask how Santa delivers presents to houses without chimneys…He comes through the door…duh!).  As usual, I was in the home stretch running well behind the pack and was fading fast.  My procrastination knew no bounds and I was in serious trouble.  What the hell was I going to get my busy neighbor who always seemed to find the time to mow my front lawn or shovel the walk?…which wracked me with guilt…no, not really.  And what was I going to get my snowbird in-laws who were going to very temporarily migrate back to Hartford for a few days?

So I did what any self-respecting, Office Space-loving, cubicle-bound, under-paid, even more under-appreciated, over-worked, immensely-bored office worker would do.  I conducted some online shopping when I was supposed to be fixing code.  And what I discovered froze my heart, as it did at this exact time last year.  Apparently, unless I wanted to pay extra (and by “extra” I mean a crap-ton) for expedited shipping, my heart-felt purchases would not reach my recipients or myself in time to place in them in Big Red’s bag.  What’s a God-fearing procrastinator to do?

Fortuitously, my next-door cubicle prisoner heard me bang my head off the keyboard in frustration and resignation and did the office chair shuffle into my cubicle where we briefly played office chair bumper cars.  After our sophomoric behavior, Kevin informed me and extolled the virtues of a gourmet food delivery service called  We then visited their newly remodeled website and discovered, to our amazement, that they offered gift certificates that, once purchased, could be emailed to either the purchaser (me) or the grateful recipient (guilt-inducing neighbor and octogenarian snowbirds).

“Are you freaking kidding me?” Kevin and I exclaimed in cubicle-mate unison.  There was zero pressure to choose the proper meals as I had zero-idea what they would be.  I simply purchased a $100 gift certificate for Randy, Liz, little Randy and Paige next door (that should cover a year’s worth of mowing and shoveling, right?) and a $250 one for the in-laws (that should cover 15 years of making me feel inadequate, worthless and not good enough for their daughter, right?).  They could then visit and choose from their impressive selection of entrees, sides, soups and desserts, to include dietary restrictions, and then wait, in eager anticipation, for the delicacies to arrive at their door.  Heck, would even inform them of the balance remaining on their gift card.

Kevin and I also realized that I could have these gift certificates emailed as late as Christmas Eve and me, wanting to uphold my status as Crown Prince of Procrastinators, went back to playing Candy Crush until quitting time.

So that’s the story of how I discovered the perfect Christmas gift for both last-minute shoppers and foodies alike.  Thanks!  And as I logged off with happy zeal, I exclaimed, “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good meal…from, that is.”


MagicKitchen: The Perfect Gift for the Seniors in Your Life

Lemon Rosemary Pork

It’s really no secret that many seniors do not eat they way they should and there are many reasons for that.  Despite the fact that we become less active and our metabolism slows down as we age, seniors still have basic nutritional needs, as do we all.  That being the case, sometimes it’s up to us to make it as convenient as possible for seniors to meet their nutritional needs with food that’s as delicious as it is healthy.  Of course, this is the primary reason why exists.

So let’s explore the reasons why many seniors do not eat properly in order to better understand how to solve the problem.  One reason is because our senses of smell, taste and sight diminish with age.  Like everything else on us, as we get old it breaks and our senses are no different.  Yes, one of the main reasons we eat is to provide energy for our bodies, but Imagine not being able to properly taste or smell the food you’re eating…it would be like eating unseasoned and unadorned gnocchi all the time.

We also like to see what we’re eating even if it’s not a piece of culinary art from an overpriced restaurant.  The ways to combat this issue are, I’m sure, readily apparent…colorful foods prepared with flavorful herbs and spices, such as our buffalo chicken artisan flatbread or fire roasted vegetables en croûte.

Another reason why seniors don’t eat the way they should are the side effects from medications and those side effects can be a straight loss of appetite or constipation.  Loss of appetite is self explanatory, but constipation can cause a feeling of fullness due to slower digestion.  Either way, the results are the same: reduced food intake.  For the loss of appetite side effect, a talk with a doctor might be required to either change the med or reduce the dosage.  As for constipation, increased fiber, fluids and physical activity usually provide the answer.  So try our chicken artichoke with spinach, fresh cut corn medley, or spinach and orzo with caponata sauce.


Yet another reason could be oral health issues related to gums, teeth or dentures.  The solution here is to provide seniors with this issue soft and moist food or food cut into small pieces.  Offer cooked veggies over raw or fish instead of steak.  Also, check out our “soup for the soul” soup bundle or meals like our salmon and vegetable linguini.

Lastly, and perhaps most common, seniors tend to reduce the proper type and amount of food they consume because they do not enjoy dining alone or are simply unwilling or unable to cook.  Dining, especially for the older generation, is meant to be a shared experience when the family gathers to discuss…well, family things.

However, if the family’s gone, for whatever reason, then that shared experience is gone as well.  For these reasons, makes, by far, the most sense, especially if you live away from your senior parents or other family members.  Look, you know the deal…the food arrives fully cooked and just requires a few minutes in the nuclear microwave machine to create a healthy, hot, and delicious meal!  And as Forrest Gump said, “That’s one less thing [to worry about].”


A Christmas Vacation Story

One of the reasons that we can commiserate with Clark W. Griswold in Christmas Vacation and the Parker family in A Christmas Story is that most of us have similar stories to tell regarding the holidays.  Maybe not as dramatic as electrocuting the cat or a squirrel running rampant through your house (Christmas Vacation) or dogs breaking into your house and stealing the Christmas turkey (A Christmas Story), but to you and your family, just as humorous (and they’re especially humorous if they did not seem so at the time, but you’re only able to laugh about it after the passage of time…you know, when a story starts with “Remember in 2004 when…”).  These stories that don’t involve “real” tragedy, but family drama, are the ones that make the holidays so special.

When I began to write this post, I thought I’d simply share a few funny holiday stories from the internet machine with you.  However, I decided to “spice” it up a bit by giving you a holiday version of three lies and one truth.  If you’re unfamiliar…many groups, meeting for the first time, conduct ice breaker activities to assist in getting to know your fellow group members.  This game involves telling the group three true facts about yourself and one lie and then seeing if the group can discern the lie.  In that vein, I give you one true Christmas story that I actually lived through and three, that while true in that they happened to someone else, I did not witness.  At the end of the post I reveal my “true” story.

What the Hell Stinks?

Back when I was in college (I think it was Christmas 1986) when I was young and stupid, but didn’t realize it, the “The Great Skunk Incident,” as it is referred to by my family, occurred.  My parents lived in (and still do) a very rural area of central Pennsylvania (if you’re familiar with central Pennsylvania you understand that all of it is “very rural”) and their home and yard were frequented by various forms of wildlife…deer, raccoons, opossums, the occasional weasel, and, the antagonist of this story, skunks.

Anyway, Christmas morning dawned as any other, with the smell of turkey, plenty of coffee, opening presents, and dad running up from the basement screaming “There’s a %$#* skunk down there!”  I, in my infinite humane wisdom, came up with the plan of cornering the beast, wrapping it in a thick moving blanket (to prevent the inevitable spray from funkifying the house) and then depositing it safely outside.  So down into the bowels of the house I went, armed with a whisk broom and a blanket and wearing oven mitts in case it tried to bite, and chemistry goggles (mom didn’t want me getting sprayed in the eyes).

I must admit, all went as planned…almost.  I used the broom to force it into a corner and then tossed it aside as I wrapped the monster in the thick packing blanket.  However (there’s always a “however”), my faith in the blanket to absorb the skunk’s pungent spray was ill placed.  It, me, the entire basement, back porch and thus, the whole house now smelled like skunk roadkill times 100 with the rest of the family set to arrive imminently.  Long story short…the skunk escaped unharmed, my 12-year old niece stepped out of her family’s car a promptly enquired, “What the hell stinks?”, mom packed up the dinner and moved the feast to my sister’s house, and I spent Christmas alone, scrubbing the basement, and myself, with every cleaning solution known to man.

Grandpa’s on Fire.

This Christmas story could have ended badly, but due to some quick thinking on the part of my otherwise useless Uncle Bob, the family can still laugh about it.  The background of this story is a bit fuzzy as it happened in either 1973 or ’74, so bear with me.  I was quite young.  Anyway, it’s a well-known fact in my extended family that mom is obsessed with candles, perhaps to the point of needing therapy, and the advent of Yankee Candle has not helped matters.  The holidays only served to exacerbate my mom’s psychosis.  Christmas candles seemed to metastasize exponentially as the big day approached, both lit and unlit.

I remember part of the Christmas tradition at our home was to pose for a family picture at the dining room table prior to gorging ourselves and the family patriarch was tasked with taking said picture which was my maternal grandfather until he passed back in 1990.  I can’t remember exactly what he was wearing that day, but my mom, when the story is retold, informs me that it was an oversized wool sweater which assisted in the pending near-tragedy.

Grandad, as was usually the case, had to retreat a bit in order to fit the entire family into the frame of his vintage top-down view camera (the top flipped open and you viewed the frame by looking down into the viewfinder).  However (there’s always a however), he, unbeknownst to him, retreated just a tad too far and the dozens of candles mom had lit on top of the buffet proceeded to ignite the stray fibers of that oversized wool sweater.  The one voice I clearly remember from the ensuing cacophony of noise was that of my older brother who simply looked up and nonchalantly stated, “Grandpa’s on fire.”  But it was my, here-to-for, shiftless Uncle Bob who saved the day by dosing my burning grandfather with two glasses of beer, containers of which were never too far from his reach…according to my mother.

Who Knew an Iguana Could Run so Fast?

This is another “return from college and create havoc Christmas tale.”  I returned home for Christmas break to discover that my younger brother was now the proud owner and caretaker of a rather obnoxious iguana…not the most cuddly of pets.  Andrew kept the green, three-foot long (mostly tail) reptile in a large glass aquarium complete with a heat lamp to keep the cute little fellow (not sure of its gender, btw) nice and toasty in my parent’s notoriously cold house…my penny-pinching mom never set the thermostat above 65 degrees.

As soon as I crossed the threshold, Andrew came running and asked if I’d like to see his iguana.  I wasn’t sure of what he meant by “iguana,” but I indulged him and hoped for the best.  Well, it turned out “iguana” actually meant a real iguana and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.  First mistake: placing Iggy’s (yes, that was its name) heat lamp on the newly laid carpet in my brother’s room.  Result: a perfectly round six-inch circle of melted carpet which was discovered by my mother who tracked down the offending odor of said melting carpet.

But wait, it gets better.  This particular day was unseasonably warm for late-December.  Second mistake: taking Iggy out onto the back deck without his leash (yes, Iggy had a leash) to enjoy the warm sun.  However (there’s always a however), Andrew failed to inform me (yes, I’m shifting some of the blame his way) that iguanas use their long tails as whip-like weapons.  Result:  adorable Iggy unexpectedly whipped me in the face with his tail as I held him.  I promptly dropped him in shock and Iggy promptly jumped off the deck, hauled ass across the backyard and disappeared into the woods never to be seen again as Andrew looked on in dismay.  And all I could say in my own defense was “Who knew an iguana could run so fast?”

I Almost Killed You with Caramel on Christmas Eve.

My significant other and I were spending our first Christmas as husband and wife alone together.  I was in the Army and stationed in Germany when my wife joined me there soon after we were married in April of 1990.  We lived in military housing which consisted of a miniscule apartment with a miniscule kitchen in which my wife planned on cooking her first Christmas dinner for two.  She wanted to get a jump on the cooking by preparing my favorite dessert, bonafi, a sort of banana pie with caramel and a whipped topping, a day early.

It was Christmas Eve as I walked into that small apartment after attending a military ceremony that required me to wear my dress uniform with ribbons and medals (admittedly few in number) and dress shirt and epaulets and all the trimmings.  As soon as I walked in I was assailed by an odor that smelled like burnt metal and impending doom.  I quickly deduced that it was emanating from our tiny kitchen and moved to investigate.  I remember seeing a small pot sitting on our gas stove with a can, and by can, I mean not something dumped from a can into the pot.  Whatever was in the can was still in the can which was in a pot that was sitting atop a flame.  I was somewhat confused.  Where the hell was my angelic wife and why was there a can cooking in a pot unattended?

As I stood in our cramped kitchen pondering these existential questions, the can proceeded to explode.  It turns out that the can contained condensed milk that when heated, IN WATER, caramelizes and it is this caramelized condensed milk that is the key ingredient in bonafi.  The resulting explosion covered everything, me, the stove, fridge, walls, ceiling, floor, and the lone window, with semi-solid caramel.  So there I stood, in my dress uniform, covered in quickly solidifying liquid caramel, wondering, “What the hell just happened?”

It turns out the love of my life had, in fact, placed the can of condensed milk in a pot of water prior to being called into work and simply forgot her previous actions.  She was a legal assistant at the base’s JAG office and had been called in for some legal “emergency” on Christmas Eve.  Needless to say, the water quickly boiled off and the can continued to “cook” and I just happened to walk in when the contents of the can reached critical mass.  When she returned home she was greeted by a caramelized dress uniform hanging on the door and a husband, stripped to the waist, cleaning caramel off the kitchen ceiling.  Here delayed response: “Oh sh!t, I almost killed you with caramel on Christmas Eve.”  Two of the above stories are actually mine…numbers 3 and 4.