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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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I'm In...

Sleep Is
For The Weak

Chicago Review Press

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Let's Panic

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At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it. → 

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Actually we're decorating the tree with Legos.

This weekend our dryer died, and we had to purchase a new one. We explained to Henry that the dryer would be his one and only Christmas present. He asked if he could take a tumble or two in it, and we said only on low heat.

I'm kidding! He can't fit in there. Our dryer did die, though, that part is true. Scott and I were sad, and we turned our pants pockets inside-out and walked around like that for a while, feeling sorry for ourselves. But then this morning, an editor called and offered me some money to reprint one of my posts. The fee came out to exactly as much as the dryer cost. So it seems that we'll have a Christmas after all! And maybe a little Hanukkah, as well!

I'm hosting Christmas for my family this year, and the pressure is on. My parents have always done Christmas, every year, since before Christ was born. Somehow they got Nat King Cole to sing all these festive songs about this savior who no one even knew about. My parents have powers. Anyway, I'm a little intimidated. My mother is trying to help, except by trying to help she's making me feel increasingly inadequate. A few weeks ago she brought over some Christmas-themed trays, Christmas votive-candle holders, and several decorative wreaths she fished out of her Christmas Decorative Wreath box in the Decorative-Wreath wing of her basement. Then she asked me if I wanted to use her "Christmas goblets."

"Whurrrgh?" I said.

"You know, my festive goblets. I use them for every Christmas. You're going to need those, right?"

"I kind of thought I could just use my regular wine glasses and stuff," I said.

"Oh," she said, in the tone she'd use if I said we were going to decorate our tree with steaming dog turds. "Yeah, I mean, of course you can. I just thought, you know, because they're so festive and nice. But that's fine too."

She also wanted to know if I wanted her fancy red Christmas plates. We have plates, I said, but thanks. (I mean, usually we eat out of our cupped hands, but I think we could fashion some flat-surfaced food holders from old pie tins.) Okay, but, uh, don't we want her extra-special linen Christmas tablecloth? Christmas placeholders? Christmas napkins? We're going to need Santa, too, right? Because she's got him in the basement, next to the reindeer stalls.

Believe me, I love my mom, and she has excellent taste. It's not that I don't like her stuff; it's that I don't want to have her Christmas over here. I want our own decorations, even if they're from Target. I just heard her gasp all the way from Long Island. I swear we're going to go to the store and nothing will be there. "Some woman came earlier today and cleared the place out," the baffled salesperson will tell us. "She looked a little bit like you, actually. Said something about keeping all this cheap crap away from her daughter? She wasn't making much sense."

Now she wants to know what I'm making for dinner. I'm going to tell her we're ordering in some Chinese, just to hear her head explode. Hey, my husband is Jewish, and we have to respect his traditions, too.

UPDATED TO ADD: I turned off comments because I think some people misinterpreted my statements about my mother. I was exaggerating for comic effect, like I do, and in reality (boring, boring reality) I can't wait to have Christmas here and she and the rest of my family will be thrilled with whatever I serve. I know some of the comments would hurt her feelings, and that's the last thing I want. "Merry Christmas! I got the Internet to make you cry!" It just ruins the holiday mood, you know?

Reader Comments (39)

Muenster-spinach quiche cupcake appetizer

15 slices muenster cheese1 package cream cheese1/3 cup parmesean cheese2 eggs1/4 red onion, choppedchopped garlic to taste1 10 oz package frozen spinach, thawed and drained

Mix spinach, onion, garlic, cream cheese, parmesean cheese, eggs... basically everything but the muenster.

Put a little oil or nonstick spray on your muffin tins. For each quiche, cut a slice of muenster cheese into thirds, and arrange in a basket shape in the muffin tin.

Spoon the cream cheese mixture into the muffins. Break the remaining 3 pieces of muenster into quarters, and top each muffin with a little square "hat" of cheese.

Bake at 350 until the cheese starts to brown, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly, then remove from muffin tin.

December 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLauxa
The easiest, most calorically inappropriate, best potatoes you have ever eaten in your life.

Nannie's Party Potatoes
December 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterFatemeh
The trick is to just appease your mother by making the whole thing seem more like an "event" -- even without *her* trappings. Do appetizers, offer fancy drinks, etc. My suggestions: Make homemade ChexMix for appetizer, put out with cheeseball and fancy crackers, and something healthy if you wish. Also, buy some mulling spices and put a jug of cider and mulling spices wrapped in cheese cloth in a crock pot on high for 2 hours, low thereafter. Set that out with Christmas mugs and a ladel.For dinner, go the fancier-but-familiar route. Have you considered a fancy homemade lasagna, nice salad, fresh garlic bread? I think a fancy salad always dresses up every meal, so try this: field greens and some baby spinach, dried cherries, sliced almonds, red onion rings, bacon, and fresh parmesan with a poppyseed dressing. If you like fungus, add mushrooms. Also, try homemade rolls, that will impress. Confessions of a Pioneer Woman has a good homemade roll recipe (I think. I haven't tried it yet, but want to.). Do people in your family eat asparagus? I don't ever eat asparagus except this: wash about 2 lbs. skinny asparagus. Lay on foil lined cookie sheet with rim, spray with butter flavor spray, sprinkle with about 1 scant Tbsp kosher salt or rock salt. Bake for 12 minutes at 425. While baking, brown 2 Tbsp butter. Right before butter burns, pull it off the heat and add 1/2 tsp soy sauce and 1 and 1/2 tsp basalmic vinegar. stir and pour over broiled asparagus. Serve hot. I like to serve that with herb-marinated flank steak and augratin potatoes. Also, the pork tenderloin or beef tenderloins would go nicely with garlic mashed potatoes. In my family, we ALWAYS do holidays with corn casserole: Jiffy cornbread mix, 1 can reg corn, 1 can creamed corn, 1 XL egg, 1 cup sour cream and 3/4 stick of butter, mixed together, baked in greased 8 x 11 dish or so for 40 mins at 350. Lots of ideas. Enjoy. Let us know what you decide.
December 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterImanitsud
Thanks for making me feel good about being underachieving in the Christmas department. Now my daughter will never have to suffer your angst. Although I'm sure she'll find some of her own angst to suffer. Actually, being 14, she already has.
December 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSuburbanCorrespondent
Christmas dinner ideas:I find if you can get everyone extremely drunk and angry and talking about old half-forgotten resentments within the first half hour, they leave and then you needn't cook at all. You're maybe out a cheese platter. Now just pop in a movie and order pizza for the kids!
December 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara
Good luck. I have no suggestions. I always remember you and that birthday party where you mopped the floor until the water was clear. I'm going to be worried about you until it's all over.
December 3, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterozma
This will show you the lazy cook that I am, and seriously, it is SO SO GOOD.

Pumpkin Bread:1 box of Trader Joe's Pumpkin Bread (I've heard spice bread works too)1 Can of pumpkinAnd then, I usually add a egg or two, to get it to moist but still thick.

Bake 350, for about a hour (follow directions for cooking on the box).

You will notice this is not what they tell you to add on the box. Oh well, ignore that stuff, this is MUCH better.... mmmmmm.....
December 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMeg
Don't make chipotle mashed sweet potatoes. Is all I'm sayin'.
December 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKate
Oh I loved this. Is your mom Catholic? I've found that my Catholic mom and my Jewish MIL have many of these type traits in common!

Looking forward to hearing more about your holiday celebrations!
December 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterWaiting Amy
Yet again thanking the dear sweet Baby Jesus that my mom moved to Arizona and I only see her every 3rd Christmas or so. And we actually go to my brother-in-law's father's house for Christmas Eve and his mother's house for Christmas Day. This year I'm bowing out of the Christmas Day because I do not want to hear about the horrid divorce that took place 14 YEARS ago and how my brother-in-law's father's girlfriend is a horrible nasty person and should die. It's a good think I don't drink because otherwise I would probably say something along the lines of "Hey, think he might have left you because you never shut up?"
December 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDM
Easiest cranberry sauce ever (one which my mother INSISTS I bring every turkey-fueled holiday):

1 apple1 orange (I like navel oranges, so there aren't any seeds to deal with)1 package fresh cranberries1 cup granulated sugar.

Put it all in a blender.

Trust me, better than the canned stuff, not so fancy the kids won't eat it, and even your mother will be proud.
December 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterChookooloonks
Ahh, the memories of Jewish Christmases past . . .

1) Hanukkah Gelt2) Noodle Kugel3) Liver paste (Nobody in this house called it pate!)3) Chinese Food (preferably Moo Shu Pork and Sweet & Sour Shrimp -- Kosher Smosher!)4) A Movie

I feel all warm and fuzzy just thinking about it -- and I'm sure your mother will feel the same way.
December 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMegan M
Ask your mum for just one very special very personal thing you'd like to include in your holiday setting. It can be somethng as small as a pair of candlesticks or salt and pepper shakers or a special ornament to use in your centerpiece, but it will mean the world to her. Think of it as an affirmation of the love she put in to all the Christmas clebrations at her place. Oh, and Roast Beast with Yorkshire Pudding by all means. Easy and Elegant. I'll be happy to e-mail the recipe.
December 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTX Poppet
Oh, goodness. My mother did the same thing at Thanksgiving this year at my house. She showed up with a bag full of decorations from her house. I put out one thing from her house per table and let her bring whatever her "can't live without" dish was.
December 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLisa H

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