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December 24, 2001: Alternatives to the expected

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I did have good intentions for the dip we were to bring today. Richard had copied down a recipe from one of the previous Weight Watchers meetings for a very low fat seven-layer dip, and so he found all the ingredients at the grocery store and this morning I pulled down bowls and cutting boards and knives and the blender to put it all together, before we drove down to his parents' house for their whole-family Christmas celebration.

The first step called for mixing a can of pinto beans with a green pepper in the blender. A bit odd, I thought, but shrugged and put both ingredients into the container. The mixture that resulted was a strange brownish green color, with a texture that called to mind too many things best left undiscussed, and a smell that didn't help the imagination one bit.

We poured the concoction hastily down the sink and went to plan B, stirring onion soup mix into the container of sour cream, chopping up a handful of carrots and cucumbers, and settling for that instead. Perhaps not as low fat, but definitely much more edible.

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Every year, Richard's mother makes sugar cookies. And every year, her children (or at least those who are present) are required to decorate them. I have heard tales of these cookies from past years - all of them slightly exaggerated and therefore completely believable (especially if you knew Richard and his younger sister). This year, I got to join in the cookie-painting party.

The teddy bear cookie really did look like a rabbit if you turned it on its head, so I can't be blamed for making the little rabbit in her little blue bikini. However, it was Richard's father's idea to make use of two strategically placed chocolate chips (just a note - icing does not stick well to chocolate chips, no matter how many layers you try to apply), and then once we had the beach blanket bimbo bunny girl, she needed a beach blanket bunny boy, so the speedo-wearing upside-down teddy bear-turned-into-a-rabbit was born. We decided - due to the enhancements on the girl bunny, and the lack of enhancement on the boy - that it was an exceptionally cold day out.

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Once the whole family had descended on the house, we all ate pizza and cookies and fudge and opened presents. Stockings came first, filled with all sorts of goodies like lottery tickets, Starbucks gift cards, Bendos, and other goofy little items. Presents came next, with all of us crowded into the living room while the gifts were passed out. I got a paper shredder, which was something I've been wanting for a very long time, and Richard got a green man sculpture (something he's been wanting for even longer). Richard's mom, both sisters, his niece, aunt, and I all sat on the floor later to play with the niece's Bop-It Extreme, which managed to completely confuse about half of us who had been 'practicing' on a non-Extreme Bop-It earlier in the day. But we eventually got the hang of it, all of us bouncing along to the electronic music while the rest of the family looked on in tolerant amusement.

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Either it wasn't warm enough in the sanctuary, or Richard's parents' church uses a better grade of candles than I'm used to. This was the first year in I don't know how long that I didn't get to bend the candles during the candlelight Christmas Eve service. As per tradition (well, tradition to my sisters and I) I immediately removed the candle from its protective outer layer as soon as we sat down in the pew and held it tightly in my hands most of the night. Richard and his younger sister eyed me oddly, and I tried to explain via whispers what I was doing. It was a little disappointing to not actually be able to show them, but then perhaps this is just one of those traditions that stays in my immediate family. I'm not sure every church is ready for their parishioners to hand back twisted, coiled candles as they file out of the service into the night.

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