Christmas weekend open thread

Merry Christmas to those in the Bleeding Heartland community celebrating the holiday. Hope you have a joyful day with friends and family. To everyone else, I hope you enjoy some peaceful downtime this weekend. Yesterday our family finished a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle and went out sledding twice before enjoying Chinese food and a movie with a bunch of other Des Moines area Jews.

Today more sledding is on the agenda, and probably a new jigsaw puzzle. My boys received several new games for Chanukah, so we’ve been playing them a lot, especially “Sorry” and the Lego Harry Potter board game. For dinner, it will be my variation on my mother’s noodle kugel, which has become a sort of Christmas tradition for Mr. desmoinesdem. I’ve posted the recipe after the jump. It’s a lot less work than the traditional Christmas dinner Patric Juillet grew up with in Provence. Patric used to blog as Asinus Asinum Fricat. I am going to try some of his sweet potato recipes soon.

We received a card this week from a friend who usually bakes up a storm for Christmas. This year she got behind on her holiday baking, so instead of bringing over a package of goodies she made a donation in our name to Central Iowa Shelter and Services. That was a nice surprise. Food banks and shelters need cash donations now, and we don’t need any extra calories around our house. If you prefer to support charity working globally to reduce hunger, kestrel9000 suggests making a gift to Oxfam.

I didn’t notice too much “war on Christmas” silliness this year, but The Daily Show had a funny go at this American staple: “The holiday season wouldn’t feel the same without people going out of their way to be offended by nothing.” Locally, Gary Barrett tried to stir up some outrage over the demise of a “winter tree” at Ames High School. I felt my children’s public school did a good job of exposing the kids to different holiday traditions. Many children talked about their family’s rituals (religious or not) in class, and a display case had holiday decorations representing Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa and Devali.

The U.S. Census Bureau delivered Christmas cheer to some states this week, including our neighbor to the north, but as we all expected, Iowa will lose a Congressional district.

This is an open thread for anything on your mind this weekend.  

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Christmas cooking thread

Merry Christmas, Bleeding Heartland readers! Although my family doesn’t celebrate the holiday, I do enjoy listening to Oy to the World, the klezmer Christmas album by the Klezmonauts (samples here). Their arrangements make the songs sound festive, which is surprisingly rare in Christmas music. It’s Jesus’ birthday, after all.

I got a kick out of this cartoon by Steve Sack of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Star Tribune: a Christmas card from the Republicans (NOel).

What’s cooking at your house today? If you missed it last week, read the amazing diary about Christmas dinner in Provence by Asinus Asinum Fricat/Patric Juillet.

I’m not that ambitious, but the kids helped me make gingerbread yesterday. I use the recipe from the Laurel’s Kitchen cookbook: 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp cinnamon, 2 tsp ginger, 1/2 tsp salt in one bowl. 1 egg, 2/3 cup blackstrap molasses, 1/3 cup honey, 1 cup buttermilk (or kefir), 1/3 cup melted butter mixed in another bowl. Combine wet and dry ingredients, pour into greased 9 x 9 pan and bake at 350 F for about 40 minutes (a few minutes less in my oven).

My husband used to request noodle kugel every Christmas, but I just made that last week for Chanukah, so tonight we’re having roast chicken instead. After the jump I posted my noodle kugel recipe, adapted from my mother’s to include more protein and less fat and sugar.

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Buy local holiday shopping thread

Chanukah’s over, but there’s still time to shop for Christmas presents.

Blog for Iowa highlighted 12 great locally-owned places to shop in Iowa. Many of them feature locally-produced foods and hand-made crafts. For those heading to Prairieland Herbs and Picket Fence Creamery near Woodward, I would recommend driving 10 minutes up the road to Northern Prairie Chevre. Their little store carries items from many other local businesses.

If you want toys, clothes or accessories for babies or small children, try out one of these Des Moines-area businesses:

Simply for Giggles

The Stork Wearhouse

Little Padded Seats

VannyBean Baby Organics

The toy store on the lower level of Valley West mall

After the jump I’m re-posting a diary I wrote last December on no-clutter holiday gift ideas. Another way to support locally-owned businesses is to buy your friends or relatives services or entertainment that they might not treat themselves to or can’t afford.

Also consider donating to a local non-profit that means a lot to your loved one.

Please post your own ideas in the comments.

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Christmas open thread and linkfest

Merry Christmas to Bleeding Heartland readers who are celebrating the holiday today.

And if you’re Jewish like me, remember that Jesus was an important Jewish theologian and reformer.

Here are some holiday links for you.

On the real meaning of Christmas:

A Christmas prayer from pastordan.

Carnacki shares a true story and treasured family memory.

John Lennon sings “Happy Christmas (War Is Over).”

greywolfe359 reflects on Light in the Darkness.

noweasels offers Christmas wishes and memories of small-town Christmas pageants.

Some less-happy Christmas stories:

Millions of children grow up in poverty, and even if they are relatively comfortable as adults, they never forget those feelings of economic insecurity. Last year chuckles1 shared his memories of “The year we stole a Christmas tree.” (The piece is still relevant, even though the presidential campaign angle is obsolete.)

Expatyank lives in Britain, where unemployment and other economic problems are causing the retail sector to implode during what should be the busiest shopping week of the year.

For history buffs:

Daily Kos’ resident historian Unitary Moonbat talks about how Christmas has been celebrated throughout the centuries.

Remember, the Puritans felt Christmas “incited moral degeneracy and so they declared war on the Christmas holiday by passing laws against it in Scotland and England, later in Massachusetts […]”

Other useful Christmas links:

Asinus Asinum Fricat is a chef and native of France. He shares some memories of Christmas in Provence, including recipes for traditional desserts.

The same diarist is a veteran restaurant owner and operator, and offers a Christmas proposal for entrepreneurs out there. It’s about how to set up and run a low-cost restaurant that “will thrive in this severe economic downturn.”

A conservative blogger offers some Christmas cooking and sewing ideas (the muffins look truly decadent).

Daily Kos commenters had lots of good suggestions to add to my list of no-clutter holiday gift ideas.

Eddie C posted a fun photo diary on Christmas in New York City.

Christmas humor:

JeffLieber wrote a funny piece from the perspective of Joseph: I’ve just discovered my wife has been unfaithful.

Asinus Asinum Fricat offers a selection of Christmas jokes (some are Australian and “saucy”). Be sure to read the comments, where many people posted additional Christmas humor. I added a Jewish Christmas joke.

Christmas music:

What do you prefer? Old-fashioned cheesy, like Bing Crosby and Tony Bennett? Childhood favorites like the Charlie Brown Christmas album? Hip adult options like Diana Krall’s jazzy Christmas music?

Deoliver47 shares a bunch of Christmas music videos.

We mostly listen to Chanukah music, but I do enjoy Oy to the World: A Klezmer Christmas.

Share holiday cheer or other thoughts in the comments.

P.S.: It’s the second white Christmas in a row in Iowa, which is nice.

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Barack Obama's holiday address to the country

President-elect Barack Obama has been putting his weekly addresses on YouTube as well as on the radio. The latest one, released today, has a holiday theme. Here is the full transcript, and here is the video:

By the way, Obama is enjoying quite a honeymoon with Americans:

More than eight in 10, or 82 percent, of those questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released Wednesday approve of the way Obama is handling his presidential transition.

That approval is up 3 percentage points from when CNN asked the same question at the beginning of December. Fifteen percent of those surveyed disapprove of the way the president-elect is handling his transition, down 3 points from the last poll.

Obama’s approval is higher than George W. Bush eight years ago. Bush had a 65 percent approval rating during his transition, and Bill Clinton was at 67 percent in 1992.

“Barack Obama is having a better honeymoon with the American public than any incoming president in the past three decades. He’s putting up better numbers, usually by double digits, than Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan or either George Bush on every item traditionally measured in transition polls,” said Keating Holland, CNN’s polling director.

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