Dec. 24: Neener, neener

Yummy things I won't share

While I was in college I spent several Christmases at my sister's. Her in-laws always Fedex-ed Kringles from Wisconsin, and I learned to look forward to the delectable treats every year. Alas, she eventually stopped inviting me to Christmases at her house. I'm pretty sure I know why.

Imagine our glee when a few years ago we started receiving Kringles at OUR house! This is now an annual tradition and Kathy is no longer allowed to let a Christmas pass without sending them. She knows that, doesn't she? Vic and I turn into ravenous, paranoid recipients, each accusing the other of eating more than his/her share, or suggesting that three were sent but Vic ate a whole one by himself before I got home. He would totally do that.

I shed many tears for you if Kathy is not your sister, or if you've never had a Kringle. You can find all you need to know about them at My favorite is almond, but I like the pecan ones too, and other flavors are probably good too but I haven't tried them all. An important point: these are Racine Danish Kringles, which is not to be confused with "raisin" Danish Kringles, which would be disgusting, as we all know baked "goods" that contain raisins are actually baked "bads." Who came up with that ridiculous idea anyway?

And don't forget this important serving tip: The best thing to eat with a Kringle is...

More Kringle!


Self-righteous pseudo-Brits

The other night I went to the Dollar Tree to get stocking stuffers for the kids. Usually I dread having to go there, but this trip was worthwhile because I saw Madonna's first childrens book, "The English Roses," BEING SOLD THERE!! Madonna and her stupid fake accent, telling everyone she won't raise her kids in the U.S. because of our depraved moral values. To think her rolling-on-the-floor-in-a-wedding-dress performances, sex-with-Jesus videos, nekkid picture books, and "documentaries" have nothing to do with that just proves what a moron she is. So seeing her book for a dollar was such justice, not only that it was so cheap but that it was sold in a store where you know the price will never go up... well, it gave me the best belly laugh I've had in a long time. Thank you, Dollar Tree. I shall return.

Non-neener neener things

Speaking of belly laughs, check out this video my friend Kirsten sent me (right-click and choose Save Target As... to save and view).

Katie and Jack saw Santa yesterday. Pics here.

Time to get Christmas Eve dinner on the table. Have a holly, jolly Christmas!


And a P.S. For Lori, who always loves my holiday-themed animated GIFs, I wouldn't dare forget...

Dec. 22: Gift-giving tips

My friend Becky is the go-to gal for e-mails that'll make you laugh so hard you pee yourself. I received this from her today. Enjoy!



This is the time of year when we think back to the very first Christmas, when the Three Wise Men; Gaspar, Balthazar and Herb, went to see the baby Jesus and, according to the Book of Matthew, "presented unto Him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh." These are simple words, but if we analyze them carefully, we discover an important, yet often overlooked, theological fact: There is no mention of wrapping paper.

If there had been wrapping paper, Matthew would have said so: "And lo, the gifts were inside 600 square cubits of paper. And the paper was festooned with pictures of Frosty the Snowman. And Joseph was going to throweth it away, but Mary saideth unto him, she saideth, 'Holdeth it! That is nice paper! Saveth it for next year!' And Joseph did rolleth his eyeballs. And the baby Jesus was more interested in the paper than the frankincense."

But these words do not appear in the Bible, which means that the very first Christmas gifts were NOT wrapped. This is because the people giving those gifts had two important characteristics:

  1. They were wise.
  2. They were men.

Men are not big gift wrappers. Men do not understand the point of putting paper on a gift just so somebody else can tear it off. This is not just my opinion; this is a scientific fact based on a statistical survey of two guys I know.

One is Steve, who said the only time he ever wraps a gift is "if it's such a poor gift that I don't want to be there when the person opens it."

The other is Jim, who told me he does wrap gifts, but as a matter of principle never takes more than 15 seconds per gift. "No one ever had to wonder which presents daddy wrapped at Christmas," Jim said. "They were the ones that looked like enormous spitballs."

I also wrap gifts, but because of some defect in my motor skills, I can never completely wrap them. I can take a gift the size of a deck of cards and put it the exact center of a piece of wrapping paper the size of a regulation volleyball court, but when I am done folding and taping, you can still see a sector of the gift peeking out. (Sometimes I camouflage this sector with a marking pen.)

If I had been an ancient Egyptian in the field of mummies, the lower half of the Pharaoh's body would be covered only by Scotch tape.

On the other hand, if you give my wife a 12-inch square of wrapping paper, she can wrap a C-130 cargo plane. My wife, like many women, actually likes wrapping things. If she gives you a gift that requires batteries, she wraps the batteries separately, which to me is very close to being a symptom of mental illness. If it were possible, my wife would wrap each individual volt.

My point is that gift-wrapping is one of those skills like having babies that come more naturally to women than to men. That is why today I am presenting:

  • Whenever possible, buy gifts that are already wrapped. If, when the recipient opens the gift, neither one of you recognizes it, you can claim that it's myrrh.
  • The editors of Woman's Day magazine recently ran an item on how to make your own wrapping paper by printing a design on it with an apple sliced in half horizontally and dipped in a mixture of food coloring and liquid starch. They must be smoking crack.
  • If you're giving a hard-to-wrap gift, skip the wrapping paper! Just put it inside a bag and stick one of those little adhesive bows on it. This creates a festive visual effect that is sure to delight the lucky recipient on Christmas morning.

  • YOUR WIFE: Why is there a Hefty trash bag under the tree?
    YOU: It's a gift! See? It has a bow!
    YOUR WIFE (peering into the trash bag): It's a leaf blower.
    YOU: Gas-powered! Five horsepower!
    YOUR WIFE: I want a divorce.
    YOU: I also got you some myrrh.

In conclusion, remember that the important thing is not what you give, or how you wrap it. The important thing, during this very special time of year, is that you save the receipt.

~Dave Barry~

Dec. 17: Ho Ho Ho... Pimp

Today I discovered The Red Cup, a web site Starbucks apparently set up for the holidays. Every day something holiday-ish is posted, like games, recipes, funny little cartoons, etc. Check it out.

I'm writing this entry on my new laptop. It's really pretty much the same as writing an entry on my old laptop, but-cept the delete key is on the top (where most are) instead of the bottom (where my old one's was). This is more difficult to get used to than you might think. Or most likely, than you might care.

So why did Jen get a new laptop, you must be asking yourself. Because when Jen ordered her last laptop she got a basic model because she hadn't anticipated the level of programming she'd be doing. That poor thing was finally just tuckered out. It got passed down to the husband. He could very well wear it out with his car-related spreadsheets or Internet porn collection, but that's a whole 'nother blog, I tells ya.

Dorothy Frances has arrived! The lovely Deanna birthed her on Tuesday, December 6. The pictures I've seen say she's adorable, and I hope to find out for myself sometime early next year, once things have settled for their family. Congratulations, Dave, Deanna, and Pete!

Check out some new Presley pics too.

So, you may have received our Christmas card this year, and if you did, you probably received our Christmas letter too. If not, here it is:

Tis the season... criticize poorly-executed Christmas light displays

Once again, Jen writes the annual Manullang family communiqué, but we all hope your holiday season is going well so far, and that you’re taking some time to celebrate this special time of year with family and friends.

Katie and Jack spent 2005 polishing up their basic kid proficiencies. They took swimming lessons and gymnastics and spent lots of time Razor scootering, riding bikes and swimming with neighbor kids. Katie went to "Safety Town," an excellent two-week program focusing on all different types of safety. Other milestones: Katie lost two of her bottom teeth, played in a soccer league and started kindergarten. She’ll be six years old in February. Jack finally allowed himself to be potty-trained (thank you, Grandma Darlene!), entered his first year of preschool, and just recently celebrated his fourth birthday with a pirate-themed party.

A few months ago we were given a stray dog, and after an unsuccessful search for her owners we decided to keep her. One thing nice about a used dog is they come already housebroken, and this one even has a few tricks up her paw, much to the delight of Katie and Jack. Casey is a real sweetheart, with the friendliness of Scout but a lot less bark. The dogs are less than fond of sharing attention, but good companions during the day.

In April, my mom and Len separated after 23 years of marriage. The details of the divorce don’t really belong in a Christmas letter, but I will say that I am incredibly proud of my mother. She’s doing well.

In May we went to Colorado for my nephew Sean’s high school graduation. He was class president and salutatorian; it’s safe to say this auntie was pretty much bursting with pride. We’ll go back again in 2006 for Stephen’s graduation.

On June 7, my world stopped. My dad, Curt Saltmarsh, passed away at the way-too-young age of 63. He was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia in 1998, and although he had some pretty close calls over the years, most recently he’d been doing well. I always expected to see the end coming, that he would slowly decline and we would know when it was time for him to go. His sudden death, then, (from a pulmonary embolism) was a shock. Like many father-daughter relationships, ours had its ups and downs; however, in the past ten years we found respect and admiration for each other, thanks in large part to Dotti’s determined efforts. Dad passed on to me his looks, personality, sense of humor and obsessive-compulsive tendencies (um… thanks?), but more than anything, he truly left his handprint on my heart. I adored him, and I miss him terribly. Now, adjusting to the hole in the family I’ve known all my life... well, it’s harder than I ever imagined. So, to all of you who have called, e-mailed, and sent cards and flowers, I thank you again; it has meant a lot to hear from you in this very melancholy time. I’ve been struggling to get through a lot of the everyday parts of life since then, and I appreciate those of you who have continued to check in. I feel very fortunate to have you.

It felt wrong to take a vacation so soon after losing my dad, but by the end of July I desperately needed a change of scenery. Months earlier, I had planned a girls-only trip to Los Angeles with April and Debi, so off we went. Our first stop was to see the Broadway show “Wicked” in its Hollywood run, and we busied ourselves in the days that followed with much shopping and eating of cheesecake. And if you need to ask if we spent a day with Mickey Mouse, well, you just don’t know me at all, do you? It was wonderful to get away, especially with two of my favoritest people. Vic was quite envious of the Disney part of our trip—it is the 50th anniversary year, after all—so we may end up going there together this next year.

Soon after my L.A. trip we did a Manullang family weekend in Sunriver for Vic’s birthday. We enjoyed ideal weather for swimming, taking walks and relaxing. The kids rode around and around and around our loop until their bike-riding skills were perfected; the "braking" thing was a big accomplishment for Jack, who until then had been using the Fred Flintstone method.

We painted the master bedroom this year, but otherwise most things in our house stayed as they have been for a while. No, the trim is still not completed, and there’s still a lot of patching to do here and there. Wanna come over for a work bee? I did try to keep our family web site up to date in 2005—you can find my dad’s eulogies there, and be sure to check it for news and photos throughout the year. I’ve been working on my 20th high school reunion duties (memory book, slide show, web site, losing 100 pounds), which will come together in February. Work-wise, not much has changed, for which we are thankful. Health-wise, not one of us sustained a single severe head wound, nor did we break any bones. I am not making up this good news. And finally, regrettably, I must confess that we have joined the multitude of minivan owners. Bleah.

Well, I think that’s just about everything, except for one final thought: this year, especially, we encourage you to hold your loved ones close. Best wishes for a Happy Festivus and extraordinary happiness in 2006—

Victor, Jennifer, Katie, Jack, Scout & Casey

You also may have received our second annual Christmas CD, Christmas Joy, in which case this playlist will be familiar to you:

  1. All I Want for Christmas is You (Olivia Olsen). This is not the Mariah Carey version because I can't stand Mariah Carey's screeching. Instead, I chose a less screamy version, sung by the little girl at the end of "Love Actually," one of my new favorite Christmas movies.
  2. Hey Santa (Ashanti)
  3. Happy Holiday (Bing Crosby)
  4. Here Comes Santa Claus (Elvis Presley)
  5. That Spirit of Christmas (Ray Charles). This is the song that plays while Clark Griswold watches old home movies after getting stuck in his attic in "Christmas Vacation."
  6. Have a Holly Jolly Christmas (Burl Ives)
  7. Last Christmas (Jimmy Eat World). I know, I can't believe I didn't choose the Wham! version either. But this one was a little less, I don't know... Wham!
  8. Snow (Bing Crosby & Friends). Little story here: I love this song performed in "White Christmas" with Bing, Danny, Rosemary, and Vera Ellen's dubbed voice. But in the soundtrack, Peggy Lee takes Rosemary Clooney's place. Apparently Rosemary Clooney was under contract with a different recording studio and couldn't perform on the soundtrack's label. Hm. Well, it doesn't totally ruin it, but nobody does it better than Rosemary. There, I said it.
  9. Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree (The Beatles). Although I like the Brenda Lee version, this one is just so "Beatles," we loved it.
  10. Believe (Josh Groban)
  11. Jingle Bell Rock (Bobby Helms)
  12. Christmas Vacation (Mavis Staples)
  13. We Need a Little Christmas (Johnny Mathis). We also need a little testosterone, don't we Johnny?
  14. Mele Kalikimaka (Bing Crosby)
  15. Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Burl Ives)
  16. Elf's Lament (Barenaked Ladies & Michael Buble)
  17. Please Come Home for Christmas (Southside Johnny Lyon)
  18. Deck the Halls (Nat King Cole)
  19. Santa Claus is Coming to Town (Frank Sinatra & Cyndi Lauper). In his later years, I think Frank was really beginning to lose it, considering the artists he recorded duets with. We liked this one, though, probably because it doesn't really sound like Cyndi Lauper.
  20. Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time (Paul McCartney)
  21. Frosty the Snowman (Leon Redbone & Dr. John)
  22. Up on the Housetop (Gene Autry)
  23. Blue Christmas (Elvis Presley)

And in case you're interested in what was on our first annual Christmas CD, Christmas Wishes (2004), here's the playlist:

  1. It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (Andy Williams)
  2. Merry Christmas Darling (The Carpenters)
  3. Home for the Holidays (Perry Como)
  4. Jingle Bells (Bebe & Cece Winans)
  5. Count Your Blessings (Bing Crosby)
  6. Grown-Up Christmas List (Michael Buble)
  7. Sleigh Ride (Andy Williams)
  8. Silver Bells (Perry Como)
  9. The Christmas Waltz (Michael W. Smith & Sandy Patty)
  10. My Christmas Prayer (Bebe Winans & Rob Thomas)
  11. White Christmas (Bing Crosby)
  12. Let it Snow (Dean Martin)
  13. The Christmas Song (Nat King Cole)
  14. The Night Before Christmas (Amy Grant)
  15. Christmas Time (Michael W. Smith)
  16. Winter Wonderland (Andy Williams)
  17. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Rosemary Clooney)
  18. Celebrate Me Home (Kenny Loggins)
  19. O Holy Night (Josh Groban)
  20. Silent Night (Michael W. Smith)
  21. The Happiest Christmas (Michael W. Smith)

If you didn't receive either or both of these CDs and you really want one, let me know. I can probably burn another copy or two. See, I'm a nice girl, no matter what you've heard. I don't know if there are enough Christmas songs left to create an entirely new CD next year, but we'll see.

My sister got a really great gift from Lori this year: tickets and backstage passes to the Journey concert in Denver last week. Lori's brother-in-law is the drummer. It's cool to know Lori. Here's a picture of an ecstatic Kathy with drummer dude Deen, Stephen and Dayna, and Ron:

The Christmas party episode of "The Office" last week was hilarious. If you didn't see it, it's probably because you don't have TiVo, and why you haven't gotten TiVo yet, even though I keep telling you to, I don't know. Anyway, try to catch it in a rerun. You won't be sorry.

I probably won't post again until after Christmas, so here are my parting thoughts for the holiday season:

  • Have a good Christmas, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Hanukkah, whatever
  • Eat your vegetables
  • Go easy on the eggnog

And remember, nothing ruins a perfectly good Christmas morning than not getting your wife what she wants. You've been warned.




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