Tales From A Hungry Life

December 25, 2013

Across the Christmas Finish Line

By Maria Schulz

Once again, I did it. I crossed the Christmas finish line. I’ve left tons of wrapping paper, baked goods, decorations, Christmas cards, and gift receipts littered in my path, but I completed the marathon and I’m so proud.

Just. One. More. Gift.

Just. One. More. Gift.

It’s too late now to do anything about the gifts that didn’t get here yet. My trusty internet vendors promised to have everything here by December 24th, but bad weather and other trials got in the way. Some things just didn’t get here. You know what? The earth didn’t crash into the sun because my gifts didn’t arrive. Life goes on.

My children are growing up, and that means Santa doesn’t have to come here anymore. I miss leaving him carrots for the reindeer and cookies to hold him over for the rest of the journey. I miss tracking his every move on NORAD. I miss going to the mall to have my kids’ picture taken with him.


You know what I don’t miss? Disguising my handwriting because my kids noticed that Santa and I have the same loopy signature. I don’t miss standing on line for an hour while children scream, or dragging my crying child to sit on some weird stranger’s lap, and having said weird stranger yell at me because I decide it’s not worth it anymore. I don’t miss having to eat cookies left out because Santa needs to show he liked our baking, or eating carrots that I don’t want.

It’s fun to see my girls taking their own earnings from babysitting or gifts to buy something for the people they love. They are moving away from “me, me” and towards “what can I do for others?” This year, they helped me buy toys for The Lexiebean Foundation’s toy drive and intend to help me bring more donations to them on December 28th. That may be my favorite part of crossing the Christmas finish line.

As the sun set yesterday and I realized that some of my gifts weren’t going to get here in time for the Christmas gift opening frenzy, I had a few panic-stricken moments. I considered running out to the local convenience store and getting whatever gifts I could lay my hands on, such as:

  • Boxed mini-cakes. Who doesn’t love them?
  • A giant slush drink: I could tell my brother (whose gifts never arrived) that this reminds me of the little candy store near our old house on 48th Ave. We would walk a half a block from our house when we were 5 years old and enjoy a big slush drink together. Do you think he’ll buy it?
  • A box of dog treats: I never remember to get my dog gifts, and I always feel kind of guilty about it. So instead, I hand her the wrapping paper or the roll from the gift wrap, and she runs around the house tearing it all apart. It’s then that I remember that she doesn’t really care AND she doesn’t even know that it’s Christmas.
  • A mega bottle of ibuprofen: because Christmas is really, really stressful, and I want to show my sensitive side. On second thought, maybe I’ll keep this.


  • Jean Nate body wash: even though my grandmother isn’t around anymore and no one I know has ever expressed any desire for it, this might still be a winning gift
  • The Hess truck: while I’m filling up my gas tank, I may just pop in and get this for my little nephew. Wait…what do you mean they’re ALL OUT?
  • A bottle of antibacterial soap: I’ll even throw in a box of bandages
  • A gallon of milk: and a box of chocolate chip cookies, of course
  • Frozen corndogs. ‘Nuff said.

    Do you have Kit Kats?

    Do you have Kit Kats?

  • King-sized Kit Kats: what crazy person wouldn’t love these?
  • A life-sized M&M doll: if the convenience store owner lets me buy the one on display

When I was a kid, we used to pore over the shelves at Genovese Drug Stores looking for the perfect gift for our older relatives. I’d get my grandmother some perfume while I got the other grandmother a box of lavender soaps. My Uncle Don would get a dress shirt or tie, or a record album.

Uncle Sal in his Vaudeville days

Uncle Sal in his Vaudeville days

Uncle Sal (our great uncle) got bottles and bottles of cologne. Old Spice, Halston, Brut, or Soap on a Rope were all wrapped and under the tree, just waiting for him. It’s not that he smelled bad; we just couldn’t think of what else to get an older man who had everything.

We did this for many years until we decided to really put some thought into his gifts, and we collectively showered him with clothes, sweaters, gloves, and records, just to show him that we thought of him as an individual and not some old guy who smelled bad.

When Uncle Sal was done opening his gifts, he looked sad.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I use the cologne and soap you kids buy me all year long,” Uncle Sal said. “Why didn’t anyone get it for me?”

When his birthday came just a couple of months later, we made things right by getting him enough cologne and soap for an army battalion. After this, I learned a valuable gift-giving lesson. If your Uncle isn’t complaining about your last-minute, seemingly impersonal, fall-back gift, why torture yourself searching for something more meaningful?

Old Spice

Thanks, Uncle Sal, for teaching me not to worry so much and to go with what works. It’s a lesson I have to remind myself about every single year. Because in the end, whether you’re buying birthday, Hanukkah, or Christmas gifts, it can be as easy or as complicated as you make it.

I really hope my brother Chris enjoys that bottle of anti-bacterial soap and box of corndogs that I got him.


Christmas Appetizers


Ooooh…who wouldn’t enjoy bacon wrapped dates, deviled eggs, or cream cheese penguins? Get some great ideas for appetizers at allrecipes.com:


Here’s my favorite of the bunch:


bacon wrapped dates

So, Hungry Lifers: did you cross the holiday gift-giving finish line in one piece? What’s the best, no-thought-whatsoever-but-they-loved-it-anyway gift you’ve ever given or received? What’s your favorite Christmas appetizer? Please leave a comment below and let us all know. Thanks!

Merry Christmas! I’m off to my own gift-opening frenzy. Enjoy!



  1. What a nice gift that my favorite blogger doesn’t take off on Christmas! It’s perfect for a mother of three teenage boys who will sleep the day away as she sits in front of the tree waiting for someone to open their gifts! I love what you said about uncle sal. That’s so funny because you never heard him say “why does everyone always buy me soap??” that was the first clue to not stop. I got one of my sons a little chimp holding a basketball (just for fun) and it was his favorite gift. I knew I didnt need to buy that t.v but I did it anyway! Merry Christmas!

    Comment by Suzanne — December 25, 2013 @ 9:46 am | Reply

    • Since Christmas fell on a Wednesday this year, I thought about skipping my weekly blog post…but then I got up early and did it anyway. It’s a hard habit to break! Yes, Uncle Sal was very wise and I learned a lot from him. By the way, where did you get the little chimp holding the basketball? Sounds like a great toy. Merry Christmas to you too, and thanks for reading.

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — December 25, 2013 @ 11:26 pm | Reply

  2. First of all I don’t need any wise guy like you telling me there’s no Santa Claus because I know different. I even know that where it doesn’t snow he uses his helicopter. He used to use a piper cub but then some winds got him in trouble and the advancement in helicopter design made him switch. But if the weather is snowy and real bad it is Santa sleigh and Reindeer. You Got That!!!!! I would still sit on his lap but the last time I did that they threw me out of the store without even an explanation. Boy! Where is that Christmas spirit anyway? I don’t use those Old Spice things anymore because the last time I did I had an allergic reaction that required a cold shower to alleviate the burning sensations throughout my body. Now Dove Soap with all it’s softness takes care of my body in the way it should be taken care of. Loved the blog.

    Comment by Bglou — December 25, 2013 @ 2:41 pm | Reply

    • I never said there was no Santa Claus…I simply said he doesn’t have to stop at our house anymore. He can drop by yours on his sleigh or in his helicopter any time he wants. Thanks for taking the time out of your Christmas day to read and comment. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — December 25, 2013 @ 11:28 pm | Reply

  3. I loved seeing Bobby Dell once again! That album cover was great! I know that the mention of him was because of what you learned from him about giving Christmas gifts, but I got a touch of gladness/melancholy (I may have misspelled that), upon seeing that album cover. I felt I had to respond though. Obviously Dad reads and comments on your blogs, but I guess now it’s o.k. to let this out of the bag: I used to sneak that album out (sometimes with Chris, MAYBE once or twice with you Maria, I’m not sure), and listen to the “blue humor” of Bobby Dell. I could remember being, at the same instant, humored and mortified by what I was hearing. I’d always worry that Mom or Dad would catch us sneaking a listen in the basement, we knew that it wasn’t an album that was meant for OUR ears… but I had to listen to it anyway. One time I DID hear mom coming down the steps, so I had to hurriedly stop the record from playing (I was really worried on one occasion that I had accidentally scratched the record from pulling it off so quick). When mom walked into Jude’s room, and me and Chris were sort of just looking around the room, like we weren’t doing anything, she could probably see the album cover sitting there, and she gave me a look as if to say, “Hmmmmm……… I know what you were DOING Paul.” I said to her, “I-I-I’m not doing anything, Mom.” She proceeded to say something along the lines like, “Watch it kid…. I know what you’re up to.” So I abandoned the “sneaking out the album” thing after that. Thanks for bringing back the memories, Maria. Miss you Uncle Sal (Bobby Dell!)

    Comment by Paul — December 29, 2013 @ 1:02 pm | Reply

    • To Quote Jackie Gleason “How Sweet It Is” or your PR Grandmother “How Sweet!”

      Comment by Bglou — December 29, 2013 @ 1:47 pm | Reply

      • Yes, for sure! Surprisingly, I see that you didn’t have anything to say about the fact that I snuck a listen to that most VULGAR of albums, POP! I guess I’m old enough NOW to admit it, right? I don’t know if I should make some of the more famous quotes from that “blue album” here or not….. I know that this is meant to be a more “family-styled” blog, so I’ll pass for now until somebody tells me that it’s o.k.!

        Comment by Paul — January 1, 2014 @ 1:57 pm

  4. I so enjoy your blog it brings me back to family. Uncle Sal was my godfather and unfortunately I didn’t get to spend the amount of time with him that I would have liked. I also enjoyed his albums. I have one of him with Belle Barth, it’s hysterical. Do you know where I would be able to get any of his other albums?
    I wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous new year!

    Comment by Jae Franko (formally Zaccaro) grandma Lena's niece — January 2, 2014 @ 5:32 pm | Reply

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