I want my family's Christmas to be the best one ever. What can I do to lend that extra special touch to our festivities?
Blank Slate in Boise
Here's a nifty suggestion that was a huge hit at my own home holiday party last year. His Holiness simply could not stop talking about it. Bring that in-the-lane-snow-is-glistening winter wonderland feeling indoors by creating a snow squall in your living room. Start with 142 pounds of flaked Bahamian coconut; hose it down thoroughly with a mixture of carbon-filtered glycerin and purified beeswax, then pack it in dry ice for at least a week. A few hours before the first guests are due, break the frozen coconut mixture into dozens of fist-sized chunks and suspend them from the ceiling inside a securely mounted array of medium-mesh fishing nets.
By the time your guests arrive, the mixture will have begun to melt, sending thousands of darling, shiny little coconut "snowflakes" wafting gently to the floor. Of course, there will be excess condensation, but that can be easily remedied. Simply rip up the flooring to your house and install a network of high-capacity irrigation trenches to drain the syrupy runoff into your back-yard compost heap. The trenches can be easily concealed with a generous carpeting of desiccated acorn husks and finely chopped beech bark, adding to that woodsy, wintry, Robert Frost milieu.
I hope you can help me with this rather serious problem. I love holiday entertaining, however my grandmother, who is in her '90s and has reached the later stages of dementia, tends to put a damper on the festivities with her crazy antics.
At last summer's Fourth of July weenie roast, she mistook our pastor for a proctologist and chased him around the yard, insisting he rub salve on her inflamed rectal warts. You can imagine our mortification. What can I do to prevent these embarrassing episodes at this year's holiday party?
Running Out of Paper Towels
Misbehaving family members can be vexing. I once had our beloved tabby, Amelia, destroyed after she nipped a cherry jujube off my sprawling, half-acre Taj Mahal gingerbread palace, costing me first place in the 1987 Sheboygan Jamboree Bake-Off. It's never easy.
If euthanasia is not an option, I suggest you purchase a dog carrier -- a size large enough to accommodate a standard poodle should do it -- and keep your grandmother in it during the party. This way, she can interact with the guests without becoming so much of a nuisance that people try to spear her with their fondue forks. (Important note: Be sure to line the bottom of the carrier with a deep padding of newspaper strips cut into two-inch-by-six-inch lengths. In addition, place some extra-strength pine-scented car fresheners inside, in case of any unforeseen eventualities.) Then cover the top of the carrier with a fetching holiday throw. Voila! Now it can double as a pestiferous-relative container, as well as a stationary serving tray for plates of cookies, serving sets, or perhaps a handy toaster oven to keep the candied hasenpfeffer hors d'oeuvres warm.
I pride myself on presenting my guests with the best holiday entertainment I can afford, but finding talented performers on a budget is not easy. Do you have any suggestions?
Singing the Busted Karaoke Blues
Just for using the word "budget," I should drive my special-edition Range Rover to your house and scoop you senseless with my platinum-plated melon baller. Memorable holiday entertainment should know no financial limits. However, I do understand how difficult it is to find the right performer.
Once, I hired Luciano Pavarroti to sing at my Christmas gala. Unfortunately, while I was preoccupied shaving the Belgian truffle flakes for the pomegranate soufflé, the fat bastard got into the Gruyere cheese logs and ate enough to feed a dormitory. He was still chewing as he started singing Adeste Fideles, and with every high note he spewed a nauseating pastiche of semi-masticated cheese goo all over my hand sewn sealskin piano cozy. (Fortunately, my third-shift maid, Carlita, was able to scrub the stains out with a mixture of club soda, boric acid, and industrial sludge solvents.)
The year before that was even worse. Streisand leaned over to sniff the Viennese dessert display and sucked a golf ball-sized macaroon up into that blimp hangar she calls a schnozz. A team of Swedish plastic surgeons spent four hours blasting an argon laser up her cavernous left nostril before they were able to dissolve the darned thing.
Perhaps the worst incident occurred about 15 years ago, when I invited Laurence Olivier to my Victorian-theme Christmas Eve dinner. The bombastic twit announced that he wanted to recite "The Night Before Christmas" for the guests, despite the fact that the thing was written in 1823, clearly pre-Victorian. Over my strident objections, he insisted on reading the poem. Finally, I excused myself from the revelry and escorted Sir Larry to the powder room, where I jammed my rechargeable cordless corkscrew down the front of his finely twilled gabardines and assured him that if he persisted, critics would be likening his next performance of Richard III to the sound of Minnie Mouse on a helium bender. The cantankerous old gasbag relented, but not before mumbling something about, "My kingdom for a sprig of holly."
My point is, regardless of the trouble or expense, no holiday is worth celebrating unless you're prepared to give your guests the finest. Of course, it always helps if your name is a corporation whose net worth exceeds the value of the Fort Knox bullion reserves.
What's your recipe for eggnog?
No Noggin for Nog
Here is a formula that won me my seventh consecutive Silver Spatula award, despite the fact that two judges died of congestive heart failure in mid-sip. The components can be found in the pantry of any institute for the culinary arts.
- 25 jumbo egg yolks the precise color of fully matured buttercup blossoms
- 87 oz. Bavarian clotted cream
- 1/2 lb. coarse granulated cane sugar
- 1 pint St. Remy cognac (1947 or earlier)
- 16 oz. sun-bleached pistachio shells
- 1 oz. Eastern European gooseberry extract
- pinch freshly harvested Indonesian allspice root
- food coloring in the following shades: persimmon, cadmium yellow, carmine, and cobalt
Beat the eggs as you would beat a foreign gardener who over-fertilized your prize-winning American beauties, then fold in the clotted cream. (Any excess makes a wonderful spackle for those pesky sidewalk cracks.)
Frappe the sugar for 73 seconds and stir in exuberantly while pouring the cognac from a height of no more than four centimeters. Use an atomizer to mist the gooseberry extract into the mixture and then dust liberally with the allspice.
With the food coloring, paint miniature Currier and Ives panoramas on the pistachio shells and garnish accordingly. Also, be sure that at least one of your guests is a world-renowned cardiologist skilled in angioplasty.
For you "budget" types, just get a couple of tubs of Cool Whip, a jar of malted Ovaltine, and some supermarket bourbon. Mix the whole thing with a paint shaker and hope your guests are dead of a stroke long before they realize what a penurious tightwad you are.
© 2011 Steven Ricci
All material is copyrighted by the author. For information about publishing rights contact