Category Archives: Christmas

Season Greatings!

Is that not the most non descript holiday salute ever?


Any really, fill in your own blank. I can’t be bothered to find out what cultural or religious observances you will partake in this winter.


Webster’s defines To Greet as “to meet or react in a specified manner.” So there, without performance I acknowledge this assembly. Please imagine it in whatever custom you find appropriate.

Warms the heart, doesn’t it?

Much like my sons do this time of year. Take yesterday for example. After gift shopping with his father all morning my third son walked into the house with two sacks and plopped them down, right in front of me.

Two translucent plastic department store sacks holding items I had earlier told Mowgli that I’d enjoy receiving on Christmas morning.

“Wait!” I said, looking my son straight in the eye and ergo carefully avoiding any further inspections of the goodie bag before me. “Are you absolutely certain this is where those bags should be put?”

His reply?


(for those who don’t know “oh.” in teen is clear communication that a mistake is recognized and lamented)

I hate to go into the holidays in a cynical mood so I wont. I refuse to.

Even though I am the ONLY person I’m my family who actually WANTS to be surprised so am also the only person that rarely ever is.

Even though later that day the same son told me he had decided the bags should be put in the trash.

Ah holiday teasing. Warms the heart.


To all I wish you Peace, Joy, and a very happy…

(please select the least offensive of the following options:)

Christmas. Kwanza, Hanukkah,  Eid, Deity Free Winter Festival or Monday!


Martini Mondays. Who’s with me?

Life in rhyme

Natal. The story of Jesus, born
Natal. The story of Jesus, born in…fire?

Time for another round of ridiculous holiday rhyming…


On the fifth day of Christmas statistics let it slip

That the internet and myself are joined at the hip.

According to an end of year statement from FaceBook, I spend entirely too much time in cyber reality. The numbers were so shocking I vowed to limit my social media dabbling to something reasonable.

Then I spent the next 36 hours redefining “reasonable”.

Today, I’m resigned to being an addict. Why? Well because #lifeisabout #attainablegoals

(and #hashtaggingisnormal)


On the sixth day of Christmas the butcher I did greet,

With a fresh collection of beefy words I hoped would get us meat.

My attempts to learn how to say “pot roast” in Portuguese have so far taught me it’s not “rosbife” (that’s a T bone) nor is it “assada” (even though the language book says it is) or “Vaca grande” (though with hand gestures this will suffice). I’ve asked the butcher but, being a good solid meat man, he won’t give me just one word, he gives me a collection. “You can say this, or this or sometimes this…” to the point I leave in a blur of words I won’t retain.

But I’m not giving up.

I feel like Edison “I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”


On the seventh day of Christmas my heart was filled with glee

When the neighborhood erupted in an explosive lighting spree.

In Portugal hunting season blends seamlessly into firework season and so these days ordinance is heard from dawn to dusk around our house.

As Alaskans, we think this is awesome. The booms, that tangy metallic grey cloud, they are like an old favorite blanket. Under it we sit snug, sipping coffee (or glass of wine depending on the time of day) soaking it all in.

Happy holidays indeed.



On the eighth day of Christmas to work our minds did go.

To plan for us, the next few months. And we did wouldn’t you know!


On the ninth day of Christmas, settled in what we’d do,

That is right you guessed correct, all our plans fell through!

We had a city, we’d picked a house, we’d made a security deposit, all for naught. In what has been the weirdest airbnb experience for us to date the owner realized he actually couldn’t let the house. So here we are again, a few weeks from needing to make a major life decision with no clue what to do.

At least now we have a few more days to work it out. Our landlady (happy to have us stay longer) extended our lease. Very nice of her, but in truth, not exactly the kick in the behind we probably need.


Neither was this. December 2016. 

The fireworks, the wine, the sun, the elusive pot roast… How can we leave?


Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday next week!  


Missing in action

Spotted in Central Portugal. Has nothing to do with this post. Is simply awesome on it’s own.

Wow that went fast. Wasn’t it October like yesterday? Sorry, things got busy in a way that (evidently) affected my ability to post.

Usually when a blogger goes off grid it’s because some intense life changing (empathy accruing) experience befell them and they make up for their absence with a gripping return story.

Unfortunately (fortunately?) this is not the case for me. (Close the flood gates!) No, it’s been mostly boring tediousness of existence that’s overwhelmed me.

But since that does not make for much good reading, here are (some of) my November episodes in (marginally entertaining) rhyme (sort of):   

On the first day of Christmas to me my true love sent

A VAT charge of twenty three percent!

I had to pay 89 Euros to pick up a package of multi vitamins from my mother. WOW. To think of all those years I complained about Washington’s 8% sales tax. Europe – you win!

I almost let it put a cramp in my holiday mood, but then I decided to not. Happiness is a choice.

(And I will be very happy when you all choose to NOT send us anything this Christmas. TIA)

On the second day of Christmas my head said to my heart

“I no longer understand you, I think it’s time we part.”

We have exactly 27 days left in the house we are renting and absolutely no idea what we are doing after that. Public service announcement to anyone under 30: Age has zero effect on your life choice making ability. You still don’t know what you want to be when you grow up, you still vacillate at every cross road. Honestly the only thing that gets easier is that, after all these years, you know the drill. As a result you freak out less.

(Keep at it long enough and using dice as your life coach will not seem wildly reckless at all, I promise.)  

On the third day of Christmas arrived a dear old friend

And I made her drive Portugal – from end to nearly end.

It was a great trip, really, but looking back I wonder where was my head? We very nearly drove the entire length of the country in about 5 days. This friend knew me back in Alaska though, so had already been exposed to my brand of insanity. She knew what she was in for. I think.  

We’re still friends.

I think.

The North, South, and middle (seriously).

On the fourth day of Christmas I stole a pair of socks.

Well, not exactly. It’s kind of a funny story just not funny enough for a whole blog (or a rhyme). Seriously though, who puts a security tag on a 3 euro package of socks??    

Next time I’ll be ready.

The way I see it, I have 8 more days of Christmas adventure waiting.

I’ll be fine.

Hope all is well with everyone this holiday season!

Ode to the Season



It starts with the lists, the plans, a sale,

lines at the post and all of that mail.

Then morphs into hiding and sneaking around,

for we want to surprise, we need to astound.

We fight paper and tape and frustrating string,

until panic becomes an everyday thing

Be naughty or nice? Oh give me a break,

I struggle enough just staying awake.

And the eating! The dinners, breakfasts and lunches!

Cookies and candies and fats in huge bunches!

We inhale and guzzle down massive amounts.

It’s the end of the world! No calorie counts!

While inside our hearts we stress and we fret,

what ball did we drop? Who did we forget?


Why do we do it? What is our reason?

Because, silly gum drop, ‘tis the season!

‘Tis the moment, a chance, ever so slim,

to lift a spirit, distract from the grim.

To share a hug, to bring forth a smile,

throughout this time, this very short while.

For it ends and we return to typical ways.

and shelve all these memories as “far better days”.

Then 11 months later, ourselves on repeat,

we dance the same steps to the same crazy beat.

You think we’re bonkers? That may well be true,

But if we didn’t do this, what would we do?

Party til six? Rest and eat well?

Stick to a budget? Whoa, hang on a spell…

Celebrate heath and sanity?

Now who’s talking crazy, you or me? 



Happy Holidays everyone. Wishing you peace, love, and joy.

All days, Always.  


Christmas stats 2014


What is the formula for establishing great Christmas traditions? I’ve celebrated it all my life  yet still I’m unsure. It seems each December passes with an equal amount of “Let’s do that next year!” and “Never, ever, never again.”

This year, for example, we played with live reindeer and the boys loved them.


(Curious, considering that animal is equally loved at dinner, less live.)

On the other end of the spectrum, the community tree lighting ceremonies fell flat.

(The only time I heard “are we done yet” with more frequency was the four days spent driving the Al Can.)

Who knew?  This is why I decided long ago that no holiday shall pass without review.

And so I present to you our 2014 Christmas stats:


Ending Christmas Eve at 1:00 am and beginning Christmas morning at 6:00.

I realize admitting this makes us look like amateurs but you must understand our children are masters of sleeping in. For them, 10:00 am is the crack of dawn. We did NOT see this coming.

On a positive note, cocktails at 8 am? Totally justifiable.


1) This year’s favorite gift, an app that coat $1.62.

Four days later “Fly Like a Bird” (a tablet app for die-hard ornithologists) is still on top.

The $90 digital microscope remains untouched.  

2) A fashion magazine in my stocking.

You’ll never guess so I’ll tell you: I read it cover to cover.

What’s freakier than that? I might ask for one again next year.

3) Stockings full of Oreos, hand warmers, and vitamin D. The last two weren’t as appreciated as the first, but they will be one day.


Baking cookies.

My cookies are everyone’s favorite (rising, even, above Oreos. Yes, they are that good. Don’t ask me how I do it though, you won’t like the answer. The recipe is chock full of the dreaded W’s – waiting and work).    

Sometime around then end of Halloween, requests to bake Christmas cookies begin. By Thanksgiving we’ve picked out cookie toppings and by December 1st it’s decided what days will be set aside for baking and decorating. It’s just not Christmas without my cookies.

Maybe though, that’s the point. Being together and creating could possibly be all the holiday tradition we need.

Happy holidays everyone. Hope your New Year is filled with joy!




Twas Two Day Before Christmas…


It’s two days to Christmas and my heart is glad,

I’m totally ready! Not a care to be had.

The presents are wrapped with bows and tags,

Who cares if they’re stuffed inside black trash bags?

Our house is in order, I’ve done all my chores.

Mind, don’t open that closet or look close at those floors.

Come over for dinner! We’re feasting in style,

I have eight take-out restaurants on my speed dial!

Just bring yourself, that will be fine,

Since we’re not gifting it out, there’s plenty of wine.

And then stay for cookies though you probably should know,

Instead of cutting and baking, we’re just eating the dough.

It’s 2 day to Christmas, I’m as ready as ever.

for this year I traded “work hard” for “work clever”.


Merry Christmas! With love from my family,

Mowgli, myself and son’s one, two and three.

one, two, three
one, two, three





Top Songs to be sick of by Christmas.


Another list!

You know what’s missing this time of year, this season of love and community, peace and joy?

The definitive list of the Worst Holiday Songs Ever.

The songs you love to hate. The songs you’d readily exchange for a chorus of fingernails down chalk boards. What do you say, can you help? Don’t be shy, this a no judgment zone and just so you don’t feel bad, I’ll start…

1. Felize Navidad. I actually love this song and the fact that the boys are into Spanish this year makes it even more lovable. Unfortunately, it’s lyric to length ratio is all kinds of wrong. This tune has roughly the same number of lines as the birthday song (2) yet last four times as long. Por que?

2. Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. It was a tie. They are equally annoying. One song is about yuletide bullying and the other about a thief and the children he inspired. Where’s the holiday tune about the elf run meth lab? Santa’s nicotine habit?

3. Feed the World. In 1984 this song was THE symbol of hope and love. Today, it’s a grating reminder of western geo political ignorance. According to Band Aid, Africa (the second largest continent in both area and population and a land of 54-56 unique nations -depending on how you count) is nothing but a homogeneous desert of pain.
(Cue the Map!)africa
Feed the world? No. The goal was to feed Ethiopia.
There won’t be snow in Africa? Yes there will be, here… and here…possibly here…
No rivers flow? Wrong. A classic case of Nile denial.
Do they know it’s Christmas time at all? Yes “they” probably do IF, of the HUNDREDS of religious groups in Africa, “they” are Christians. (It’s too much. Forget making it to Christmas, I’ll be sick of this ditty before Pancha Ganapati.)


OK Kids there you have it. Now it’s your turn. Unleash your demons…


It’s Not About the Presents.


Ever wonder who is the worst present giver in the universe?

Well ponder no longer! It is I, Jolie,  the queen of the unoriginal, incomplete, too big, too small, entirely the wrong color and (one time) utterly inappropriate.

My ineptitude for gifting is off the charts and anyone who has ever gotten a present from me should know this but,

Apparently, they don’t…


2013 Rishel Family wish lists:


Son 3: Several toys that are no longer manufactured.

When I suggested these might be impossible for me get he laughed. “Duh Mom, just ask Santa.”


Son 2: Magic.

Not a box of trick cards, genuine magic. He wants to see a toy gecko turn into a toy bird family – the amphibian Phoenix. No small order.

“Relax,” he told me. “Christmas is all about magic.”


Son 1: a shaving razor.

Actually this is more of a need. It’s also a wish I should be able to easily grant except…

He is 12.


Finally, Mowgli.

Here’s what I know: Upon return from his last business trip Mowgli would not let me unpack his bags. For a man who hasn’t done laundry since… ever, there are only two possible explanations for this. 1) He’s having an affair. 2) He got me something.

I haven’t gotten him anything.

Let’s hope it’s another woman.


So on the one hand, thank you family for your unwavering, though ill placed, faith in my ability to make Christmas special.

On the other…what are you thinking?  



December Pledge


December is here! Let flow the champagne!20121203_111653

It’s the season of joy

…and of mental strain.

Before we get started (before we all flee),

Please take a moment and repeat after me:

(Raise your right hand…)

I promise to rest and I pledge to breathe,

I vow to manage each moment with ease.

I swear to be pleasant and not such a grouch,  

To spend more time at the gym, less on the couch.

I promise to eat with a firm hold on reason,

And maintain my dress size throughout the season.

I promise to smile, until my cheeks are sore,

And then I will promise to smile a bit more.

I swear to have fun, to read, to play,

And to find magic in every day.

I’ll say thank you, please and ‘yes, I can wait!’

And I will forgive ’til I can’t see straight.

I vow to love and to understand,

Whatever the next 30 days may demand.20121202_145603

And if I falter, if I fall off the edge,

Be nice.

For you too just made this very same pledge.







Forget, for a moment, that October isn’t over, Thanksgiving is yet to be thought of, and the holiday tree accessorizing your living room this year is still happily married to the ground.

Now, let’s cut to the chase: What is Santa bringing?

 Yes, I know nothing is more annoying than people who jump the holiday queue but… if you’re like me and plan on at least a partially handmade gifting season you MUST start now. There simply isn’t time otherwise. And, since step one if figuring out what to make, today I’m sharing my top three favorite handmade gift ideas.

1. Sewing projects that do not break the bank. Let’s face it, with the cost of fabric these days, sewing is no longer cheap. Mostly that is. Every once in a while, a good sale comes along and the savvy shopper can get a hefty bolt for a steal. After that, all you need to do is figure out what to make out of 20 yards of outdated, unwanted material.

Relax, I have some ideas. Besides table runners, pillows, and curtains, how about these?

Kid aprons, maybe in a funky print?


Light sabers sold separately.
Jedi Robes from a bathrobe pattern my mother bought in the 70’s! Light sabers sold separately.














2. Felt EVERYTHING. Oh felt, how do I love these? The ways are endless: Finger puppets, masks, costumes, play food, refrigerator magnets, story board, coasters, etc., etc. Felt is inexpensive, forgiving, and durable. You don’t even need to know how to sew. I LOVE felt. If felt would buy me wine, I would let it have its way with me.   

Basic directions: print out a cartoon, trace on felt, cut, glue. Really, it’s that simple.







3. Holiday baking that looks like you spent hours in the kitchen (when you didn’t). Enter no knead bread. You too can turn out a beautiful artisanal loaf with very little effort. The only thing this gift requires is planning. It takes about 20 hours to prepare. (Keep your pants on, more than 16 of those hours pass while your sleeping).

 You can almost smell it.

NY Times No Knead Bread Recipe

Usually we give this with homemade jam, but since we didn’t make any jam this year it’ll be with smoked salmon (Hey neighbors! Surprise!). Oh, and since we smoked the salmon last spring that means, technically, I started thinking about Christmas 8 months early 😉