Catalyst Cooks

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Catalysts at Christmas December 10, 2010


You know it’s Holiday Season when:

        • You trade shoes for slippers (and out for in)
        • You trade Steak for Soup
        • The browns and golds of fall turn into greens and reds of Christmas (or blues and whites of Hannukah)

I love this time of year too! 

Neighbor Dave and I broke out the Egg Nog (or, at our house, Soy Nog- fewer calories).

We decorated the tree over the past couple of days.

Neighbor Dave gets to hear the stories behind the two boxes of ornaments that I have collected over my lifetime.


  • The Snowflakes.  “Snowflake” Stephanie wraps a beautiful gift, and most years they come with a beautiful snowflake attached.  They end up on my tree!


  • There’s the Fish from Alice, my college roomie.  The Tree from my high school French teacher.  The snowman from Santa.


For one of my favorite traditions, we got together with mom/Pam and sister/Molly and brother-in-law/Terence to shop for our adopted family through

Some years ago, gift-giving to each other transitioned from being a real joy to being a little bit hard.

As we sisters got married, it got harder.  All of our households were full and complete, and it was so much more difficult to find “the perfect gift.”

When that happened, I started a campaign to end the gift-giving. 

We found a great solution. 

We adopted a family to buy for… and every year since, instead of finding that obscure kitchen gadget, perfect book, or special outfit…. we get to buy winter coats, boots, mixing bowls and spoons, and toys. 

It feels great!

And better yet, we get a specific list, so it make shopping easy.  And fun.

We always make sure to tie in dinner and a beer at the Fireside Lounge in West St Paul, to cap off our shopping night.

While the shopping is great (and I don’t even like shopping that much in the first place), the best part for me is dropping off those gifts.

First we package them in beautiful bags.

Then drop them off at a warehouse in Minneapolis.

It is so darn awesome to see the generosity, present in the rows upon rows of bags, bikes, wrapping paper, and tables full of gifts!

I love this tradition.

I love this season.

What is your favorite story, memory or tradition?


6 Responses to “Catalysts at Christmas”

  1. Molly Says:

    The pickle ornament didn’t make your list of highlights?? I suppose because it’s not a homemade pickle, made from cucumber, onion and dill from your own garden (grown from grandma’s secret heirloom seeds) and vinegar you brewed yourself, then cast in bronze at Zeller Studios.

    Oh well, my Target plastic pickle makes my list of faves!!

  2. Lori Kleve-Tiede Says:

    Remember when we used to go down to Gram’s basement and carefully unwrap our presents because we couldn’t stand the wait? You were always the expert at getting them wrapped up again! I think we only did it a couple of times, but I will NEVER forget it! We adpot a family too, and we all love doing it! Happy Holiday’s!

    • Jen Antila Says:

      Lori, I do remember that! While I was good at re-wrapping, I was bad at fibbing… Pam could always tell when I had done something bad because I had the guilty look!

      Hope you are enjoying the snow… we just spent the better part of two days shoveling out… I bet Mark has been doing much of the same 🙂

  3. Beth Says:

    I didn’t get a tree Christmas tree ornament from my high school French teacher. You always were a favorite;-) Love your gift-buying tradition.

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