For a terrible moment, I feared that my family would have only oatmeal for their Christmas morning breakfast, and left-over Tofu Pad Thai for Christmas dinner. I was all set to let panic overwhelm me when suddenly I thought: Why not do something different and take some action?
It was Christmas Eve, last week, and my two youngest children, Eliza and Daniel, and I had been busy doing our final gift shopping across the busy city. In the mid-afternoon we realized that we had better abandon the stores and drive immediately back to the centre of town if we wanted to watch the Olympic Flame being run into Victoria Park. Which we did.
Not surprisingly – 8,000 other people also thought this would be a grand way to spend the afternoon before Christmas. We eventually, and gratefully, found a parking space some long blocks from the park and we had to walk as quickly as possible to get there on time. Or, rather, the kids walked quickly on their very long legs, and I trotted along, gasping for breath, several paces behind them.
Well, the crowd was very dense, packed all along the walkway where the runners would be coming in, but we did manage to see the flame as it was run exuberantly into the park and up to the main stage. Eliza and Daniel were even able to get their photo taken with a flame runner holding an unlit torch. It was fun, but, unfortunately, we didn't have time to hear the speeches. We still had our grocery shopping to do and time was running out.
I've become a little spoiled by the city and have come to expect stores to be open quite late (by small town standards). I realized that they would close early on Christmas Eve, so I was thinking that I had until probably 7:00, or at the very least, 6:00. It was after 4:00 before we could push our way out of the crowd, then we still had to trek to our car and drive to the grocery store that is nearest to our house, though not, sadly, 'near' to it.
I was feeling quite prepared for the shopping, though. I had made a complete list of items needed, then I had rewritten the list into appropriate categories as I would normally walk through the store. Produce, deli items, frozen desserts, dairy, dry goods, and so on. But, still, I was counting on the kids to help me out by being 'runners' as we passed through the various sections. As a team, I felt we would be able to get in and out of there in pretty good time.
However, as we pulled into the grocery store parking lot, I looked across the street to see a store Eliza and I had been in the day before. I knew Daniel needed one more gift and I thought there was a good chance he'd find something there. So, I suggested that they hop out and dash across to that store, try to find a gift, then dash back to find me in the grocery store. They asked me if I'd be all right and I answered: Yes, of course, you'll be back quickly; I'll just get a little start on things.
I parked the car, hopped out, grabbing some cloth grocery bags, and then a cart and walked through the door. As I was immediately in the produce section, I pushed the cart to the right and began to choose the best red pepper. And then, suddenly, and shockingly, I heard this loud and shrill announcement: “Attention Shoppers! This store will be closing in 15 minutes. Please make your final selections and make your way to the cashiers.” My reaction? Well, as the young people of this passing decade have learned to text - “WTF”???? 15 minutes??? How can I possibly do this??
How could it be that we would have no special Christmas breakfast or dinner? How disappointed would the kids be? So, I decided right then and there that I had no time to shop the way I usually do – pondering each purchase carefully, weighing up sizing and pricing and competing brands. I didn't even have time to consult my list!
Fortunately, I had read through my list several times and so basically had it in my head. I started pushing my cart quickly and deftly around the perimeter of the store, trying my best not to knock over the other panicking shoppers. Peppers, cole slaw, potatoes and sweet potatoes – check. Bread. Sliced ham for breakfast and a turkey breast. Imagine that, a turkey breast, something I have never purchased nor cooked before, snatched off the shelf without even considering the price. (Well, maybe a quick glance.) It was a whirlwind!
I was in the dairy section choosing eggs and cheese for the breakfast menu, but couldn't find the Pillsbury Crescent Rolls which were essential to the main dish. Just at that moment, a store clerk appeared and pointed me in the right direction. I was all set to go on to the next section when I realized with some alarm that I had forgotten to get veggie bacon and vegan cheese – absolutely essential since over half the family is vegetarian. So, I had to turn back! And backtracking was wasting previous time – not what I needed right now.
I had, quite surprisingly, made it all the way to the frozen section when the “5 minutes remaining, shoppers” announcement came bursting through the speakers. Yikes. I grabbed up some frozen peas and hash browns, then remembered the few packaged and canned items I still needed. Suddenly, around the corner appeared Eliza and Daniel at quick pace and eager to help. Quick! Quick! Run over to the corner over there, choose a frozen dessert, and meet me at the checkout.
While they ran off to choose dessert, I pushed my cart at full speed to the interior isles in search of water chestnuts, mandarin orange slices, and shredded coconut. The shrill admonishment of “Attention Shoppers, our store is now closing. Please make your way to the cashiers” was in my ears just as I wheeled up to the checkout lanes. Wow. Then, the kids came running over with a lovely Tiramisu that was the perfect choice for dessert.
While we were waiting in line, I surveyed my cart, scanning quickly and urgently to see if anything important had been forgotten. Oh, no – turnips! It wouldn't be Christmas dinner without turnips. So, I sent the kids off and running back to the produce department where they had some trouble as the sign in front of what they perceived as turnips, said “rutabagas”. After a speedy consultation with the produce clerk, they bolted back to the checkout.
Once we were back in the car, heading home with our groceries all packed up and safely in the trunk, we began to laugh and high-five each other for our astonishing success. What a relief!
And we were all comforted by the knowledge that whatever gifts we would find under our tree on Christmas morning, we knew we would be enjoying the warmth of having our family all together – with nowhere to go and nothing to do but enjoy each other. And, oh, yes – we would be relishing the abundance of our hastily purchased Christmas meals, as well.
Happy New Year, Everyone!
Featured Recipe: "HG Egga-Pinwheels"
(The photo above and the featured recipe are courtesy of the wonderful food blog "http:www.hungry-girl.com". Just sign up for a free membership and you will receive countless recipes and tips for losing weight while eating tasty food. And what a perfect time of year for that!)