Merry mayonnaise and happy gesso

December 13, 1998|By Dave Barry | Dave Barry,Knight Ridder/Tribune

Ho ho ho! It's the Christmas season, a time of festivity and fun and credit-card statements the length of "The Brothers Karamazov." It's also a time when the publications at supermarket-checkout counters are chock-full of articles featuring creative holiday craft ideas, with headlines like: "JFK JR. TELLS OPRAH: 'CAST OF "FRIENDS" ATE MY BABY!' "

No, sorry, wrong type of supermarket-checkout publication. The ones with the holiday craft ideas are the homemaker magazines, which are filled with articles like "50 Fun Holiday Crafts You Can Make With Your Saliva." The problem is that, to make these crafts, you usually have to understand some technical craft terms. For example, I have here a Family Circle article on 25 do-it-yourself holiday gifts; in the instructions for making a "Yuletide Shelf," it says that step one is to "gesso an unfinished wooden shelf."

Call me a big fat holiday dope if you want, but I have no idea what "gesso" means. It sounds like dialogue in a bad western movie:

FIRST COWBOY: Yew fixin' tuh wrangle them heifers?

SECOND COWBOY: Ah gesso.

The thing is, I happen to consider myself a craft expert, based on my experience in the summer of 1966 at Camp Sharparoon in Dover Furnace, N.Y., where I held the title of Craft Shop Counselor. They did not give this title to just anybody. They gave it only to those individuals who, when asked, "Do you want to be Craft Shop Counselor?" answered "OK."

Our most popular craft project - in fact, our ONLY craft project - was having the campers make "lanyards," which were these things that you made by braiding something called "gimp." You spent several days braiding your lanyard, and then you hung it around your neck, where it served thousands of useful purposes, although nobody I know ever could think of any. Nevertheless we had our campers make them by the metric ton.

I suppose I should have come up with some other craft projects, but I was pretty busy fighting bats. The Camp Sharparoon craft )) shop was located in a rustic old structure that housed what had to be the largest irate bat colony in North America. Around dusk the bats would swarm out and, perhaps angered by the "gimp," swoop around the campers, causing them to become frightened HTC and commit potentially serious braiding errors. So I, as the authority figure, would try to hit them (the bats) with a broom. I got pretty good at it. The key is to have a relaxed grip on the handle, keep your eye on the bat, and follow through on your swing. I could consistently drive a bat 25 feet, which is more than twice the best distance ever attained by so-called "craft expert" Martha Stewart.

And that is why today I am proud to present the following holiday feature, "Christmas Projects for the Craft-Impaired." We'll start with an easy and inexpensive gift idea:

HOLIDAY COAT HANGERS

This is the perfect solution for that embarrassing moment when people give you a gift and you didn't get anything for them. Simply take an ordinary wire coat hanger from your closet, tie a festive red ribbon around it, and - Voila! - you have a useful, hand-crafted gift that perfectly expresses the holiday message: "This cost me nothing." If you don't want to go to all that trouble, you can simply give people a hanger and tell them to tie their own ribbon on it. For that matter, they might just as well use their own hanger; no sense in killing yourself! You have other holiday craft projects to think about, such as this fun and rewarding idea for the kids:

MAYONNAISE NATIVITY SCENE

Get a big jar - no, get SEVERAL big jars - of mayonnaise. Scoop the mayonnaise out onto a table or floor in a big glob, and tell the kids to make a Nativity Scene out of it. They can't, of course, but they'll be busy for the next few hours, which gives you some time to make:

FESTIVE HOLIDAY EGGNOG

Eggnog is a traditional old beverage that gets its name from two words, "egg," meaning "egg," and "nog," meaning "a sound people make in the bathroom if they have consumed too much eggnog." You need a dozen eggs, a quart of rum and some other ingredients that I forget. Begin by separating the egg whites from the yolks. When you're done, take a standard No. 2 pencil and write me a letter explaining how you did it, because I never could. I always end up just drinking the rum, or, if no rum is available, beer. Which always puts me in a good mood to plan my:

HOLIDAY "SURPRISE" GIFT PARTY

Invite all your friends, and, in the invitation, tell them to bring a wrapped gift with no name on it. At a given time - say, 8 p.m. - gather all your guests together and tell them to go home. Then open the gifts. If any guests refuse to leave, threaten to gesso them. Because you're a busy person with many more holiday projects to attend to. Such as getting the mayonnaise off the dog.

Pub Date: 12/13/98

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