By Michele Thomas

In November 1974, at my bridal shower (which I did not attend, but that's a whole other story) my mother's gift was a top-of-the-line KitchenAid stand mixer. For 33 years, andquot;Big Whiteandquot; has mixed cookies, kneaded bread, whipped cream and even produced noodles (with the handy noodle attachment). andquot;Big Whiteandquot; was pressed into service for every birthday cake I made for my children, every batch of cupcakes I sent to schools and offices, and every dozen cookies or loaf of bread I've given as a gift.

I am one of those people who love to love the holidays. I show little sympathy to the whiners and grumblers who complain about having to decorate, shop, wrap, bake, entertainall the things I look forward to!

But I admit I'm feeling a little andquot;bah humbugandquot; myself this season. Maybe it's from my chronic back aches and sciatica provoked by standing in lines or carrying heavy packages, or because I'm getting increasingly impatient. I'm easily frustrated by technology that keeps me pushing buttons and talking into a phone for half an hour without ever making contact with a live person. I'm irritated by companies that want my e-mail address instead of my name, and know me only by the last four digits of my social security number and my zip code.

Now that I'm on a roll, let me mention my pet peeve: checking out at the grocery store when the clerk scans my purchases while talking to someone in the next check-out stand about how she can't wait to get off work in an hour.

It seems to me that when I went to the grocery store with my mother, the clerk knew all the prices by heart, even that week's specials, and would talk to us and smile while she punched the prices into the non-electric cash register. And then she accurately counted back Mom's change without relying on the cash register to tell her what the amount should be.

Ah, those were the days of personalized customer service and small appliances you could count on. Not this holiday season! Things really took a turn for the worse last weekend when my annual baking bonanza came to a screeching halt as andquot;Big Whiteandquot; bit the dust in the middle of a batch of biscotti. While I had my back turned, andquot;Big Whiteandquot; whirred to silence.

Without my trusty mixer of 33 years and without two of my sons (of 30 and 25 years) with us this Christmas, I can feel the muscles in the back my neck tighten and a stinging in my eyes.

The happy-go-lucky andquot;I love everything about Christmasandquot; me is fighting the andquot;I feel sorry for myself because my kids aren't here, my folks are gone, my best friend lives far away, I don't have cookies in the oven, and that darn mixer just up and quit on meandquot; me.

I'm not going to let a few setbacks ruin my holidays! I've got a hand mixer that works, and we'll go up north to visit the kids next month. Rick and I and our dogs, Martha and Smitty, will curl up by the fire. We'll eat crab cakes on Christmas Eve and I won't steam up the kitchen mashing potatoes in andquot;Big White'sandquot; stainless steel bowl! We'll enjoy a nice quiet Christmas in the home that took us nine months to find, where we can hear the waves, the sea lions and the fog horn. Christmas will be goodgreat, in factbecause we have each other, a loving family and remarkable friends. We wish you a Merry Christmas, too.

Reach Michele Thomas, The Daily Triplicate's publisher, at, 464-2141, or stop by 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.