Tag Archives: Christmas

Christmas Wrap-Up

28 Dec

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and got lots of good presents!  This year was my domestic Christmas—I got baking dishes, a food processor, a sewing machine and cookbooks.  Watch out Martha.  Last year was my safety Christmas; for some reason everyone I know thought I needed things that would ward off disaster like a pocketknife, a first aid kit and a fire extinguisher.  I’m not really sure what changed in my life to make everyone who knows me think I had gone from imminent hazard to capable cook and seamstress, but I definitely consider it progress.

As much as I loved my presents, I don’t think I am capable of the love a toddler has for Christmas presents.  $8 at K-Mart buys some fairy wings and a fake phone and like magic the two-year-old niece was occupied for the entire weekend.  I know a lot of things are about to cost you a lot of money, Mondoo, but it looks like entertaining Christmas presents for your baby does not have to be one of them!

There was almost as much fun in my Christmas as there was food, and there was so much food.  But now Christmas is over and this week is going to be so hard.  This is my first year in several where I haven’t had a month-long winter break from school.  I have a job now, which, I’m happy to say, in some cases led to some truly inspired gift-giving this year, but that means I have to go back to work this week between Christmas and New Years.  I understand that we got lucky this year with a long weekend for Christmas and another one for New Years, but this week is definitely a downhill slide to 2010 and it will be near impossible for me to do anything other than eat leftovers and watch movies.  Case in point, it’s Monday and I’m late for work because inside I know how wrong it is to force productivity during a week that was meant for sleeping in and sledding on lunch trays.  Good luck this week working friends and friends who don’t necessarily have 9 to 5 office jobs but still have to do all kinds of productive things, take it easy, don’t make the rest of us look bad.

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Bloggy’s First Christmas

25 Dec

141characters wishes you all a very Merry Christmas!  We’ll be back next week with more hilarity but until then, enjoy a clip from one of my favorite Christmas movies (which was left off the TV airwaves this year for some absurd reason, I have no idea why, it’s a classic).

Snow of the Decade! (And TV Crossovers)

21 Dec


This weekend it snowed about 10 inches in Charleston, and if I wasn’t in the Christmas spirit before, I definitely am now.  Everything is covered in white and it was that perfect heavy wet snow so there are snowmen and sleds in front of every house on my street.  Ten inches isn’t a crazy amount here, but it’s enough to make people stop what they’re doing for a day to collect themselves and dig their cars out.  Except for Mondoo, who was halted for more than a day due to monumental fails by the snow plow and electricity.  I’m not sure how she fared stuck in her house without power, but I wouldn’t be surprised if completely adapted to pioneer life and swore off anything that isn’t connected with wooden pegs from here on out.

My dad was driving in the terrible snow storm yesterday and got stuck an hour from home after the turnpike shut down leaving thousands of people stranded.  He went from hotel to hotel getting turned away, and while I was concerned I couldn’t help but recall another story from right around this time where a Jew couldn’t get a room, and I held out for a miracle of some sort.  That miracle did happen and it took the form of a Days Inn about 20 miles out Route 19 in North Beckley with one room left.  (He was not amused at my suggestion that there was a manger scene on display at the Beckley courthouse).

I, on the other hand, thoroughly enjoyed the snow and gave myself the day off Saturday to watch Christmas movies and eat sausage.  The Muppet Family Christmas is my absolute favorite because it realizes my childhood fantasies of characters from different shows joining in chance, yet meaningful, encounters.  I love how they even fit the fraggles in with their own song.  This made me think of other classic TV crossovers, and also some crossovers I’d like to see.

The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones:  A family from the future and a family from prehistoric times meeting?  Absurd!  I bet those Jetsons had one taste of mammoth ribs and realized how crappy that futuristic multi-food slice of butter was.

Donna Reed and Dennis the Menace: For the longest time I thought I dreamt this, but I have it on good authority that I did not.  First of all, I did not watch either of these shows when they were first running back before the invention of colors, I was a big Nick at Nite fan when I was little.  Do they still have Nick at Nite by the way?  Anyway, it was this one episode where the Menace family supposedly lived in Donna Reed’s neighborhood.  Unfortunately I can’t remember what actually happened in this union so I can only speculate as to the hijinx that ensued when Dennis the Menace infiltrated the Reed household.  Possibly a paint spill?  A hose indoors?  Whatever it was I’m sure that Donna had herself quite mess to clean up.

Mr. T and Alvin and Chipmunks:  This was before all the nonsense there is now with the computer animated chipmunks and the “squeekuals,” back when the only movie about the Chipmunks was the one where they rock around the world in a hot air balloon.  I loved it when Mr. T would show up and help the chipmunks fight some bullies and give them sage advice.  I often wished in elementary school that Mr. T would show up at school and be my best friend, helping me reach the top shelf of my cubby and such.  Now I wish that had happened for entirely different reasons—how hilarious would it have been to see giant Mr. T show up in mean Mrs. Bailey’s third grade class next to a 7 year old girl in pigtails scrunched in one of those tiny desks?

Blossom and Fresh Prince: This one is kind of cheating because Will Smith showed up on Blossom as Will Smith, not really in his Fresh Prince capacity.  It’s hard to say since he was also Will Smith on Fresh Prince and he was also Fresh Prince the rapper as Will Smith, but since Blossom knew who he was I’m assuming he was there as the Fresh Prince, celebrity, as opposed to Bel-Air resident.  I suppose it’s possible that Will Smith was famous enough in his Bel-Air world (what with wearing his prep school jacket inside out and playing b-ball outside of the school all the time) that Blossom might know him from reputation.  Whoa!

Here are some imaginary TV crossovers I always wanted to see:

He-Man and GI Joe: In my pretend crossover He-Man and She-ra were top-secret government contracted super spies for the US army.

I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched: This was more of a public service, I imagine it gets lonely being the only housewife on the block who practices witchcraft.

Go-Bots and Transformers: Ok, so this one wouldn’t be very exciting, what with two sets of robots who turn into things, but it just seemed so natural.

Love/Hate: Christmas Decorations

18 Dec

Welcome to the final installment of Love/Hate Christmas editions.  For today’s topic, we’ll explore the positives and negatives of Christmas decorations.

Love:

1)  Nativity Scenes. Now I’m not overly religious or anything but I just love Christmas decorations that include nativity scenes.  I honestly don’t know why though, I can’t put my finger on it.  I do, however, remember just falling madly in love with two distinctly different nativity scenes during my childhood.  The first was my Grandma Helen’s plastic lighted outdoor nativity set (a similar likeness although not the real thing) that she proudly displayed in her garage (a.k.a the hunky manger) complete with hay and a star overhead.  The second was a ceramic Precious Moments nativity set that was perched on top of my parent’s television set. Precious Moments are generally kinda creepy with their abnormally big eyes and such.  And, to be honest, the idea of them portraying the nativity is especially creepy because, as my husband puts it, they’re “babies having Jesus babies.”

2)  White Lights. I love houses decorated with white twinkle lights.  There’s something so magical and elegant about white twinkle lights.  I think that Clark Griswold would agree.

3)  Christmas Trees. I love Christmas trees!  If I could have one in every room of my house, I totally would.  I love the lights and ornaments and the presents that are usually underneath.  I love when city buildings change their lights and fashion a mis-shapened tree in the windows.  Above all, my favorite aspect about Christmas trees is that people love to show them off; so much so in fact that they set them up in their windows and keep the blinds open all night allowing you to voyeuristically peer into their otherwise closed-up house.  I love seeing what other people’s houses look like.

4)  Bulb Ornaments. Speaking of Christmas trees, I love bulb ornaments.  There are so many different varieties, like this or this. And they are all adorable.  And shiny.

5)  Edible Decorations. I know, I know, this is kind of a stretch in the decoration category but just play along for a second.  All sorts of goodies appear during the holidays and many of them are left just hanging around waiting to be eaten.  Exhibit #1:  Candy canes.  People love to decorate with candy canes.  We even put them on our Christmas tree when I younger and I always stole them from the tree to satisfy my need to snack.  Only the blueberry or watermelon ones though, I don’t care for peppermint.  The taste makes me feel like I just brushed my teeth.  Exhibit B:  Red and green M&Ms.  These festive looking candies always appear in crystal bowls on coffee tables around the nation during Christmastime.  Edible and decorative.  By far my most favorite edible decoration are these delicious, salty mixed nuts that appear on my mother-in-law’s end table each holiday season.  Two years ago, I ate so many nuts that, well, let’s just say, I was uncomfortable for a couple days.  Last year, I had to restrain myself from the nut eating because of an ill-planned cruise vacation shortly after the New Year.  Well, this year I’m pregnant and all bets are off.  Watch out, nuts.

Hate:

1)  Living Nativities.  Yes, I love nativity scenes but I just don’t really understand the point of living nativities.  So, real people dress up and pretend to be Mary, Joseph, shepherds and the like.  They stand there in the cold for hours on end to achieve what purpose?  To remind us of the Christ part of Christmas?  Um, my grandma’s plastic, lighted nativity did the same thing and no one got frostbite.

2)  Multicolored Lights. As previously mentioned, I prefer white twinkle lights over the multi-colored ones.  Just a personal preference.  However, I feel that one is more likely to commit the Christmas decoration sin of over-decorating when you’re using multi-colored lights versus the white ones.  Take this house, for example.  Doesn’t it look like Christmas threw up on that house?  I can’t help but think that it may look less offensive if those lights were white rather than a barrage of colors.

3)  People who insist on live Christmas trees. “Oh, but you must have a real tree!  They are the only way to go.”  Oh really? I’ve had my tree up since the weekend after Thanksgiving.  How long has yours been up?  Oh, it’s not up yet?  Because if you put it up this early, it would probably die by Christmas?  Oh and one more question, how is it sweeping up those needles and watering your already dead tree every day?  You’re right, the only way to go.

4)  Inflatables. I might hate inflatable decorations the most out of all hated Christmas decorations.  Nothing is tackier than a giant inflatable Santa… oh wait, yes there is, an entire yard of inflatable decorations.  Furthermore, nothing is more depressing than a yard of deflated inflatables.  It looks a like someone melted the Rankin-Bass studios.

5)  My husband’s nutcrackers. Yes, my husband collects nutcrackers.  Terrifying, creepy, we don’t really crack nuts, nutcrackers.  Sometimes I have nightmares where the nutcrackers awake and march into my bedroom and attack me, with this one leading the charge.  Eeek!

The ‘Santa’ Factor

18 Dec


I’ve heard from several parents lately about how they handled the moment their child asked if there really was a Santa Claus.  Surprisingly, most people I’ve talked to have had trouble lying to their children when confronted.  To that I say, where is the fun in having children if you can’t tell them fantastic and hilarious lies?  Most parents, when asked, have told their kids in a variety of ways that there is not really a Santa Claus, whether the kid was 3 or 10.  I’m not here to judge at what age it’s no longer appropriate for a child to believe in Santa, but I think I would be completely fine with looking my child in the eye and telling him that there is, without a doubt, a Santa Claus.

I also plan on making a great big production out of the tooth fairy, and telling my children that if you swallow a seed it grows into a watermelon in your stomach, it’s the thought that counts, and that they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up.  We all know now that you can’t really be whatever you want to be when you grow up.  For instance, I could never have been a Chinese acrobat, the Dalai Lama or a vampire.  Also, my ship sailed on Olympic figure skater fairly early on.  I don’t think these are things we need to reveal to children, as there is nothing wrong with a little imagination.  Plus, if they wait to learn these things on their own, they will probably be at an age where other life developments take place and compensate for lost dreams.  Such as being able to watch PG-13 and R-rated movies, talking to boys on the phone, spending paper route money on comics and getting the grown-up jokes on the Muppet Show.

I understand to adult sensibilities the idea of a fat man in costume who breaks into your house, eats your cookies and drops off some unidentifiable wrapped packages is rather disconcerting and in reality probably warrants a call to the police and the bomb squad, but I think the story is pretty harmless.  I mean, who has chimneys and real fireplaces anymore?

Personally, I never questioned whether Santa could get to every child in the world, or whether he could do it in one night, and I caught on to time zones pretty early so I was on board with Santa for a while.  I was also acutely aware that Hanukkah, which Santa had nothing to do with, was supposed to come with presents and did not, which I thought was no coincidence.  Eventually, my education stood in the way of my belief in Santa Claus, along with the concept of just how many people were in the world and how long it would really take to visit them all.  (I used to insist to my mother that everyone in the world could fit in our house, standing on top of each other of course).  Regardless, I still love the idea that the entire year culminates in this holiday whose celebration depends solely on a feat of magic.

Cookiewatch 2009

16 Dec

December started off slow on the cookie front.  The first day back at work after Thanksgiving I found myself lingering around the kitchen in the morning hoping someone would deliver a plate of freshly baked Christmas cookies.  Unfortunately that whole week was met with disappointment and some packages of those 100 calorie fake Oreos.  (Note, eating three bags of those things at a time defeats their purpose).  I even bought a few cookies at that cookie place in the mall, but they were stale and tasted of the complete incompetence of the 16-year-old cashier from whom I bought them.

Just when I thought there had been some sort of government ordered cookie embargo, sweets arrived on December 7 in spherical form.  My coworker, cowgirl Sarah, made cake balls.  These are balls of red velvet cake mixed with cream cheese icing and dipped in chocolate.  While these were not cookies, what?  Oh, I lost that train of thought because I was reminiscing over the delicious cake balls.  They reminded me of that SNL skit where Alec Baldwin is endorsing his Schweaty Balls, and they were even tastier than they were fun to talk loudly about.

The cookie flow tempered after that, but turned on with full force starting last Sunday.  My yoga teacher brought in sugar cookies in the shape of people doing yoga poses.  How befitting!  Then Monday, cowgirl Sarah came through again with chocolate chip cookies.  Usually chocolate chip cookies are not my choice in cookie because I am put off by the difference in texture between chip and cookie, but these were an exception.  They were perfectly dense, flat and chewy.  I told her I wanted the recipe but I would really like someone to just make them for me all the time.

And then yesterday another coworker brought in sugar cookies.  These were in the shape of Christmas things like bells and trees and candy canes.  The cookie was cakier than the first cookie and the icing was layered about ½ inch thick.  It is a shame for everyone I work with that my office is the second closest one to the cookie room (or kitchen).

I don’t know what cookies today will bring, or when it will become noticeable that I am the only one that has not brought cookies yet, but I am anxious to see.  I really intended this post to be a cookie review, but as it turns out I love all cookies so far, and no one has tried to put fruit in my cookies yet so I don’t have anything bad to say.  I’m told the grand cookie finale will happen next week sometime when the resident baker in the office brings in plates of 10 different types of cookies.  Maybe then I’ll have gathered enough information and discerning taste for a review, until then you’ll have my updates.  Stay tuned for Don’t-Know-How-I-Got-So-Fat-In-December Watch 2010.

Don’t Forget About Hanukkah!

14 Dec

… or Chanukah, however you spell it.

Hanukkah is really getting swept under the rug this year amidst all the Christmas cheer, and as a half-Jew I’d like to dedicate this post to this 8 day miracle holiday.  Also, this is probably the extent of my Hanukkah participation this year, it really snuck up on me.  It’s actually kind of a shame that of all the Jewish holidays Hanukkah is the one that corresponds to Christmas.  It would be much more fun if Passover were in December and Hanukkah was in the spring for the following reasons.  Passover is a fun holiday of eating, singing, hiding things and drinking an entire glass of wine for every prayer you say, and while there are funny eating requirements for 7 days during Passover, the main celebration in which you actually have to do things is a one-day event.  Most of the fun of Hanukkah was sort of forced upon it because Christmas is obviously so much more fun naturally and Jewish children were feeling left out.  The main reason it would be better if Hanukkah and Passover traded places is that there are no presents exchanged at Passover.  When you grow up celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah, December is a big month of holiday fun but the rip-off is that you never get presents both on Christmas day and the 8 days of Hanukkah.  If Hanukkah were a safe distance from Christmas then there would be no excuse to not fully honor the Hanukkah tradition.  Being half Jewish is like the birthday-near-Christmas of dual religions.

I don’t celebrate Hanukkah religiously by any means.  Having moved to a smaller suburb outside of Charleston when I was in high school, my family had to get used to a grocery store that did not carry anything that wasn’t found in a Shoney’s buffet.  This made Hanukkah and other Jewish holidays harder to celebrate at the last minute, which was sort of our style.  One year when Hannukah came around we went to the store and find some Hannukah candles and were met with mass confusion among the staff.  To be fair, I was met with the same confusion when I tried to find eggplant there earlier that year.  I think we ended up using birthday candles.

Since moving away from home I’ve celebrated Hanukkah mostly by having big latke parties at my house and singing the latke song.  Who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner?  I even light a menorah from time to time (granted, sometimes the menorah is a fire hazard that I’ve fashioned from aluminum foil), and say the candle-lighting prayer.  Mostly because I’m a sucker for tradition.  In terms of ritual, Christmas is probably the superior holiday in December, from a secular point of view, of course.  The tree, lights, charity, music, stockings, and cinnamony-pine smell during the entire month of December put 8 days of nightly candle lighting and dreidel spinning to shame, yet Hanukkah and Christmas are forced to be compared to one another for the purpose of inclusion because of an unfortunate date proximity.  Like Kwanzaa.  I’m sure the 10 people  (ok, 1 million?) who actually celebrate Kwanzaa in this country would just assume it be far far away from Christmas so people would stop patronizing it by including it in “holiday greetings” for fear of leaving someone out.

There are a few good things to come out of the Hanukka-Christmas political union.  Hanukkah songs for example.  We would probably not have any songs about Hanukkah (except for those freaky monotone ones that you sing in Hebrew) if it weren’t for Christmas carols making Jews feel left out.  My favorites are Adam Sandler’s The Hanukkah Song, Hanukkah in Santa Monica (I heard that one today!),  Dreidel Schmeidel, Mo’ Gelt Mo’ Problems and Nuthin’ But a ‘J’ Thang.  Also funny Hanukkah cards.  That’s not really a Hanukkah tradition but I enjoy the self-deprecating Jewish humor in card form this time of year.  And this is sort of a contradiction, but I do slightly enjoy the awkward political correctness that is setting up a menorah, the only recognizable Hanukkah symbol, among Christmas decorations in public. That does not so much happen here though, as evident by the Beckley courthouse shamelessly displaying a nativity scene outside the building as I was told yesterday by a friend.  Either West Virginians understand that no one would ever be putting up “Hanukkah decorations” if it wasn’t near Christmas and thus decline to conform to the PC standard, or the small town grocery store staff is a fairly good indicator of most peoples’ responses to Hanukkah here in general.