Category Archives: Holidays

Let the merriment begin

 

Now that Christmas is a mere few days away, and the major tasks of purchasing gifts, sending out our Christmas cards, wrapping the gifts, and sending them on their way to their hopefully delighted recipients is over, I’ve got myself a minute to reflect. To share my thoughts and feelings about this crazy and magical time of year and why I love it so. 

Baking Christmas cookies and related treats is one of the few traditions I have maintained over the years. Mind you, I am no Martha Stewart (unlike an old co-worker who brought snowflake cookies to our holiday potluck that were decorated so exquisitely it felt wrong to consume them not like I didn’t anyway). I focus on simple cookies. Actually, several of them are the “no bake” kind. I think that’s a wise choice as I make a fricking ton of them. I send these Christmas treats in holiday themed tins purchased at the Dollar Store or my local thrift store to friends and family from northern Minnesota to Missouri. I shan’t ever end this tradition as at this point our loved ones expect them each and every year. I kind of set myself up for that.

But it’s all good. Baking cookies while listening to my favorite Christmas tunes puts me in the spirit. For several years, while still living in Wisconsin, I hosted a cookie baking party with 3 of my closest co-workers. The wine flowed, the kitchen was essentially destroyed, and much fun was had by all. Good times. 

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Christmas cookies, circa 2008 ish

Then there’s the music of this season. I’m not the type to turn on the Christmas music as soon as the Thanksgiving leftovers are stored in the fridge, but I do enjoy it quite a bit. I am a traditionalist, as I mostly prefer the classics, sung by the original artists. Though there are a few exceptions. Like this version of “Baby it’s Cold Outside” by “She and Him” (I will admit the video is not exactly what I expected).  I’m not going to get into the controversy over this particular song and how it is “rape-y” (I don’t exactly see it that way). I was delighted when I first saw the movie “Elf” and heard Zooey Deschanel’s pure and beautiful singing voice.  I was even more delighted when I discovered that there was a “She and Him” and that they had produced a sweet little cd covering classic Christmas tunes. I of course purchased this cd and enjoy listening to it every single Christmas since then. The only other two Christmas cd’s on repeat in our house this time of year are Michael Buble’s “Christmas” and the Carpenter’s “Christmas Portrait”.  The songs “All I want for Christmas” by Mariah Carey, “Feliz Navidad” by Jose Feliciano, and Bing Crosby’s “Mele Kalikimaka” always put a smile on my face when I hear them this time of year.

I’m excited that Hubs is working on “Mele Kalikimaka” on his yuke these days. With any luck, he and I will collaborate on this one and may even perform it via video for our daughter and grandson via videochat yet this season. Or next Christmas, at least.

The most arduous tasks for me during the Christmas season are 1) purchasing gifts, 2) wrapping said gifts (not my forte; thankfully Hubs has my back on this one), and 3) shipping all the packages to hither and yon. Yet, there’s such a great joy I feel inside when I find just the right gift for the right person. I don’t know that I’ll ever in my livelong life, however, create such excitement with my Christmas gift-giving as my sweet Hubs did for me one Christmas about 7 years ago. I could not have been more surprised. 

Here’s the story: we are at my sister and brother in law’s house way up in northern Minnesota, where we have spent many Christmases. We are in the middle of opening all of our gifts, a tad liquored up and sitting in the cozy family room by the beautiful Christmas tree. I open the shirt sized box, assuming it’s a new sweater or some other practical piece of clothing (which I was totally fine with). However, it’s a fancy black dress. I look at Hubs a bit quizzically, and assume in my head that this is a dress I’ll be wearing for a nice dinner out with him on New Year’s Eve. Wow, I’m thinking. So thoughtful and how fun is it that he’s planning to take me out on New Year’s (that doesn’t happen every year, you see). Then I see there’s a sheet of paper underneath. I open it up and it’s an ITINERARY. An itinerary, no less, for a New Year’s weekend in Chicago! An itinerary mapping out our Amtrak train ride, dinner reservations at a very chi-chi seafood place in downtown Chicago, a fancy hotel, and tickets to see “The Adams Family Musical”. I was, for once in my life, utterly speechless. I think I actually cried with joy. It ended up being the best New Year’s Eve (weekend) of our entire married life despite the massive hangover I foolishly gifted myself. 

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Our New Year’s Eve in Chicago circa 2011 ish

 

This year, I was given the opportunity to shop for a little girl. I haven’t had the opportunity to partake in this activity since my spawn were youngins. You see, instead of doing the “Secret Santa” thing at work (you know the one-where you rack your brain to figure out what to buy for that one person you don’t know as well as all the others), someone came up with the brilliant idea of doing “Secret Santa” for the offspring of our co-workers. I grabbed a “wish list” for the daughter of one of my co-workers, and proceeded to have a ball at Target finding things for this kiddo. I suspect she will be pleased that Santa stuffed her new shiny star-shaped purse with Snickers and a $10 bill. I know I would be!

I wish each and every one of you a blessed, joyful, fun-filled holiday season. May your stockings be full with all your favorite goodies, may your travels be safe, and may your hearts be full. 

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Photo by Jameel Hassan on Pexels.com

What’s your go to “Feel Good” movie?

I have always been a huge fan of watching movies. Whether it be in an actual theater with a bucket of artery clogging popcorn and a fresh pack of Twizzlers or lolling about on my comfy couch eating the infinitely healthier microwave popcorn and my favorite chocolate truffles, I find movie watching to be one of life’s greatest pleasures. 

I like a variety of genres: comedies, dramas, thrillers, bio-pics, westerns, and musicals. And I’m pretty open minded about what I will watch. Especially if it is included with my Amazon Prime or on Netflix, where I have the lovely option of simply turning a movie off if it totally sucks. This doesn’t happen very often, however. 

Because I’m such a movie nut, I can’t in good conscience just pick one movie and tell you all why I think it’s great and why you should absolutely positively watch it as soon as you possibly can. 

Depending on how this goes, I might make this a regular feature. I like that idea: a regular feature. I think I’ll put a pin in that one. 

I’ve just got so much to say about how I feel about so many movies

Think I’ll start with the type of movie I love the very most, “my favorite favorite”, as Barney, that goofy purple dinosaur used to say through the t.v. screen to my kiddos when they were small. 

This would be the “Feel Good” movie. Those movies that make me laugh and/or make me tear up (I’m not a big crier when it comes to movies, but now that I think of it, perhaps I ought to pen a post about those rare films that did actually make me cry-and not because I was laughing so hard I couldn’t help myself). Those movies that amaze and inspire me. Those movies that I actually can enjoy again and again and again. 

Movies like:

“Love, Actually”. If I absolutely had to pick one film that is my favorite this would be the one. It’s a movie full of good cheer and humor.  It tells several different love stories, with the characters in each story biologically related to and/or entwined in each other’s lives. Each of the main characters are lovable, albeit imperfect.  The soundtrack is great too.  It also takes place during the Christmas season, which to me adds much to the charm of this movie. And it’s set in England so there’s plenty of those lovely British accents to enjoy. And it has a very happy ending, one that assures you that everyone is going to be alright after the credits are over. 

“Mama Mia”. Oh, the music in this one. It amazes me that the songs of “Abba” could be used to tell the story of a soon-to-be-wed young woman, living in a resort in Greece with her mom, who is searching for her biological father. Her mom, Donna, had summer flings with three different young men 20 years prior, and became pregnant. Her daughter, Sophie, invites all three of these now older men to her wedding. Each of these men, fortunately, embrace the possibility that they could be her father. It is simply a joyful, fun, uplifting movie that I can’t resist. 

“As Good as it Gets” also ranks as one of my all time favorite “feel good” movies. It is an unlikely love story between a curmudgeon afflicted with a severe case of OCD, played by the one and only Jack Nicholson, and a young waitress, who is a single mom of a very ill son, played by Helen Hunt. The (IMHO) greatly underrated actor Greg Kinnear has a starring role as Simon,  as Melvin’s (Jack Nicholson) gay neighbor who becomes a victim of an assault and needs someone to care for his little dog (Verdell) while he recovers. Jack Nicholson’s character slowly bonds with the dog and over time his heart opens to the possibility of real love with Carol, Helen Hunt’s character. This movie is as much about the characters (maybe even a bit more) than the actual story. The scenes with Carol and Simon are especially heart-warming, as they form a special bond between them.  The scenes with Melvin and Verdell are quite precious as well. 

My hope is that you all are able to carve out some time for yourself during this busy, stressful, mentally taxing time of the year (aka the Christmas/Holiday season) to kick back and re-watch your favorite “feel good” movies. Or if you haven’t caught any of the three mentioned above, you’ll take my recommendations and rent, buy, or find one of them via your favorite streaming service. 

Christmases Past, Present, and Future

Merry Christmas, one and all! ‘Tis the season to reflect on Christmases past, enjoy Christmas present, and dream a bit about Christmas future.

Christmases past:

Every single Christmas during my childhood, I watched as my mom sprayed the (always real) Christmas tree with noxious white spray from a can. Lord only knows how many of her children’s brain cells were unknowingly killed over the years. But the tree always looked spectacular.

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Opening presents on Christmas Eve: Everyone at the same time. It was sheer, giddy, joyful, chaos.

Flash forward to my first Christmas with my in-laws, about 16 years later: Opening presents on Christmas morning. One person, one gift, at a time. This process took what felt like hours upon hours (that first year anyway). Especially with several in-laws who chose to open their gifts carefully to preserve the beautiful gift wrapping for future Christmases.

The funny thing about this, however, is that in the following years, on those Christmases when it was just the four of us at home (Hubs, me, and our two spawn), we chose to continue the Christmas morning gift opening, with one of playing “Santa”, tearing into each gift, one family member at a time.

Then there was that one Christmas spent at my in laws (about 2007?), who were living  in Iowa at the time, where we all gathered around the Christmas tree and listened to the tapes of Hubs and his younger sister that had been produced when they were kids for their grandparents who lived in Florida. Hubs and his sister told stories about what they were into at the time, like 4-H club and horses.  Listening to these tapes gave me precious insight into their childhoods and made me feel like a member of the Davis tribe. And we howled with laughter the whole time.

Christmas Present: Now we are two empty nesters winging it in a new state. Things are simpler, quieter, now. But we will make the very best of it nonetheless. We will be watching Christmas movies, making and eating high carb foods (we are currently in the throes of decimating a roasting pan of homemade Chex Mix) and (yahoo!) going out to the movies and out for dinner. And of course, missing our kiddos. And our almost 4 year old grandson. Like crazy.

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This year’s Christmas tree

 

Christmas Future: We will be warm and cozy together in our cabin in the woods. There will be lots of Christmas lights inside and out. Christmas music will play softly in the background. Every family member, young and old,  will be there that can be there, God willing. Our two dogs, one a little pipsqueak mutt and the other a black lab, will greet guests upon their arrival. There will be good cheer and laughter, catching up, playing games. Ice cream drinks and hot toddies and lots of fun appetizers will be served. As a group, we will watch Christmas Vacation. And later, travel into town in a caravan of cars to see all the holiday lights. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? I’d say I can’t wait, but that would take away from enjoying Christmas present.

I hope that each and every one of you have the merriest of Christmases!