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Posts Tagged ‘holidays’

My Christmas Gift

I tend to forget with Christmas that I get presents. It usually hits me on Christmas Eve, after I’ve returned home from the extended family gathering, that I am going to receive presents that I don’t even have to pay for. With all the other serious business that goes on during the holiday season, it’s easy to forget.

It wasn’t that way when I was a kid, because at that age (1) I didn’t have to do any of the work and (2) really, what could possibly be more important to an eight year old than a PILE OF EXQUISITELY WRAPPED PRESENTS? But now that I am undeniably an adult, the presents tend to be an afterthought.

However, this year, I got a gift that has excited me to levels that haven’t been seen since childhood. I got a silver KitchenAid stand mixer. It is amazing, full of promise, and I often find myself stroking it in loving admiration. I’m not sure I can convey how beautiful it is. This picture makes an admirable attempt at conveying the beauty, but even this does not fully succeed:

I used it to make “crusty” pizza dough on Saturday night, which was not terrible. If anything it was a little too enthusiastically crusty, which was so my fault, and so not at all the fault of the mixer.

It makes me want to bake things (LOTS of things), as if I don’t have huge quantities of leftover Christmas cookies sitting on my counter right now. I want to learn to bake every type of bread IN THE WORLD. (Very handily, I have a cookbook called “Breads of the World.”) I want to find more recipes like the oatmeal-sweet potato cookies which are delicious, yet not necessarily completely unhealthy. And then I will BAKE THEM ALL.

The degree of how much I want to bake things is many times the degree of how much I actually want to eat things. So, obviously, the best way for me to satisfy my overpowering! urge! to bake! will be to find some recipients other than myself, like the Ronald McDonald House or something. I believe I have found a project to occupy my time while my sister is away for the next six months.

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Down to Christmas Business

Now that the recital is over, I have three weeks without dance class, which feels like kind of a long time, but which is actually no time AT ALL, especially when most of that time will be taken up with holiday festivities.

But that means it’s time to focus on Christmas, since that is, shockingly, NEXT WEEK. It is occurring to me that I am really, really behind. I need to start on my holiday baking. Figure out what I’m going to do about gift-giving. Maybe send out a Christmas card or two–although I’ve already decided that I’m going to be using leftover cards that I already have instead of buying new ones, if I send out any at all. Try putting back up the Christmas lights that fell down. Oh, and maybe I should also clean up the HOT MESS that has erupted in my house, so that I can actually enjoy the lovely Christmas decorations.

(Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, I cannot see you beneath the pile of laundry.)

I have been experiencing strong feelings of laziness lately. The laziness tells me that it’s perfectly okay to just dump all my clean clothes on the couch and to pull out wrinkled shirts when needed for wearing. The laziness proclaims that it’s okay that my floors are dirty, because it’s cold outside, and they’re building huge gingerbread houses on the Food Network. The laziness tells me that I have plenty more time to bake the seven dozen types of cookies I intend to make. The laziness dictates that it is far better to enjoy some tortilla chips with melted sharp cheddar cheese while sitting on the couch than it would be to go to the gym.

Oh, but Christmas is coming and I need to at least fake my way to a better work ethic. It’s not that I don’t want to indulge in festive Christmas CHEER. I love Christmas cheer.

I’ve noticed, though, that as I have gotten older, time really has begun to pass with increasingly frightening speed. Part of what that means is that I can’t help but think, “Oh, so what if I screw up Christmas this year. Another one is going to be here before I know it. I can do it better next time.”

But you’d think after I spent all that time whimpering about how I waaaaanted it to be Chriiiiiiistmas, I would be more on top of things now that it is well and truly here.

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Christmas Spirit

Now that Thanksgiving has actually taken place, my beloved Christmas season has begun! We have started listening to Christmas music! And, in very exciting news, my sister and I have started decorating the house.

The Christmas tree!

The entertainment center, with White Christmas playing on the TV!

The piano!

The doormat outside!

A new ornament for this year!

I am excited that the house is decorated. The funny thing is that now that the music is playing and the decorations are out, I’m not really feeling all that Christmas-y.

I’m inclined to blame it on the weather. While it was actually nice and cold on Thanksgiving, today it was sunny and an annoying 60 degrees outside. I don’t know how people who live in places that are warm all year round ever feel like it’s Christmastime, because I am clearly very particular about temperatures.

Maybe it’s just because I haven’t started my Christmas baking yet. Maybe I’m just grouchy that my Thanksgiving break is all-too-quickly coming to an end. Maybe it’s more strange than I thought it would be to celebrate Christmas in a new house.

Maybe it’s because after we put up the decorations, I watched four episodes of “Lost” (the end of the third season and the first episode of the fourth season) and it has whipped me into such an anxious tizzy that I can’t even think about festive holiday cheer, all I can do is worry about JACK and KATE and HURLEY and CHARLIE and DESMOND and OH MY GOD. No, seriously, have you watched the third season finale and the fourth season premiere? OH MY GOD.

Or maybe it’s because the grass, oh, it is always, always greener. It’s possible that if I want it to feel like Christmas, I need to try a bit harder to make myself feel that way and take charge of putting myself in a Christmas state of mind!

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There are all the many obvious things to be grateful for, and I am grateful for those things. There are family, friends, steady employment, my sweet precious dog, good health, all of you reading this, and a nice house to live in, to say nothing of free tires that are gifted to me in my front yard! Good fortune aplenty!

I thought it would be more interesting to mention some of the less-obvious things I am grateful for this year.

Dance class
If I can’t be a full-time student again, this is the next best thing. Because of dance class, I am a happier, healthier person as a whole. It challenges me. Sometimes I get discouraged when I am so uncoordinated that I can’t do an incredibly simple move that everyone else in the class does without thinking, but it forces my brain to make connections that don’t come easily to me. Dance is also a weekly source of no-pressure socialization with a group of friendly people. All in all, it is the one activity since graduating from college that has made me the happiest.

This American Life & Radiolab
These two shows have also been an important stimulus for me, post-college. Both shows make me think, and both shows are very comforting. Even when Radiolab does a show on Parasites. Still, comforting! When there was no power during the ice storm in January, I got into bed at 8 or 8:30, because bed was a place where I could feel warm. I’d settle in under a layer of ten blankets and I’d listen to TAL or Radiolab until I fell asleep. They kept me from feeling desperately anxious during an awful week.

Wellesley College
Wellesley will forever be the place where I came into my own and started feeling, for the first time, like I had a clear vision of myself. I am not making use of hyperbole when I say that it was the perfect place for me. At Wellesley, I felt smart and empowered and confident and able. I have a necklace with the Wellesley seal I like to wear when it becomes harder for me to feel that way.

Bryan Fuller
Bryan Fuller is the master of perfect television. Every show he creates is a favorite of mine, despite the fact that the rest of the world (and television networks) aren’t so good at catching on. That guy gets me, without even knowing me, and he makes television just for me.

Friends in Many Places
Friends in many places means I have many destinations to visit. The list of friends is longer than the amount of money I have for plane tickets and the amount of vacation days I have at work, which is a very lucky, fortunate situation in which to be.

My Swim Club
I grew up going to this swim club, and now I’m a member there on my own. My favorite thing to do during the summer months is to sit by the pool reading a book, and to then take a leisurely swim. When it’s not pool season, the club gym is the place where I really got serious about getting into shape for the first time in my life.

Fake Meat Products
I try to not eat meat because I know it’s not a good thing for the environment, but that doesn’t change the fact that meat is delicious. I’m grateful that there are substitutes for many different kinds of meat products that I can enjoy, without feeling the guilt that I’m eating an animal.

Just a few of the more random things for which I am grateful. Happy Thanksgiving!

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Can you tell yet that I am excited for Christmas? We are getting closer and closer to the official start of the holiday season (or, at least, my official start of my holiday season), which is thrilling.

As I have mentioned before, some of my favorite things about the season are all the freaking awesome entertainment options that Christmas brings. So! Because I am seriously hurting for ideas of topics about which to blog, I present to you my very favorites in holiday entertainment!

I’ve mentioned that I like to watch White Christmas while putting up the Christmas tree, but perhaps the best Christmas movie ever is The Muppet Christmas Carol. I have been a fan of the Muppets my entire life. Unlike many of the more recent Muppet movies, which have been very lackluster, this one has everything one could want out of a Muppet movie, including totally sweet musical numbers.

Love Actually is another recent movie that became an instant Christmas classic for me. I am pretty sure that an exaggerated stastic is called for in describing this movie, like probably 90% of American females love Love Actually, and I am happily one of them. It is festive! It is funny! It is absurdly heart-warming! It ALSO has great musical numbers!

In terms of television, I really am not sure where to start. So many TV shows have done absolutely wonderful special Christmas episodes, so my list of favorite Christmas TV episodes are roughly the Christmas episodes of my favorite shows. Perhaps the most traditional Christmas TV episode in my house, though, is the “How The Ghosts Stole Christmas” episode of The X-Files. My sister and I watch that every Christmas Eve night, after we come home from the extended family celebration. What is not festive and merry about watching Mulder and Scully drag their bloodied bodies through a haunted house while “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” plays in the background? Someone pass me the soy egg nog!

However, Christmas episodes of The West Wing, Sports Night, The OC, The Office, How I Met Your Mother, and Remember WENN are similarly epic. Also, my sister and I are both very excited this year to watch the iCarly Christmas special, which, from what I can tell, contains parodies of all the Christmas classics, from It’s A Wonderful Life to A Charlie Brown Christmas.

To pick my favorite Christmas music is even more overwhelming than trying to pick my favorite Christmas TV show. In fact, it’s pretty much a lie, because I love almost all Christmas music in almost all its permutations, including the religious songs, which while not holding particular religious significance for me, remain really really great songs. I will never be able to stray so far from my Catholic upbringing that I won’t appreciate a version of “Joy to the World” with a descant and organ accompaniment. As Thanksgiving Day approaches, I look forward to a local radio station converting to an all-Christmas music, all-the-time format.

A recent favorite, though, is Death Cab for Cutie’s cover of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).” I’m not sure how I discovered this song’s existence, but I was happy to do so. Death Cab for Cutie–turning the holiday season emo, one song at a time! It totally, totally works for me.

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18 Days and Counting!

Meghan posted about how she is jumping the gun a little bit and getting her house all ready to go for the holiday season, despite the fact that it’s not yet Thanksgiving and that it was 70 degrees today.

I am so right there with her.

I love Christmas. I LOVE Christmas. It’s not so much the presents I get into, because I am generally not a good gift-giver, and it just represents a stressful test of how good of a family member/friend I am. And it’s definitely not the religious aspect that gets me excited, because that is just not my thing. Instead, I fully embrace Christmas in its commercialized glory, and it’s the “Christmas spirit” that permeates the air when the season rolls around that I love the most.

The decorations are part of what makes it special. And by “decorations,” I mean that every available surface in my house is covered with a festive stuffed animal or lights or something equally delightfully tacky.

This will be my first Christmas in my new house, and I am so excited to decorate it for the first time. I haven’t actually begun the decoration process yet, but I have started buying things for it. My first item were cute plastic placemats from Target. (Oh, Target, it gets me every time.)

On the outside of the house, sure, I do go for decorations that are vaguely tastful–white lights and a wreath with a big red bow. Inside, though, classy can kiss my ass. Inside belongs a Christmas tree with a thousand different types of clashing ornaments (including things like an Edward Cullen keychain and a toy doll of the character Frolo from Hunchback of Notre Dame and a variety of ornaments my sister made using shrinky-dinks. Lights are multi-colored.

And while we do have a nativity scene, it’s because it was a family heirloom that belonged to my grandma–and last year, we had a collection of red, white, and blue democratic donkeys sitting on top.

Christmas music is another huge part of what makes it so delightfully special. I love Christmas music, religious or commercialized, obscure or mainstream. I know it all, and I love it all, which the possible exception of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” which is the only song that truly grates on my nerves. There is nothing more delightful than spending a couple of hours baking while listening to Christmas music non-stop. Actually, there is nothing more delightful than listening to Christmas music non-stop, period. Back when I was in choirs, there were always Christmas choir concerts, as well, including the Vespers service at Wellesley which was nothing short of magical, every single year.

The baking–oh, the baking! I take an immense amount of pride in creating a huge, delicious array of festive Christmas goodies. Baking is one area where I actually get competitive, so I get very excited about trying to create The Best Damn Platter of Christmas Desserts You Have Ever Seen.

And then there is the entertainment. I love, love, love Christmas episodes of my favorite TV shows. The West Wing has “In Excelsis Deo” and “Noel,” Remember WENN has “Christmas in the Airwaves,” X-Files has “The Ghosts Who Stole Christmas,” and the list goes on. Even iCarly apparently has a Christmas special which my sister and I are VERY EXCITED to watch. There are the movies, too, like White Christmas, which we watch every year while putting up the tree and A Muppet Christmas Carol, which is positively epic.

I know it’s the fact that Christmas comes but once a year, and the season only lasts for so long, that makes it special in the first place. But oh, it is just so very special that I can’t help but wish it started a bit earlier.

Only two and a half more weeks until Thanksgiving, and the Christmas season is officially permitted to begin!

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Halloween, Year One

Last night was my first Halloween in my new house.

I put a tiny bit of pressure on myself this year. I’m new to the neighborhood, and given that I am surrounded by so many vacant houses, I haven’t exactly connected with any of my neighbors. I am not exactly the type of person to go door to door and say, “Hello! I am your new neighbor and I bring you good tidings! Please like me!”

I just say the, “Please like me!” part in my head over and over again.

Most of the interaction I have with neighborhood children is when I tell them that they can’t pet my fluffy little cotton-ball looking circus dog, because, well, he doesn’t like strangers and that means, kid, that he doesn’t like you. Suck on that, junior.

So! Halloween was a time to show my face and and to demonstrate my friendliness through the mass distribution of free candy! And, maybe if people meet me and like me, they will stop throwing their trash in my yard! Dare to dream!

I went to Target and bought a plastic pumpkin bucket, and big bag of the good candy, as well as a second bag of disgusting multi-colored Twizzlers for my own enjoyment, because I love candy that is completely gross.

Abby came over for the fun, and I turned the porch light on and opened my blinds, and watched as trick-or-treater after trick-or-treater walked right past my house and didn’t think for a second about stopping to ring my doorbell. This led to me taking some things personally. First my neighbors throw trash in my yard and now they don’t stop to trick-or-treat?

So, Abby and I moved outside and sat on the porch, which really creates some pressure for the trick-or-treaters to stop. What, are you just going to WALK BY and ignore me as I sit here, ready to give you candy?

Then the flood came. Hoards of kids and parents I had never seen before were suddenly walking through my gate. I didn’t even care about the teenagers not even pretending to be dressed up. FISTFULS OF CANDY FOR YOU ALL!

So, I ran out of candy. Abby made an emergency trip to the grocery store where she purchased more bags of candy than we could possibly need. But, she said, she didn’t want us to have to worry about running out again.

The streams of children continued. And the overabundance of candy that Abby bought ran out sooner than we thought could be possible. The children kept coming until all I had left to hand to a teenager in sweapants was a single, tiny fun-sized Mr. Goodbar. We went back inside and closed my gate and I breathed a sigh of relief that we seemed to run out of candy just as the stream of children abated.

Approximately none of the kids I regularly see running around my street came trick-or-treating to my house, but a whole bunch of random kids I haven’t seen before did. I may not have had a chance to greet my neighbors, but I at least got the chance to greet a bunch of very enthusiastic strangers.

Next year, I will be prepared. I will be out on my porch with pounds and pounds of candy, and I will be ready and waiting with my treats in order to show my neighbors how much I appreciate them, in my own, very introverted, way.

* * * *

I have really good intentions of doing NaBloPoMo this month. Rather than National Novel Writing Month (because I haven’t felt the urge to write fiction since the age of 12, though I sometimes wish I would), it is National Blog Posting Month, and I am supposed to post in my blog every day of the month.

This springs from my desire to be more disciplined about shit in general, and not from a misguided belief that I actually will have interesting things to say every day for 30 days.  Thus, I respect the understandable desire you may possess to take this blog off your Google Reader for the duration.

Given my absurdly spotty record at posting to this blog, we will see how this goes. One day down, twenty-nine to go! My commitment so far is aces!

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