Monthly Archives: December 2010

Out With the Old

Ten Things I Loved In 2010

Ball is poised to drop. Checks are doomed to be misdated for at least two months. Calendars are selling like crazy. And everyone and their monkey are posting lists of the best and worst whatevers of 2010.

As for me, I have had a pretty great year and so I am electing to focus on just the positive: ten things I loved in 2010 (in no particular order). (Note that not all of these were new in 2010. They were just things that I particularly enjoyed this year.)

1.       Toy Story 3—I was in high school when the first Toy Story came out and the story, like me, has grown up. I saw this film just days before the arrival of my second child so it was not unforeseen that I would cry. However, I don’t just blame that on hormones. Instead, I commend Pixar for being one of the few studios who consistently make funny, imaginative, yet emotionally complex movies.

2.       Modern Family—I am a member of a sardonic generation. We were raised on after-school-specials, motivational speakers, and very-special-episodes. And so it is a rare thing indeed that can be so bitingly funny one minute and still touch on the sweet moments of what family means.

3.       The Hunger Games Trilogy—Smart, fast paced, and topical while still indulging in dystopian fantasy, Suzanna Collins’ series has been compared to Twilight for its female protagonist, love triangle, and heightened emotions. Where it far surpasses the Vampire series is in Collins’ willingness to not tie everything up in a happy package (she’s also much stronger stylistically). While The Hunger Games and Catching Fire are highly readable, Mockingjay, the final installment, is where she truly shines.

4.       The Lonely Polygamist—Brady Udall tackles the topic of polygamy with heart and humor and does something that few writers continue to accomplish in creating a large cast of characters that are well-developed without being sketches of themselves.

5.       Law and Order: SVU—Granted this show has been on for some 12 years, but thanks to USA marathons I have seen most of the episodes over the past year. While there are episodes that leave me hollow and sad for the state of humanity, I like that there is at least one male-female pairing on screen that doesn’t push the ‘will they-won’t they’ stereotype. It has also made me smarter about how I educate my daughter and protect myself.

6.       Horses—Patti Smith, dubbed the grandmother of punk, is a musician, poet, artist, and writer (see Just Kids). This year I revisited her 1975 debut album and was reminded once again why I fell in love with her to begin with.

7.       Just Kids—The writer side of Smith documents her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe in this tribute to Bohemia and soul mates. Beautifully written, wonderfully spirited, and sweetly sad.

8.       Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, Part 1—By far the best of the Potter movies, the filmmakers and actors capture the complexity of the book and make it clear why the second part is a necessity rather than a needless moneymaker (cough Breaking Dawn cough).

9.       Mad Men’s “The Suitcase”—It was a very good year for my favorite ad-men, but this episode was good television beyond my wildest dreams. Elizabeth Moss and John Hamm prove that some of the best acting in happening on TV and we the huddled masses are just lucky to be invited to tune in.

10.   My children, husband, family, and friends—I am a lucky woman. I love and I am loved. There is nothing more that I can ask for. Hopefully in 2011 I will continue to move closer to being the person deserving of the love I receive from so many sides.

XO

A

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A Merry Little Christmas

My daughter’s preschool Christmas program was last week, or as I like to call it, Hark! The Off-Key Angels sing. Because she attends a Presbyterian program, the theme was understandably religious. Her particular class did a series of songs revolving around “The Colors of Christmas.” What was most interesting to me was a song called “Black and Blue,” which is essentially a song that says it’s okay to feel depressed around the holidays. At first I found it strange because I love this time of year so much. But then I stopped to think about the people around me who struggle to keep up with my holly-jolly attitude.

Aside from my children, the two most important people in my life are my husband and my mother. And both of them drift into that blue aspect of Christmas. I have known this about them for as long as I can remember, although their troubles are for different reasons. My husband dealt with family issues around this time o f year that make it difficult for him to process Christmas as anything but a time to fight. As for my mother, had my father lived, they would have been celebrating 33 years together today. My grandmother would have been celebrating her 87th birthday today as well. It makes it a hard day to digest.

In addition, for reasons I cannot go into as they are not really my stories to tell, this year is even harder for the both of them. Sensing that, I have been trying to find ways to make things a little brighter for everyone by keeping us focused on the joy we have every in our lives and celebrating the family we have become.

We did not get out our store bought ornaments this year. Instead, my daughter has made all of the ornaments on our beautiful live tree. We have given homemade gifts from the kitchen infused with my daughter’s enthusiasm and my mother’s patience. We provided Christmas for several children who might not have had it otherwise by having my daughter select presents for them, hopefully planting the seeds of generosity and gratitude in her. And the next few days we have plans for family time, food, and thankfulness.

I love Christmas and always have, even though my mother has always dreaded it. I realized this year why. My grandmother loved this time of year—she loved the decorations, the religious services, the food, the family, the spirit. And even though I grew up with a single mother who more sadness than joy in the holidays, my grandparents, but my grandmother in particular, truly made it the most wonderful time of the year for me. I am so thankful for that and hope that I may pass that joy on, not just to my children, but to those who need it most, especially my friends and family. Thank you, Grandma. Happy birthday. I love and miss you.

To those who still read my ramblings, best wishes for a joyous holiday season. Find your joy and celebrate your blessings.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas.

A

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Sounds of the Season

In the spirit of the season, I present my countdown of my top ten Christmas songs. Argue if you like, but these are what I wait with baited breath to hear on the radio each year.

Runners-Up:
These are all great songs, but I just don’t have the space to discuss them all. So a shout out to “So This Is Christmas,” “Please Come Home for Christmas” (Jon Bon Jovi), “Wassail,” and “Silver Bells.”

Number 10:
“I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas”
This silly little number is a staple in our household in part for the fun refrain and for Gayla Peevey’s peppy delivery. Looking for something quirky to break the tedium of yet another round of “Sleigh Ride”? Look into this little ditty. The original version is difficult to come by, but the Three Stooges also do a descent cover.

Number 9:
“Holly Jolly Christmas”
Burl Ives has the perfect voice for the holidays: rich and booming yet still cheery. He also does a great “Frosty the Snowman” (you might remember his voice as the narrator snowman from classic claymation). This song with its bright refrain is the perfect fit for his voice and when he sings it I really do believe it.

Number 8
“Blue Christmas”
Like most singers (especially modern ones) Elvis has a Christmas album. Of all his songs, this one stands up the best as it caters to his bluesy voice and Southern rock delivery. It’s a great song for people who don’t like Christmas songs.

Number 7:
“Santa Baby”
I think everyone and their monkey has done a cover of this song–Madonna, Cindy Lauper, Heidi Klum…pretty much any woman who considers herself a sex symbol. But my pick for the definitive version is presented by none other than the lovely Eartha Kitt. Whereas other singers put on baby voices to sing the song, delving into the naughty little girl fantasy, Kitt relies on her natural purr to sell the song. Her version is also just a bit naughty but a very grown up naughty.

Number 6:
“Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”
The quintessential novelty song, it’s always a fun one for it’s catchy tune and unforgettable lyrics combined with the less than stellar vocals. It is the perfect song to sing along to.

Number 5:
“Carol of the Bells”
Sung by choirs or just instrumental this song has such beautiful interweaving pieces that it presents a complexity often missing in Christmas songs. Really listen to the song sometime–the competing melodic tones battle, alluding to both the dark and light sides of Christmas.

Number 4:
“O Come All Ye Faithful”
When one thinks of Nat King Cole for Christmas, most people tend to lean toward The Christmas Song. And I do not argue that it is a classic. However, I prefer Nat’s clear voice on this church favorite if only for his gorgeous refrains of “O Come Let Us Adore Him” at the song’s climax.

Number 3:
“Christmas is All Around” & “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy” (tie)
I just can’t pick a favorite between these two, so I will call it even. “Christmas is All Around” is the tent pole of “Love Actually,” opening the movie and providing comic relief throughout. Bill Nighy is brilliant as a washed up rock star stretching for his own Christmas miracle. His performance of the song is hilarious whether it be a profanity strewn recording session or a Christmas Eve striptease. His storyline is one of the things that keeps the film from being just a schlocky romance. And it still makes me smile just listening to the CD.

The first time I heard “Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy” was when I spent a Christmas working at the now defunct Warner Brothers Studio Store on Fifth Avenue. Every thirty minutes the music video featuring a toned down David Bowie and a polyester turtleneck sporting Bing Crosby would hit rotation on the store’s jumbo-tron. The first time I saw it I did the Scooby Doo double take. Then I laughed out loud at the sheer ridiculousness of it. Over the next two weeks I came to look forward to its circulation (plus it saved me from the wretched Space Ghost spot). Now I see it as a melding of classic and modern Christmas music and hearing it on the radio is always a special treat.

Number 2:
“White Christmas”
Many would argue this song should be number one. And it should be, on another list. On my list it will have to settle for number two. This is one of the those songs that never fails to give me chills, but it should only be sung by Bing Crosby. While most people associate with the movie it shares a title with, a much better film to enjoy the Irving Berlin classic is Holiday Inn, where it was first used. A quieter film with a simpler performance, it is the perfect showcase for a song that doesn’t need all the bells and whistles.

Number 1:
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
This song has been recorded by a bushel of folks including some of the greats like Nat and Frank. However, my only version is the heart wrenching version from “Meet Me in St. Louis,” sung by the incomparable Judy Garland. Before time and addiction had a chance to eat away at her, Garland uses her voice to deliver an emotional performance, one that draws the point that while Christmas is a happy time, it is also a time of sadness and loneliness, but most of all hope.

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Nifty-Gifties

Now that I am free of the shackles of grading and answering endless student emails, I can focus on the holiday season and blogging—two of my favorite things.

How did I ever shop before the internet? Online shopping is my drug and I have no plans for rehab. This year I am trying to be a little wiser, a little kinder, and a little better to the earth and its inhabitants. In that spirit, I would like to present some shout outs to my favorite websites and vendors for those of you stumped by this Christmas season.

For Moms:

If you are a mom, mom-to-be, or know one of those, you have to check out www.mom4life.com. I am heartily addicted to this website with its unique, eco-friendly products. Some current favorites are the Alphabet Alley Blocks and Baby Legs. Sign up for their newsletter and get a discount. They also provide free, super fast shipping.

For Brainiacs:

Star Trek? Battlestar Galactica? Star Wars? Done, done, and done with www.thinkgeek.com. This site has a number of items for the science, math, computer, or pop culture geek, be they 5 months or 105 years. My son currently sports their DNA onesie and I’ve put in an order for the equation clock for my math-centric family.

For Writers:

I am absolutely bananas for www.thisisit.etsy.com. This company makes recycled notebooks, cards, notepads, gift tags, and jewelry. They are so committed that even the plastic packaging is eco-friendly. For someone like me, who loves stationary, this company provides a wonderful alternative to massive tree massacres. They even donate 5% of all profits to help animals. Their spiral notebooks are to die for, but I cannot get enough of their personalized notepads—I have to keep myself from ordering more until the ones I’m using run out.

For the Fashionista:

Hit www.rebagz.com. Yes, the bags and wallets are pricey, but they are super cool and basically indestructible. I have had women chase me down to find out about my juice pack tote and Napoleon rice sack purse. Sign up for their newsletter and get a discount on your first order.

For Daddies:

My husband has been sporting Daddy Tags from www.mommytags.com for several years now. They look like dog tags (but much nicer!) and can be made for men or women. Although I have seen other versions popping up, these are actually made from recycled film. They also have a variety of charms for pet owners, kids, and mommies. Check out their link to Maize Hutton for her tiny charms, also from recycled film.

For the Toms Experience:

I live in my Toms. They are comfy, more versatile than sneakers, and for every pair you buy, a kid in need gets a pair of shoes. If you haven’t already, take a minute to check them out at www.toms.com.

Following their business model is Baby Zoowon, another site I love. My son is apparently a blanket snob because he fusses if he doesn’t have his blanket from www.babyzoowon.com. Velvety plush minky on one side, silky on the other, and completely washable—this blanket is worth the price. Plus, for every blanket purchased, one is donated to a child in need.

For Unique Gifts that Help:

The Hunger Site store is something to behold. Just viewing their site helps feed the hungry. They actually use the internet to help a variety of causes such as children’s health, breast cancer, animal rescue, literacy, and the rainforest, so if you have something near and dear, your browsing and purchase may help. In terms of products, they have everything from native made designs to fair trade items and cover most genders and age groups. Please check them out at http://shop.thehungersite.com/store.

Happy shopping, and check back in the coming days for more holiday themed posts.

XO

Categories: Let Me Entertain You, The Little People and Furry Friends | Leave a comment

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