Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Christmas Carol?

I’d like to take this time to discuss, what I believe, is one of the most underrated Christmas movies of all time: Scrooged. Scrooged is not only one of my all time favorite Christmas movies, but it’s also one of my all time favorite Bill Murray movies, second only to Ghostbusters.

If you have never seen Scrooged, it is a dark yet hilarious remake of the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol.

Murray breathes new life into the character by playing a greedy and callous TV exec who has forgotten the true meaning of Christmas. He is of course visited by the infamous 3 ghosts in an attempt to help him become reacquainted with the spirit of Christmas.

I strongly suggest you add this movie to your holiday rotation, especially if you are a fan of Bill Murray. This movie was one of his first that showed that he was as brilliant a dramatic actor as he is a comedian.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Christmas Cookies

When winter first rears it's ugly head each year, people tend to gain a little weight. It's science people, I don't just make this stuff up. When it's cold outside, people tend to be less active. Not only that, but with the holiday season, comes holiday goodies.

It all starts with Halloween. No matter how hard you try, you will inevitably end up eating more candy than you'd like. There's really no use in trying to avoid it, it’s the way of the world. Before you can even recover from Halloween, you've got Thanksgiving (a holiday where you are encouraged to gorge yourself on food for an entire day) and following Thanksgiving of course, is Christmas!

Christmas is a little different though. At no point are you forced to eat a giant meal or campaign door to door for candy. You are, however, constantly presented with holiday treats: egg nog, candy canes, those red and green M&M’s, and of course, Christmas cookies!

Christmas cookies are EVERYWHERE! You see them behind the glass at Starbucks, there are plates kicking around the office, and if your grandmother doesn’t make at least one pan of cookies, then she isn’t doing her job. ;)

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I love Christmas cookies. How could you not? They’re chalked full of sugary goodness and they’re shaped like my favorite Christmas gifts! What am I getting at? A simple request: Break out your cookie sheets and cutters and make a batch for your favorite holiday bloggers!

What are your favorite Holiday treats?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cat vs. Christmas Tree

The age old battle between cat and Christmas tree. The two locked in an eternal struggle. Is there a more storied rivalry in history? I submit that there is not.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Glass Ceiling in Christmas Light Displays?

I was browsing some outdoor Christmas lighting displays earlier today and discovered an interesting phenomenon. I found one lighting set where the motorcycle Santa costs more than Mrs. Claus, and it's basically the same size. Why the different price? Maybe it's just supply and demand, and Santa may be the one you really want at your home on Christmas Eve, but this spurred an entertaining discussion with my fiancee:

Me: I wonder why Mrs. Claus on a motorcycle is only $975?! Equal pay for equal work!
Him: Even the elves costs more…

Me: There’s a glass ceiling in holiday lighting!
Him: Now, I’m sure Mrs. Claus is integral to the success of Christmas, but she doesn’t have to ride out in the cold air and squeeze herself down chimneys. There are high risks associated with the job; it’s right behind King Crab fishing…

Me: I guess I understand Santa getting paid more… sure. He puts in a tough night of labor every year and he deserves every penny. The elf getting paid more than the woman behind Santa is just a slap in the face.
Him: Maybe you should boycott Christmas.

What's your stance? Is Santa worth the hype? Should an elf make more than Mrs. Claus? Any guesses as to where they are going on their Harleys?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Liquid Holiday Cheer!

The holidays are almost here and that means the return of my favorite holiday treat. Candy canes? Fruit Cake? Absolutely not! Those things are terrible. Actually, there’s nothing wrong with candy canes. I don’t know why I said that. What I am referring to is the triumphant return of eggnog!

Eggnog is as delicious and wonderful as it is terrible for you. I’ll be the first to admit, that the name egg nog sounds less than appetizing. I myself wouldn’t touch the stuff until I was in high school. However, once I tried it, I couldn’t stop. There are many different varieties of eggnog produced each year: Golden, vanilla, pumpkin, light, and even sugar free (though I would classify that as sweet milk). Eggnog is the perfect drink for people that want to have a little holiday drink, but also want some pancakes.

Eggnog can also be mixed with liquors such as rum, brandy, whiskey, and cognac and is apparently a great source of magnesium. That’s good right? It’s the perfect drink for holiday parties and is so versatile that you can even put it in your coffee! I strongly recommend that you drop whatever you are doing and get to your local grocery store to stock up on eggnog before the holiday rush. I’m giving you insider information here people, use it as you will.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Best Christmas Ever!

Christmas is a magical time of year. This isn’t news, everyone knows this. But what is it that makes for the perfect Christmas experience? Were you a child and you got that one toy you wanted all year long? Did that special someone decide that Christmas was the right time to pop the question? Or was it just the perfect combination of family, friends, and presents that made it the best Christmas ever?

I love Christmas every year, so it’s difficult for me to choose one year in particular. If I had to choose however, I do have one year that sticks out in my mind. It was the year that I got the Ghostbusters fire house. I was a huge Ghostbusters fan when I was a kid. Who am I kidding? I still am. I’d still play with the action figures if it were socially acceptable. When I ran into our living room and saw that towering box next to the tree… that may have been my defining Christmas moment.

What are some of your favorite Christmas memories?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Country Christmas Decorations

Cranberry & Popcorn GarlandWhat could be cozier than a country Christmas? I grew up in the country in a house built in 1820. It was a beautiful old cape with a huge barn, and my mom did an amazing job decorating every year with country decorations that made our house feel even more warm and welcoming than usual. Our tree was always covered with woodland creatures like mushroom birds, squirrel, bear and moose ornaments.

We also had to make a popcorn & cranberry garland each year. I didn't love doing it at the time (I pricked my fingers a little too often to enjoy it), but I feel nostalgic about making those garlands now. We put our popcorn garland on first, before adding the lights and other decorations, so that we could remove everything easily after Christmas and leave just the popcorn garland. My dad would take the tree outside and stand it in the snow next to the bird feeder. The birds would go crazy for the popcorn!

If you're thinking of decorating your home with a country style, here are a few ideas that I would recommend: a rustic Christmas centerpiece, woodland tree decorations and a popcorn & cranberry garland.

Rustic Christmas Centerpieces

Christmas Centerpieces
Making your own rustic or country Christmas centerpiece is very easy and very rewarding. Christmas centerpieces like these could cost $50-$100 each if you buy them in stores, but with a little TLC, you can make your own and wow all of your guests for a lot less!

One of my favorite ideas for a country Christmas table this year came from Better Homes & Gardens. It's easy to find rosemary "trees" in stores right now. At the Whole Foods near me they have little Christmas tree-shaped rosemary bushes for about $15 each in pretty terracotta pots. Add a plaid ribbon around the pot, and you easily have a beautiful rustic centerpiece that will last from now through Christmas and beyond. Plus, you can steal branches of rosemary from the tree to flavor your Christmas roast or your Thanksgiving turkey. It's an idea that is affordable and multi-purpose.

Woodland Christmas Decorations

Birch ReindeerWoodland critters can add a very cute rustic feel to your Christmas decorating. The woodland decorating trend is pretty big for 2008, so there are a lot of options out there for creating this look, like the birch reindeer (above) from Crate & Barrel or the Martha Stewart Everyday woodland collection at Kmart.

You can also make your own decorations by getting a few simple supplies from your local crafts store: a variety of mushroom birds, fine glitter (if you like a little sparkle), Elmer's glue, tiny eye screws, and strong red thread. Screw the tiny eye hooks into the back of the birds, just behind the head, and then tie a 5-6" bit of the thread through the eye hook for a simple woodland bird ornament. To add a little sparkle, apply a bit of Elmer's glue to the wings of the bird with a paintbrush (I save the crummy ones from Crayola watercolor kits for glue application) and then sprinkle with glitter and let them dry. Following these directions you will quickly have a beautiful little flock of birds for your country Christmas tree.

Popcorn and Cranberry Garland

Making your own popcorn and cranberry Christmas garland is very simple. Buy 2 bags of fresh cranberries, two bags of plain un-popped popcorn, and fishing line or strong thread (upholstery thread is great for this kind of project). Pop the popcorn in a pot or a popcorn machine and use as little oil as possible (1 tsp should be fine) so it isn't too greasy. Thread a large needle with the thread or fishing line without cutting the thread from the spool. Start threading the popcorn on the line. I like putting about 10 corn puffs on and then a cranberry, and then 10 more pieces of corn and a cranberry, but you can alternate the pattern however you like. You can also add other pretty dried fruits, like dehydrated orange slices, if you want to get a little fancier. Once you have a long enough chain of covered line, then you can tie off the chain.

If you put your tree outside with the garland still on it when Christmas is over, you'll have some real woodland critters in your tree in no time!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Upside Down Christmas?

What is the deal with upside down Christmas trees? I’m sorry, but I just don’t get it. It throws off the whole aesthetic of the Christmas morning experience. The presents are all scattered underneath the tree (which is right side up), your eyes are slowly guided to the tree’s top, where the star resides. It’s the way Christmas is supposed to be! It’s enchanting! Upside down trees look too much like tornados.

These new hipster trees confuse and anger me! I’m a fairly modern individual in most regards. By the same token, I let people get away with a lot of stuff. How about this though? How about you don’t mess with Christmas? What was wrong with a good old fashioned regular Christmas tree? I don’t even particularly like artificial trees, but I can still deal with them.

Perhaps I’m being too judgmental here… I’m very set in my ways when it comes to Christmas. It is by far my favorite holiday. Who am I to question how you position your Christmas tree? You should purchase an upside down Christmas tree as you see fit. I apologize for getting all worked up. That’s not in the true spirit of Christmas. After all, Christmas is the one time of year where we can all come together to celebrate the same thing: the birth of Santa.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Christmas Advent Calendars

If you're already counting down the days to Christmas, one thing that you should do now is order an advent calendar. In my family we always saved our advent calendars from year to year, and we would hang the pretty ones from past years on the walls.

Advent calendars are available in such a wide range of styles. I just found hundreds of them while shopping online. Here are a few of my favorites and where you can find them.

KidKraft Advent Calendar - $68.99 and Free Shipping at

Made from a beautiful hardwood, this advent calendar is made to endure for not just years but for generations. Each day that passes reveals a tiny piece of a nativity scene.
KidKraft Advent CalendarKidKraft Advent Calendars
The Metropolitan Museum of Art Advent Calendar - $15.95 at The Met Store

For a more sophisticated take on the advent calendar, the Metropolitan Museum of Art offers some exquisite options that echo the feeling of Christmas inside the Met, with the huge Met Christmas tree and its choirs of angels. Right now you can buy two advent calendars for under $25.

The Met Advent CalendarChocolate Advent Calendar - $10.95 at Vermont Christmas Co.

When I was a kid, my favorite advent calendars were the ones filled with toys or chocolate. I was pleased to find that Vermont Christmas Co. has a few different chocolate advent calendar options, and for just under $11 each! The chocolate trays inside these advent calendars can be reused the next year by melting some good chocolate and then pouring it into each of the shapes on the tray and letting them cool. When they're fully cooled, you can pop them out of the tray and package them in cellophane bags for a cute & easy hostess gift for holiday parties.

Advent Calendar Cottage Kit
- $14.99 at Martha Stewart Crafts

With this kit you can easily make a 3D Christmas cottage advent calendar. This looks like a fun project to do with kids and they'll love that you can hide their favorite candies or small toys in the compartments. Martha Stewart Crafts also has a lot of other great holiday craft materials and projects, so you can stock up on snowflake hole punches and gingerbread house kits while you're at it. (image top)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Christmas Lights

Greetings everyone! Today, I would like to discuss a matter of great importance. With the holidays fast approaching, people are beginning to plan their annual decorating traditions. Some people take the less is more approach to decorating their home while some take the opportunity to show off their creative side. No matter how you decide to decorate your home, there is one you must ask yourself: What type of Christmas lights should I choose?

There are two schools of thought on this subject. You can choose to adorn your home and tree with traditional white Christmas lights that show an understated sense of refinement and sophistication… or you can do it the right way and decorate your house with a magnificent rainbow of brightly multi colored Christmas lights?

That’s right ladies and gentleman. You are given two options: the right way and the wrong way. Christmas is about having fun! It’s about remembering what it’s like to be a child again on Christmas morning. The heck with looking fancy, decorate your home in vibrant colors that can be seen from space!

Christmas is one of the few times a year that you’re allowed to go nuts. You have the rest of the year to show everyone how average you are. This year make the right choice.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Top 10 Christmas Movies for Kids!

Even though I'm 28, I still HAVE to watch these holiday classics every year!

Mickey's Christmas Carol10. - Mickey's Christmas Carol
Though there are many more sophisticated or "adult" versions of A Christmas Carol, I have a soft spot for this Disney re-telling. I'm particularly fond of Jiminy Cricket as the Ghost of Christmas Past. This classic can only be purchased on VHS or in a compilation DVD called "Mickey's Magical Christmas - Snowed in at the House of Mouse", though the House of Mouse version is not quite the same as the original (missing the intro).

Prancer9. - Prancer
Prancer is a beautiful story. I love Sam Elliott in the role of a concerned father. From the breathtaking scenery to the wonderfully crafted characters, this film is a heart-warming Christmas story for all ages! Prancer is easy to find on DVD at this time of year.

Muppet Family Christmas8. - Muppet Family Christmas
In this Jim Henson classic Kermit does his best to get the whole Muppet family together for a big Christmas celebration, but as you can imagine with such a motley crew, many things go wrong along the way. This is one of my family's favorite movies. Do yourself a favor and by the VHS version if you still have a video player. The new DVD version has been edited to remove some of the best scenes!

7. - Emmett Otter's Jug Band Christmas
The story of how Emmett pulls through a tough holiday season and makes it festive even during hard times may be especially inspiring this Christmas. Newly released for 2008 on DVD, I'm not sure yet if the new version wasn't adulterated by crazy editing, but I hope not! This is a must-have!

Elf6. - Elf
This movie is funny, sweet, and (I think) the best holiday movie in a while! Buddy, I like your style with the maple syrup. Elf is available on DVD and, if you're fancy, you can find it on Blu-Ray too!

The Christmas Toy5. - The Christmas Toy
This was my favorite Christmas movie when I was a kid, but it was hard to find! With a Velveteen Rabbit-esque plot, Rugby Tiger, a stuffed tiger, is offended that his child will be getting new toys for Christmas. Consoled by a doll and a cat toy named Mew, he perseveres. This movie is a great antidote to Poltergeist nightmares from Halloween movie marathons. The DVD version of this has been changed too -- no more Kermie! I think the VHS has the full movie, so I'd opt for that if you can choose.

Miracle on 34th Street4. - Miracle on 34th Street
This is the definition of a Christmas classic. This movie has lasted for generations for a reason! I prefer the older, Maureen O'Hara version. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!

Home Alone3. Home Alone
Famous last words: "He's only a kid Harry. We can take him." I can't imagine the holidays without the tale of how Kevin McAllister defending his home from some ill-prepared thieves.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer2. - Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Where would we be without the Island of Misfit Toys, and Yukon Cornelius? I always try to catch this show when it's on TV, usually on ABC Family the week after Thanksgiving, but you can also get it on DVD or VHS.

The Christmas Story1. The Christmas Story
Poor Ralphie... all he wants is a Red Ryder BB Gun! My affection for this movie is more about the little scenes like getting your tongue stuck on icy metal, or accidentally swearing in front of your dad. Everyone from Grandma & Grandpa to your 3-year-old nephew will enjoy this film - I think everyone can identify!

Did you know that Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) appeared in Elf as an elf?