The Only “White Christmas” For Me

snowpe

 

I don’t “do” snow. Let’s establish that up front. Being a vertically-challenged person, it means that the bottoms of my pants get all wet, and end up drying with a salt line ring around it. Sooo not attractive. Also, I guess, compared to some people, I fall just short of being a Scrooge. Christmas is not my favorite holiday, although it is lovely to spend time with family and enjoy all that Christmas means for you. For the record, New Year’s Eve is my favorite. You get to dress up and drink champagne, but the whole idea of a fresh new start is always appealing to me. However, if dressing up and drinking champagne is all it takes to get that “fresh start” feeling, I’m entirely in favor of doing it more often.

Right around the week before Thanksgiving, it seems like stores (and some people, too, don’t deny it) start to lose their minds for Christmas. Radio stations start playing Christmas music as soon as possible (sorry Mom), all the Christmas displays go up, and I end up walking around stores while muttering under my breath about premature and unnecessary tinsel. It creeps up earlier and earlier each year, and I think it takes away from how special the season is supposed to be.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Christmas movies, either. Ralphie and A Christmas Story? A-no, thank you. It’s A Wonderful Life? It’s a terrible movie. (I don’t know why George felt like he was the one responsible for the whole thing… it was Uncle Billy who lost the money, so wasn’t this whole mess actually his fault?) The only ones I kind of like are the stop-animation Rankin/Bass specials (think “Rudolph” and Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town), and sometimes, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. But, there is one movie that always puts me in a holiday mood, even if it is just for a little bit.

White Christmas (1954) stars Bing Crosby (Bob Wallace) and Danny Kaye (Phil Davis) as performer/producers who go to audition sister act Rosemary Clooney (Betty Haynes) and Vera-Ellen (Judy Haynes) for their show, and end up following them to Vermont. The foursome arrive at a snowless ski lodge, owned by Wallace and Davis’s former general from the war. No snow means no guests at the lodge, so Wallace and Davis devise a plan to fill it with their former army buddies.

I remember my dad teaching me the song, “White Christmas,” when I was a kiddo, and I learned to appreciate Bing Crosby, as well as some of the other big names in jazz and swing, from one of my uncles. Those 1950’s big-production musicals have always been favorites for me, too. White Christmas is a big-production musical inside a big-production musical — what’s not to love? (There are at least 4 numbers in this movie that are completely superfluous to the rest of the story. See if you can figure out which ones they are here.) Even if it isn’t essential to the story, I absolutely love The Haynes Sisters’ performance from their floor show:


“Sisteerrrrrrrrss!”

There are some things to learn from White Christmas, and most of the lessons seem to come from Phil Davis.

  1. “Let’s say we’re doing it for an old friend in the army:” Phil uses this on Wallace to get him to do the right thing, even though his stubborn friend is reluctant to do it.
  2. Giving their train tickets to the Haynes Sisters so they could escape from a shady landlord: If you’re in the position to help someone, do it. They did this again when Wallace used his TV appearance to appeal to the other soldiers from their unit to come to Vermont for Christmas to surprise the General.
  3. Count your blessings instead of sheep.

I know that this is one of the classics, and AMC has probably already run a marathon of this movie in one of the days leading up to Christmas. But, if you haven’t seen White Christmas, I encourage you to settle in with a cup of hot chocolate and watch it. Looking outside, I can see that Jack Frost paid us a visit last night, so unfortunately for me, this movie isn’t the only white Christmas I’ll have this year.

Wash my hands, my face and hair with snow? SNOWPE.

Want to read more? Check out Buzzfeed’s “15 Questions ‘White Christmas’ Left Unanswered” and “15 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘White Christmas.'” Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, dear readers!

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Last Minute Holiday Gifts Under $35

judgemental santa

Don’t look at me like that, old man. You don’t know my life. Wait….

If you’re anything like me, you wait until the last minute… for anything. Writing papers, doing your makeup, and especially at this time of year, sending Christmas cards and getting my shopping done. From middle school all the way to my last week of graduate school, however, I was only rewarded for my last minute efforts with good grades, so I haven’t had much of an incentive to change my ways. Since that Mayan apocalypse didn’t happen, I guess Christmas (and my student loans) are still on. (Yay?) I only have a few things to pick up/finish making, but everything to wrap. Between work and commuting to work, or driving to whatever Christmas event where my presence is required, I don’t have a whole lot of time left. But, in all of that time I spend commuting to my new job as a bridal gown consultant, I have a great opportunity to think about any number of things. This includes anticipating (possibly unnecessarily) any wedding dilemmas my fiance and I might encounter, what I need to throw in the laundry, or, this blog post. So, here are some suggestions for last minute gifts or stocking stuffers for your friends and family. Yes, most of this is from Target, and yes, I do wish I was getting paid for my endorsement of these products, but doesn’t it just seem easier when you can find almost all of it in one store? Plus, Target did an amazing collaboration with over 20 designers to create exclusive products for this holiday season, and in these last few days leading up to Christmas, the entire line is 50% off!

holiday gifts for girls

1. For some holiday flair: OPI Nail Polish in Skyfall – $7.99 (wherever OPI Nail Polish is sold… try Sally Hansen Beauty Supply) This deep ruby red, inspired by the latest James Bond flick, adds a nice pop of color to the dark wardrobes of winter.

2. For the Woman with A Plan: Greenroom Planner  – $7.99 (from Target) Monthly planner with plenty of space for everything she needs to organize in 2012-2013 made from recycled paper, featuring a cute floral-patterned cover.

3. For the Hostess: ScentSationals Mini Fragrance Warmer  – $10 (from Wal-Mart) Melt scented wax cubes without a flame — plug this warmer in to release an aroma of Lemon Chiffon, Soft Cashmere, or any of the other great scents available.

4. For the Gym Fanatic: Goody QUIKSTYLE Paddle Brush – $11.99 (from Target) Super-absorbent microfiber bristles remove 30% of water as you blow dry or brush your hair, reducing styling time as you go from the locker room to the classroom, office, or wherever you’re heading.

5. For a touch of glamour: Multi Illusion Gold Short Necklace – $14.99 (from Target) This necklace adds a bit of polished elegance to any party outfit.

6. For the Funny GirlIs Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling – $11.20 (from Target) In addition to starring in her own TV show while The Office wraps up its last season, Mindy Kaling found time to write an autobiography, detailing her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood.

7. For the Girl on the Go: Carolina Herrera Travel Bags – $19.99 (WAS $39.99!, from Target)  Three bold prints adorn this Carolina Herrera travel cosmetic bag set. Each chic bag comes in a different size with a zip top and brass Carolina Herrera logo pull to ensure you always travel in style.

8. For the Label Lover: Oscar de la Renta Tote – $29.99 (WAS $59.99!, from Target) This spacious canvas tote, featuring a print by Oscar de la Renta, has a timeless shape and an affordable price.

9. For the Jersey Shore Guid-ette: Downton Abbey, Seasons 1 & 2 – $32.99 (from Target) Is one of your gal pals sad that Jersey Shore has been cancelled? Give her something new to love, featuring all the drama and scandal, but none of the spray tan or fist-pumping….

holiday gifts for guys

1. For the Kid at Heart: Nerf N-Strike Blaster Maverick – $9.97 (from Wal-Mart) C’mon. It’s a Nerf gun. Even I love Nerf guns.

2. For the Dude with Everything: Porcelain Gnome – $12 (from Target) This little guy is a fun guest in any room. He’s a bit fragile, so I suggest putting him somewhere up high… but that may add a “creepy gnome” factor…

3. To stay comfy and cozy: Printed PJ Pants – $12 (WAS $16.94, from Old Navy) Guys can always use a new pair of pj pants. Get him a pair to open on Christmas Eve so he can wear them to open gifts in the morning.

4. For your James Bond: rag & bone Flask – $14.99 (WAS $29.99, from Target) This slim, stainless steel flask is great for a sip of his favorite adult beverage on a cold winter day.

5. For the Bros: Band of Outsiders Set of 2 Toboggans  – $14.99 (WAS $29.99, from Target) He can keep one and give the other to a friend, but you may want to convince him to let you have it with its 70% wool/30% cashmere blend. I couldn’t stop touching the inside of these when I was in the store — so soft and warm.

6. For the ComicThe Onion Book of Known Knowledge: Mankind’s Final Encyclopedia (Hardcover) – $21.83 (from Target) Everyone has that friend who posts articles from The Onion, only to have someone take the headline “Obama Paranoid Government Coming for His Guns” seriously. This is the perfect book for that friend.

7. For a stylish topper: Men’s Sweater Cardigan – $22.50 (WAS $34.94, from Old Navy) Even the most ironic t-shirt can still look a little classier when he throws this cardigan over it. My fiance pairs his with a white button down and a skinny black tie for a dressier look.

8. For the Blockbuster Buff: The Dark Knight Trilogy – $27.29 (from Target) Was your brother at the midnight premiere of the final chapter of Christopher Nolan’s spin on Batman? Give him the complete set.

9. For the Mustachio-ed Gentleman: Silver-Plated 4 Piece Shave Set – $28.99 (from Target) Unfortunately, this one is online only, but you can give him an IOU. (Who hasn’t done that before?) This set makes his morning routine a little more special.

 

What’s on your wish list this year?

A Few of My Favorite Things

You kids need to get out of my room.... you're all up in my personal space.

You kids need to get out of my room…. you’re all up in my personal space.

I’m not entirely sure how it’s December already. Summer doesn’t seem like it was so very long ago, and I can’t remember having a distinct “fall” season this year. I’m sure no one needs to tell you that all of this means that the holiday season is well under way. Christmas trees were on sale before Halloween, and radio stations started playing every version of “The Christmas Song” the week before Thanksgiving. To the Targets, Macy’s, Wal-Marts, and other retail stores of the world, I simply say,

Stop it. Just staaahp, please.

One of the songs I’ve noticed on the radio is “My Favorite Things,” which I had never actually considered to be a Christmas song. I just thought it was the song Maria sang when the Von Trapp kids were afraid of the rain. My cousin’s daughter is in love with The Sound of Music, and it’s been quite a while since I’ve seen it. I recently read that Carrie Underwood will be playing the part of the rebellious nun-turned governess in NBC’s remake of The Sound of Music, which is scheduled to air sometime during the holiday season in 2013. (I think I’ll pass on that version.) The song made me think about a few of my favorite things, whether they’re cool products I’ve seen in stores, shows, holiday traditions, or other items… that rhyme with “things.” 😉

Bath & Body Work’s French Baguette Candle

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This candle is nothing short of amazing. It *literally* smells just like fresh-baked bread. Brian and my sister, Carmen, both make fun of me for my need to smell all the candles I see. I think it’s a tactile+smell thing; the act of picking up the candle and smelling it are soothing for me during a trip to a crowded mall. I’m sure you’ve smelled at least one candle in your life and thought to yourself, “You know, I wouldn’t mind living in between that space between the wax and the lid…” No? That’s just me? Ok, nevermind. Anyway, search for this one next time you’re in Bath & Body Works. You won’t be disappointed.

Adventure Time

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Is it weirdly animated? Yes. Is it aimed at young boys? Probably. But, over the past summer, I’ve become hooked on this cartoon. It’s about a boy named Finn and his magical dog, Jake, who encounter many strange adventures with plenty of odd characters in the Land of Ooo. Finn and Jake serve as the doers of good in Ooo, performing various knight-like tasks and protecting the citizens of Candy Kingdom, which is ruled by Princess Bubblegum. If my sister was a cartoon character, she would be Lumpy Space Princess.

Watching White Christmas

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White Christmas is one of the only holiday movies I actually enjoy watching. I remember my dad teaching me the song when I was little. Later on, one of my uncles introduced me to Bing Crosby, and I grew to appreciate the jazz standards. There’s something about the “Hey kids! Lets put on a show!” mentality that always seemed fun to me. When we were growing up, my sister and I would participate in “productions” with our cousins whenever they’d visit. They grew up on the other side of the world, so it was always a big event whenever they were here. One year, we performed our version of “The Nutcracker,” and I starred as Clara. White Christmas is a classic (and hello! Rosemary Clooney!), with so many great songs, including this one…

History Channel Series

history channel series

I’m fascinated by History Channel’s original programming, and this year, they really stepped up the game with Hatfields & McCoys, The Men Who Built America, and Mankind: The Story of All of Us. Hatfields & McCoys spurred my search this past summer into my family’s genealogy, since my mother’s family came from the same area in southern West Virginia where several events of this story unfolded. I really like how politicians, entrepreneurs and businessmen, news figures (like my manfriend, Brian Williams), and other public figures are used throughout the other series to help tell the story of the birth of America, the great wars, and the innovations that would change the world. Reruns of these shows are still better than new episodes of a lot of other shows.

Being Engaged!

my ring

I know, it’s on the wrong finger, we’re going to take it to get resized soon. I just really wanted to take it home to show my momma.

Yep, I’m engaged! The night before Thanksgiving, Brian made me a very happy gal and asked me to marry him. Two days before he asked me, I had interviewed for a part-time bridal consultant position, and after the interview, I met him for dinner at a Chinese restaurant. His fortune cookie wasn’t that great, but mine read “A good message is on it’s way to you.” Not twenty minutes later, I received a call from the store manager, offering me the position. I think my fortune cookie was extra-strength, since it held out for another few days. I’m beyond excited to spend the rest of my life with Brian, and I can’t wait to start planning, but first, I want to spend some time getting settled into my new job. Until then, I plan to start putting together my own wedding blog since I don’t want to overwhelm this blog with all of my wedding-related posts. (It’s a good thing I’ll be working at a place where I’ll be talking about weddings all the time.) Whenever that’s ready, I’ll share the link. I’m so happy that I’ll have my Dames by my side, too, along with my sister and best friend since pre-school, who is also in the process of planning her wedding. (All this wedding business makes that separate blog really necessary.) But anyway, yay!

What are some of your favorite things of the season? 

Holiday Reading: The Hunger Games

My post tonight combines Abbie and Jeannette’s commentaries on their Holiday traditions and Sarah’s post on being kind to yourself.

Although my family has a variety of Christmas traditions, such as (in the last 5 years) having Christmas Eve dinner at our house, going to a party with my Dad’s big, extended Lebanese family, and going to my Grandma’s sister’s “big old house” in Mill Creek Park on Christmas Day, one of my personal Holiday traditions is to read as many novels as possible.

I could…should…be working in earnest on my Master’s thesis, and although I will, I need, after a long, difficult, and extremely stressful semester to be kind to myself. I do this by losing myself in fiction.

I have no shortage of fresh novels to read, largely due to the 30+ books that I bought in the Fall as a result of Borders going out of business. But, I also own a Barnes and Noble Nook and was going to a conference in Washington, DC that I didn’t feel like dragging a bunch of books to, so I decided I needed an e-book or three to take with me.

So, in a effort to “be kind to myself” and uphold my holiday tradition, I bought the first  book from The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins and had at it. A week and a half later (today) I’ve bought and read all three and am so glad I did.

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I admit, I’m notorious for “coming late to things.” I didn’t start watching Grey’s Anatomy until it was well into its later seasons, I was obsessed with The West Wing and didn’t start watching it until it was almost over. And, though I’m a “great reader” (anyone catch the Pride and Prejudice reference? lol), I tend to find a lot of books once they’re made into movies —  although I do make an effort to read the book before seeing it acted out. Good examples of this: “Water for Elephants,” “The Pillars of the Earth,” anything by Nicholas Sparks, “Memoirs of a Geisha,” “The Da Vinci Code,” etc, etc, etc.

The same story goes for “The Hunger Games.” I’d heard of it before, certainly seen the buzz on Facebook and other places online, and noticed that they were making it into a movie. I like to watch the MTV Movie/Music Awards and saw the teaser trailer over the summer on one of the broadcasts. Similar to the way I had no plans to read Twilight (for various reasons) but did (also for various reasons), I had no plans to read The Hunger Games.

I thought the movie trailers looked good, knew the film was based on a book, and figured I’d watch it eventually, but really didn’t understand what the book was even about.

So, I did a little research: Found out the the main characters had funny names (Katniss, Peeta, Effie, Haymitch, etc, etc, etc), learned it was set in a dystopian post-United States North America, that its characters lived in an oppressive dictatorship, and that the premise of the story was that the main character was involved in some kind of sick, twisted “sporting event/reality show” that involved kids fighting to the death. I was intrigued, but not sold.

Did I really want to get involved in another series? Wasn’t I a little too old to read this kid’s stuff? Didn’t I hate these sad dystopian stories?

I thought I didn’t/was/did. But I was wrong.

The first book was cheap to buy as an e-book, so I got it. What was there to lose?

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The books are great. End of story. To not spoil the experience, should you decide to read the trilogy, I won’t say anything about the second and third books except that their titles are “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay,” respectively, and will limit what I say about the first book, simply titled “The Hunger Games.”

You meet Katniss Everdeen, the main character, and her mother and little sister Prim, as they do what they have to do to survive life in District 12 in the country of Panem. You meet her friend and possible love interest Gale, who helps her hunt (illegally) and to whom she shares a special bond since their fathers were both killed years earlier in the same mining explosion. Peeta is her fellow District 12 Tribute whom she has known all her life and to whom, in a way, she owes her life — and whose interest in/relationship to Katniss is more than it seems.

It is the day known as “The Reaping,” when 2 (one boy, one girl) children between the ages of 12 and 18 are chosen to represent their district (there are 12 in all) as “Tributes” in the annual “Hunger Games.” The 24 tributes chosen will travel to the Capitol, whose people hold the country’s wealth and whose children are exempt from the Games, to train and prepare to fight to the death. The Victor will win glory and enough money/supplies/prestige to keep themselves and their families alive in the largely impoverished District where they live.

The Hunger Games aren’t about glory though. They’re about punishment — a reminder of a previous uprising amongst the Districts which annihilated a 13th District. And, the Games aren’t a noble battle. They’re entertainment, and the “Gamemakers” who orchestrate them will do anything to ensure the citizens of the Capitol are entertained and the power of Panem is maintained. Victory in the Hunger Games isn’t purely based on skill, though more often than not skill helps immensely, but also on luck — and District 12 has neither. The smallest and arguably the poorest of the Districts, 12 has only had one victor — Haymitch, a drunk who is the biggest ally/aid District 12’s tributes can rely on.

This is the atmosphere in which Katniss and her peers enter into at District 12’s reaping. In which Katniss’ sister Prim’s name is called, in which Katniss volunteers to take her place, in which Katniss Everdeen becomes the girl tribute for her District.

———————————————————————————————————

The Hunger Games is a story of power. Of politics. Of what it means to adapt to and manipulate forces outside of your control that are shaping your destiny. Of playing to people’s emotions and getting caught up in them yourself.

It is a love story. Love of family, friends. Romantic love. Love of self.

It is about denying and coming to terms with self worth.

It is about imagining a world that is so contrary to our own in so many ways, but also like it in ways that startle and frighten deep down.

So, ask yourself:

What would you do if once a year, your government gathered you and your peers together to choose two of you, one boy and one girl, to represent your region in a battle to the death?

What if you were not chosen, but your younger sibling was, or your best friend, or the love of your life? Would you volunteer?

Would you fight as hard as you could to survive, or give up?

Or would you try to beat the Game itself?

I suggest you read The Hunger Games and find out.

“May  the odds be ever in your favor.”

 

 

Happy Holidays!

Holiday Season Stretch

Thanksgiving. Christmas. New Year’s. Also known as the 50 or so most stressful, hectic, but ultimately love- and laughter-filled days of the year for me. Maybe more so for me this year, since the last couple of weeks or so have been combined with Week Before Finals Week (which, in grad school, is worse than Finals Week), my sister and her fiance’s graduation, and moving out of the apartment (my second move in 4 months). In this time, it would take a whole hand to count the number of times I’ve probably broke down due to holiday stress, plus one happy mistiness when my sister walked across the stage. I’ve always said I hated the holidays, mostly because I’ve always considered it all to be such a hassle; however, my Grinchy-ness has eased when it comes to decorating for Christmas in the last year or so. Although I still loathe putting up the tree at my house, I was excited to put up simple decorations at my boyfriend’s apartment.

Somehow, though, there are always nice parts of the holiday season that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I’ve never been one for tradition simply because it’s “tradition.” Though we had a larger, family “Thanksgiving” the weekend before the actual date, due to my mom’s birthday and out-of-state relatives being in, on the real Thanksgiving, my mom, sister, and I had Papa John’s and ice cream, because that’s what we wanted. We danced around the kitchen island to music from an old 70s game show, and it was perfect. 

Christmas has been interesting. My family does have one tradition that is kind of important to us. For as long as I can remember, we’ve attended the candlelit service on Christmas Eve. The cantata isn’t the special part of it, and quite honestly, I use that time to doodle in the program. The special part, the most beautiful part of any service throughout the entire year, is the time just before midnight when we pass the light from the Christ Candle in the middle of the advent wreath throughout the church while singing “Silent Night.” I still remember standing next to my Nan as we did this every year. Her eyesight was pretty bad, so she couldn’t read the hymnal, but she didn’t need it; she knew every Christmas hymn by heart. I don’t use it, either. At midnight, we turn the lights back on, blow the candles out, and sing “Joy to the World” before heading home. I was so happy to be able to share this tradition with Brian this year. Splitting up the holidays has proved a bit difficult for us so far. I think my family’s general easy-going attitude about when holidays are actually celebrated has made it easier. We finally got to exchange our gifts last night, but not until after one of my stress-induced near-breakdowns. (And ladies, he did good.) The gifts, the day, the food — none of that is as important as spending quality time with the ones I love.

New Year’s Eve is different. I think that’s because  I look at it not only as the start to a new year, but the end to all the stress related to the holiday season. It’s finally a chance for me to really unwind and just chill for a few hours. I can’t wait for Sprowl’s Rockin’ Eve 2011 and the Tour of Dips. There is so much to look forward to in the coming year: Baby O’Neil, my 2nd college graduation, Carmen’s wedding… and I’m excited for all of it.