Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Few of My Favorite Things

Whiskers on Kitten-Terrorists

A Christmas gift from Germany arrived early for my co-blogger on the soccer blog in the form of an Inter Milan loss to Werder Bremen today. He will probably remember this season for a long time, as his club, Tottenham Hotspur, have had an eventful European campaign and have emerged as the unlikely winners of their UEFA Champions' League group over Inter, the current European champions. For me, well, I always like to see Italians lose, but I have had had too many memorable Christmases for that to make this a standout year (also, Tottenham aren't my club). And that's not why I am writing this post. Rather, I want to write about some of my holiday favorites that really make the season, "the season."

"Favorite Things" Isn't Really a Christmas Song

We're programmed to respond to sound with memories, so nostalgia is only natural with holiday classics. However, some of them are just fun. These are a few of my favorites:
  • Linus & Lucy, Vince Guaraldi Trio - It's just delightful and, of course, reminds one of Snoopy and the Peanuts Christmas specials.
  • 'Zat You Santa Claus?, Louis Armstrong - Louis Armstrong is a holiday must, but this one is just so lively and fun that I can't help dancing (or bobbing) along.
  • Hanukkah Song Part II, Adam Sandler - "OJ Simpson, still not a Jew." Enough said.
  • Marshmallow World, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra - Christmas with the Rat Pack is an essential album for me, but I wasn't familiar with this one until Mary played it. Now, we dance to it compulsively every time it comes on. Also, both artists are completely smashed in the recording that I have and it's just entertaining to listen to them.
  • Cool Yule, Bette Midler - Louis Armstrong has a good version too, but the free-hearted fun of Bette Midler (a Jew) really comes through on this one.
  • How Do You Spell (C)hanukkah? The LeeVees - Not a classic, but this song is a blast and a good piece of Jewish self-depreciative humor. It sounds a lot like the Barenaked Ladies (also Jewish).
  • Carol of the Bells, Mormon Tabernacle Choir - Mormons really know how to make this one impressive. Truth be told, I have four versions of this on my list, including Celtic Women which is also good.
  • Nutcracker - Act II: Waltz of the Flowers, David Zinman & the New York City Ballet Orchestra - Okay, I love all of the Nutcracker and try to make a performance every holiday season, although this year, it is not to be. Nevertheless, I love this one and would make Mary dance with me to it, if, you know, I knew how to waltz.
  • Baby, It's Cold Outside, Everyone and Their Brother - Everyone has done a rendition of this song. My current favorite is the latest I have downloaded, by the Glee Cast, but you can get a version by Zooey Deschanel, if you're into indie rock goddesses.
  • Fairy Tale of New York, Amy MacDonald - Brendan tells me that this is a Pogues tune and the male part is certainly sung by the lead singer of the Pogues. It is a new addition to my list, but an instant favorite.
  • Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Dean Martin - The classic is by Gene Autry, but Dino's rendition is great, with Dean Martin eventually growing familiar with the animal, calling him "Rudy, the Red-Beaked Reindeer."
This Is Becoming a Sentimental Post

There are also a variety of activities that really get me in the mood. These are fewer to be honest.
  • Skiing/snowboarding - This is one I associate with New Years. There have been a number of times that I have arrived either on or after Christmas, so that I really more associate the physical exhaustion of snowboarding with trying to stay up for New Years.
  • Decorating the Tree - Not mine. Having gone to Switzerland for so many years, I had gotten used to not having a tree. But decorating the tree with Kate's family is a trip. Mary lays out all the ornaments on the table, grouped by type, which is essential to her adorable brand of crazy. Her brother is antsy and wants to just hang the ornaments, but after putting 1 or two out, relaxes on the couches nearby. Kate's mother is generally a little drunk (so is everyone else) and not in the mood. Actually, that's a lie, she is in the mood, but is overwhelmed by the volume of decorating and is wonderfully cynical about the whole affair and rounds off the whole delightful experience.
  • The Nutcracker - As I noted, I'm not going to a performance this year. It's not the first time I have gone a season without tickets, but fortunately, I have a Barishnikov performance on DVD. The Nutcracker doll is a little creepy-looking, as is the ballerina playing Clara, but the ballet is excellent.
  • Other Christmas Specials - I always forget how short Christmas specials are without commercials. I have them on DVD as well and watch them at my leisure. Mary would watch Muppets Christmas Carol in August if I let her.
I Wish Christmas Lasted Forever, But Not This Post

This is a longer post than I intended and I haven't even added the pictures yet. But Mary is home from watching the Glee! Christmas episode with James, so I am going to spend the rest of the evening with her. I hope you have all your shopping done; holiday traffic and shopping crowds do not list among my favorite things.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

You're Gonna Get Caught in the Ion Cloud

Deck the Halls or I'll Deck You

Mary and I went shopping for a Christmas tree today and then decorated both the tree and the apartment. The decorating is not completed, but we got a fair bit done, especially considering we both awoke quite late. I had an excuse; the English Premier League games were delayed due to the snow in England, so there were no early games. This set Mary back who doesn't get up on the weekends until I bring her breakfast. Don't think this is laziness, if she shows up before I am finished, I start hollering about how she needs to get back in bed so that I can bring her her breakfast and that the contents were supposed to be surprise ("Eggs and bacon, bet you didn't see that coming!"). Anyway, we didn't even get out of the apartment until nearly 3 p.m. After almost railroading Kate into decorating and getting a tree, she was the one who had to drag me out of my lethargy this afternoon. Tempers became flared when it came to rearranging the furniture, but on the whole we had a successful day.

My Tree Will Play Merry Hob with Your Radar

I've never really put the lights on a tree before. Last year was the first year one of my trees had lights on it and Katie put most of them on. After she had done so, she discovered that everywhere a needle had poked her, her allergies flared up. Thus, her hands and arms were covered with red dots for about a day-and-a-half and she decided that I had better put the lights on the tree henceforth. So I did. I learned something about myself today. I've discovered that I talk to the lights. I tell them where to go and complain at them when they don't go where I want them or when they become impeded by the tree or their light-brethren. Kate and I then set about decorating the tree. After the multi-hour process decorating the tree as a kid and decorating MK's parents' tree, this went by extremely quickly because, frankly, we have not had time to acquire the ridiculous number of ornaments.

No tinsel - that would be a damn disaster with the kitten-terrorists. Frankly, we couldn't trust even Henry with the undecorated tree:
See? Is there nothing he won't try to eat? He's more like a pudgy meerkat, or docile raccoon (waschbaer!), than a cat.

Go Flock Yourself

Apparently, when the holiday season comes around, I turn into Martha Stewart. That's right, I got a good line on some stocks. Also, I make these little vase displays. I think they're pretty simple, but Mary Katherine likes them. Probably the same way my parents liked the papier-mache cards I made them when I was five and mostly retarded. It's something to keep me busy while she makes proper holiday displays. Tomorrow I have to run the garlands along the patio railing and put the lights up too. But for right now, I'm just going to enjoy these:

Hope you're enjoying your holidays so far.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Holiday Season

Mary Christmas

I love the holiday season with Mary. Something about her and the holiday season is simply magnificent. I have a thing for girls bundled up, I love their faces framed with hats or fur-lined hoods, with red noses, flushed cheeks, and chapped lips (Don't worry this isn't a fetish post). That's not new, but once autumn hits, I cannot wait to dance with Mary to Christmas music or to decorate the apartment with her or to prepare winter foods for her. I keep trying to start the season earlier and earlier. Seriously, she has had to drag me away from the boxes of holiday decorations and banned holiday-themed music until after Thanksgiving.

Christmas Come Early

Fortunately for me, my Christmas (or New Years, since I am not actually a Christian) has come early. Earlier this week, my mother called me around midnight to let me know that they had a kidney donor and, by the next evening, I was speaking with her (albeit briefly) about the successful transplant. Of course, there can still be complications or her body could reject the transplant, but her body is at least already using the kidney and its functions are ahead of schedule. I was starting to get worried, honestly. Father once told me that Boltons (on my mother's side of the family) are like cockroaches and they are simply difficult, when not impossible, to kill. Doc has lived up to that notion, which stuck in my mind, recovering faster and more fully than the doctors expected from her to from her various infirmities. But I thought cruel Nature had decided to go slow and steady with the renal failure, having had so little success with dramatic events. This is a huge weight off my mind. And her's, I hope. There is still a long way to go, but I am simply delighted that it has finally started.

A Spanish Kid Told Me That It Starts with a Silent "J."

So that's my Hanukkah (Chanukkah?) present, I guess. Being an atheist, I get to take the best of the holidays and compile them into one big festival - you may find me using holidays interchangably. My darling brother's fiancee... My brother's darling fiancee... I can't do that as well as she. "Shelly," it is then. She, at any rate, has been writing amazing holiday posts with gifts, tips, and techniques; well, that's another thing that I cannot do as well as she. But I did want to mention some of the foods I like to get in the holiday mood:

Mulled Cider - I mull cider all autumn and into the winter. This year, the orchard in rural Maryland to which Kate and I make pilgrimage in the Fall had an E. Coli scare with their cider. MKB and I are fine though, don't worry. New to my repertoire is the mulled wine.

Weiss Gluhwein - I should note that I have made mulled red wine in the past, with mixed results. However, Mary, Shelly, Benj, and I get gluhwein at the Gondel Bar in Muerren that is white, so I went and looked up recipes for white mulled wine. Now, when I looked up gluhwein, it came up with a number of recipes for reds (as it should). So I typed in "weiss gluhwein" into google and was shocked when the hits were mostly in German. Because I am an asshole sometimes. Regardless, I found a recipe for Berner-Oberland weiss gluhwein and it looks and tastes like the stuff we get in Muerren (Success!). So much so that I found myself wishing that Shelly were accompanying my brother to DC next week so she, Kate, Benj, and I could sit on my patio in our jackets and drink gluhwein together.

Beef Stew (and Pot Roast) - Also new to my winter. This is because Kate likes associates it with winter and, given the vegetables involved, she is right to do so. Regardless, I now think of a nice thick stew with Kate is perfect on cold days.

Red and Green M&M's - I am a marketing professional's dream, but sorry, I associate a bowl full of holiday-colored M&M's with Christmas.

Breakfast Casserole - Similar to a cheese strata, but with loose sausage. My mother used to make this for extended family breakfasts and Mary's family likes it as well, so they let me make it every Thanksgiving.

Unfinished Meta-Posts

I have started a number of projects on this blog that I have not finished. If I am in the mood, I will write other posts about senses and activities that really "make" the holidays for me. I don't want this to become a chore, so I don't want to worry to much about the multi-part posts that I don't finish. I should write more often out of loyalty to my readers, but since there are about three of you, you all don't even make quorum to lodge a complaint.