1. Ever since my sister-in-law went home after our Thanksgiving feast and left behind the delicious half-eaten cakes and pies she’d baked, I’ve been struggling to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Surely an attitude adjustment was in order. My plan? To hell with health during the holidays, let’s just watch the calorie count. For instance, I skipped the egg and wheat toast for breakfast and just had the pumpkin pie I was going to eat afterwards anyway (plenty of fiber in pumpkin). Why have a grilled cheese for lunch when the cheesecake is right in front of you? It’s not going to eat itself, and my Catholic upbringing still prevents me from wasting food – or makes me feel guilty for doing so. Willpower is an admirable quality in persons I don’t actually like, so for those of you I do enjoy, my advice is to eat the Russian tea cakes, the apple pie, the salted caramels, the green and red M&Ms – throughout the day if you must – and forget the turkey sandwich, banana, chicken salad, or vegetable panini. A calorie is a calorie is a calorie. Drink plenty of water and sit down for a sensible dinner, for sure, but enjoy a cup of eggnog in the morning if that’s what you really want and forgo the actual egg. Come January, perhaps we’ll all be, at the very least, no heavier than we were pre-Thanksgiving. The way I see it, the Candy Cane Joe Joe’s only come ’round once a year but broccoli is forever.
2. Can we just agree that the NSA spied on everyone? And that President Obama has been even less successful addressing the nation on the matter than he’s been with the troubled Affordable Care Act roll out? Why doesn’t he trust that we’d rather hear it straight than wrapped in bubbles? They inevitably pop. Some consider Edward Snowden a hero; I don’t, but I think I understand what he was trying to tell us, which is that the NSA is and was out of control. Obama’s whack-a-mole approach to PR on the subject was unfortunate, and his reactionary rather than anticipatory technique throughout 2013 was disappointing – but I’m sure of this: I wouldn’t want his job, with or without the knuckleheads in Congress. On a side note, the weather here on Christmas is supposed to be a balmy 80 degrees. I’d rather be Snowden. Get it? Snowed in? Don’t you miss me when I’m not around?
3. Addressing cards to families whose names end in ‘S’ is hard. I know what the Chicago Manual of Style says: if the last name is Williams, then write the note to the Williamses. But I’ve never liked that, any more than the choice of making James’s the possessive of James. (It will always be Chris’ bike or Louis’ bottle of gin to me.) My solution is simply to put their last name on the envelope, without any adornments. So to Espuelas, Downes, Arons, Carloss – deal with it.
4. Christmastime at our house often centers around hot chocolate, eggnog, football, twinkly lights on the tree, a fire in the fireplace, and Rankin/Bass Productions. I watched them as a kid with childish wonder. As an adult, I see so much more. I can’t help thinking that – whether Rankin or Bass was Jewish or not (Google investigation provided no answers) – there are Semitic themes to their stop-animation holiday classics. Burgermeister Meisterburger, in “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”, is an Eastern European-accented dictator with little Nazi-like soldiers carrying out his demands to destroy all toys. And the Winter Warlock hiding out with the Kringles in the woods sounds like a Borscht belt comic. Turns out the voice talent Rankin/Bass used over and over – Ed Wynn, Larry D. Mann, and Paul Kligman – were Jewish and I don’t necessarily have a point here other than I find it comical that Santa Claus, the secular symbol of our most celebrated Christian holiday, was voiced by Solomon Hersh Frees (Paul Frees). Perhaps this was the original ‘war on Christmas’ that Fox News trots out every year to scare little girls and boys. I was deeply tickled by the Megyn Kelly/‘Santa is just white’ controversy. Getting back to Rankin/Bass, have we agreed upon what’s wrong with the little girl doll on the Island of Misfit Toys? My kids always ask. And I’m annually pleased that they delight in the entirely unsophisticated animation of “Frosty”, “Rudolph”, and “The Year Without a Santa Claus”. No mouth movement matches a single line or lyric and no one ever cares. I’m sure Google Glass is nifty, but technology isn’t the be-all and end-all of what makes us happy.
5. The weeks since Thanksgiving have been ridiculously busy, and I speak for most everyone I know. Turkey Day was late this year, and isn’t it just so that we all unintentionally add an extra amount of stress to our lives every December? For me, starting a new club soccer team for Miss T added to the busyness, and reading the newspaper fell by the wayside. I haven’t picked up a book in three weeks and, well, my soul felt empty…until this morning. The craziness has slowed considerably and so I was able to get into the Sunday Times, reading about the world, the nation, the arts, books, sports, opinion. Within an hour or so, I felt part of the global community again, engaged with the cultural world that inspires me. To no avail, I urge Goldie and Bun Bun to pick up a book rather than watch trashy television (Miss T is a voracious reader), not because I think their brains will rot but because reading improves everything and opens us up to the big wide world. If you have a winter break, sit down occasionally and read. A nap will refuel your body. Reading will refuel your mind.
6. Most of the one hundred or so guests at our house last Thursday night don’t know I’m sober, or that the husband mostly drinks beer. Wine after bottle of wine was given as gifts, along with the occasional candle and box of chocolates. I’m appreciative of all of it (the gesture is pure), even if we end up giving most away (not the candles and chocolate). But while running this morning, after another enchanting cup of coffee, I thought it appropriate to make a gift suggestion here at Daily Cup of Jo, even though I’m a horrible shopper. (Honey, since when do you not wear ascots?) I’d venture a guess that more people drink coffee daily than drink red or white wine. A pound of those delicious, roasted beans will cost you less than a good bottle of Pinot and will definitely be put to good use, maybe even sooner than the vino. Sure, there’s a different effect but it’s no less necessary over the course of any given day. My favorite roast, currently, is the Celebration blend from Intelligentsia (it even sounds like the holidays) – deep, rich, packed with bitter fruitiness – but Peet’s Holiday Blend, or Starbucks’ Christmas Blend would be received with seasonal glee also. Throw in an inexpensive French roast coffee maker (you can pick one up for $20) and you’ve got a better than perfect hostess gift.
Enjoy your Sunday.