Favorite Christmas Films

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Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

I’ve been driving my family crazy since the end of October watching Christmas movies. I can’t help it. I love them. To me, movies set in the winter in some sleepy little town where Christmas is the most important time of the year, and anything is possible, put me in the holiday spirit.

Christmas in the movies is magical. Dreams come true. Dysfunctional families see the light, or get on the right meds. (Oh, how that only happens in fiction.) I watch every chance I get.

Here is a list of some of my favorite Christmas movies in no particular order:

A Christmas Carol (Starring Alastair Sim He’s the best Scrooge.)

Miracle on 34th Street The 1947 version. Not that remake. Who would remake a classic like that?

White Christmas

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (Hard not to like something with Henry Winkler in it.)

Scrooged

The Family Stone (Here’s a dysfunctional family trying to be on their best behavior for the holidays.) I like movies with large families. Not sure this is in my top ten Christmas movies even though it’s set at Christmas time.

What are your favorite Christmas movies?

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Holiday Traditions

I love dessert. It’s my favorite meal. In fact, if I could eat sweets instead of real food, I would. My sweet tooth lends itself to my fancy for baking. If you ask me to bake you anything, I will. If you ask me to make you dinner, my skin starts to itch, my eye twitches and suddenly the idea of cutting the grass with a pair of scissors becomes very appealing.

tarallis
These are my Tarallis. 

Christmastime provides me a good excuse to stretch my baking wings. All the possible cookie choices! Some years I make more than others, but every year I make Tarallis. Those are Italian buttery cookies my family has made for decades. The Tarallis are a popular southern Italy cookie (my baking family is from Calabria) and can be made in varying ways. My way is best. Just so there’s no confusion and also why I won’t link you to someone else’s site about them. So, if you’re interested in learning more about these or other Italian cookies, you’re on your own this time.

Why are mine the best? Because of my grandfather. Pop-Pop was a baker by trade and an excellent one. (I’m not showing favoritism either. Anyone who ate his pastries and cakes would have told you the same.) He was also one of my favorite people in the whole world. He taught me how to bake. (Among other things like how to drive and to stay away from boys.) He taught me to bake by marching over, assessing my progress, grabbing whatever was in my hand and saying in his heavy Italian accent only strangers heard and with complete love, “What are you doing? Let me do that.” That was when I took a step back and handled the clean up.

me-and-poppop3-1997
Me and Pop-Pop maybe 1997ish

I lost him seventeen years ago. Christmas and those Tarallis give me an excuse to bake and when I bake I feel like I’m spending time with him. He is the person I think of as I crack an egg, or line a pan with parchment paper, or make sure I stir in only one direction. I don’t like to let this time of year go by without baking something. If I had my way, he’d be baking with me (though he’d be 95 now. Not sure how much baking he’d be doing.) But that’s not the way the story goes. Instead, my holiday tradition has been to bake in his memory and hopefully the results would do him proud.

(Here’s a little irony, I think the original recipe for those cookies that I, my mother, my sister, and my aunt use might be from my Aunt Genny on my grandmother’s side. But who cares?? I’m still baking. sticks tongue out here.)

What are your holiday traditions? What makes your holiday complete? Who do you share them with?

 

Why Do We Stop Sending Christmas Cards?

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Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

It’s that time of year again, the time when you scour your photos in your phone for a decent one of you and the kids that you can upload to some stationery company like Shutterfly, VistaPrint, etc, and order Christmas or Holiday cards to send to people you know. Every year I vow I’m not going to do it again.

I was always under the impression Christmas cards were sent to people you didn’t speak with on a regular basis as a way to keep in touch. I’ve found over the years the people I don’t speak with stop sending cards. Is it out of sight, out of mind? Or is it, well, I have to see her in the supermarket, so I better send her another card. People move away, change jobs, whatever. Why would you stop sending cards just because we don’t live around the corner from each other anymore? I mean, if I do run into you at the CVS and we catch up about your sick dog do I really need the card? Yes, I do!

Christmas cards were first sent in the 1800’s by Henry Cole. He was a very busy man and didn’t have the time to answer the letters sent to him at Christmas time. Letters that were filled with stories from friends about their lives during the year. (See, letters from people he didn’t see often.) He had an idea to create a card with the same thing written inside each one and send that instead. Voila!

So, the cards I receive each year are dwindling. I like going to the mailbox at Christmas time in hopes of finding a jewel-toned envelope waiting for me. Let’s face it, cards are way more fun than a bill, no? I’ve lived in five towns in my married life. I should be getting a boat load of cards this late in my life. But that’s not the case. Friends I no longer work with or live near have stopped sending and here’s my hard and fast rule: if you don’t send to me two years in a row I stop sending to you.

Does that sound harsh?  Am I perpetuating my own demise? Could there be some rational explanation as to why someone’s card no longer arrives in the post for me? Could the budget be stretched too tightly that cards are no longer an option? (Have you seen the price of some of these cards?) Are these people boycotting Christmas? Is it pure laziness? And there’s always the famous, “I’m too busy!” (Which is my least favorite excuse for anything. We’re all busy. Take a seat.)

Though I said it myself, each year I consider not sending. Why? Well, for one, uploading photos to those sites isn’t as easy as it sounds. It never goes smoothly. I spend hours trying to get the right photo, upload it, edit it, pick a card. Oh, the picking of a card! That’s torture all by itself. We’re an interfaith family. I try to be respectful of the fact we celebrate Hanukkah as well as Christmas and the people I send to might also celebrate more than one holiday. It isn’t easy trying to find a middle of the road holiday card that I like and that has the appropriate number of photo slots, let me tell you.

If I’m going to get fewer and fewer cards in the mail, is it worth it to break a sweat every year over sending these cards? I could go back to the boxed cards bought in the stores. Eventually, my kids are going to get too old to stick on those cards anyway. It’s cute for a while, but how long can you drag out a good thing?

That might be the answer. Boxed cards! I still get a couple of those each year from people whose children are grown and sending out photo cards of their own. I used to send boxed cards before I had kids and my mailbox was filled with cards of other people’s children. Yes, filled. Where have all those people gone?

I would like to still find those cards waiting for me each cold afternoon as I walk the mile to my mailbox. Okay, it’s not that far. Give me a break, I’m a fiction writer after all. I would like to think those people from years ago still pull my name up on a list and say, “hey, I wonder how her year went? Let’s send her a card.”

I am grateful for the cards that continue to arrive from friends from high school, college, old neighbors, and new friends. Thank you for sending those cards. Keep them coming.

 

Why Are Certain Stories Timeless? What Scrooge Can Teach Us About Great Writing

 

Even though Christmas has past, I’m still in the spirit. (I hate to see the season end.) I’m reblogging today a post from author and social media expert, Kristen Lamb. She’s done a fantastic job of breaking down one of my favorite stories – A Christmas Carol, and showing how Charles Dickens infused the Christian meaning of Christmas into his work. If you’re a fan of A Christmas Carol then I think you’ll enjoy the post too. I might be late, but Merry Christmas. Thanks, Kristen for letting me share.

Kristen Lamb's Blog

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One of my all-time favorite movies for the holidays is The Muppets Christmas Carol. I believe I’ve seen this movie a few hundred thousand times. I’ve worn out three VHS tapes and at least three DVDs. I play the movie over and over, mainly because, well, duh,  MUPPETS! I drive my husband nuts playing this movie over and over…and over.

I’m worse than a three-year-old.

Muppets aside, I also can’t get enough of the music. I love the story of A Christmas Carol no matter how many times I see it, no matter how many renditions, and I am certainly not alone. Charles Dickens’ story of a redeemed miser is a staple for holiday celebrations around the world and across the generations.

This story is virtually synonymous with “Christmas,” but why is it such a powerful story? Why has it spoken so deeply to so many? Why is it…

View original post 1,966 more words

What Does This Time of Year Mean To You?

The Coffee King and I all dressed up.
The Coffee King and I all dressed up.

We’re an interfaith family. That means the Coffee King and the Noodges are Jewish and I’m not. I’m trying to make the dog a Catholic, but he keeps eating the Communion wafers at the wrong time. Being Interfaith also means we’re knee deep in Hanukkah and with Christmas around the corner it always feels like we slide head first into the end of the year. Another year over, another year older and I have the lines on my face to prove it.

What is the meaning of this time of year? I know it’s not supposed to be about the rush through stores trying to pry the last Harry Potter Board Game out of the hands of some unsuspecting woman. (That actually happened to me. Well, the strange woman didn’t put her hands on me, but she was ready. She wanted that game and thought it was the last one on the shelf.) It’s more than wrapping presents in pretty paper, but my mother is the best wrapper I’ve ever seen. Between her cleaning skills and her wrapping skills she’s a tough act to follow, let me tell you. This time of year is more than baking cookies and pies even though I love to bake. I can’t wait to make my egg nog pound cake even if no one wants to eat it.

What does this time of year mean? Is it peace on earth and good will toward men? That’s one of my favorite meanings because it includes everyone. I love the idea of peace on earth. No more crazy people who strap bombs to their bodies or fly planes into buildings or shoot someone just because they’re mad or angry or confused. Every person filled with kindness and intentions of goodness toward others. No more, trying to be right instead of trying to be kind. No more fear and hatred. Yeah, that’s the kind of earth I’d like to live on.

Of course, I know this time of year is about the birth of Christ, but we’ve come a long way from that don’t you think? Trying to celebrate someone’s birthday for 2014 years is bound to morph into something else. I like buying gifts because I love to see the look on someone’s face when they open up something you tried hard to find for them, that special thing that says, “Hey, I saw this and thought you’d like it and giving it to you will bring you joy which brings me joy.” I watch too many Hallmark commercials, I know.

I’d say this time of year is about spending time with family, but most people don’t want to spend time with their family so that doesn’t count.

This time of year could be about saying thank you. “Thank you, for delivering my mail every day. Thank you for choosing to be in my life. Thank you for talking me off the ledge.”

Or maybe it’s about hope. Hope for a better year next year. Hope for peace on earth. Hope for that job, that special someone to arrive in your life, hope that your kids will stop driving you straight to the liquor store, hope for more readers, another chance to write a good book, hope for a new friend, and hope that people will stop showing you their crazy side. Hope that Santa does exist.

Whatever this time of year means I’m surrounded in red, green and gold. The air is filled with pine, cinnamon, and nutmeg. A fire pops and cracks under the mantle hung with stockings. Presents are in the closet waiting to be wrapped.

I’m thankful for you, my faithful reader, I hope your holidays are filled with blessings, joy, and… a few cookies.

Happy Holidays, Stacey

 

 

 

 

Favorite Things

Favorite Beach - Aruba
Favorite Beach – Aruba

I miss Oprah’s show were she gave away all those cool things at Christmas. How awesome would it have been to win some of that stuff? Of course, the flip side was you had to pay the taxes on all that stuff, (probably before you walked out of the studio, not that I know this), and taxes are gigantic mood killer. Just saying.

Recently,  I was at a book signing event, Enrichment Through Literature, with five other authors and we were each asked to speak about our favorite books. Basically, the ones that made a difference or shaped our writing lives in some way. I included Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White in my list. Charlotte’s Web was my introduction to talking animals that were main characters. Talk about cool stuff!

I read that book for the first time in the fourth grade. I loved it so much I carried it around everywhere with me. That was right around the time my parents split up. It must’ve been my comfort blanket. One day, the book went missing. I searched in every corner, closet, under the sofa, and couldn’t find it. None of the adults still living in my house, (Italian family equals grandparents live with you) knew where it was. I never found that copy. I often thought little elves came into my room at night, that explained the mess my mother yelled about, and  ran off with it. Or maybe it was talking spiders.

The blog was nominated for the Sunshine Award. sunshine-award1-e13921416365171I’m not entirely sure what the Sunshine Award is, but anything with the word Sunshine in the title can’t be all bad. Plus, I think it’s an attempt to get others to find your blog out there in the gigantic blog world and I can use all the help I can get. And not just with the blog. Ba da ump bump.

In order to accept this nomination, I must link back to the person who nominated me. A big thank you to Karen Lynne Klink. (I guess she finds the rantings of an Italian writing mom pleasant. Thank God!) Nominate other bloggers, which I’ll do below and list 10 things about myself. I promise to try and make things interesting.

1. Book Two, Welcome to Bibliotheca, in the Gabriel Hunter series is now available. Yeah!

2. There’s a book launch party at Cocco’s Café, 52 Main Street, Flemington, NJ on Friday, May 16th, 6:30pm.

3. I’m always cold, which is why Summer is my favorite season.

4. I drink green tea all day. (To stay warm.) Tea is my favorite drink, hot or cold.

5. My favorite jeans are from White House Black Market.

6. I have two ear piercings in my left earlobe. My left earlobe is my favorite.

7. My favorite picture of me is the one taken with a rock and roll band.

8. My favorite color is red.

9. I can drive a stick. Which isn’t my favorite thing to do, but driving a stick makes me cool for a girl.

10. My favorite place to be, besides a warm climate, is home.

There. How’s that? So, faithful reader, what are some of your favorite things?

 

Nominees for the sunshine award:

http://joannaaislinn.wordpress.com/

http://mkatequinn.me/
http://zampettilw.wordpress.com/

http://redsaidwhat.com/

http://theflexifoodie.wordpress.com/

I only nominated five because that’s all I read.

 

How Much Do You Shop Online?

imageHow did we live without online shopping? It made buying Christmas gifts a whole lot easier. Right from your kitchen table, (where I am now) and in your bathrobe, (which I am not. Yoga pants please.) you can purchase a hat for Aunt Sue, a tie for Uncle Bill, a plastic truck for little Bobby. And the best part? A brown box with a smiley face on it delivered to your front door and on Sundays!

Shopping may be easier, but is it personal? Sure, if you’ve given a list of specific must-haves to your family and friends what’s wrong with a click or two to achieve the same success as a trip to a crowded mall can provide? But what if you aren’t sure what to buy for someone? Can you browse as easily through the two demential screen? Not me.

When I don’t know what to get for a receiver on my list I like to walk around the well-lit stores, surrounded by Christmas music, running my fingers over fabrics, breathing in the scents of the seasons, and be dazzled by the glitter of the gifts. While I’m out I might find the perfect something for Aunt Sue simply because I saw it on display, was able to grab it, turn it around in my hands, feel its texture, and know she’d smile when she saw it too. I can’t get that from a computer screen.

Maybe it’s because I’m a visual person that browsing online stumps me. I can’t buy clothes that way either. I have to touch the material, slip into the dressing room and try the outfit on. And even though I own an ereader, am thinking of upgrading it even, I still love the feel of a book in my hand and the smell of new pages as I turn them.

Online shopping has its place and I’m grateful for its conveniences. But the personal touch of a gift bought with creativity? Well, that certainly beats a bag of coal.