I’m Dreaming of a Mild Christmas

Hello! I hope your holiday season, no matter what you celebrate, has been a good one. Here’s a little rundown of how my Christmas went.

We don’t really decorate around here anymore, so our halls aren’t decked and there are no jingle bells or Christmas trees. In fact, our Christmas tree has been in our attic since 2011 (the last time we set it up, at the request of my brother’s then-girlfriend; they split up the following summer…he didn’t start dating my sister-in-law, A., until around 2014). We have never used a natural Christmas tree, we always used an artificial one. I will admit, though, that I do miss the decorating and the shopping and the presents. My friends are so spread out now that I don’t even make presents for people anymore. I’ve kinda lost the drive for it at times. Perhaps this drive will come back in future years. But it is nice to see my neighbors’ houses aglow with lights and flanked by all sorts of decorations, both the inflatable and the non-inflatable. Since this is Florida, our Christmas was not a White Christmas as it was in many parts of the north and midwestern United States, but it was quite nice. In fact, it was mild. Not too hot, just a tiny bit cool because of a weak cold front that had passed through the night before.

My Christmas morning did not involve unwrapping presents placed under a tree. It was just another relatively normal morning. I had slept in just a little bit (by maybe an hour) and when I awoke, my dad’s Jeep (which he got a couple of months ago after trading in his pickup truck; he decided to trade the truck in so that he could get a vehicle that was easier for my mom to get into) was already in the driveway, and then I realized he was in the attic getting something he was planning to give to my niece, R.: a handmade rocking horse that he had made for me and my brother nearly 30 years ago. We had also gotten a couple of books for her a few weeks earlier (a book about animal sounds and one about Frosty the Snowman), which I wrapped just a day or two earlier. He then gave my mom and me both some spending money (which I will talk about a little bit more in just a bit).

About 9:30 that morning, we drove the 3 miles down the road to my brother’s house, and when we got there, we spent the next 15 minutes at their door, with my dad constantly texting them and ringing their doorbell with no answer. We left and returned home, where my dad proceeded to call and text them every 5 minutes…with no answer. So, we go back at 11:00 am, and my dad starts ringing their doorbell over and over again. About 2 minutes later, my brother (who has obviously just woken up) finally answers the door. Turns out he and my sister-in-law didn’t get home until 6:00 am Christmas morning because A. (my sister-in-law) had been in the emergency room getting treated for a thumb injury that she sustained from a falling lamp the night before. After my dad gave J. (my brother) a piece of his mind (just of consternation, he didn’t yell at him or make a scene), he presented J. with the gifts we had for R., and then he also gave J. some spending money of their own for both J. and A. After leaving J.’s place, we went driving around to see what was open (I knew we weren’t going to get groceries because just about every store is closed on Christmas morning). We eventually found a 7-Eleven, where my dad went in to get some milk, coffee creamer, and cigarettes for himself (Mom and I do not smoke). Then we drove around a little more and saw that the local Steak ‘n Shake was open, and that was our Christmas lunch: steak burgers, fries, and milkshakes. We came home and ate, and after that Dad went to bed to sleep in preparation for his work day that night (which is nice, though, because where he works they pay their employees extra on holidays that they work on, and that includes Christmas and New Year’s, among others). Mom and I then watched the final four episodes of I Love Lucy that I had recorded earlier in the year on the DVR (I was on a mission to watch the entire series) as well as some stuff on Netflix. That evening, after Dad went to work, I watched the Christmas episode of WWE’s Monday Night Raw (this year marked the first time ever that WWE aired a live episode of Raw on Christmas Day).

The day after (Boxing Day to those of you outside the United States; we normally don’t use the phrase “Boxing Day” here in the States for December 26th), we finally went grocery shopping (and was able to get the stuff I needed to make a very basic turkey dinner, which I plan on making on either Friday or Saturday at the latest), and later that day I watched the I Love Lucy and Doctor Who Christmas specials. I thought Peter Capaldi got a pretty nice send-off, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor. Looks like she’ll be without the Tardis for a little while! And as for the I Love Lucy Christmas special, each year that it’s been aired since 2013, it’s been paired with a colorized classic episode, and this one was the one where she was in the fashion show for designer Don Loper (where she gets a nasty sunburn just before walking in the Hollywood wives’ fashion show in exchange for a $500 dress that she told Ricky was $100).

Ah, yes…the spending money. I’m not going to give the exact amount here, but it is enough to get a decent amount of what I want to get if I budget it right. About all I really want to get to wear is a pair of boots to wear with my houndstooth print pants. But…there is also an independent bookstore near my hometown that I want to go to so I can buy some books to add to my collection. Don’t get me wrong…I like the iBooks e-reader I have on my iPad, but…there’s just something about having a book in my hands with pages to turn with the fingers of my left hand (yes, this is how I read: book goes in either my lap or my right hand, and I turn the pages with my left). This bookstore, which I have visited only once before (about 13 years ago when I had to purchase books to read for an AP English class), has quite the collection, selling new and used books. I’m bound to find some gems in that store if I look closely enough! Even if I get the boots, I should still be able to get a nice number of books that should interest me. Who knows what I’d find there, but there are a few on my wish list that I’d love to get:

  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (note: she was actually from a little town near Orlando called Eatonville, and the city hosts a festival in her honor every January called Zora!Fest; a lot of her works were set in Eatonville)
  • All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
  • Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
  • A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

Of course, a random gem of a book could pop up when I least expect it.

(As for what I am currently reading, I am still reading Ulysses. I am only about 100 pages into it, and I am at the portion of Bloom’s journey where he attends a funeral. It can be a bit plodding to read at times, but if I managed to finish Gone with the Wind, then Ulysses shouldn’t be too rough on me.)

I hope your holidays were more interesting than mine, but perhaps I’ll be able to share my loot of books with you at some point in the near future. Also: stay tuned for a finished project. The crocheted shawl I was working on is finished, and I hope to be able to showcase it for you in the coming days!

‘Tis the Season: My Five Favorite Christmas Songs of All Time

With the holiday season in full swing and Hanukkah already underway, and Christmas coming just a week from now, I thought I’d celebrate with some of my favorite things about Christmas. Today, I share with you my five favorite Christmas songs of all time. One song you won’t be seeing on this list? “All I Want For Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey. I’ve never cared much for that song, and hearing it sung every year on The X Factor (both the US and UK versions) was enough to finally turn me off from the song for good (thankfully, they didn’t do Christmas songs on The X Factor UK this year, and the US version hasn’t aired since 2013).

So, here are my five actual picks. The only criterion was that the song had to be Christmas or winter-themed. I make no distinction between hymns and secular songs.

5. Billy Squier, “Christmas Is the Time to Say I Love You”

This song comes from a time when rock music was just as popular on the radio as pop was (something that long fell by the wayside by the time I was coming of age) and Billy Squier was one of the most popular rock stars of the early ’80s (only to have his popularity wane after a particularly disastrous reception for the music video for his single, “Rock Me Tonite”). This is one of the few Christmas songs by pop or rock singers I’ve heard through the years to not come across as cheesy. And the fact that he did this version with the “MTV Chorus” is even more awesome.

4. “Carol of the Bells”

This has got to be my favorite Christmas carol, with all the complex layers of vocals. The version featured here is one done for South Park by the South Park Elementary School guidance counselor, Mr. Mackey. (The random “m’kays” sprinkled throughout this version always make me giggle.)

3. “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” by John Lennon

Another rock Christmas classic, this song combines Lennon’s singing talents with his songwriting, which often incorporated themes of peace and justice. This one is no different. Originally written as a protest song against the Vietnam War, it has since transcended its original political origin and has become a beloved Christmas standard throughout the world.

2. “It Must Have Been Love (Christmas for the Broken-Hearted)” by Roxette

You didn’t know this was a Christmas song? It was originally written by the Swedish pop duo as a Christmas song about heartbreak and lost love and released in 1987. A couple of years later, it was selected to be part of the soundtrack for a film that would eventually be regarded as a classic romance film, Pretty Woman. A slight lyrical change the year after its original release made it less Christmas-y (the line “It’s a hard Christmas Day” became “It’s a hard winter’s day”), and it ended up becoming one of four number-one singles in the United States for Roxette (along with “The Look”, “Listen to Your Heart”, and “Joyride”) and one of the most popular songs of the 1990s. The video featured here is from the original Christmas single.

Honorable Mention: “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” by The Chipmunks

This didn’t quite make the main list, but I must mention that this song was on replay constantly when I was a kid and we wore out the cassette tape this song was featured on! It’s also the only Christmas song to ever top the Billboard Hot 100.

1. “Mele Kalikimaka” by Bing Crosby ft. The Andrews Sisters

Okay, I’m from Florida, not Hawaii, but this is still the only popular Christmas song that has a distinctly tropical vibe to it. The title is taken from the actual Hawaiian language greeting for “Merry Christmas” (the language lacks the sounds for R, S, and T; the R becomes an L sound, the C is rendered as a K, and S and T become K sounds, turning “Merry Christmas” into “Mele Kalikimaka”). I first heard this song in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation in a memorable scene where Clark Griswold (played by Chevy Chase) is daydreaming about the swimming pool he wants to get with his Christmas bonus, including a spoof on Fast Times at Ridgemont High where he envisions a lingerie saleswoman he was talking to earlier in the movie taking off her swimsuit (in a nod to Phoebe Cates in a similar scene in Fast Times) and diving into the pool, although actual nudity is not seen in order to preserve the film’s PG-13 rating. Even on its own, this song is still a favorite of mine. And though Bing Crosby sang a lot of Christmas songs in his career, this one is still my favorite. The scene is featured below, and the studio version above this paragraph. (And if you care to venture over to my Instagram, I posted a brief little video of me singing the song this afternoon, if you’re brave enough to check it out.)

Do you have any favorite Christmas or holiday tunes? Share them in the comments.

Maybe It’s Cold Outside?

The weather here is becoming more winter like. Granted, it’s not the snow-covered Shangri-La that only Bing Crosby or Idina Menzel could sing about, but this is winter, Florida-style.

Of the four seasons that visit Florida each year, each varying in intensity and heat, winter is by far my favorite. The air is much cooler, in the 70s at its mildest and sometimes as low as the 20s Fahrenheit at its coldest. It’s also much drier and less humid, which can be hell on my dry skin at times, and a big reason why Florida itself is generally snowless. I love being able to wear my sweaters and other hand knit items out in the cold weather, but I am also crazy enough to wear flip flops in 40 degree weather! Most Floridians get their sweaters and hoodies out once the temperature dips into the 50s, but I think that’s because our blood is so acclimated to warm weather that when the temperature dips that low, it’s hard to handle. It is demonstrated quite effectively in this cartoon shared by the Facebook feed, “More Florida Memes” that appears to have originally appeared in the Palm Beach Daily News:

Source: Facebook / More Florida Memes

We’ve had a couple of cold blasts here since the beginning of the season, but the one we’re about to get this weekend will be the strongest one yet. The last couple of days have seen a stationary front sit right over Central Florida, while the low pressure system to the north of it has been dumping snow on my best friend’s home up in Georgia. Yesterday, my house was in the cold side of the stationary front, with us staying in the 60s while Orlando was in the 70s. The clouds yesterday hung so low that the two broadcast towers that are visible from either side of my house could not be seen, with a misty rain falling for much of the day. Today, that front lifted a bit to the north, which put us on the warm side, with fewer clouds and a high temperature of about 81.

Tomorrow will be an unusual day when that front comes through because it will mean that we reach our day’s high temperature in the morning: a projected high of 62 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperatures will drop into the 50s during the day, and then will plunge into the upper 30s on Saturday night. Sunday may be just as cold, and we may not get back into the 70s all week.

I can just imagine all the blankets Floridians will wrap themselves in, the heaters that will inevitably be turning on, and all the hot beverages we will be brewing. This will not be a winter wonderland or a White Christmas, but it will be the first taste of winter as we Floridians know it.

I leave you with this Golden Girls classic moment. While not specifically a winter song, it does mention winter in the lyrics, and part of me wishes this would be a rally song for my Miami Dolphins. Anyways, this is “Miami, You’ve Got Style”.

Until next time!