Monthly Archives: December 2012

Christmas movies and such

It’s that time of year to dust off, haul out, DVR, On Demand, Netflix, scour HBO–however you find them–bring on your favorite “get you in the spirit” Christmas movies. I have some perennial favorites.  Some I watch over the next few weeks, at least once if not twice, and a few are sacrosanct for  Christmas Eve.

One of my Christmas not-to-miss is The Family Man.  It’s Nicholas Cage at his best.  Not raging though a burning building with a handgun or jumping off a cliff to the top of a rail car but a kinder, gentler, more likable Cage. Maybe it’s playing off one of my top ten favorite actresses Tea Leoni that softens his edges or his angel incarnate Don Cheadle  who I love in anything, but especially in this. The kids are adorable, Chicago born Jeremy Piven is spot on.  It’s great.

Also, love The Holiday.  Cameron Diaz who can get on your nerves in other movies does not in this one.  She’s worth a watch just to see her clothes.  Jude Law is Cary Grant gorgeous, complete with the thick, black glasses.  I learned after about a dozen viewings they told him to study Grant and emulate his mojo.  Even knowing that , it doesn’t bother me at all. He woos me as well as Grant did in An Affair to Remember.

Which brings to to another holiday must flick.  An Affair to Remember is 1950’s Hollywood subtle verbal sexual innuendo and on-set ocean backdrops at its best.  Deborah Kerr’s accent and demeanour is mesmerizing. As is Cary Grant’s, but his always is.

I don’t know why Dyan (born Dianne) Cannon had to go and talk trash about him posthumously.  He is probably my all time favorite male actor.  I don’t care what drugs he took or who he preferred beside him in bed, he thrills me. On a very base level just by walking into a room. Which he does at the end this movie with such aplomb that I am brought to tears each time.  His desperation.  His recognition at that moment is palpable. Maybe Dyan/Dianne was just jealous he didn’t have a bad facelift like she did and starve himself into adolescent jeans to stay attractive, as she did.  He just had it naturally until his 80 plus deathbed.

His other Christmas favorite, The Bishop’s Wife, is a classic.  Much more Christmassy and idealistic and very Hollywood of the time.  David Niven is at his perfect mustached height and Loretta Young says it all with her eyes. It’s sweet. Gets you in the spirit. And you’ll want to do good, at least until the next morning after watching it.

Anything with Cary Grant just makes me want to button my middle button and say things like, “Dahhling” and “We musn’t.” God, he slays me…

Hugh Grant, no relation to Cary, could not be more Hugh Grant than in Love Actually.  A bittersweet tangle of love tales set in England.  Still a feel good movie.

Oh, I could go on and on and we all have our favorites. Love Family Stone. Love Dianne Keaton in anything. Who can resist Will Ferrell in Elf ? Natalie Wood in Miracle on 34th Street?

But my last two, my Chrismas Eve essentials are (drum roll): White Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life.  

White Christmas was actually the first VHS movie I purchased when we bought our first VCR. It was probably mid-July and my son was about eight or ten. I loved the movie and he loved the war scenes and he can still do a pretty good harmony on “Snow, Snow, Snow,” complete with train clickety clack and white napkins.  And no one can beat my sister and me on “Sisters.” Blue fans waving,  I go back and forth between Rosemary Clooney’s red lips or Bing Crosby’s rendition with sock suspenders.  It’s all good.  It’s perfect .  It makes you laugh and you will for sure cry when the men rise and say, “Atten-hut!” for the General.

And nothing really needs to be said for It’s a Wonderful Life other than Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed prove over and over that it is. “Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends.”

So dig in, amp it up, stay up and watch them all.  I promise they will all inspire and none of them will do a thousandth as much for your spirit on Dec. 26th or July 4th. It’s a once a year indulgence and be sure to indulge.

There is always something new in each of them I have missed before.  It wasn’t until last year I realized Bert and Ernie got their names from the cab drivers in It’s a Wonderful Life.

Ok, so I was changing diapers during Sesame Street and the early days of It’s a Wondeful Life. Or sleep deprived or both…

But not now.  I hear Danny Kaye tapping his grey suede shoes and the conductor announcing we’re comin’ into Pine Tree. Gotta run!


Santa Claus and Jesus

So Last Christmas , being a new Ya Ya and all, after much searching , pleading, money changing and bended-knee begging, I found a real live Santa to come to our house on Christmas Eve to surprise my grandson, Charlie, then a year and half old.  We have an annual party each Christmas Eve for a few friends and relatives which started out as a one time deal and has become a sacred tradition in our family.

Anyway, I thought this Santa appearance was going to be a  brilliant idea and spent all of Christmas Eve day anticipating the glory of his arrival. I didn’t tell my daughter or her husband or the rest of the family, thinking the fewer who know, the the more joyous and  authentic his appearance would be. He dressed in the garage using a hand mirror propped on a stool that I had carefully hidden from view. He strolled the yard with his big black boots and bowl full of jelly belly and waited patiently until his appointed entrance time.

As the clock stuck six, he came “Ho Ho Ho-ing” through the door to no one. Zippo, zappo.  Not a soul. I was frantically heating appetizers in the kitchen, my husband was setting up the bar and my son in law was pushing match books under the legs of said bar table, as it was wobbling uncontrollably under the weight of the 5 gallon Grey Goose and Jim Beam bottles my husband insisted on purchasing for the event at Cosco.

My daughter was upstairs readying my grandson for his first real Christmas party and unfortunately when the big red furry guy arrived, Charlie was still in the bathtub.

So I offered Santa some eggnog and kibble for his deer and seated him on the living room couch where he waited patiently for precious grandson number one to come downstairs.

Now I am sure you are all chuckling before I deliver the punch line. Of course Charlie was petrified of this huge stranger with the big white beard and floppy red hat and cried historically, hugging his mother’s shoulder and begging him to go away.  But YaYa prevailed to elicit at least a tiny high five exchange between the two of them and an almost sit on Santa’s lap, albeit, thirty seconds with daddy holding Charlie mid-air in a quasi-seated position.

So this year, we are talking up this Santa guy earlier.  Showing Charlie pictures.  We took him to a distance viewing last weekend at our local village green. We’re reading Santa Christmas books.  Explaining where he lives and how he makes a living making toys for little children.

So last night we were driving home from a family outing to buy our Christmas tree.  Charlie was sitting in his car seat recapping the event. He was talking about the outdoor fire, the cider, the buzz saw he was more afraid of than last year’s Santa. And then there was a pause in the conversation and he asked where Santa lives and his mom said quickly, “Oh, in the sky.”  And Ya Ya quickly corrected mommy saying, “No, that is Jesus who lives in heaven, Santa lives at the North Pole.”  To which my son-in-law mumbled under his breath something like, “We get those imaginary people mixed up.”

Oh, man, do I have my work cut out for me, educating my grandsons about Santa and Jesus. If I leave it up to their parents, they’ll think Santa has  twelve disciples and Jesus had his last supper with a bunch of elves.

Does the generation behind me think all the religion and tradition and bigger than ourselves stuff I tried to impart to them in their upbringing–weekly Sunday school and confirmation–was all a bunch of bunk?!

Let’s see.  It took a week  and a couple hundred bucks to find Santa last year, so if I start now building the manger, put a “No Vacancy” sign on my Inn and truck in a few sheep and a donkey, maybe, just maybe…


Blueberry Christmas

As we start a new month, a new season; a hectic busy crazy overwhelming emotion-filled family time of year, I thought of this picture I keep on my microwave.











And I decided perhaps this Christmas season I will have a new mantra, “blueberry cobbler.”  The day my grandson got his first taste of that gooey, juicy, crunchy sugary delight, he dug in with both hands and only came up for air to scream,”More, daddy, more!”

The lesson here is obvious so I’ll try not to become too moralizing and didactic.  I think the picture speaks for itself. (But I am incapable of letting it do all the talking.) We as adults forget, or have lost the ability, to dig in and embrace our perfect moments as they come. Unexpected, unassuming,  they are often sitting right in our lap as we drive onward to the next thing on our list, answering the cell call and text that are coming in simultaneously as the light turns green.

So I don’t know about you, but I am going to attempt a Blueberry Cobbler Christmas. Focusing on the joy in the moments, even if the presents aren’t under the tree and even if the tree is still in the garage in a bucket.

It really is what it’s all about, isn’t it? I’m goin’ for it and hope you’ll come along.

And if I weaken, which I invariably do on most resolutions, clear the aisle for me as I scour the grocery shelves for cranberry sauce on Christmas Eve or hunt for that last roll of red anything in the wrapping paper section of the Container Store.

Or better still, grab me by the shoulders and say, “blueberry cobbler.” And I’ll give you a big sticky, purple- faced hug.

Sale shopping with my daughters










Often on holidays or during vacations, my daughters and I go shopping for clothes together.  Usually we are on a mission to hunt and kill (in a manly fashion) a particular item for one of us to wear for a special event and the rest of us tag along as the peanut gallery of brutally honest opinions and critique. Other times, we are drawn to a 40% off/ take an extra 30% at check out event and we are in the stores for nothing but a great piece at an even better price.  The flaw in this mission, which is why we take this sort of sale on as a team, is that a person is often sucked in by the price and justifies the color or fit because it is so cheap.  A bargain.

My feeling about this sort of purchase, and what I have tried to teach my daughters, is that if it didn’t appeal to you or look good on you at full retail, only the price tag looks better at half price.

We have a pretty good system for our search and rescue mission, rescuing  that one little size 4 red silk tank everyone overlooked at full price and is now hidden in the 14’s.  People who sale shop have notoriously bad manners about returning items to their appropriate size section.

Note: If you like something, look for it is all the size stalls.  There are hidden gems lurking all along the racks.  I swear people stuff a favorite size 6 pant in the 16’s to hide them for later if they get distracted by Tori Burch flats or Kate Spade clutches and plan to return.

But we are on to them.  So our first job when we arrive at a sale is to divide and conquer, sweep all the sizes by designers we like separately, grab as much as we can hang over both arms without dislocating a scapula, and pick stuff we think any of us would like or look good in.

We then get three dressing rooms in a row, and dig in. The next few minutes are a flurry of blouses, pants, skirts, dresses; flying over and under dressing room doors as one of us tries something on and thinks it’s better for someone else or wants to get another to think outside their clothing box. Unanimous losers are tossed over the dressing room door, our signal to the sales clerk that the door slung clothes can go back to the racks for Brittany Spears or Christina Aguillera to buy in two sizes too small.

After about ten minutes of clanging hangers and elbows hitting mirrors or toes caught on corner stools, as most dressing rooms are the size of a child’s toy closet,  we start our show and tell in front of a central three way mirror that is usually somewhere within barefoot walking distance from the dressing rooms.

That is where the real fun begins.  We all know that what looked good to us in the safety of our own room becomes a size too small and even changes color when we emerge for feedback from each other. Phrases like, “Well, hello, Grandma!” or “Where are you going in that–traffic court?” start flying out of our mouths and we each swallow our pride and slink back into our stalls for another round.

My favorite exchange this last outing was  my younger, single daughter stepping out of her dressing  room resembling a lost Olsen twin and me asking her why she has to buy everything two sizes too big.  To this, my older, married daughter replied, “Oh, she just wants to look like she slept over at her boyfriend’s and threw on just any old thing from his closet to walk home in.” Turning to grab another hanger,  my baby girl said, “Exactly.” And pulled another size extra large turtle neck over her head.

Now this all might sound a little daunting but to tell you the truth, it’s one of my favorite things to do. I love being with my daughters.  Love the sounds of their groans or chuckles if something doesn’t even make the cut for committee vote.  And we always end up with things we really like  if  they win the prize for final check out.

I know I have a real keeper when I hear, “There you go, Meg Ryan, looks like everything else in your closet.”

Does it get any better than her cardigans and clunky oxfords in You’ve Got Mail?!