Monday, December 29, 2014

Merry Moments

We are now entering the time of year that my husband calls Susie's post-Christmas denial. It's still December, and I'm still celebrating. I need to wean myself slowly off Christmastime, or the withdrawal symptoms are just too severe. I love everything about this time of year--the traditions, the hustle and bustle of shoppers in crowded stores, and all of the festivity that abounds. This year, our holiday was filled with great people, fantastic food, and beautiful decorations. It was merry, that's for sure.

I had the chance to interact with some truly fascinating folks during the Christmas season. Two standouts for me, other than my wonderful group of friends and family, deserve to be mentioned on the blog. First, there was the pretentious lady in the nail salon who enthralled me (eye roll) with her life story, capped off with a gem of an anecdote about the nude sculpture in her foyer--a woman doing a split on top of a large gold sphere. And I quote, "Her vajayjay tells you hello, and her a-- tells you goodbye. Isn't that just fantastic?" You can't make up stuff like that folks. Although it might inspire you to add to your art collection. Titillating talker #2 would have to be the near stranger who told me all about her dream of spending $7,000 a night "glamping" at the Coachella music festival. Sorry, hon: I like indoor plumbing and 80s music, so all of that was lost on me. Maybe you didn't see the word yuppie monogrammed on my forehead, but it's there. In interlocking script, of course.

You may already know at this point that food is also a big part of why I love this season. It would take me a week to describe all of the deliciousness I've managed to devour over Christmas, so let me just tell you some of the highlights I scarfed down just in the four day visit to my parents' house, including but not limited to: Paula Deen's french toast casserole, chicken and dumplings at Cracker Barrel, homemade macaroni and cheese, German chocolate cake, Junior's cheesecake shipped all the way from its home in New York, turkey and dressing, and even a well-timed lunch at Brother Johns subs in my hometown, right before they closed on Christmas Eve day. We had sausage balls and a cheese ring, Christmas cookies and hot spiced tea, peppermint bark and pecan pie; everyone was happy except the seams on my pants. This year, I managed to eat so much that I spent two days worried that I had given myself gout. It turned out to be a bone bruise on my foot (whew!), so luckily, I could keep right on snacking. We're still working on the leftovers, because it would be a shame to let all those goodies go to waste. You gotta do what you gotta do.

Let's spend some much-deserved time talking about the lights and decorations. I think that once I show you the way my mother decorates for Christmas you will understand why I grew up loving this time of year so much. Ebenezer Scrooge would get giddy pulling into the driveway at Susan's abode. Here are a few pictures of this year's decor:

This year's theme included vintage blow-mold Santas and silver tinsel trees.

Here's a closer picture of the front door, in all its glowing glory.

You know your decorations are on par when they include life-size Santas.

Even the mailbox is decorated to the hilt.

This is the tree in the living room, most importantly, where my presents were stored.

The snowman tree kept us company during breakfasts (okay, and a few snacks) at the kitchen table.

My mom said when she saw this sign, she knew it was made for our family. There's a lot of truth there.

Oh, did you not have a snowman bathing in your tub? We certainly did.

This silver gilded tree was waiting for me in my bedroom. 

We had a grand total of seven Christmas trees. Here is the one in the game room, ready to play.

Maybe these pictures will give you an inkling of how my love affair with Christmas came to be; you can plainly see I was raised with tinsel in my veins. The only thing missing was a real live Santa Claus and maybe a reindeer...which we added on Christmas Eve:

Santa knew that we'd been so good this year, he didn't even wait until we were sleeping to stop in.

Naturally, the Toccoa Santa has a pickup truck sled. That reindeer is four-wheel drive, Bo.

All of the decorations set the scene for a fantastic Christmas. My family was blessed with a mountain of gifts, good health, and plenty of laughter (aided in part by hours of our favorite Christmas movies, like Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, and Holiday Inn). We were talking about the ABC show "Great Christmas Light Fight," when my parents told us about a house not far away that had been featured last year. Naturally, we had to go check it out, and believe me when I tell you it did not disappoint.

The Goff family Christmas lights display in Canon, Georgia.
Dad, Mom, and I getting in the spirit at the Goff's.
You know I"m not usually one for inflatables, but how do you not like a hot tubbing Santa Claus?

I think the light display was a great way to sum up our holiday: merry, bright, and abundant. And until January rears its ugly, resolution-clad head, I'm going to stay that way. It's still Christmas at our house, at least for a few more precious days. Now, pass me the Christmas cookies and keep your mitts off my decorations. Oh what fun it STILL is!

*Update: I almost forgot to share with you, dear readers, one of my favorite gifts I received this year. Allow me to present what all the fashionable folks will be wearing in the coming year--a For Whom the Belle Tolls tshirt! (Bonus feature: the back reads, "Give 'em Belle!")

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

There's Some Crazy in the Christmas Carols

I admit that I am crazy for Christmas. I'm yahoo for yuletide. Over the years, I have amassed an embarrassingly large collection of Christmas CDs--so many that my adoring husband has now banned me from purchasing even one more disc of carols. While I love almost all of them, I have to admit there are some downright strange lyrics to more than a handful of these songs. Some of these are just in-your-face absurd: "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" is basically a song about the merriment of vehicular manslaughter, and let's not forget the ridiculousness of  "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" (Oh, you do, princess? Well, too bad, because the health department says no. Now, go play with the American Girl doll your mom had to kill and maim to get for you).

But I've noticed some oddities in other songs that you might not have given much thought; these little ditties are pretty well-known songs, and yet, when I really stop and think about what it is we are singing, I scratch my head. Here are just a few of the songs (and their lyrics) that I find seriously questionable:

All I Want for Christmas:

I just want you for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
All I want for Christmas is you
You baby.

Just to (further) prove what a horrendous actor Mariah Carey really is, I don't believe for one second that all Mimi wants for Christmas is me, er, you, er, whoever she's singing into her bedazzled, 24-karat gold microphone about. This is coming from a woman who bathes in champagne and uses cashmere washcloths, before spritzing herself with eau de angel tears and flossing her teeth with diamond tennis bracelets (or whatever it is extravagantly rich people do in their spare time). I would be more inclined to believe her crooning if she were singing to a giant stack of gold bars. Still, according to the former Mrs. Nick Cannon, she doesn't need snow, mistletoe, reindeer, or presents. All she wants for Christmas is you--and probably  a new car, a fur coat, and a few dozen servants catering to her every whim. But that's just way harder to rhyme.

We Need A Little Christmas:

Haul out the holly
Put up the tree before my spirit falls again
Fill up the stocking
I may be rushing things, but deck the halls again now

For I've grown a little leaner, grown a little colder
Grown a little sadder, grown a little older
And I need a little angel sitting on my shoulder
I need a little Christmas now

The holidays can bring out the crazy in the best of us, but clearly, this is a disturbed, mood-swinging person singing this song and barking out the decorating orders. Hurry and get that tree up, and don't forget to hang the Prozac garland! Put the angel on top before my other personality loses interest! We've gotta celebrate before mama's medication wears off. Don't get your tinsel in a tangle, fruitcake. It'll get decorated when it gets decorated, so let's hope your meds are time-released. Now, be sure to leave some Xanax and milk for Santa because it's going to be a long holiday season.

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus:

I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus
Underneath the mistletoe last night.
She didn't see me creep
Down the stairs to peep;
She thought that I was tucked up
In my bedroom fast asleep.

Then I saw mommy tickle Santa Claus
Underneath his beard so snowy white;
Oh, what a laugh it would have been
If Daddy had only seen
Mommy kissing Santa Claus last night
Mommy kissing Santa Claus last night . . .
Last night

I'm sorry, did you say what a laugh it would have been? For your dad to catch your mom stepping out on him, under his own roof, with a fat man in a bright red suit? I don't know what kind of crazy swingers you have for parents, kid, but in most houses, that would not have caused much of a giggle. And exactly how long did you watch Mommy and Santa's little escapade? Because that's called voyeurism, and it'll get you slapped with the nickname Peeping Tom pretty quick, too, buddy. Unless domestic disputes tickle your funny bone, maybe you want to just keep quiet about Mommy's indiscretions. At least until Santa brings Mommy and Daddy an "open marriage" and leaves it under the tree. Or stuffs their stockings with counseling sessions.

This is how I picture the Christmas shoes. Not exactly "to die for."

The Christmas Shoes:

Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my mama, please
It's Christmas eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, daddy says there's not much time
You see she's been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful, if mama meets Jesus tonight

In my book, this is hands down the worst of all Christmas songs. I can be the first to admit that a good pair of shoes can work wonders, but this kid's mom is on her death bed and he is out bumming change for a sweet pair of Keds or something. The song plainly tells you that the boy in the checkout line doesn't have enough money for the shoes he's trying to buy, so he turns to a stranger and proceeds to give him his sob story in an effort to get shoe money. The whole thing just leaves my head swimming with questions: where is the dad in this story? Didn't anyone notice this child wandering off alone in search of the perfect pair of Crocs for his mama? What kid even knows his mother's shoe size, anyway? Here we have grifting, stranger danger, and rampant materialism all wrapped up into one little tune. Maybe , just maybe, the kid's mom would rather just spend some precious last quality time with her son rather than scoring a new pair of kicks before she, well, kicks the bucket. 

Deck the halls, jingle your bells, and dash through the snow all you want. Just beware of crazy Christmas claims about folks not wanting gifts, mood disorders, yuletide adulterers, and phishing scams in the shoe department checkout line. Keep calm and carol on--Christmas is right around the corner!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

I Love a (Macy's Thanksgiving Day) Parade

As a girl who loves holidays, costumes, themes, whimsy, and anything showy and shiny, it goes without saying that I love a good parade. For me, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade is the #1 supreme granddaddy of all parades, and I love watching it on TV every year before stuffing myself into a food coma over lunch. You can't even imagine the shock and awe last year when my parents asked if Clint and I would be interested in going to New York for Thanksgiving...and watching the parade. After they peeled me off the ceiling and calmed me down from my hysterically excited state, I said that I believed I could clear my schedule and make myself available. And then I began counting down the days, and bragging to any and everyone within shouting distance.

Courtesy of an unseasonable cold front, it was snowing Wednesday night when we arrived in the Big Apple. After a dinner of towering pastrami sandwiches at Katz's Deli (you know, where Harry and Sally ate when everyone wanted to have what Sally was having), I spent most of the night checking the clock to see how much longer we had until the big day. Even my hubby was uncharacteristically excited--I have decided not to take offense that he was more excited about the parade watching than he was about our wedding day. In my defense, I did not have the advantage of giant inflatable super hero balloons the day of our nuptials thirteen years ago.

When I say we had decided to go see the parade, I want to clarify that it was never part of our plan to wind up standing outside on the street for hours, in the cold, unable to go to the bathroom for fear of losing our spot along the parade route. Instead, we booked a viewing package so that we sat inside a warm, cozy Del Frisco's steakhouse right down the street from Radio City Music Hall and enjoyed brunch and mimosas as the parade passed by our window. Have some french toast, bacon, and a Snoopy balloon right by your table, if you please. It. Was. Amazing. This is the part where I bombard you with all my pictures, so curb the jealousy and forge ahead:

The turkey kicks off the parade. Awesomeness ensues.

There goes Spiderman--close enough to touch. Or use for a photo-op.

Did I mention there was facepainting? And a DJ? And awesomeness?

Caution: parade fun may be closer than it appears.

Cheers to the Thanksgiving Day Parade! 

Dear Santa: thanks for the early present. Best day ever!

In case you couldn't tell, the experience did not disappoint. We finished off our most awesome day with a Thanksgiving turkey dinner with all the trimmings at Bobby Flay's Bar Americaine, and topped that with a holiday window decorations tour. The holiday windows in New York City are more than a big deal--Barney's actually had ice skaters performing every hour on the hour in one of their storefront windows this year. Pictures really can't do all the razzle dazzle justice, but since I am already assailing you with photos, here is a sample of what we saw at Macy's, Bergdorf Goodman, Lord & Taylor, and Bloomingdale's:

Holiday Window Displays 2014

I fell asleep that night thoroughly exhausted, completely full of delicious food, and thrilled right down to my holiday-loving core. It really doesn't get much better than that. Well, except for the fact that we still had two more days of enjoying the city and sightseeing. Friday morning, we hopped on the subway and headed to lower Manhattan. We went on a very moving tour of the 9/11 Memorial, guided by a survivor who worked in tower 2 and a retired firefighter who was a first responder that day.

The bronze mural outside Firehouse 10, which was among the first to respond on September 11, 2001.

The memorials feature 30-foot waterfalls--the tallest man made waterfalls in the United States.

After visiting the memorials, we got back to our more superficial selves and stopped at a fantastic little place in Tribeca called Kitchenette for lunch--complete with mac and cheese BLTs and three layer chocolate cake (good comfort food after a somber morning). We ogled the opulence at the Plaza hotel, did a little shopping at Dylan's Candy Bar and Bloomingdale's, and then enjoyed dinner at One If By Land, Two If By Sea, a restaurant housed in Aaron Burr's carriage house. There are tons of stories about ghosts in the restaurant, but the only thing that haunted me was trying to decide which of their desserts to enjoy.

Once I finished my cinnamon souffle at the carriage house, we headed to Radio City for the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular. It lives up to its name in every sense of the world--there are 3D effects, unbelievable costumes, a live nativity, and even snowflake DRONES, people. If you cannot be impressed by the use of drones during a live performance, I'm not sure what is left for you in this world.

We've seen the Rockettes three times, and they get better with every show.
Why yes, those are snowflake drones. Why not?

Saturday morning, we went to Junior's (home of the most amazing cheesecake on the planet) and had breakfast fit for a king before we hopped on the Real Kramer's Reality Tour. It was a 3-hour tour around the city guided by the man who inspired the character Kramer on the television show Seinfeld. Kenny Kramer regaled us with stories about Larry David, their friendship, and true events that turned into storylines on Seinfeld. He also took us to the Soup Man (aka Soup Nazi), where we fell in line, did as we were told, and managed to buy ourselves some pretty dang good soup without incident.

With the real Kramer, at the original Soup Man

I tried to get her to buy the tag for her Mercedes, but maybe Santa will bring it instead.....

Tom's diner, the restaurant in many an episode of Seinfeld over the years.

Once Kramer finished showing us his "reality," we headed for Rockefeller Center and to the Top of the Rock. It was almost sunset and the views of the city were gorgeous from 850 feet up. Naturally, they took a couple of souvenir photos for us:

My mom liked the posed shot of all of us...
But I thought this one really captured who we are as a family best.

We made a quick stop at Magnolia Bakery and picked up a little sustenance to take back to the hotel, then headed back towards Times Square to get ready for dinner. We feasted on a great Italian meal at Basso56 (yes, the carbs just kept on coming), and made it to our seats at Gershwin Theater just in time to see Wicked--which, despite its name, was very, very good. The costumes, the sets, and the talent were amazing. The saddest thing about it was that it was our last night in it's a good thing we had those cupcakes waiting for us afterward as a pick-me-up.

This one is a must-see. Wicked is unbelievably good.

Like I told my parents, I'm sure that if our footprints all over the city were mapped out, it would look a lot like those old Family Circus cartoons that show Billy's steps swirling up, around, and all over the place. Central Park, Fifth Avenue, Rockefeller Center, Times Square, the Financial District, Tribeca, Greenwich Village, and Noho--we really did cover some ground. We even managed to do some Christmas shopping in Macy's at Herald Square Thanksgiving night, and also made a stop at the beautiful St. Patrick's cathedral; we rode the NY Skyride at the Empire State building, and did I mention the M&Ms store, or checking out the Swatch watch boutique?

Whew! I'm almost tired of bragging about what a fantastic trip it was, so I'll just leave you with one more thing: my Thanksgiving was better than yours. How's that for talking turkey?