Oprah Winfrey I am not. So don’t get your hopes up that halfway through this post you’re going to read the words, “Everybody gets a new car!” because that is not going to happen. Sorry to disappoint.
However, this time of year gets me excited for all of my favorite aspects of the holiday season, so I thought I’d share some of them with you.
Provided you don’t work retail, I think holiday music is one of the best ways to get into the spirit of things. While I will always have a soft spot for Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” (because it’s awesome!), my tastes generally run to the more traditional. My all-time favorite albums are:
Christmas with Julie Andrews – No one can sing “Joy to the World” like Julie. No one. There are updated versions of this album which don’t include Joy to the World, and they just aren’t as good. But you can get the original album on iTunes and you won’t regret hunting around for it.
We Wish You a Merry Christmas by the Boston Pops – This originally aired as a television special in the ‘80s and we recorded it and watched it on VHS every year. John Williams breathes new life into some of the most traditional Christmas songs. And the Alfred Burt medley about halfway through contains my favorite Christmas music of all time. If you can listen to it without singing “O Hearken Ye” for the rest of the day then you’re stronger than I am.
For Unto You by Stephen Marq – Several years ago I was flying through Minneapolis in December and Stephen Marq was playing in the gallery of shops and selling CDs. It was one of the best $20 I’ve ever spent. His stunning piano interpretations give me goose bumps.
Williams-Sonoma’s Peppermint Bark – delicious and addictive.
My Aunt B’s Peanut Brittle – no link for this one, but I’m sure you can find somebody else’s version.
Cinnamon Hot Cocoa – I have a friend who thinks cinnamon is overrated. I think he’s wrong. Cinnamon is delicious and this recipe (slightly adapted from an old Cook’s Illustrated) proves it.
Whisk together in a medium saucepan over low heat 1 cup water, 6 level tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, 4 heaping tablespoons sugar. Slowly bring to a simmer, stirring frequently. Add 3 cups lowfat milk, increase heat to medium low and heat until steaming, but do not allow to boil. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and ¼ cup half and half. Take a sip and immediately faint from the wonder that is cinnamon hot cocoa.
Candy Canes – This is IEP’s addition. We gave him his first one at the Christmas tree lot last weekend and he polished it off in about 10 minutes. He requested that I include it on this list.
Elf – I love Will Ferrell. I especially love Will Ferrell as an oblivious and overgrown man in tights. And Zooey Deschanel manages to be deadpan and dreamy at the same time.
A Charlie Brown Christmas – I have such a soft spot for Charlie’s sad little tree. I haven’t seen the entire thing in years, but each year I manage to catch a few minutes of a television broadcast here and there.
Nativity Scenes – We have two this year. The first set my Aunt B (of peanut brittle fame) gave to GAP and me the first Christmas we were married. It was designed by Jim Shore and I love the bright colors and patchwork feel. The second set was given to IEP by my mother-in-law. It’s Fisher Price and completely toddler proof. Most people put the angel on top of the stable. But IEP is a nonconformist and believes that the camel deserves the place of honor.
Garland – I dream of the day when I will live in a house with a large staircase with a wooden banister. I will wrap it in garland every year. In the meantime, though, I satisfy my garland addiction by framing our front door in intertwined garland and twinkle lights. It’s a beautiful sight to see as I get home from work each evening.
However you celebrate the holidays, I hope you have a wonderful season. And please let me know if my lists above have any gaping holes. I’m always eager to learn about holiday perks that I might be missing.