Tag: Christmas

A Little Night, Christmas Music

“I should be sorry if I only entertained them, I wish to make them better.”
– attr. George Frederic Handel, on being complimented for Messiah

Holidays for me are entirely bound up in my family’s traditions. What we eat, when we decorate, even how the decor looks is deeply meaningful to me. It’s also an at-home holiday for us, we hang out together (friends are very welcome if not required!) but we’d rather stay in eating our sugar cookies, rib roast (Christmas Eve meal) or special baked french toast breakfast (Christmas morning). One year we varied it up and went skiing in the Tirol of Austria, which was a great holiday, but the consensus of all the family afterwards that even though it was amazing, it hadn’t felt at all like Christmas.

Jeff’s family has their own traditions as well, and it’s been really fun getting learn and incorporate a new set of them – particularly breakfast at a particularly wonderful diner and getting to enjoy the excitement of nieces and nephews of Christmas morning.

For the four years we’ve been married we’ve been able to alternate Thanksgiving and Christmas with either family and it’s been a great compromise but this year…well, Thanksgiving turned out a bit unexpected. And as for Christmas, the Atlantic Ocean is not small and plane fare beyond us currently, plus we really like being in London! So Jeff and I have had a few discussions about the new phase we’re finding ourselves in about having to rely on ourselves to either perpetuate the traditions we want to keep and forge new ones for ourselves. We’re going to have to tweak this a bit over the next few years. I have to admit, it always feels slightly less Christmas-y without my parents, siblings, and friends around to spend hours playing games with, dinner at the big table, and lots of time and good conversation.

But as for building new traditions for just the two of us, I wouldn’t mind an annual repeat of Saturday night! Feeling just a bit detached from Christmas this year, in spite of the gorgeousness of London in full holiday splendor, I booked us a couple of tickets for a performance of Handel’s Messiah at St. Martin-in-the-Fields church, which makes up a part of Trafalgar Square.

Handel. By candlelight. No way we were passing it up.
Handel. By candlelight. No way we were passing it up.

St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields is an old church, it’s been around for nearly a thousand years, even though the present incarnation has only been around since the early 18th century when the building was discovered to be in desperation need of renovation. Plenty of significant people are buried there, and it actually serves as the parish church for the Royal Family, and Downing Street.

Supreme Head and all that.
Supreme Head and all that.

It’s still very much in operation as a church, but in recent years it has cultivated a role for itself as a major hub of classical music support as well. It puts on regular concerts and performances throughout the year, including some free ones meant to be taken in during a lunch break or afternoon out and about.

The justifiably famous organ.
The justifiably famous organ.

Jeff and I got dressed up and bundled against the wet and cold and took in an evening of the entire Messiah by candlelight.

We had a beautiful view of the organ, lectern, and even the conductor and soloists from a side box pew.
We had a beautiful view of the organ, lectern, and even the conductor and soloists from a side box pew.

The setting was lovely (garlands and candles everywhere), the music was beautiful, and I for one came away feeling much more seasonal. Sometimes you just need to hear something unabashedly Baroque! It was a lovely way to gear myself up for this week – when we shall be attempting the formidable Rodgers family feast with just two people in the kitchen instead of the typical six minimum. Because new traditions are important, but some old ones are vital.

Friday Links (Wassail Edition)

“When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness.”
― Bob Hope

The weekend is upon us, kittens, the last before Christmas. Though I have to admit the weather is throwing most of us for a loop! It’s been chilly but bright and clear for days now. On Wednesday, Katie and I met up at Borough Market before wandering along the Thames and past the Tower in alarming perfect sunshine for this time of year. British weather, minions, contrary to the end!

Today I’m finishing up as many projects as possible so that I can take the vast majority of next week off to enjoy Christmas in London with Jeff. We’re going to try and find ourselves a pair of holiday jumpers in the thrift shops, take in some carol services at local churches, attend a Christmas Service at Westminster Abbey, and whatever else occurs to us at the time. Our last chore is figuring out what to do for Christmas Eve dinner (the culinary affair of the year) and buy the goods for our two person holiday feast. I’m sure I’ll figure something out, last minute adventures are something of a specialty. Here are you links for the weekend, tell me what you’re up to!


Here’s an interesting art project. (h/t Jessica)

Buddy Caitlin Jacobs put together a short list of ideas for Christmas presents for writers that I think is pretty nifty.

I like Fair Isle sweater patterns, but they’re turning up on leggings everywhere this winter. And I…don’t hate them? What? Here are some cute, cheap ones if you are so inclined.

This exists and it pleases me immensely! (h/t Mel Thoughts)

Hm, what do we think of this? I’m genuinely curious. State your opinion from, “Fun and useful” to “That way lies Anthony Weiner.”

Would like very much.

More emphatically, WANT. Covet. Lust after.

Posh, about to spawn, and have no idea what to name your bundle of joy? Town and Country Magazine is here to help.

Um, we seem to have misplaced something

How intriguing and gorgeous do these photography books look?

Finally, I finished my 101 in 1001 list and find it nicely ambitious! Have you read up on this idea? I think it’s a great idea…but then again, I like lists.

Well Done, John Lewis

“I discovered windows one afternoon and after that, nothing was ever the same.”
― Anne Spollen, The Shape of Water

Lavish department store window displays go back for over a century, but in London during the holidays many stores try hard to outdo each other in creative ideas and design. The more out of the box, the better. There are a lot of great displays, I need to do a post dedicated to them collectively, but my favorite this year is undoubtedly the window at John Lewis.

Initially the display looked pretty basic, just woodland animals. But come closer…

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A stag made of vacuum parts!


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A bunny of brushes!


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A squirrel of cups and cutlery!


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A bird of scissors!


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Foxes of dusters.


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A badger of lighting.


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A bear of basketry.

I can’t imagine how labor intensive these must have been. But I think the results are utterly charming!

Happy Christmas!

Time for another true I’m-not-really-an-adult-at-all-inside confession.  One of my favorite descriptions of Christmas comes from The Muppet Christmas Carol: “It is the summer of the soul in December.”

And so it is!  The collective decision that right around the darkest, longest night of the year, when most of the vegetation is dead, most places are colder, and supplies are running low, is the perfect time to celebrate belief/hope, kith and kin, and all the good things is one of the great cultural triumphs of mankind.  Or so I think.

Hope you and yours have a whole lot of comfort and joy this holiday season, whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, New Year, or just a couple of days off here and there!


Friday Links XLVI (Yep, stil alive)

Christmas is for children. But it is for grownups too. Even if it is a headache, a chore, and nightmare, it is a period of necessary defrosting of chill and hide-bound hearts.
– Lenora Mattingly Weber, Extension

You guys do know I continue on the back, right?  No?  Oops...
You guys do know I continue on the back, right? No? Oops…

The world didn’t end, the zombies didn’t rise, and nothing came through any portal.  Alas!  We’re just getting through the last couple of hours before the Christmas holiday officially kicks of.  I have girl dates with Venice and Angel (both visiting from out of town) this weekend and then we spend Monday and Tuesday being cheerfully bossed about by nieces and nephews – as the sole purpose for our existence is to amuse them, and we know it!  What are your Christmas plans, my pumpkins?

Who did the paperwork on this?!

What do you think of this list, anything important missed?  (I’m trying to streamline my life here, with a move coming up.)


This Pintrest board is fantastic!

This tumblr is equal in fantastic-ness.

Holiday party dresses are clearly on my mind.  This one is honestly more my style, but this one is calling to my inner flapper with it’s sparkly siren song…

On the flight to my parents house I read a fabulous article in the airline’s magazine (an underrated publication, I feel) that I had to share!  …Classic me, I wrote down the title and promptly lost it.  But thanks to the magic of the internets, voila.  Tell me what you think I really enjoyed the piece (I also want to befriend her so I can go to her summer luncheons).

Last minute gift that also does good?  Have no fear.

Anyone else think the price tag is, shall we say, a bit much?

So, moment of shameless bragging.  The other week someone said that J. looked like a mix between Jonathan Rhys Meyer and Benedict Cumberbatch.  You can imagine the smugness – coupled with feeling suddenly okay with having children someday as those are some genes that clearly need to be passed on.  I also have a friend (Scarlett) who is an absolute dead wringer for Alessandra Ambrosia, go figure.  These  are also pretty impressive.

This is very interesting to me, and I’m curious as to your thoughts, minions.  There seems to be, in some spheres, a bit of a backlash against the omnipresence of media and instant availability, particularly with social media.  I know a lot of people who are dialing back their online profiles and involvement, many report feeling happier and having a great deal more time on their hands.  Do you guys think this is a broader trend? Good or bad?  Let me know what you think!

The weekly sheep, courtesy of the other blog.

Fantasy Shopping Continues

“When women are depressed, they eat or go shopping.  Men invade another country.  It’s a whole different way of thinking.”
~Elayne Boosler

Shopping for men is rough, kittens, and believe me, I know.  Most of my friends growing up were boys, my major was mostly made up of men, I preferred hanging out with J.’s roommates to my own when we were dating, the list goes on.  I have two brothers and one sister, two godbrothers and one godsister, three brothers-in-law and two sisters-in-law (not counting respective spouses)… the girls are outnumbered.  But that’s okay, because most of the ladies I know are pretty lucky in their male chums, significant others, and family members, so we should dig in and get them cool (fake) presents anyway.  Any to add to the list?

For your all American brother-in-law who spends the summer either on the green or at the grill.
For the guy friend who almost blew a snyapse when he found out they were making a new Muppets movie.
For your British mystery loving in-law.
For the guy you met in your major who now teaches English in Korea, even though he studied Medieval French Literature, and is an unrepentant nerd.
For your nephews who have never seen it - shame!
For you guy pal who thinks he's Don Draper, and who you care about too much to disillusion.
For you friend who just got his first Real Job and needs to dress the part.
For the slightly wacky but nice gun enthusiast neighbor of your parents.

Fantasy Shopping

“A Christmas shopper’s complaint is one of long-standing.”
– Anonymous

This post shamelessly inspired by Janssen’s fab one on present giving – though not quite as impressively frugal.  I’m in the midst of Christmas shopping and nearly done with it, but still very much in the mood.  Let’s do some fantasy shopping, ducklings, and pretend that none of us are paying off our husband’s student loans, prepping for a baby, a bit cash strapped this year, putting a wedding together, or just generally Scroogey, and spend fake money together.  Ladies first, just click to be linked for more info on what I’d buy you all if I could.

Note to friends and family, ha!  As if I’d post your prezzies all over the internet, nice try.  Move along and stop trying to peek into the proverbial parents’ closet to figure out what you’re getting, just trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

For your stylish best friend who organizes her bookshelves by color - because they look better that way.
For the Francophile, cheese addicted couple.
For the globetrotting best friend who still prefers handwritten letters to emails.
For the best friend who manages to look chic in sunglasses nearly as large as her face.
For the Jane Austen addict best friend.
For the best friend who can say she's a writer, and not mean it wistfully.
For the girlfriend whose extended family won't stop asking her when she's going to spawn.
For you Potterhead/valedictorian friend.
For your East Coast relations.
For your history nerd friend.
For fellow London cronies currently marooned stateside (and other items for the friend who can literally wear anything and get away with it).
For the nail polish addict.

What random things have you come across that instantly put a specific person into your head when shopping?

Food Coma

Vegetables are a must on a diet.  I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.
~Jim Davis

Hello, darlings.  All alive out there, no major holiday-induced injuries?  Good.  We spent this holiday with J.’s family.  Wrestling with nephews, performing in a small Christmas concert organized by nieces, and eating!

Honestly, I can’t remember eating so much anytime in recent memory.  I struggle with eating enough, I just don’t get hungry very often – much to the confusion of my husband who marvels that I can survive on a diet that’s a fraction of his.  Small amounts of food fill a small body up…usually.

No more pie! Just leave me!

I went completely overboard this weekend!  Cinnamon Pecan French Toast, ham and piles of western potatoes (meaning slathered in sour cream, cheese, and onions), my culinary genius sister-in-law’s baked ziti, and not nearly enough salad.  To say nothing of the goodies that came in stockings.  And the candy scattered all over three houses.  Oh dear.

Which, as you may have guessed, means that the obligatory New Year’s diet starts a bit sooner this year.  The combined forces of Birth Control, laziness, and the all-consuming desire I have to hibernate in winter have turned my physique inside out and that ends today!