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A Few of My Favorite Things

December 28, 2019

Who doesn’t like raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens? In early December I started off the holiday season playing carols in a string quartet at Malabar Farm, where the bouzouki player rang sleigh bells when we played “Jingle Bells.”

One of the comforts of home is a bright copper kettle in which we boil water for all the dozens of kinds of tea we drink during the holiday season. We’ve been wearing warm woolen mittens or gloves when we go out for the weekly political demonstration on the town square. Home is where we’ve been getting the brown paper packages tied up with string and packing tape, for mailing.

IMG_3510 (1) copyThese are a few of our favorite things to eat that I made or procured during the festive week when Walker’s girlfriend was still in town finishing up her finals, I was grading final papers, and Eleanor’s girlfriend came to stay with us for a few days:
–Toffee cookies
–Death chicken
–Dinosaur sugar cookies
–Spinach lasagna
–Challah, babke, brioche
–Frozen fruit salad
–Zucchini herbed rice
–Devilled eggs
–Apple-cheese-bacon pie

We’ve talked about ponies, cream-colored and otherwise. Also donkeys. And why BB8 and Salacious B. Crumb should be in the manger scene.

While none of us are especially fond of German or Austrian food like apple strudel or schnitzel with noodles, these are a few of our favorite restaurants that we’ve patronized so far this holiday season:
–Istanbul (Turkish)
–Addis (Ethiopian)
–Hunan (Chinese)
–Ichiban (Japanese fusion)
–Aab (Indian)
–Ocean Club (Seafood)

This year I didn’t see any little girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes, but I did see one in a fancy green satin dress with tulle, at a restaurant.

These are a few of our favorite holiday activities:
–Playing Telephone Pictionary, the Forehead Game, a card game called Rage, and a new game we play with a whiteboard called A Fake Artist Goes to NY
–Walking through an art exhibit with a puzzle component (Otherworld, in Columbus)
–Walking through the “Wildlights” exhibit at the Columbus Zoo on an icy winter night
–Watching a new Star Wars movie and staying up late into the night dissecting it
–Driving through a light exhibit at Alum Creek State Park that features auto-sized tunnels of light

We’ve seen wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings, over the rural fields we drive through to get to Columbus. And lots of deer.

IMG_4071 copyThis year we get to celebrate for a whole week with some of my favorite people:
–My own family
–Our friends-since-college who live nearby, and their children and relatives
–My brother and his family, when we go to Chicago to see a play

Because it’s Ohio, we’ve already had plenty of snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes and silver-white winter (with the moon on the crest of the new-fallen snow giving the luster of mid-day to objects we saw from the car as we passed through the quiet little towns full of houses with colored Christmas lights around their windows and doors on our way to Columbus to see the movie monstrosity that is CATS).

I love the musical CATS. We took our daughter to see it as one of her very first live theater performances. But the movie is just about the best advertisement for live theater I’ve ever seen, from the sniveling delivery of the signature song (“Memories,” sung by a human-faced “cat” with CGI snot running from her nose into her mouth) through the Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer song without any discernible tune, to the inexplicably horrible sight of Idris Elba naked but with fur. mangerThe best thing about the movie is that it inspired the marvelously text-bombed book that Santa put in my stocking.

This year on Christmas Eve it was foggy, and we got to sing “then one foggy Christmas Eve, Santa came to say…” as we peered through the fog on the way to our friends’ house, trying to make out the outlines of suicidal deer and spot oncoming car headlights.

Have you ever wondered why “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music has become a Christmas song? I have. An article from Billboard reveals that it was first included as a Christmas song on The Jack Jones Christmas Album, in 1964, and was then included as a holiday song on albums by the Supremes, Andy Williams, Eddie Fisher, Barbra Streisand, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, John Coltrane, Johnny Mathis, Kenny Rogers, the Carpenters, Lorrie Morgan, the Whispers, Luther Vandross, SWV, Petula Clark, Perry Como, Barry Manilow, Anita Baker, Dionne Warwick, the Brian Setzer Orchestra, Kenny G, Rod Stewart, Carole King, Chicago, Kelly Clarkson, Mary J. Blige and Tony Bennett. And then there’s the version of the song by Family Force 5, the one we first heard at the zoo Wildlights show, which makes us all shiver in horrified fascination, especially when they put an extra syllable in “schnitzel with the-noodles.”

Why do we save our favorite things for a particular time of year? I bought dark chocolate shot glasses when we were in Canada last October, for drinking ice wine in, because the salesperson gave me a sample and said “it’s like Christmas in your mouth.” I agree. Some things are too wonderful for everyday.

One of my new favorite things is the cartoon series by Nathan Pyle called Strange Planet, in which he examines Earth culture from the viewpoint of aliens. He has one about holiday food in which the aliens say “it is not the special day without the special sustenance” and remark that we celebrate with “our least consumed items in our most destroyable vessels.” I make cornbread dressing, which is too much trouble to make more than once or twice a year, and serve it in a china dish that was passed down from my grandmother. This year I also took the trouble to stir fruit juices in a double boiler and then fold in whipped cream, fruit cocktail, and pecans to make a frozen fruit salad that my mother sometimes made and that I’ve made only three times in the last 26 years.

I asked some of my friends “what are your favorite things about Christmas?” and got these replies:
–“Singing songs with friends, getting our tree from the local farm, baking.”
–“Definitely being with family/friends. But I also enjoy wrapping things, and the actual communal gift opening process (being able to watch people receive things without too much pressure on any one person).”
–“Seeing family and friends, food, decorating, making the house all pretty. Time off. Indulging a little in fun stuff.”
–“I just completed one of my favorite things–decorating the tree with ornaments gathered from 35+ years of married life.”
–“Christmas Eve: the general sense of anticipation with everything ready.”
–“Two weeks off work with both kids at home.”
–“Christmas music–the old songs are the best songs: In the Bleak Midwinter, Jeg er Sa Glad, O Come O Come Emmanuel, Angels We Have Heard on High, O Holy Night.”
–“Christmas Eve. It’s the only time of year I make Polish food because it’s so labor intensive, but so amazingly yummy. We also have the traditional American food.”
–“The lights, inside and out. They make the house cozy and comforting. And the music.”
–“Playing carols with my husband, he on guitar and me on flute.”
–“In my dad’s family there was a specific bread that was made only at Christmas and Easter, potica. I love that. And I love the lights. Lights on the tree. Light shows. Lights on houses. I think the lights are magical.”
–“Prime rib for Christmas dinner.”
–“Seeing a lit tree by the window and snow coming down outside is magical. Cookies and fudge are also magical.”
–“My choir singing a half hour of music prior to Midnight Mass. Being with family on Christmas Day and watching the children open their gifts. Keeping my decorations up as long as possible–sometimes until mid February.”
–“The music. The lesson & carols. Seeing all of the kids who are now adults, but who still come home, some of them just to sing in the choir… which is what I did lo these many years ago.”
–“I do love the lights. And the quiet of the house at Christmas. Particularly Christmas Day. We are almost always just our own family and no one has any place to go, so we eat and talk and snuggle, play games and music and do puzzles. It’s very calming following the chaos of the preceding week and I feel very connected to those around me.”

Music, groups of family and friends, lights and decorations, traditional foods:
these are a few of the ways we drive back the darkness and perform a kind of benevolent necromancy each holiday season, bringing back the melodies, recipes, ornamentation, and gatherings created through the generations of those we have loved, both real and fictional.

20 Comments leave one →
  1. December 28, 2019 7:23 am

    What a lovely way to spend time, remembering all of your favorite things! Thank you for sharing. Wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful new decade and a happy 2020!

  2. December 28, 2019 8:16 am

    Fabulous post – we should spend time doing this all year long. My favorite parts of Christmas are spending time with family and seeing all the decorations. I told Carl last night that I’m going to miss all the Christmas lights. I guess the fact that they’re only up for a short while is what makes them so special, though.

    • December 28, 2019 6:16 pm

      Yes, the ephemeral nature of Christmas lights is what makes them so special, at least to most of us (not to the person who leaves them up until February).

  3. December 28, 2019 8:18 am

    I think you’ve written the definitive holiday post here. And I want to come over to your house for some death chicken and apple-cheese-bacon pie.

    Happy New Year!

    • December 28, 2019 6:17 pm

      Anytime you make it to Ohio, I’ll make some of these foods!
      And I love the compliment, the “definitive holiday post”!

  4. lemming permalink
    December 28, 2019 10:03 am

    A P.S. to this list – we had several families come to church this Christmas Eve who I’ve not seen in quite a while. It’s fun to look at the once small kids who now tower over their parents, spot the facial hair, and occasionally even now have babies of their own.

  5. December 28, 2019 11:07 am

    A great post! It sounds like a really good Christmas season for you, I’m so glad. We had one too. Being together, the music, decorating the tree, driving around looking at lights, baking cookies with my mom and son – these are my favorite things. 🙂

    • December 28, 2019 6:19 pm

      Baking cookies as a fun activity is not familiar to anyone in my family, but we understand that the process is a favorite thing for many other people.

  6. Rohan Maitzen permalink
    December 28, 2019 2:36 pm

    Wonderful post! Although even the thought of apple-cheese-bacon pie may not be able to drive the image of “Idris Elba naked but with fur” from my mind — although every part of that mental picture is just fine until the last three words.

  7. Phyllis permalink
    December 28, 2019 5:34 pm

    Anything that can ruin Idris Elba naked should not be encouraged.

  8. December 28, 2019 6:21 pm

    I love Strange Planet! My favorite ones are the ones in which he re-writes well-known songs in Being-speak. Like “The Small Eight-Legged Creature” or “I’m Treading on Starlight” (which I especially love because it sounds like a Bowie lyric).

    Also, my uncle makes Deviled eggs every year for Christmas Eve, even though, as Lithuanians, we’re technically supposed to be pescatarian that day. We eat several different fish dishes that evening, along with fruit compote, poppy seed milk, and pasta shells with sauteed mushrooms.

    Death Chicken sounds intriguing and frightening. Is it called that because it’s deathly spicy? XD

    • December 28, 2019 10:00 pm

      I agree, the well-known songs in Being-speak are great. Also I went to the dentist recently and commented on wearing the “trash necklace,” only to find that my dentist had not read these comics yet.
      Death Chicken is a casserole of chicken, rice, and bacon. It’s called that because in The Sweet Potato Queens’ Book of Love she recommends taking it as a funeral food.

      • December 29, 2019 1:40 pm

        LOL! At least you didn’t go to Olive Garden and ask them to grind a pungent chunk of animal fluid onto your dough strands 🤣

        Also, Death Chicken casserole sounds like a lovely way to comfort people! Bacon makes everything better 😁

  9. December 28, 2019 7:00 pm

    One of the most creative posts I’ve seen! I can’t believe how many of your family and friends seem to be on the same page with all you do. And I never thought I hear the phrase benevolent necromancy!

    • December 28, 2019 10:03 pm

      I never thought I would write the phrase benevolent necromancy and yet once it crossed my mind it was irresistible!
      We don’t do every single thing together but I like to suggest a schedule so the maximum number of people can join in on each activity.

  10. December 30, 2019 9:10 am

    So glad you have been having such a wonderful Christmas! I love the list of favorite things from your friends. Cats is that bad huh? I will wait to be able to stream it at home and watch it just to make fun of it. And thank you for revealing why “Favorite Things” is a Christmas song. I have always wondered!

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