So It's Come To This: A Clip Show

Continuing an annual tradition that didn't exist until last year, I hereby present to you the "Next Annual rockle-riffic Year In Review" -- a self-selected best-of-the-blog-in-2010 collection. Please enjoy these while I'm off eating shrimp or taking a nap or something.

Did I miss one of your favorites? Tell me in the comments. Or don't -- I don't care. I'm probably drunk right now, because it's New Year's Rockin' Eve, baby! (False: I'm most likely wrangling a small child or eleventeen. There are suddenly a WHOLE LOT of tiny little people in the family.)

Whatever you're doing today, be careful out there. See you next year! (Snerk.)


Barrel of Monkeys

Now that we have opened all the Christmas presents in the Western Hemisphere (and probably a couple that were sucked over from the other side of the world, since my kid's giant head of hair has its own gravitational pull), we got back to the part of the holidays that is REALLY what's important: gnoshing on newborn baby heads.

No, just kidding -- although don't keep living in denial, either; baby heads smell delicious. But we are spending a lot of time hanging out and letting the kids do some bonding.


Well, okay, technically Joey and Shae are doing all the bonding, and the various and sundry grownups are standing just off-camera cursing under their breath about how these kids don't take any direction AT ALL, and Makayla is doing a lot of sleeping, but there's not a whole lot else she could be doing at this point, since she is only two weeks old. I guess she could be screaming; I really don't know. I haven't spent this much time with a kid that small since my sisters were babies, and I was still pretty much a baby myself then.


Joey LOVES Makayla. He likes to be around her all the time, touching her and kissing her and loving her. Not at all unlike how Shae was when Joey was still a baby and not the wriggly giddy hunk of toddlerhood he has become.


Someday I will figure out the exact mathematical formula to express how much more difficult it becomes to take pictures when you have three adorable children involved, instead of just two -- especially because I tend to have trouble with just the ONE. We may be talking imaginary numbers, or particle physics, or string theory, or something.


This is not Shae's first rodeo with a little cousin, so she seems to have a better practical understanding of the concept of "gentle." She does not handle it well when Makayla cries, but that doesn't happen often (yet), and to be perfectly honest, I am not so good with crying babies myself.

Best of the Bunch

Isn't it nice to see that after how many millions of pictures and one extra grandchild, we're still not getting any better at sitting still for a family picture?


Same Old Lang Syne


Presents, Round 483

Now with 100% more Joey. (Okay, yes I know that technically it's "infinity percent" more Joey because previously there was no Joey and now there is and something about dividing by zero and whatnot but if I were any good at The Maths I wouldn't have a degree in Writing for Television and instead I would be Danica McKellar.)

(Okay, FINE: if I were good at The Maths and I were a COMPLETE HOT BABE, I'd be Danica McKellar. Whatever. Everybody's a pedant on the Internet, aren't they?)

Joey Presents

When I am old and decrepit and senile, I hope one of the things that I still remember is how much fun it is to watch small children tear into wrapping paper.

A Man & His Monkey

And then run around the living room with their presents on their head.

Barker's Beauty

Don't let this face fool you -- Shae is actually very excited about getting Princess Ring Pops as a gift, and on our way home last night she kept asking about them. "Did you bring my ring pops? You didn't forget them, did you?"


Hmm. Looks like SOMEBODY is getting sick of posing for pictures in front of various Christmas trees. Which means it's time to blackmail SOMEBODY into compliance by threatening to take away their Princess Ring Pops.


Christmas All Over Again

I did a video this year, so I didn't take a lot of pictures on Christmas morning, but I did get some. This is what 2 minutes of my kid tearing through her gifts looks like before a good eight hours of wrapping time has been torn to shreds on the living room floor.

Phat Lewts

It was a really, really good Christmas. I think that maybe Shae was a little disappointed -- perhaps underwhelmed, maybe? -- because we did the "get her what she needs" thing his year, since she is between age ranges for a lot of toys. Also, we have SO MANY TOYS. And she will be getting more, because we are doing Christmas "again" later this week when my sister gets in from Chicago.

Plus, and let's be honest here: a (very noisy!) Hess truck, a bucket of dinosaurs, a Hello Kitty bingo game, and an electric toothbrush are PLENTY TOYS ENOUGH. I sort of couldn't wait to come back to work today, to get away from some of the ruckus.

Makayla 10 Days

And anyway, we already got the best Christmas present of the year a little early. Makayla is so sweet. And she looks more and more like my sister every day. I have to be satisfied with Shae ACTING more and more like me every day, I suppose.

God help us all.

Shae & Gigi

We had the kind of Christmas that you're "supposed" to have -- family, friends, food, fun. And then we got the snow yesterday. Better late than never, I suppose. And today my sister gets in from Chicago, so the rest of the week the three kids will be together and it will be an explosion of cuteness that CANNOT BE CONTAINED. Wear your safety goggles, people.


Happy Holiday

Been a good Christmas so far. Shae slept late and we got to wake her up to start the festivities. That's always nice.

Longer version later. For now, I'm off to enjoy some cranberry swirl French toast and then I'm going to put on some new socks and new Crocs and pig out on ham at My Anonymous Mother's, just as God intended.

Be careful out there, everyone.


Grown-Up Christmas List

I didn't ask for a lot this Christmas. I didn't ask for any jewelry from Tiffany, or any Jimmy Choo Uggs boots, or a $3,000+ Hello Kitty handbag, or a fur throw blanket, or a $6 million diamond-encrusted Miracle Bra, or a mansion in the Keys. And I certainly didn't ask for a '54 convertible, too (light blue).

Although all of these things would be lovely. Except maybe the diamond bra; that totally looks like it would hurt. Diamonds cut glass, right? So what do they do to your boobs?

All I want for Christmas is to be able to sleep past 7am and to spend some time with my family. For real. Sleeping past 7:00 is a luxury I don't get very often. I was up before 6:00 today and I am already cranky about it.

Whatever you want for Christmas, I hope you get it. If you get the convertible, drop by and take me for a spin, ok?

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night. God bless us, everyone.


Christmas Haircut

What, like you don't do something special for yourself to get ready for Christmas? Shae got a haircut. (I'm getting a pedicure later today, if I get out of work early.)


And I am the crazy idiot parent who documents the whole thing for "posterity." Or, you know, "the blog."


It's kind of a good thing that my kid is a total dorky ham who loves to get her picture taken while she is doing things she's not supposed to.

Comb Chewer

Like gnawing on a comb. (Not her fault -- it was past dinnertime and I didn't pack any snacks in my purse.)

Hair Dryer

I don't blame her for loving to sit under the dryer. When I am at the salon, the dryer is my happy place. They could leave me there all day with foils on my head and back issues of the gossip rags and a cup of tea. But I'd never leave.


It was a pretty standard haircut -- not much we can do with her head except make it less bushy and 'fro-like. Maybe I should learn how to braid; she really liked that.

Proof of Life

Then we went home and ate two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and posed for a "proof of life picture" with my old Santa Claus bank, the end.


Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree

It's a great day -- I am eating clementines for breakfast, I'm 99% finished with my shopping, and somebody else is paying for lunch today (it's our department holiday luncheon), so rather than kvetch about what I don't like about Christmas, I thought I'd talk about the stuff I actually like -- namely, my tree.

I complained to my husband earlier that I "hated" our tree, but I really don't. Maybe it isn't quite as Martha Stewart as I would like it to be, but it's really quite lovely. Nothing in the world smells quite like a real tree, and nothing is as pretty as a family tree decorated with ornaments that are quickly becoming new favorites.

Golden Pear

Somewhere in my mom's house (probably the attic) there is an entire box of light-up ornaments that used to be belong to me, and will again some day, including the complete collection of Star Trek ships from Hallmark. Somewhere between college and marriage I switched from bright and noisy to classic and shiny, and I acquired this golden pear. It's no USS Enterprise, but it will do for now.


We also have acorns on our tree. I don't know why we have acorns on an evergreen tree, but I love these things.

Glitter Pinecone

We also have pine cones, don't worry. (With glitter, natch.)

Spiral Thing

No idea what this thing is supposed to be besides pretty. I love it. It's one of my top five favorite ornaments on the tree. (I apologize for the weird shifting colorization on these pictures, by the way -- I tried to brighten everything up but I still don't know how to work all the camera features so stuff was destined to get borked.)


We have this butterfly near the top of the tree, right underneath our star. It's supposed to represent something: my obsession with glitter and sparkles and bling, probably. Yes, I am part magpie.


Ironically, this cupcake ornament (Shae's) is the only breakable thing on the tree. I didn't want it to feel lonely, which is why we decided to add some color this year. It was a good decision -- our tree looks less "sterile" and "department store" with the added pops of pinks and greens and blues.


Another of my top five favorite ornaments. From the dollar store. Much more sparkly than this picture shows. I love this thing.

Meta Tree

Of course there is a tree ornament on our Christmas tree. I wouldn't be a good ironic little wannabe hipster if we didn't have at least one "meta" decoration, now would I?

Sparkle S

A giant, two-pound reminder of whose tree this really is. Okay, maybe not two pounds, but this "S" is silver and rhinestones and it weighs a ton relative to everything else on the tree, which is why it is actually sitting on a second branch, instead of being suspended. This week Shae has been saying the "S" is for Santa Claus.

Hula Pickle

This year we're starting a new tradition -- the Christmas Pickle, hidden in the tree. Of course other people have been doing this forever, but this is our first time. I actually have a gorgeous pickle ornament that came with the Bride's Tree ornament set that I got as a bridal shower gift, but we have those ornaments packed away somewhere safe until Shae is older and the cats are ... less catlike, because everything is made of glass. In the meantime, we're using this Hula Pickle that (obviously) came from my mother. When Shae finds it in the tree on Christmas morning, she gets an extra present. It's a double bonus for us ... a cute new family tradition that represents our pickle-loving cupcake.


Thank You / Micki Moo

First, a big THANK YOU: because of all the comments, re-tweets, links, re-links, and Facebook likes on my post last Friday, I reached my goal, and this morning I made a $100 donation to Second Harvest Food Bank of Lehigh Valley & Northeast Pennsylvania. One hundred bucks, you guys -- plus the additional contributions of cash and food that other people made. Whoever you donated to, and whatever you gave -- THANK YOU. I can't thank you enough. Merry Christmas.


And now, more pictures of my niece! Because she is delicious and awesome. Incidentally, in my house we refer to Makayla as "Micki Moo," because "Micki" is shorter than "Makayla," and because my nickname for Shae is "Boo," and because "Micki Moo" sounds cute because of consonance and alliteration. So we have the granddaughters, the Terrible Two: the Boo and the Moo. Probably we will call her "Kayla," which is what I think my sister and brother-in-law call her, when she isn't being called "Buttonhead."

Joe & Makayla

My brother-in-law calls her Buttonhead, mostly.

Baby Head

You can kind of see why -- her head is very small. Shae could palm that little noggin like a basketball, if she knew what a basketball was. (Well, she does, but she never calls it the right thing. Everything appears to be a "baseball" to her. She's evidently still super-stoked over the whole Cliff Lee thing last week.)

Nana & Makayla

My Anonymous Mother, doing the Nana Thing that she is very, very good at.

Baby Kisses

And Shae, doing the Kissin'-Cousins Thing that she is very, very good at.

(Incidentally: we just call Joey ... "Joey." Because we are Very Clever and Creative in my house, no?)


Paying It Forward

I usually read The Bloggess because she's funny, but today she inspired me.

It shouldn't have been The Bloggess who inspired me, but it was. I should have remembered about the Christmas soup and the kindness of strangers and taken care of "giving back" earlier, but I was so busy trying to wrap my head around my own problems that I didn't think about anyone else's.

Today, that changes.

We've been really lucky this year, all things considered. My husband was out of work for almost a year and a half, but he started a new job in September. Some people we know were laid off at the same time he was, or even before, and are still looking. Even while he wasn't working, we were fine. Maybe not as comfortable as we would have liked to be, but he was able to collect unemployment and we were careful about his severance and very good about saving our tax refund, plus I still have my job, so we were fine. We made do without a lot of stuff we probably didn't need anyway, but all of our basic needs and even most of our wants were satisfied.

We have our house, we have our cars, we have our iPhones and HD TV and World of Warcraft and Chinese take-out a couple of times a month. We have our health, we still a little bit left in the bank, and we have each other. We've got more going for us than probably 99.99% of the world, and probably more than 90% of the people we know.

I know that we are among the lucky ones. Boy, do I know it.

So as of right now -- and like I said, I really should have done this earlier, but what's done is done -- I've decided that I'm spending part of this weekend giving back. I still have some shopping to do, and while I am shopping for the people in my life who will be receiving treats on Christmas, I will also be setting aside something for those people who might not have anything at all otherwise.

On Monday morning, I will be making a $50 donation to Second Harvest Food Bank of Lehigh Valley & Northeast Pennsylvania. And you can help increase that amount: for every person who comments on this post between now and Sunday 12/19/10 at midnight ET, I will be making an additional donation of $2, up to an additional $50, for a maximum contribution of up to $100. So tell your friends to drop by, leave their names, tell me I'm a talentless hack, whatever -- as long as they leave a comment.

Every dollar buys 7 meals for people who need them. Together we can provide breakfast and lunch for almost a full year to someone in need. Let's do it. Let's pay it forward.

(Disclaimers: SHFBLV did not solicit this contribution in any way. The base donation and any additional donations per comment are purely voluntary on my part. Commenters do not need to leave full name, rank, and serial number, but entirely anonymous comments will not be accepted, and spam will not be counted. Calling me a bleeding-heart liberal or a hysterical liberal moonbat is entirely unnecessary because I already know that. If you have any questions, please contact me at the email address in the sidebar.)


Makayla Noele

Shae and I went to see the new baby in the hospital yesterday. It's been a long time since I've seen a brand-new baby up close and personal -- I honestly can't remember how long it's been. A while. And I have to say, 8 pounds, 10 ounces sounds kind of big in theory, but in actuality, Makayla is smaller than I expected.

Tiny Little Toes

Granted, Shae has big hands for a 3½-year-old, but she still has pretty small hands in general, and Makayla's entire foot can fit in there. And they're so pink and wrinkly.


Everything about this kid is small, except her resemblance to my side of the family. Huge resemblances everywhere you look. Like, that is a Shively mouth, right there. Poor kid has no upper lip, just like the rest of us.


She's got a nice head of hair already, though, like my sister did when she was a newborn. Dark. Shelleybeans had black hair when she was born (I was a redhead, and my other poor sister was basically bald until she was two). Looks like a teensy-weensy little widow's peak, too. Yeah, this kid is related.


Not really sure how Shae feels about this whole thing. In most of the pictures I have of her with the baby, she looks baffled and terrified. I don't think Makayla is even as big as Shae's Cabbage Patch Kid. But she was pretty good about being gentle and quiet, and not five minutes after we left the hospital, she said she missed "my Kayla" already.

Happy Baby

Yeah, kiddo, I am looking forward to spending a lot of time with this one, too.


I'm An Aunt!

Makayla Noele Hoole
Tues., Dec. 14, 2010 at 8:50 PM ET
8 lbs., 10 oz. -- 21¼" long

Whoo hoo! My sister had her baby last night! Lots of babies this month -- one of my co-workers had a baby girl on Monday night, and another is due at the end of the month (I think she's having a boy but she wants to be surprised). Hooray for babies!

I'm taking Shae to the hospital to see Makayla and Aunt Shelleybeans! later today -- we weren't able to visit Joey in the hospital when he was born because my sister delivered out in Chicago, so I'm probably more excited than I ought to be about the whole thing. Brand new babies are awesome, yo. And I'm lugging the camera along so I hope to get some nice pictures of my sister and new niece.

In the meantime, I once again have this EXCLUSIVE! paparazzi shot of the newest kid in the family:

More details as they become available. In the meantime, big congratulations to my sister and brother-in-law. I know how things can get crazy and hectic and TOTALLY BATSHIT INSANE in the first few hours, days, weeks, years after having a new baby, but I hope they have learned from my experiences, and my other sister's, and that they remember, now more than ever, to teach wee Makayla to be excellent to everyone, and definitely to PARTY ON.


Greeting Cards Have All Been Sent

Well, okay, technically they've not all been sent. Okay, none have been sent. But they're all written, except for the 7 people or so whose addresses I need. I had 88 people on the list this year -- in my next life, I want to be part of a smaller family. Sheesh.

I am really happy with the way our cards turned out this year. I've mentioned before that I take Christmas cards very seriously, and I was lucky (and patient) enough to find cards that met all the totally random arbitrary criteria that I felt needed to be met: non-denominational, colorful, happy, chic. I didn't end up picking one of the three designs I thought I would do with, but I did find something that worked for me.

Now if only taking and picking a picture of my kid would have been so simple! Even when you weed out the test shots, I ended up taking something like 130 pictures of my (generally mostly uncooperative) kid in front of the Christmas tree to get three pictures that were usable for the cards.

Christmas Card Picture

The one I ended up using is almost but not quite perfect -- I mean, it pretty much perfectly sums up my life, but it isn't exactly a perfect picture. Shae is (1) looking at the camera, (2) sitting still, and (3) smiling all at the same time, but she is not entirely in focus. I think the problem here is me; I left my tripod at my sister's baby shower (which, OMG, I never put up pictures and my sister is having the baby, like, RIGHT NOW) and I still don't it back, so I was using a jerryrigged stack of toy boxes and books to hold the camera still, and either she moved or I did. But I like the light here, and her hair looks great, and that million dollar smile, plus I really love this shirt that she got for a Christmas present last year and it's actually what I had in mind when I was picking out new decorations for the three this year, so I just ran the softening filter and called it a day. Like I said, I am really happy with how the cards turned out, and I think this picture is at least 75% of the reason why.

Card Test 2

This photo was another contender and I almost ended up using it. Technically speaking, this is a better picture -- Shae is in focus, the lights have that nice twinkle from the shortened depth of field, her eyes have a gorgeous sparkle. Practically up until the last minute, this was the picture that was going to be on our cards. But I changed my mind because of (1) that weird open-mouth thing that Jessica Simpson is always doing that kind of makes her look like an unfortunately dim mouth-breather, and (2) Shae is not looking directly at the camera. Darn it, kid! Why don't you like to look at the camera?

Card Test 1

I almost used this one, too. This picture is pretty typical of my kid (and, let's face it, her mother) -- she was chitter-chatting during our whole "photo shoot" and I really needed to work hard to get her to take direction. "Shae, look at the camera." Click. "Smile please." Click click. "Honey, can you drop your chin a little bit?" Click. "No, not that much, don't look at the floor, look at the camera." Click click click. "What are you doing with your face?" Click. "Don't scrunch up your nose, just look right at the camera and sit still and smile." Click. "Shae, please." Click click. "SHAE." Click. "Oh my God kid what are you doing can you please just sit still for two seconds and look at the camera and stop making that face and smile and listen to me OH MY GOD PLEASE LISTEN OR YOU ARE NEVER GETTING ANY CANDY AGAIN EVER."


Trashing the Place

Before we ended up with what eventually turned out to be the official Christmas card picture, I had to take some test shots. I really liked how last year's picture turned out, but I wanted to make it look like I learned something about how to work the damned camera in the last year. (SPOILER ALERT: I kind of didn't.)

In retrospect, these pictures might actually be better than the official one, somehow. Certainly they capture the essence of Christmas: the chaos, the noise, the color and light. Also, the kid-in-their-pajamas-first-thing-in-the-morning aspect. But when I look at these pictures, I also see something that made them not quite suitable for holiday cards.

Outtake 1

Do you see it too?

Outtake 2

The uncombed hair, the bags under her eyes, the fuzzy scarf that looks like it was made out of a skinned Muppet? The twinkle in her eye, the smirk, the sort of far-off-into-the-distance look on her face that suggests that maybe she was up to several kinds of no good the night before?

Outtake 3

I couldn't use these pictures because -- well, look at them. She looks like the love child of Janis Joplin, Slash, and Mick Jagger, and she looks like she just came off a bender. That is not the sort of image I want to send out to my friends and family at Christmastime.

Outtake 4

Even if that is kind of what our life looks like, these days.


Welcome Christmas

I assure you, when I started this Christmas playlist project, I had no idea it would be so controversial, but there you go. My own Anonymous Mother and my sister are questioning my choices in the comments! The nerve -- don't they know the kinds of problems that can cause? The fire and brimstone coming down from the skies? The rivers and seas boiling? The forty years of darkness? The earthquakes, volcanoes, the dead rising from the grave? The human sacrifice? The dogs and cats living together?

Mass hysteria!

But by way of clarification, in case you do go back to read part one and/or part two of this exclusive three-part series, I would like to mention that some of the songs my sister mentioned are included in today's list, and as it turns out, I actually do have Gene Autry singing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" on my iPod, and I've had it all along. I played it for Shae this morning and she literally squee'd. That one was a terrible oversight on my part; I totally should have included that version in with yesterday's Christmas Classics. I've never been wrong before. I don't know how I will managed to live with myself from here on out. I hope you're all happy. Harumph.

So. Today's list is basically made up of "modern" Christmas songs, by which I mean stuff that I am pretty sure I grew up listening to as a kid, plus a couple of other things that I would very much have enjoyed listening to as a kid, if I had acted like an actual child at the time, and not some kind of weird time-bandit hippie who spent more time than was strictly necessary listening to Carly Simon, James Taylor, Simon & Garfunkel, and Carole King. (I supposed it goes without saying that I fell hard for R.E.M., the Ramones, and the Cure once I got to college.)

Still and all -- and I say this with an absolutely straight face -- I don't consider it Christmastime until I have listened to the songs on this list at least a couple of dozen times. Even some of the ones on the bottom half of the list, the ones that are so goofy and out there that they border on the sacrilegious.

And now I present to you my Top Ten Contemporary Christmas songs, basically in the order in which I prefer them (favorites on top) -- with a caveat. The first 5 songs are the "real" ones, and the bottom 5 are sort of "novelty" songs, but I assure you, I love each and every one of them essentially the same:

  1. "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" by John & Yoko and the Plastic Ono Band with the Harlem Community Choir -- "A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, let's hope it's a good one without any fear." What more could anyone wish anyone else for the holidays? Not even Yoko Ono wailing through the backing vocals can ruin this song. (There are, of course, other versions, but why would you want them?)
  2. "Someday at Christmas" by Stevie Wonder -- "Someday all our dreams will come to be, someday in a world where men are free, maybe not in time for you and me, but someday at Christmastime." When I hear the opening chords to this song, I start tearing up, and by the time we get to the end of the first verse, I am done for. There aren't many songs that make me start bawling just from writing out the lyrics, but this is one of them.
  3. "Give Love on Christmas Day" by the Jackson 5 -- "Every little child on Santa's knee has room for your love underneath his tree." One of the few songs in the world that I have never heard covered, and I would like to keep it that way. I honestly think of this song as the "All You Need Is Love" of the Christmas season. Practically perfect, just as it is.
  4. "Keep Christmas with You All Through the Year" from Merry Christmas from Sesame Street -- I can't even pick a favorite lyric. I love this whole song SO MUCH. This record came out in 1975. I wasn't even a year old then. My sisters and I used to listen to this record ALL THE TIME. The actual record. Like, vinyl record. I remember listening to this in July once, on purpose. I think this song should close every Christmas pageant everywhere ever. It would totally be the Grand Finale! of the BGDCFCPE.
  5. "Welcome Christmas" from How the Grinch Stole Christmas -- "Christmas Day will always be just as long as we have we." Love love love. Doesn't need any fussing or messing around with. The Glee cast version is also very good, but you need to get that one from iTunes.
  6. "Father Christmas" by The Kinks -- "But remember the kids who got nothin' while you're drinking down your wine." Totally kick-ass, but also a kind of important reminder that maybe if you can, you should give a little bit of something to those who have even less than you do. Somebody out there might really need some tomato soup for Christmas, you know?
  7. "Swiss Colony Beef Log" from Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics -- "Swiss Colony beef log, baby, that's what Christmas is all about." This song makes me laugh so hard I cry. Cartman is such an obnoxious little shit, but sweet cracker sandwich, this song is SO AMAZING. Second choice for best lyric: "I [expletive] hate egg nog, seriously."
  8. "The Night Santa Went Crazy" by "Weird Al" Yankovic -- "From his beard to his boots, he was covered in ammo like a big fat drunk disgruntled Yuletide Rambo." I defy you to spend more than an hour or so at the mall in the next two weeks and then tell me that you don't feel exactly like Santa in this particular scenario. And I will also tell you that [SPOILER ALERT!] if the elves did go work for the USPS, it would significantly improve service at my local service center.
  9. "Christmas Wrapping" by The Waitresses -- "When what to my wondering eyes should appear, no lie, it's that guy I've been chasing all year." OH MY GOD YOU GUYS I LOVE THIS SONG SO MUCH SHUT UP DON'T YOU JUDGE ME.
  10. "Last Christmas" by Wham! -- Another song where I can't pick a favorite lyric, because COME ON. This song is so corny that it came full around to being awesomesauce again. There has not yet been, nor will there ever be again, another Christmas song in all the lands and the seas that is so earnest and emo. Oh, George Michael. I really thought we had a chance, you and I. I really did.

Oh! And because I care about you guys, I wanted to include a bonus Hanukkah song, too: "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel," also from Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics. Shae came home from school yesterday singing the "original" dreidel song, and it was the most adorable thing ever. I thought instantly of this song, which is totally amazing because at one point there are like six different musical parts going on at once, and also because this song manages to be respectful and totally disrespectful all at the same time. You'll get it suck in your head for weeks, though, be warned.

Okay -- have at it in the comments. What did I forget this time? Let me know.


Baby, It's Cold Outside

In this, part two of a three-part series (you can read part one here if you haven't already), I reveal yet again more information about myself than my therapist probably requires. You're welcome, Internet.

Today we're discussing the "classic" Christmas songs -- stuff that you hear on the radio and over mall loudspeakers beginning in, like, September and continuing until mid-January or so. Before I get to my list, though, I will start with a complaint: Dear Mall Muzak People, Halloween is really too early to start playing holiday music. Let's wait until after Thanksgiving, k? Thxbai.

So anyway. Most of the music I actually listen to falls into this "Christmas classics" category, because (1) there are only so many times you can listen to the Hallelujah Chorus and Trepak before you want to stab yourself in the eye with an umbrella, and (2) let's just come right out and admit that a lot of "modern" holiday songs are kind of ass. I mean, really, if I never hear "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" again in my life, I will still have heard it far too many times already.

What I tend to like about this group of songs, generally from the 1940's-1950's-1960's or so (I believe one of the latest of these was first recorded in 1970, which is about where I draw the line between "classic" and "contemporary"), is that they are generally festive and happy and light (with only a few exceptions) and -- this is where I get myself into trouble -- are usually more about the holiday spirit and less about the religious background of the season. Some of these songs don't even specifically mention Christmas, so if you are racked with liberal Catholic guilt at this time of year, as I often am, you don't have to feel "ashamed" of singing these tunes loud and proud and terribly off-key.

(What do they call these? First-world problems?)

Without further ado, here is my list of the Top Ten Classic Christmas songs on my iPod right now (again, in no particular order):

  1. "Baby, It's Cold Outside" -- We'll start here because this one is in very heavy rotation right now. I think that at this very moment, this is Shae's favorite Christmas song. She likes to sing the "girl" part and she always wants me to "be that boy," and I'm totally okay with that because I usually think the traditionally "male" part is more funner, anyway. I have two versions that I rely on: the one that features Dean Martin and whoever, and lately the version from the Elf soundtrack sung by Zooey Deschanel and Leon Redbone. (Oh and by the way, I hope my kid is good and old before she realizes that this song is actually about secret Christmas Eve nookie.)
  2. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" -- Oh, sweet cracker sandwich. The loveliest and most depressing of all Christmas songs ever known to man, isn't it? Positively heartbreaking, especially if you are prone to bouts of seasonal affective disorder and general maudlin-ness, as I am. "But at least we all will be together, if the fates allow / From now on we'll have to muddle through somehow." Another song where I have multiple favorite renditions: the Frank Sinatra one, the Rowlf-and-John-Denver one, and of course the Judy Garland version.
  3. "Christmas Time Is Here" -- Again with the "Charlie Brown Christmas" soundtrack, but it keeps appearing because it's so damned good. I prefer the instrumental version of this song, but the original children's vocal version is great too, as is the cover by Sarah McLachlan. This one is just so perfectly bittersweet.
  4. "The Christmas Song" -- We grew up listening to the Nat "King" Cole version of this song, so it will always and forever be my favorite, but if you haven't already, check out a Mel Tormé recording. They didn't call that dude the "Velvet Fog" for nothing.
  5. "Mele Kalikimaka" -- I know all the words to this song, of course, and at one point I even had a little dance made up to go with it, a silly fake hula. This song rocks my world, and every year I wonder what it would be like to wake up on Christmas morning and go surfing at sunrise before opening my presents underneath a big palm terr. The Bing Crosby & The Andrews Sisters version is the best known, and probably the best ever.
  6. "I'll Be Home For Christmas" -- "If only in my dreams ..." I can't ever hear this song without crying. If you have sisters who live out of state that you think about every day in the month of December and beyond, then you probably can't listen to the Doris Day version without collapsing into a weeping heap. (What? Just me?)
  7. "Blue Christmas" -- Elvis Presley. Duuuuuuh.
  8. "Everybody's Waiting (For the Man with the Bag)" -- Thanks to Target commercials a few years ago, before there was even a Target store in my area, I discovered this little gem (along with the Brian Setzer Orchestra). I totally do the seat-butt dance when this one comes on. I am particularly partial to the Kay Starr version, even though I will totally 'fess up that the BSO version KICKS ELEVENTY KINDS OF ASS.
  9. "Merry Christmas Darling" -- True story: one year, when he was still at his old job, my husband had to spend basically the entire three weeks before Christmas in Rochester, working with designers and engineers and builders on some kind of auto-part-related waste-water-treatment something-or-other, and I seriously though I was going to DIE OF LONELINESS. Because Christmas can be TEH SUCK when it's a special time of year for the two of you, and one of you is out of town. (We started dating over Christmas Break from college in 1993, and have been together ever since.) I swear to God, if it were not for Karen Carpenter, I would never have made it through. I don't even bother listening to anybody's else's versions, because Karen's perfect.
  10. "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" -- That same year my husband and I started dating? We shared our first kiss on New Year's Eve. Even though I usually know what he's doing on New Year's Eve, I still like it when Ella Fitzgerald just goes ahead and asks the question.

You will be happy to see that there are a lot more women represented here. But I'm sure I missed something, right? Maybe what you were expecting will appear tomorrow, when I do the contemporary stuff, but feel free to tell me why I'm a total butthead with a tin ear in the comments.


Carol of the Bells

Confession time: I have 329 Christmas songs on my iPod, and that's only about 10% of the total Christmas music I have stored on my computer.

I love Christmas music, and I love listening to it throughout the whole Christmas season. Please don't ask why -- no one quite knows the reason. But I am willing to bet that most of it boils down to one of two things: I used to be a (semi-) classically trained singer, and Christmas music makes me feel very, very happy. (Probably because a big chunk of it is about presents, which I love.) (Also, a lot of it makes me think about going to Christmas Eve Mass with my family, where everyone would sing their faces off, and the music is probably the one thing I miss most about organized religion, now that I am basically a godless heathen.)

Depending on the kind of mood I am in when I turn ol' Poddalita on (yes I named my iPod shut up don't you judge me), I tend to listen to one of three different types of Christmas songs: classical, "classics," and neo-classical. Or, to not be so cute about it: really old stuff (hymns, ballets, opera music), kind of old stuff (basically anything recorded prior to 1970 or so), and stuff that makes me feel old because I think I can remember when it first came out.

My usual default is to go for the classical stuff, because honestly, it never gets old. I know that most people don't actually like classical music, but I am not most people. I sang alto in the concert choir, the treble choir, the Camerata, the chamber singers. I still remember the notes I had to sing in a lot of the pieces we performed, and when I am listening to Muzak in the mall, I can still pick out my voice part. I am an NPR listener, for God's sake -- of COURSE I like classical music.

(Stereotype myself, much? NERD.)

So, anyway, here are the Top Ten Classical Christmas tracks on my iPod right now (in no particular order), which I am sharing with you because I am a sharer, dammit:

  1. Shubert's "Ave Maria" -- On my iPod, it is performed by Josh Groban, but any decent tenor or baritone will do. You hear this song sung by women a lot, but I really prefer to hear it by a tenor. What can I say? I love tenors. (Plus Josh Groban is a total stone-cold hottie and I will fight to the death anyone who argues otherwise.)
  2. "Carol of the Bells" -- Straight No Chaser. A capella music kicks ass. (Also: Hi, Walt!)
  3. "Für Elise" by Beethoven -- The version I have is from the soundtrack to "A Charlie Brown Christmas" performed by the Vince Guaraldi Trio, and it is THE VERY BEST Christmas record ever made. Go get it. This is not a Christmas song, per se, but because it's on this particular soundtrack, I count it. (My blog, my rules.)
  4. "Gesú Bambino" by Pietro Yon -- Not technically "classical," since it was written in 1917, but it's often sung by operatic tenors. It's perfectly lovely. I listen to a version recorded by Luciano Pavarotti and if you don't get chills listening to it, then you're already dead.
  5. "What Child Is This?" -- I am partial to the version by Vanessa Williams on A Very Special Christmas 2. (That whole record is fanfreakingtastic, bee tee dubs, even including the Sinéad O'Connor cover of a Bob Dylan song.)
  6. "The Nutcracker Suite" by Tchaikovsky -- Self-explanatory. If you need a break from all the more "traditional" sounding stuff, listen to The Brian Setzer Orchestra's version, which you might have heard in 8,000 commercials already. You can find it on any number of BSO Christmas records, but I personally recommend the soundtrack to Elf because it has Louis Prima and Leon Redbone on it, too.
  7. "Panis Angelicus" by César Franck -- I have a version of this that was recorded by Pavarotti and Sting and it will knock you naked, for serious. (Josh Groban's version is also excellent.)
  8. Gounod's "Ave Maria" -- Second version of the "Ave Maria," so big ups to the BVM! And big ups to the one, the only, the Miss Barbra Streisand, whose Christmas Album is the third-best Christmas record ever made (after "Charlie Brown" and Elvis).
  9. "O Holy Night" -- My very, very favorite traditional Christmas carol, written by Adolphe Adam. I love hearing this in the original French, but I've only ever sung it in English. I am still very, very sad that I was not good enough to earn the "Honor Solo" for this song when I was in Concert Choir my senior year in high school. My favorite sung version of this song is by Tevin Campbell from the compilation A Very Special Christmas 2, but my absolute favorite version is an instrumental version, played on a trumpet, that was a benefit single for Tipitina's Foundation. Trumpets make church music sound sexy and heartbreaking, yo.
  10. "Silent Night (Stille Nacht)" -- Sung/spoken by John Denver and the Muppets. There are no other versions.

Any classical stuff you like that I left out? Let me know in the comments. Otherwise, join me again tomorrow, when I give you my list of my Top Ten Christmas Classics, and you can tell me why I'm an idiot.


Stockings Are Hung by the Chimbley with Care

I've been doing Christmas decorations for basically the whole last week -- not that you'd be able to tell from the outside, because it's freezing cold and we have all the shades pulled down tight to keep the wind out. Drafts suck. Anyway, I've done three trees (work, the lights at my mom's, and my own), plus my cube decorations, and the stockings at home. A couple of glimpses:

Tree 2010

Our tree this year is smaller than last year's, but not by much. The specs: Fraser fir, about 5½' high, smells delicious. The branches are nice and soft and "relaxed" by now, and there is plenty of room for all our new and old ornaments. Instead of the customary gold-silver-and-white color scheme, this year we added some aqua, pink, lime green, and purple, which we mixed in to what we already had. I'm not going whole hog into the color thing -- there will never be colored lights on my Christmas tree, ever, not as long as I live and breathe -- but perhaps eventually I will loosen up enough to put all my "Star Trek" ships on a tree someday. When my kid is older and I don't need to worry about the cats breaking anything.

Never colored lights though.

Pretty Lights

Official light inspectors. Totally gratuitous.


I somehow managed to combine three different sets of decorations here, and I'm not sure that any of them match my house, my other decorations, or my personal style, except for my stocking -- and it's obvious which one is mine because (1) it's got an "R" monogram on it, (2) it's purple, and (3) it's made of TONS OF EFFING SEQUINS. I LOVE sequins.