Category Archives: Holidays

You Know You’re Old When…

…it’s 5:45 on Christmas morning and the kids are still asleep.

Merry Christmas, everyone!


Last Night I had the Strangest Dream

I had a dream last night that I misspelled something in a blog comment and couldn’t change it. A brief moment of panic ensued and I woke up.

For as long as there have been dreams, people have dreamed of bad things happening — but only very recently has our sweet slumber been interrupted by nocturnal typos.

It’s interesting that these days our subconscious is haunted by poor grammar and spelling, rather than marauding bears, starvation, and barbaric invaders. Nightmares are fueled by what we know.

It sounds trivial to be woken up by hitting the submit button and not being able to take it back. But maybe there’s a lesson lurking in there somewhere.

But this is not a day for lessons, is it? This is a day to celebrate.

Enjoy this video before the copyright cops catch up with me!

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Full Metal Jacket. The North Pole is a cold, cold place.

Getting Lit at Xmas

I learned my lesson last year with those awful blue-tinged “white” LED lights that I strung around the front porch post. This year it was back to good old-fashioned light bulbs.

Drive around town and you’ll see many more people using the LEDs. To me, their cold and steady glow feels sterile.

With incandescent bulbs, you’ll pay more for electricity, but they’re dirt cheap to buy. We’re talking $2.50 per hundred at Lowe’s. There are 2300 lights on that tree in this picture, so you do the math.

On Long Island, America’s headquarters for good taste and style, Newsday finds that the debate rages on, but I’m with this guy:

Keith Buerkert of Island Park, another Christmas-light fanatic, is turned off by LEDs.
“I’m still using the regular lights because I don’t like the way the LEDs shine,” said Buerkert. He has almost 12,000 incandescent lights in his display, he said, and runs a side business installing lights for neighbors.
“I don’t like the [LED’s] color. They’re not as bright as the others,” Buerkert said.

It would be goofy to romanticize something as trivial as a tiny light, but strip away the heat of an incandescent bulb, the brightly burning and fragile filament that glows hotly in the night, and you really take a little something out of Christmas.

Just call me goofy.

Home Fires Burning

Once you’ve seen a few house fires, you really get worried about your own home burning down.

Not sure this qualifies as paranoid, but because of my firefighting, I frequently think about faulty appliances, frayed wires, careless cooking, candles, power surges, various acts of God, spontaneous combustion…

Fires are awful, but especially this time of year. State Farm, the same folks who brought us that AWESOME turkey frying fire video in November are back at it again with their 12 Fire Horrors of the Holidays — a dozen ways to ruin Christmas in a dangerous and spectacular way. A few of them are featured in this video:

Naturally, I cast a wary eye at my Christmas tree, even though the National Christmas Tree Association says it’s safe. In fact, they claim your house is more likely to be burned down by these common, everyday items:

  • newspapers and magazines — 13 times more likely
  • boxes or bags — 10 times more likely
  • curtains or drapes — 9 times more likely

All the same, I keep one of these handy at all times.

Holy Exploding Christmas Tree Bulbs!

WTF! There on the living room wall was a big red stain, like somebody hurled a glass of wine at the Christmas tree and missed. Who would do such a thing?

Before I started accusing people of reckless anti-holiday hijinks, I noticed something odd: one of the bubble lights on the tree had stopped bubbling — and in fact its glass tube was bone dry. You know these bubble lights. The cheesy old-school ornaments have been around forever.

My wife thinks they’re dreadful, but the warm glow and bubbling bubblyness brings back fond childhood memories of Christmas past.

It seems that the tube blew its top and the liquid squirted out all over the wall like Old Faithful. According to Wikipedia, these things are filled with dichloromethane, noted for its low boiling point and use “as a paint stripper and a degreaser.”

I got a rag and tried to wipe off the stain, but nothing would work. Nice. The red dye is stubborn stuff — and because the ornaments come from China, it’s probably the same toxic brew that they use to paint our kids’ toys.

A more sensible person would remove all these things from the tree, but instead I went out and bought some more. What are the holidays without a little danger?

Overheard on Thanksgiving Morning

This morning there were dozens of people on the assembly line at the Empire State Plaza, prepping meals for the big Equinox turkey day feed. They were filling foil containers with food that would be Thanksgiving dinner for 9000 people later in the day.

The crew scooped potatoes, grabbed handfuls of ham and turkey, and doled out piles of stuffing, all in careful portions.

In one of the Plaza bathrooms, at 6:30am, there was a guy with all his belongings spread out. He was washing his hair in the sink when one of his buddies walked in. “Cold out there, today.”

The guy at the sink thought about that for a moment while he dried his hair.

“It may be cold, but I still think it’s a beautiful morning.”

Peppermint Patty’s Thanksgiving Day Masacree

Even the most congenial family gathering can turn ugly, especially after people have been boozing it up. My advice? Watch your mouth on turkey day.

Listener Supported Relish

Yes, it's really that color. If you listen to NPR, you may be familiar with the Thanksgiving tradition of Susan Stamberg sharing her mother-in-law’s cranberry relish recipe. She’s been sharing it and sharing it. Sharing it since 1972, in fact. That’s a long time, even in NPR years. Ira Glass was just 13-years-old when she started in with the relish.

I actually served the crazy pink mess of cranberry, onion, sour cream, sugar, and horseradish one Thanksgiving. While I sort of liked its tart-tangy-sweet flavor, nobody else touched it. Maybe it was the color. Maybe that it looks more like a desert than a side dish. Maybe they were not Morning Edition listeners.

Anyway, I thought I would give it one more shot and taste test it on my family before turkey day. Reviews were mixed.

My 22-year-old son said it was “unique and interesting” and said he’d like to see it on the holiday table. My 15-year-old called it “weird.” My wife said that it was “too oniony.”

And oniony it was. The trouble with onions is that they can vary wildly in their pungency, so even the small onion called for in this recipe can pack an unexpected wallop. I’d recommend going easy — or even using a sweet onion to temper the effect.

Based on my unscientific sample, maybe half the people might like this stuff — but since it only takes a couple of minutes to prepare, why not? Be prepared, though: the relish will signal you as an NPR geek. Depending on your family, they will either see you as worldly and enlightened or an elitist snob. But as they say, you can choose your radio station, but you can’t choose your family.

Mama Stamberg’s Cranberry Relish Recipe

The Origins of Turkey Frying

It’s well known that the Pilgrims wowed their Indian guests at the first Thanksgiving celebration by frying turkeys.

Some scholars believe this was not merely a turn of culinary flair, but an excuse to show off the vats of boiling oil the English kept handy to deter invaders from scaling the stockade wall. The implication was clear. See this turkey? This is what happens to people who @#$& with the Puritans.

Since then, it wouldn’t be turkey day without open kettles of scalding grease — and you know how dangerous that can be. This fire-packed video from State Farm Insurance shows various terrible things that can happen to careless turkey fryers. It’s like State Farm invited the Mayhem guy from the Allstate commercials over to do the cooking.