Friday, December 30, 2011

What Are you Doing New Year's Eve

I love oh so many things about this, the ukele!, the tiara!, the tie!, two of my favorite people!, the song!

So much magick in both this friendship and song.

And it leads to the inevitable question: What are you doing New Year's Eve?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

December 24 - What Christmas Means As We Get Older

What Christmas Means As We Get Older 
by Charles Dickens

Nearer and closer to our hearts be the Christmas spirit, which is the spirit of active usefulness, perseverance, cheerful discharge of duty, kindness and forbearance! It is in the last virtues especially, that we are, or should be, strengthened by the unaccomplished visions of our youth; for, who shall say that they are not our teachers to deal gently even with the impalpable nothings of the earth!

Therefore, as we grow older, let us be more thankful that the circle of our Christmas associations and of the lessons that they bring, expands! Let us welcome every one of them, and summon them to take their places by the Christmas hearth.
Welcome, old aspirations, glittering creatures of an ardent fancy, to your shelter underneath the holly! We know you, and have not outlived you yet. Welcome, old projects and old loves, however fleeting, to your nooks among the steadier lights that burn around us. Welcome, all that was ever real to our hearts; and for the earnestness that made you real, thanks to Heaven! Do we build no Christmas castles in the clouds now?
Let our thoughts, fluttering like butterflies among these flowers of children, bear witness! Before this boy, there stretches out a Future, brighter than we ever looked on in our old romantic time, but bright with honour and with truth. Around this little head on which the sunny curls lie heaped, the graces sport, as prettily, as airily, as when there was no scythe within the reach of Time to shear away the curls of our first–love.
Upon another girl’s face near it—placider but smiling bright—a quiet and contented little face, we see Home fairly written. Shining from the word, as rays shine from a star, we see how, when our graves are old, other hopes than ours are young, other hearts than ours are moved; how other ways are smoothed; how other happiness blooms, ripens, and decays—no, not decays, for other homes and other bands of children, not yet in being nor for ages yet to be, arise, and bloom and ripen to the end of all!
Welcome, everything! Welcome, alike what has been, and what never was, and what we hope may be, to your shelter underneath the holly, to your places round the Christmas fire, where what is sits open– hearted!
In yonder shadow, do we see obtruding furtively upon the blaze, an enemy’s face? By Christmas Day we do forgive him! If the injury he has done us may admit of such companionship, let him come here and take his place. If otherwise, unhappily, let him go hence, assured that we will never injure nor accuse him.
On this day we shut out Nothing!

Merry Christmas Eve!

December 23 - Why I Still Believe in Santa Claus and You Should Too

I have a confession to make.

I am 22 years old, and I still believe in Santa Claus.

I promise, I'm not delusional.

No, really, I'm not.

I no longer leave out cookies and milk on Christmas Eve. I've been giving my Christmas wish list to my mom for many more years than I mailed it to the North Pole. I've heard the stories about my parents putting together legos and other toys in the middle of the night, while their little ones were nestled snug in our beds.

But, I still believe in Santa Claus.

I believe that every year, during the Christmas season, Santa Claus makes little guest appearances through acts of pure selflessness and kindness.

This year, there were the Kmart Layaway Angels. People in different areas of the country were inspired to help families pay off gifts for their children.

Santa Claus.

The Pottstown Mercury's Operation Holiday raised over $52,000 to provide gifts for 601 children and food for 230 Pottstown-area families that needed a little extra help this year. Many of those donations were $50, $100, or even $1,000 donated by individuals, many anonymous.

Santa Claus.

A million and one small acts of kindness and gratitude happen each day. A dollar (or diamond!) in a Salvation Army kettle. A kind smile and a jolly "Happy Holidays!". Bundles of toys donated to Toys for Tots. A thoughtful note for someone who is having a bad day. Having the "Pay it Forward" attitude. 

Santa Claus.

Santa Claus is the personification of the Christmas spirit. The mere idea that a man devotes his entire life to giving to others without any sense of prejudice; to work endlessly towards making sure children have toys and know that they are loved without expecting anything in return (except maybe a few cookies), that is a person who can inspire the same sense of selflessness and kindness in others. 

It's evident every year around this time that people are reminded of that spirit. You see it all around, in something as small as a smile.

I believe that it is important to continue to believe in Santa Claus. He reminds us to be selfless and kind to strangers, family, and friends without expecting anything in return. He reminds us to be like him.

So, yes, I am an adult, and I believe in Santa Claus, and I think you should too.

Friday, December 23, 2011

December 22 - Christmas Music Classics

In my opinion, the most beautiful and Christmas-y Christmas songs in Christmas music history, sung by the greats.

Christmas Classics Playlist

December 21 - Christmas Movies

These are the movies that are necessary to watch, particularly in the days leading up to Christmas.

Dr. Seuss's How The Grinch Stole Christmas

Everyone grew up knowing this story, and this film brings it to life beautifully.

Home Alone and Home Alone 2


Don't speak to me if you don't like these movies ya' filthy animal.

Christmas Vacation

The best of the best of the best of Christmas comedies. Never gets old. Mandatory.

The Muppet Christmas Carol and A Muppet Family Christmas


It just isn't Christmas without The Muppets and the classics are the best.

A Charlie Brown Christmas

There is no better way to learn the true meaning of Christmas.


"Play ball!"

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

December 20 - Happy Hanukkah

It's time to spin the dreidel, it's time to light the menorah, it's time to meet Hanukkah cause Hanukkah starts tonight!

December 19 - The Christmas Mix-acle

I'm going to make up for missing a few days by linking over to the motherload of Christmas mixes.

I look forward to this every year.

The Christmas Mix-acle 2011 courtesy of Chris March.

Monday, December 19, 2011

December 17 - A Merry Love-ly Christmas

Look where I finally got to go!

The sign looks a lot smaller in real life!

The Philadelphia Christmas Village in Love Park!

So pretty! So cold! So entertaining! 

Thank you Brittany for braving the cold city streets with me!

December 14 - Christmas Lights

I'm a total sucker for Christmas lights. Seriously. If you ever want to distract me for some reason, just wave some pretty lights in my face.

There are many beautiful light displays in the Pottstown, PA area (check out The Mercury's Holiday Lights map), but this by far is my favorite. 

This house is tucked away behind the Perkiomen trail down the road from Ursinus College. Which I loved since that meant that last year I could drive by every night on my way home from school at night and enjoy a quick show. 

If you are in the area (it's worth the trip even if you aren't), this house is definitely worth a visit! Or a few since there are different songs on different nights! Just be sure to get there before 10:00!

So pretty! This truly is such a wonder! Thank you to the owners for putting so much time, money, and thought into this each year!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

December 13 - 12 Days of Christmas

Only 12 days left to Christmas! And the best way to celebrate is to watch the original fun version of The 12 Days of Christmas by the acapella group, Straight No Chaser.

Monday, December 12, 2011

December 12 - Christmas Baking and Cookies

My mom and I take our Christmas baking very very seriously.

We do not take well to trying to be outdone by others. And I don't think the rest of my family will ever let us live down The Great Cookie Fight from a few years ago.

Here is our current list of items for this year, encompassing a mix of old family recipes, and new recently discovered ones:

  • Pumpkin Bread
  • Nut Cake
  • Chocolate-Mint Squares
  • Peanut-Butter Cookies
  • Chocolate-Chip Cookies  (both with and without nuts)
  • Chocolate-Crinkle Cookies
  • Mini Shoo-Fly Pies (Thanks Sue!)
  • Shortbread Meltaways (with toffee bits)
  • Cat-Whiskers (white-chocolate, pretzels, and nuts)
  • Peanut-Butter Blossoms (with dark-chocolate Hershey-kisses)
  • Butter Cut-Out Cookies...with 2 pounds of butter (some frosted, which have to be hidden from one brother, and some with just sprinkles)
If anyone would like the recipe for any of the ones above, leave a comment and I will send it to you.

I would also love to know what everyone else is making for their Christmas baking!

December 11 - "New" Christmas Songs

Here are (a few of) my favorite "new" Christmas songs. You know...the lovely little ones that aren't yet Christmas classics but should and probably will become new staples.

Christmas Lights by Coldplay

Such a sad, beautiful song. I love the imagery that the lyrics and Chris Martin's voice conjure up.

The Christmas Song by The Raveonettes

So unique for a Christmas song, but still so pretty.

The Cowboy Christmas Ball by The Killers

The Killers' newest Christmas song. All of theirs are new classics to me, and are all spectacularly different.

Pennsylvania Holiday by Valencia

Say what you like, but as a total PA girl, there is no other song that comes close to depicting Pennsylvania at Christmas time. I dare all you PA'ers to listen and not feel a single twinge of nostalgia or understanding.

Can you think of any others?

As always, thank you to the big brother for introducing me to these and many others.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

December 7 - Pre-Christmas Christmas Movies

I firmly believe that some Christmas movies should not be watched until the week of or only a few days before Christmas. I'm really a little neurotic about sticking to traditions, especially when it comes to Christmas. Those particular movies will be revealed when the time comes.

There are however many lovely and magickal Christmas movies that I encourage watching in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

I also have to warn you that I have never and will never endorse the viewing of A Christmas Story. I find it neither funny nor heart-warming, and I will stick to my guns (pun!) no matter who threatens to shoot my eye out (pun #2!).


I love Christmas movies! Christmas movies are my favorite!
 This movie is funny, child-appropriate, and drives home the message of the importance of family and believing in magick (by the way, I think spelling "magic" as "magick" is more magickal) at Christmas, all in a unique format. Oh, and Zooey Deschanel (blonde!) is in it, and and and she sings "Baby, It's Cold Outside"!

The Polar Express

"Tickets, please!"
Who doesn't wish that as a child, you could have taken a train to the North Pole to meet Santa? Complete with hot chocolate  and elves! And with this movie you finally can! The animation is beautiful and the story is one everyone knows and cherishes.

The Santa Clause

A classic. Tim Allen at his prime. Again, another interesting twist on the story of Santa Clause that gives us the message that family and believing in magick is important.

Any and All Christmas TV Movies

Okay, I know that they are kind of all the same, and some are really ridiculous, but there are a few gems in the mix like Secret Santa and Three Days. Plus, they are never in short supply and most never fail to be heart-warming, despite the corniness (then again, I'm a sucker for corniness). 

What movies do you watch around this time of December? 

All photos courtesy of IMDB

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

December 6 - The Limited Funds Gift-Guide

As someone with a pile of debt of loans to pay off and very little funds available, you can bet your bottom-dollar (or I guess I’m actually betting my bottom-dollar, literally) that the gifts I give this year will be on a budget.
And I know I’m not the only one who has to go this route, so here is my (small) list of my favorite budget-friendly present ideas.

Mix CD

Seriously, who doesn’t love a mix CD? Surprise a friend or family member with a mix of songs you think that he or she will like, use it as an opportunity to introduce someone to some new bands or artists.

Just be sure to include a track listing so you don’t have to worry about being asked: “What’s that one song with the guy that sounds like that other guy?”

Or, for the more tech-savvy, you can be really fancy-schmancy and pick up a USB drive for a few dollars and load it up with a whole bunch of music. Speaking from personal experience, the recipient will be very very appreciative.

Hand-Knit (Crocheted, Sewn, etc.) Item

It’s all about the hand-made item: knitting or crocheting a simple scarf or hat, sewing an ornament, or making jewelry or record-bowls. It’s all very simple, easy to do on limited funds, and shows a person that you put a lot of time, thought, and effort into making something special just for him or her.

Gift Card

Never underestimate the power of a $10 or $15 gift card, especially if the person is also not in the best of financial situations.

A Framed Picture

Most pictures frames are not super expensive, and many are easy to customize. Remind a sibling of your favorite childhood memory with him or her, let a friend know how much you appreciate the friendship, or give your parents a new photo to place on their desk.

A Heartfelt Letter

If you do not have the means to spend any money on presents this year, all you really need is a piece of paper and a pen. Write a letter to your loved-one telling him or her just how much you appreciate and love them; tell them the things that you forget to mention to them throughout the rest of the year. It’s the best gift you can give to someone.

Monday, December 5, 2011

December 5 - Christmas Music for the Christmas-Haters

Since today is Monday, I thought I would do another Christmas music post, but one to still kind of help you ease into the Christmas music season.
Don’t worry, by December 25, I will have posted a plethora of the Christmas classics. In fact, by that point, you will probably want to run me over with a reindeer.

In the meantime, I know there is an assortment of Scrooges, Grinches, and Bah-humbuggers out there, so here are a few Christmas songs that do not express a high level of fondness for this time of year.

Don’t Shoot Me Santa by The Killers

Still my favorite of all of the Christmas songs The Killers have done. And quite possibly one of the greatest music videos of all time. Also, a nice warning to all of you misbehavers out there…be nice or Santa may show up with a shotgun rather than a few lumps of coal.

Yellin’ at the Christmas Tree by Billy Idol

This is actually a yearly occurrence in my house…mainly by my mom, as our tree falls over. Strange how it always seems to fall when she’s in the room. Hmmmmm….

Forget December by Something Corporate

Yule Shoot Your Eye by Fall Out Boy

Please excuse me as my pop-punk-emo past rears its head with these two songs. But they are pretty great if you really just do not feel like celebrating Christmas this year.

Know of any others?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

December 4 - Christmas Markets

Dresden Christmas Market

I stood in the middle of this square one time, and I hope to do so again with the same scene as above surrounding me.

The Christmas markets, which originated in Germany, Austria, Alsace, and South Tyrol, have become world-famous, drawing crowds by the thousands during the month of December. The most well-known and large ones take place in Dresden, Nuremberg, Stuttgart, Dortmund, and Augsburg.

Vienna Christmas Market
As someone who loves the Christmas season, especially all of the beautiful lights and decorations, it would be a dream come true to go to a Christmas Market in Germany, Austria, or France. All with other people who enjoy the season as much as me.

But in the mean time, I hope to visit the Philadelphia Christmas Market for international holiday gifts, ornaments, arts and crafts, food, sweets and hot beverages. 

As anyone else been there? Or better yet, gotten to go to a real gosh-darn German Christmas market?

December 3 - Advent Calendar

When I was little, one of my favorite things to do in December was open up a new little window on our advent calendar each morning.  At first, I had to share the task with my brother, but after a few years I was the only one who continued to have the same enthusiasm for it.

The advent calendar that we have is nothing extraordinary. It's just paper, and shows a simple theme of several homes at night. But each day, you open a window or door to find someone or something preparing for Christmas Eve, whether it is the moon in the sky, a mouse with a bit of cheese, a woman preparing a cake, or a child decorating a Christmas tree, until by December 24, you see an array of happy people and creatures celebrating that night. I love it.

Today, many of the little paper doors only have one left, others refused to stay closed until it is their turn to stay open, and I know what is behind each door by heart. But each day, I still look forward to opening a window that shows me a simple, but beautiful, Christmas moment.

Do you have an advent calendar you love? What is special about it?

If not, here are some advent calendar ideas I love.

Activities Advent Calendar

I love this idea from Anthology Magazine. Pick an activity to do for each day in December, whether it is simple like having hot chocolate, or a fun activity like ice-skating. So each day, you get to open a box or your vehicle of choice and then do whatever it tells you to do for the day.

I totally plan on doing this when I have a family one day. My kids are going to hate me, and I will love it.

Knit Advent Calendar
Photo courtesy of my favorite favorite favorite blog: a friend to knit with
The knitter in me adores this hand-knit, little gloves and hats advent calendar. You can pop in a little treat   so the members of your household have a little surprise each day.

There are so many terrific and special ideas for advent calendars out there, most of which are pretty easy to do yourself (hurray for self-sufficiency!). Here's a great list of ideas put together by another great blog: Creature Comforts Advent Calendar Round-Up.

It's not too late to start one for yourself this year!

However, I still plan on sticking with my beautifully beat-up advent calendar.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

December 2 - Christmas Music That Isn't Too Christmas-y

I'm going to try to post something fun that is holiday-related every day for the month of December, because the holiday season makes my heart sing and I like to share the joy. Don't worry, I won't actually sing.

I know that not everyone is not like me, and some people need to ease into this festive time, so here are some of my favorite Christmas/Winter songs that aren't too Christmas-y (meaning, they are not constantly being played on the radio/in stores/on the street/on television/in your head during December).

Winter Song by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson

A nice, slightly sad, winter song that does not mention Christmas even once. Also, can these two lovely ladies do more duets? And how cute is the music video?

River by Joni Mitchell, Live

Again, kind of sad, but so amazingly beautiful. This one does mention Christmas, but it is not the main focus, and is part of a completely non-Christmas album (love love love Blue). There are many wonderful covers of this song, but the original is unsurpassable.

Winter Winds by Mumford and Sons

All you need to know about this song is that it is Mumford and Sons singing a winter song. Perfect for cozying up by the fire on a chilly night.

White Winter Hymnal by Fleet Foxes

Take what I just said about Winter Winds, but replace Fleet Foxes with Mumford and Sons.

2000 Miles by Coldplay, Live (The Pretenders Cover)

Um, is anyone else starting to sense a theme? Apparently, I equate sad Christmas-ish songs with not being too Christmas-y. Either way, I love this version of this Pretenders classic.

Winter Song by Caesars

I also seem to think that if a song has the word "Winter" in the title, it's automatically appropriate for December without being too holiday-centric.

Did I miss any? 

Hope this helps ease everyone into the holiday season!