Notes Jotted Down During an Unseasonably-Warm Week …
Quick poll: I sent out my Christmas cards last week. How many of you still do that instead of sending an email or text or ecard?
The CEO who fired 900 employees via Zoom has apologized and is taking time off. I was once fired with hundreds of other people too, but it came in a mass email. Not sure which way is worse. At least on Zoom you can get some satisfaction by showing your former boss one of your fingers.
In It’s a Wonderful Life, Clarence says that he is an “A.S. 2,” which stands for “Angel, Second Class.” So if the “S” stands for “Second Class,” why does he need the “2?”
If you read only one story this week, it should be this restaurant review.
What are the best Christmas songs of all time? I have my choices (they’re all from decades ago, from singers like Dean Martin and Rosemary Clooney and Perry Como, the A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack, traditional carols, and I’d throw in a few more modern songs), and USA Today has their list. With only ten spots, they leave out a lot, but any list with both Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song” and “Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses can’t be that bad (amazingly, Buzzfeed has an even better list).
If there’s one common denominator with every single couple that is shown a house on House Hunters and Love It or List It, it’s that they all want an “open concept.” When did this begin? When did it take over? Doesn’t anyone like actual rooms anymore?
Making Spirits Bright
This Lagrangeville, New York, family just set the Guinness world record for the most Christmas lights on a residential property. The 687,000 lights (using eight miles of extension cords!) are set to music and attract thousands of visitors. Donations are collected (for the community, not the lights), and the family says that they’ve raised $500,000 over the years.
I haven’t put lights up at my place in decades, but when I was a kid we put candles in the windows and lights on our porch. Probably around 686,896 fewer lights than this family has, but still festive!
Letters to Santa
Back in August I mentioned Santa Claus, Indiana, the home of the very first theme park in America, Santa Claus Land (now called Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari). But the town is also famous for something else: being the headquarters for the people who answer kids’ letters to Santa. CBS Sunday Morning took a trip to Indiana to talk to some of Santa’s helpers:
Bagels and Cheesecake and Frosting, Oh My!
The supply chain crisis has just gotten real. It is now affecting cream cheese! It’s so bad that Kraft, the makers of Philadelphia Cream Cheese, will actually pay you to not make cheesecake this year.
(If your favorite cream cheese isn’t on store shelves, you can always make your own.)
Words of the Year
It’s that time of year again, when we get all of the “best,” “worst,” “most,” and “least” lists. It’s also the time of year when we find out what words have been named the “words of the year” by various dictionaries and sites. There’s usually a word that’s popular I’ve never heard of before. Let’s see if that’s the case for 2021.
It should be no surprise that someone would pick vaccine, and that’s the top word from the folks at Merriam-Webster. The list of runners-up includes insurrection, woke, infrastructure, and cicada.
The Oxford English Dictionary went the vaccine route too, only they chose the shorter, more hip vax because it can be used in a myriad of ways.
Hey, this year there are two words I’ve never heard before: cheugy and allyship!
Headline of the Week
RIP bell hooks, Anne Rice, Michael Nesmith, Cara Williams, Al Unser Sr., Demaryius Thomas, Steve Bronski, Robbie Shakespeare, and Lina Wertmuller
bell hooks — born Gloria Jean Watkins — was an acclaimed author of 40 books on feminism, race, and sexuality and a professor at Berea College. She deliberately lowercased the spelling of her pen name in part to both honor and differentiate herself from her great-grandmother Bell Hooks. She died Wednesday at the age of 69.
Anne Rice was the author of the classic novel Interview with the Vampire (later made into a Tom Cruise/Brad Pitt movie) and several other horror/gothic novels. She also wrote books in other genres under different names. She died Saturday at the age of 80.
Michael Nesmith was a guitarist and singer with The Monkees. He also wrote songs for others (including “Different Drum” for The Stone Poneys) and later became a producer, with shows such as the Popclips music video show (which an executive later turned into MTV), the movie Repo Man, and the influential comedy sketch/music video collection Elephant Parts. He died last week at the age of 78.
A side note: Nesmith’s mother invented Liquid Paper.
Cara Williams starred with Harry Morgan in the ’50s sitcom Pete and Gladys and in the ’60s headlined The Cara Williams Show. She also received an Oscar nomination for her role in The Defiant Ones. She died last week at the age of 96.
Al Unser Sr. was a member of one of racing’s most famous families. He won the Indianapolis 500 four times. He died last week at the age of 82.
Demaryius Thomas helped the Denver Broncos win the 2016 Super Bowl as a wide receiver. He died last week at the age of 33.
Robbie Shakespeare was a bassist and one half of the Sly and Robbie producing duo. He died last week at the age of 68.
Lina Wertmuller was the first woman to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Director, for the 1975 film Seven Beauties. She died last week at the age of 93.
This Week in History
Boston Tea Party (December 16, 1773)
That night, 342 chests of tea were dumped into Boston Harbor, and to this day the water remains delicious.
Glenn Miller Disappears (December 16, 1944)
There have been several theories, but it’s most likely the UC-64 Norseman plane the bandleader was in experienced either mechanical problems or icing and crashed into the English Channel. The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery has investigated a report that the plane was found in the 1980s, but a search hasn’t happened yet.
This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Bus Stop at Christmas (December 13, 1952)
This Stevan Dohanos cover is one of my favorites. The man with the serious face to the left of the tree is Post writer Rufus Jarman.
Christmas Recipes: Part 1
It’s a holiday so big we need two weeks just to do the recipes. This week: Appetizers and Cocktails.
Let’s start off with something everyone likes, a Classic Cheese Ball from Tastes Better from Scratch (Note: there’s cream cheese in it!). Taste of Home has these Cranberry Sauce Meatballs, which, if it’s the same thing I’m thinking of, I’ve had before and are fantastic. We can’t forget Martha Stewart, and she has a Hot Spinach Dip and these Rosemary Roasted Nuts (I’ll eat anything with rosemary). And Delish has a Pigs in a Blanket Wreath. Just make sure you take a picture of it before everyone devours it.
For liquid refreshment, Country Living has a Hot Toddy with Charred Oranges, a Driven Snow Cocktail, and the Best Old-Fashioned Egg Nog. Over at Delish, you can find a Boozy Grinch Punch, while Ree Drummond (aka The Pioneer Woman) has a Winter Sangria, a Classic Negroni, and a Pumpkin Pie Martini.
And the kids need something to drink too, so Drummond has three ways to up your hot cocoa game.
Next Week’s Holidays and Events
Winter Begins (December 21)
If you want to prepare yourself or throw a party, it starts at exactly 10:59 a.m. ET.
Festivus (December 23)
Featured image: Shutterstock
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