Santa Claus is court?!

Concerning "Miracle on 34th Street"

When I watched Miracle on 34th Street when I was a kid, at first I got into its story of a man named Kris Kringle who, thanks to the drunken antics of the guy they’d hired to be Santa, gets to play the part in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, then takes up the duties as Macy’s Santa and becomes a sensation even as he freely claims to be the real St. Nick.

I stayed in it all the way up until Kris gets in trouble over bopping somebody on the noggin with his cane, which in turn leads Kris’ “victim” into making false accusation which exaggerates what happens, which in turn sends him to Bellevue Mental Hospital and, finally, into … a court of law?!

At that, the film completely lost me.

Santa Claus travels all over the globe north, south, east and west every Christmas Eve. The last place on earth you’d expect to find him is in court. But there Kris goes into the courtroom of a New York Supreme Court judge where, after much lighthearted hijinks that climaxes with Kris’ lawyer bringing in 21 bags of letters to Santa before the judge to prove his point that Kris is the real deal (much to the uproarious delight of the courtroom spectators) Kris is out of the nut ward and back into the joyous Yuletide where he belongs.

All in all, Kris’ “trial” causes in the movie as much a sensation as the so-called “Monkey Trial” of teacher John T. Scopes over illegally teaching evolution did in real life, especially when Kris’ lawyer goes for broke on the publicity angle despite the contrary wishes of Macys.

Yes Edmund Gwen, Natalie Wood, Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, et al, are superb, and yes it can be considered a “holiday classic,” but I am no fan of Miracle on 34th Street thanks to the courtroom twist that, while admittedly original, only served to gum up the works for me, because –with the exception of Andersonville, Paths of Glory, Twelve Angry Men, The Caine Mutiny, and Breaker Morant – movies that go to court are not my cup of tea, and even the presence of Santa in Miracle on 34th's celluloid court visit could not turn it into a cup of Christmas tea. 

Now a movie in which a certain food additives genius puts thousands of imported Italian twinkle lights on his house for Christmas, on the other hand …

Holiday gift guide for your grandpa

Gift ideas for your special grandpa.

Grandpas are special people. They tell interesting stories. They are supportive and have a lot of experience in many areas of life. They are people you can come to listen to your problems and offer words of encouragement.

They also offer you unconditional love and a hug when you need one. For these reasons and more, it is important to honor them with some nice gifts during those special holidays. Yet, what do you buy? It may seem like grandpa has everything he wants or could want.

First, take a breath and think about your own grandpa. Don’t think about that generalized idea of what a grandpa is. This means you don’t have to buy him a robe, a pipe or a pair of slippers for every holiday. What it does mean is that you need to think about what he likes and where his interest lies.

Does grandpa have a favorite hobby? Does grandpa like to make wood carvings? Does grandpa like to paint pictures? Does grandpa like to spend time working on old cars? Could you buy any tools, accessories or other items that he can use while enjoying these hobbies?

Does grandpa have a favorite sports team? Would he enjoy any books or DVDs about this team?

Does grandpa need an update on his wardrobe? Is it time for him to wear a new sweater or a new coat? Would he be willing to be seen in some new clothes you pick for him?

Would grandpa enjoy a new electronic toy? Would he enjoy battling aliens on a PlayStation console or would he enjoy a new laptop so he can chat with his many grandchildren?

Finally, are there some treats that grandpa would enjoy? This can include such things as his favorite candies, cookies and nuts.

Purchase any of the items or a few of the items and you might just see a smile on grandpa’s face.


Best Christmas movies of all time

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

While I do admit that I am particularly fond of the Hallmark Channel’s made-for-cable movie about the blogger/publicity specialist who earns special recognition from Santa and his much cuter friend, I also have a few favorite Christmas movies that will probably never appear on the Hallmark channel. 


Here’s a list of a few of my favorite Christmas movies. What are your favorite Christmas movies from back in the day and why? What’s the best Christmas movie out this year.


So, without any further ado other aside from the Animal from the Muppet show drum roll, here are my fave Christmas movie picks from when I was a kid. 


Here are a few of my absolute favorite Christmas movies:


Christmas Vacation

Nothing beats Clark Griswold putting up Christmas lights and impressing his friends and family with his unbeatable Christmas love and spirit. Chevy Chase’s cluelessness as Clark Griswold shows him as the most lovable dad of all time. 


Miracle on 34th Street

The idea that Santa Clause can appear in court is pretty awesome as is the idea that Christmas spirit extends past just buying and shopping. Magic is provable with Miracle on 34th Street. 


A Christmas Story

In A Christmas Story, all poor young Ralphie wants for Christmas is a bb gun, which is hopefully something that we don’t all have to relate to. The lesson of the movies are simple: be careful what you wish for and never, ever, ever do a triple-dog-dare just because someone asks you to. 


Will Ferrell, who is about 9 feet tall plays a giant Elf returned home to New York. Need I say more? Elf is a kid-pleaser that sentimental adults will fall in love with, too. Elf’s lesson is that we should be nice to kids of all ages. 

Bad Santa

Billy Bob Thornton is the baddest Santa ever. He drinks, he picks up moms, and he doesn’t listen to kids. Holiday store hiring managers should note that Santa Clauses should not be carrying flasks with them at all times. That said, the capers of Bad Santa and Billy Bob Thornton’s strange kind of charm remind us why Angelina Jolie might have once been in love with him in the first place. 


What other movies should be on this list? Do you have any special favorites to add to the list of Christmas favorites?


Holiday gift guide for Dad

Shopping for Dad during the holidays doesn’t have to be a hassle

Many people assume that shopping for their fathers during the holidays is a hard chore. They fear they will buy dad a horrible gift or a gift that he doesn’t want. For this reason, they tend to buy the traditional things that are advertised for fathers for the holidays. These gifts include ties, sweaters and watches. Yet, you don’t have to stick with the traditional gifts when shopping for your dad. All you need to do is stop and think about what your own personal dad likes.

Is there a sport he likes? Does he follow this sport on television or does he take part in the sport himself during his spare time? Would he enjoy some new accessories to enjoy playing this sport? For instance, if he is on a basketball team, would he enjoy some new set of sweats for training or a new pair of sneakers? If he follows a certain sports team, instead of playing the sport himself, why not get him a new T-shirt with the team logo on it, a new cap or even a key-chain with their logo on it?

Does he have a hobby that he enjoys? Does he fish, collect stamps or bird watch? Could you purchase something that pertains to the hobby?

Is dad a tool nut? Does he believe that he is a great at DIY projects? Is there some tools that he could add to his collection?

Does dad enjoy electronics? Would he enjoy some new accessories for his latest purchase? This can include everything from headsets, flash-drives and extra covers for tablets. Remember the accessories can make any electronic even more fun to use.

What about snacks? Are there any fun or healthy snacks that dad enjoys? This can include nuts or dark chocolate. You could purchase him a mixture of these snacks and place them in a nice basket, along with a DVD of the greatest highlights of his favorite sports team.

No, it doesn’t take a lot of money to purchase gifts that dad will like. However, it does take a little bit of imagination and a bit of knowledge about what your own dad likes.


Must-see holiday movies

Line these up for one of your snow days!

Part of our holiday cheer each year comes from the movies we only watch once a year. My daughter is always begging to watch one of our holiday films in the summer, and sometimes I’ll cave in and let her—especially if we celebrate a summer Christmas in July, as we sometimes do—but normally I try to beg her off back, hoping to keep the movies magical and once-a-year only. In fact, last year I packed up our clay cartoons just for this purpose so we couldn’t watch them! Cruel, I know.

In addition to our annual favorite clay cartoons (my personal favorite is Rudolph’s Shiny New Year),  here are some of our must-watch holiday movies.

The Polar Express. This is my daughter’s favorite Christmas movie, and I have to say it’s one of mine, too.  The animation is breathtaking, and we really enjoy the songs and the dark, but not too dark, themes. The idea of a Christmas ghost is always intriguing.

Arthur Christmas. This new favorite is absolutely adorable, moving and intelligently funny; you will probably enjoy it if you generally like animated movies. I highly recommend checking this one out with your family this year.

Gremlins. No, this isn’t for your kids—it’s purely for grownup Christmas fun! You can make it even more fun by telling your cats that they can’t get wet and you won’t feed them after midnight. Or maybe that’s just me…

The Nightmare Before Christmas. My family watches this for two holidays. Okay, this is one that we might actually watch throughout the year. We can’t help it! It’s our favorite!

Harry Potter. I don’t know why we always have a Harry Potter marathon, but we do—magic and snow, maybe?—and this year, I don’t think we’ll be able to make it through all of the films! Maybe the first three… My husband and I also like to do a LOTR marathon around this time of year, and with Dark Knight Rises coming out on DVD—we still haven’t seen it yet!—we’ll be having one of those marathons, too.

It’s a Wonderful Life. My husband and I usually watch this one together on New Year’s Eve.

Some others that my daughter really likes include Garfield’s Christmas and A Charlie Brown Christmas. You might also want to check out the short Dreamworks Christmas films, such as Shrek the Halls. That one is pretty funny and brief enough for littles to enjoy.

Christmas gift ideas for that special man in your life

Great holiday advice and gift ideas

Christmas shopping can be hard. Sometimes it can be harder to find that perfect gift for a man, especially for a man you care about dearly. You want to express your feelings. Yet, how do you do that when most of the advertisements say that men want and need tools?

First, of all, there is nothing wrong with buying a man tools. If the man loves tools, this can be a great present. By loving tools, this should mean they are something he uses during hobbies and fun activities, not work. If he works with tools all day, he may not get so excited about them. If they are something he uses during his off time such as weekends, presents like these are saying that you know what he likes.

Yet, if you know nothing about his hobbies, his hobbies don’t involve tools or he just doesn’t use them, there are many other presents to buy a man who shows that you think he is special. First, consider the man. What are his hobbies? Does he play music, play sports, follow any sports team religiously or is he a huge exercise fanatic? Could you find any presents that are related to these hobbies?

What about something personal? Would he wear a watch or a new pair of driving clothes or winter gloves?  What about cologne? Do you know his preferred brand? Does he have a preferred brand? Is there a scent that you love? 

What about clothes? Would he enjoy a new sweat shirt or T-shirt that advertises his favorite sports team, band or hobby?  However, do be warned here. Don’t buy clothes that you wish he would wear. If your guy is a T-shirt or flannel shirt type of guy, don’t buy him sweaters. If he is a sweater or button up shirt type of guy, there is no need to buy vintage type T-shirts or baseball caps for him. Don’t use this holiday as a way to change his wardrobe.

Finally, buy some little things he is sure to love. This can include a gift box filled with his favorite snacks or protein powder drink mixes. It can even include a CD of his favorite band.  Most of all, don’t stress too hard over the gift or gifts. This will take all the fun out of the holiday season for the both of you. 

Holiday events are coming to town!

Keep your eyes peeled for local celebrations everywhere.

Now that Halloween is past us, businesses are turning their sights on the biggest money-making season of the year: Christmas time. It doesn't matter that our bellies haven't been overstuffed with the long-awaited Thanksgiving turkey, sales and merriment are already upon us.

With the push to really draw patrons in, local businesses all over the country are trying to beat out big stores' Black Friday sales and pre-season events by drawing families and downtown before Turkey Day. By hosting and sponsoring free holiday activities for parents to bring their kids to, they're giving back to the community while bringing in patrons. It's a win-win.

Check your local community calendars and newspapers for holiday events popping up in your community as well as surrounding areas. Many mom and pop brick and mortars participate in Christmas walks and local vendor shows that offer family friendly activities, from face painting and crafts to carriage rides and games. Often, local musicians, bakers and artisans will also join in the fun, which brings a warm and fuzzy charm to the event.

The best part of these Christmas events is that they're usually free or cost next to nothing. Family time without a HUGE price tag isn't always easy to come by in any season, so enjoy it...and take lots of pictures. The kiddos adore the jump on the holiday fun and smaller businesses remind you that they're there and have a coziness and personable quality that big businesses will never be able to capture.

Slow down, enjoy the season

And for God’s sake, put that blow-up snowman away!

Why do we rush the seasons so insistently in America? International folks, I want to know if you do this, too. Do decorations and food ideas and other seasonally inappropriate items show up in shop windows a good two months before a holiday even begins?

Do you have Santas and candy canes adjacent to Halloween skulls and candy corn (or comparative October holidays) on your store shelves? Do stores begin playing Christmas tunes in early November, nearly two entire months prior to the holiday itself, rendering everyone crazy and hateful of such music by the time the holiday actually arrives?

Because that’s how we do it in America. My husband works in retail and comes home in Christmas glitter from whatever reindeer or snowman or glitterized decoration he had to unload that day. I have neighbors who still have Halloween decorations up—indeed, we still have one slowly decomposing jack o’lantern on our own front porch—while right next door, there is already an inflatable sled or snowman.

This is just messed up! Folks, stop rushing these holidays and enjoy what’s here while it’s here! Not only does it sadden me that we can’t live in the moment; it also just makes me sick and tired of Christmas before it even gets here.

And I love Christmas. I love Yule. I’m a hippie pagan happy-dance girl who loves hot chocolate and caroling and glitterific pine cones and watching It’s a Wonderful Life and the whole shebang. But this whole Western rush to get the holidays going and over with is a total buzz kill.

Hallmark ornaments are Christmas traditions

Christmas may officially fall on December 25, but Hallmark stores start celebrating in July. Every year, around the end of July, Hallmark officially unveils its annual collection of Christmas ornaments. Collectors flock to ornament premieres across the country and place orders months in advance to ensure they get the latest ornaments in their favorite series.Ornaments offered by Hallmark include those from some of the year’s popular animated features, representations of classic movies and more traditional ornaments to represent family relationships. Annual ornaments featuring characters from Star Wars, A Christmas Story and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer regularly sell out, as do ornaments with motion, lights and special sounds. Special ornaments also come with the option of recording a special message for someone you love.

There’s something special about being able to put ornaments with memories on the Christmas tree every year. With Hallmark ornaments, you can also start giving an ornament each year. With new series starting every year, it is never too late to start building an ornament collection. Series such as the “Mischievous Kitten” or “Puppy Love” series will delight children and they will begin to look forward to the latest addition each year. Not only will they have fun adding new ornaments to the tree each year, but you will build a collection that they can take with them when they get a home of their own.

While multiple stores sell Christmas ornaments, only at Hallmark will you find the avid collectors and regular series that have delighted gift-givers and recipients for decades.

Star Light, Star Bright

Star light, star bright. We all know where that song leads – making a wish on a star we see in the sky. As children, we are taught this rhyme and as adults, we either teach it to others, or remember it fondly and silently make a wish in our heads.  A wish that we pray comes true.

Stars have forever held a significance within our society – it’s an unspoken tie to the vast universe with which we strive to explore and gain information. Stars have taken over our society – we find them, not only in the sky, but on sidewalks tagged with a celebrity name, in tattoos decorating some part of someone’s body, in holiday decorations or as a tree topper for the Christmas tree, as a symbol on flags, on jewelry, on children’s tests or homework indicating a good job, in artwork…the list goes on and on.

When it comes to the holidays, we often follow along a wish list and buy gifts that were pre-selected by the recipient. Obviously, that is a pretty safe bet that we will get them something that they like. Yet, at times, purchasing a gift that is not on the list…that is something you sought out for that person…something that you put your time and effort into…can become the most meaningful and talked about gift of the holiday season.

With that being said, look into naming a star for someone. Reality is, it is thoughtful and allows you to be creative and provide a slightly unique holiday gift. You choose the name of your star, the constellation/location of it and can choose levels of “merchandise” to receive regarding your star. Or, just keep it simple…name the star for someone…and obtain the certificate with its name and coordinates on it. Nothing fancy, but a unique gesture and gift to share with another person.

The nice thing is…this allows you to choose a word or phrase that is meaningful to your relationship with someone or can be in memory of someone or something.  In essence, this gift idea simply allows you to put a personal spin on a timeless and precious piece of the universe.