My Favorite Things About Christmas

My Favorite Things About Christmas

Everyone has their traditions surrounding the holidays. As I am Catholic, I only celebrate Christmas, New Year’s, and Epiphany around this time of year, and I don’t have much knowledge about any other traditions. And, as you have probably been aware since before Halloween, Christmas is coming up very soon now. I’d like to share some of my favorite Christmas things. Some are family traditions, and some are more general.

I love Christmas music. My favorite songs are the more upbeat ones – think Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, Step into Christmas, etc. I also have a soft spot for the slower, more romantic stuff, like James Taylor’s songs. It sounds like the kind you’d play in the kitchen, softly, when the kids are asleep and everything is set up for the morning and you’re slow dancing and talking quietly to your love.

My favorite Christmas movie, and perhaps one of my favorite movies of all time, or my favorite of all time ever, even, is It’s a Wonderful Life. I love Jimmy Stewart, and I can’t express my love for George and Mary’s romance. Personally, I’ve always wanted to pull a Mary Bailey on a house myself. The movie is everything I could wish for – romantic, funny, iconic, and a little spooky, with plenty of feelings evoked.  

Of course, I also love Christmas cookies. Every year my family each picks their favorite variety, and we make a batch or two of those. Mine are the M&M cookies that, I’m ashamed to say, use a ton of Crisco, but that’s what makes them so delicious! Besides, we only make them at Christmas, so it isn’t like I have a constant supply.

I enjoy the decrease in temperature. Now, around here that normally doesn’t occur until about Thanksgiving, but it feels so nice to bundle up after a long summer of melting and chafing and sweating. I don’t mind the cold, and I love snow; I do mind rain and wind. They’re the two things that make cold utterly unbearable.

My favorite thing about Christmas, though, is finding and giving presents. I adore finding the perfect present for someone. That doesn’t mean it’s many, or large, or expensive, necessarily. The perfect present lets someone know you listen when they speak, you know who they are, and you’re willing to sacrifice your money and time for them. My favorite gifts to give are either useful and practical, beautiful, or fun – ideally a combination of them all.

What are your favorite things about the holidays? Please feel free to leave a comment down below! I’d love to hear what makes this time of year special for all of you.


Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

(DISCLAIMER: Spoilers!)

I recently saw the sequel to Mamma Mia! And boy, do I have a lot of feelings about it. Some are positive, some are negative.

Let us begin with the title of the movie: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. At first glance, this is simply a clever way to name a sequel besides putting a number at the end of the original title. But, as any ABBA fan knows, it is a lyric from the song “Mamma Mia.”

Some of the songs in the sequel were the same as those used in the first musical, but there were many others, mostly lesser-known, used as well. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is more music-heavy than the original, whose songs were clearly picked from ABBA’s greatest hits.

I fell in love with Donna in this movie, which was not helped by the fact that she was played by my very favorite actress, Lily James. James is not only a good actress, singer, and dancer, she is also gorgeous and one of the few non-natural blondes who can pull off blonde hair. Donna played by James in this prequel/sequel was utterly charming. She was sweet, reckless, romantic, adventurous, and ambitious – a devastating mixture. No wonder she had three men fall completely in love with her over a period of a week or two. Frankly, I’m quite surprised it wasn’t more.

But. There were a few issues I had with the movie in relation to its original. Firstly, in the original Mamma Mia! movie it is mentioned that Donna’s mother instills “Catholic guilt” in her. This seems unlikely, as it is revealed in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again that Donna’s mother is largely absent, performing in Las Vegas to adoring crowds. Not to make assumptions, but if Donna’s mother was constantly playing Vegas, she was most likely not a regular church-goer, because of her schedule. More likely and more defensible is the fact that if Donna’s mother was constantly performing and jetting off all over the world, she wasn’t with Donna enough to instill an innate sense of guilt based on Catholicism within her daughter.

Then there was my biggest issue: the timeline. The original stage musical took place in the nineties, which made sense, as Donna was supposed to have had Sophie very young in the late seventies/early eighties. This time period was the one during which ABBA was most popular. Sophie in the original movie is twenty years old, placing the original around the turn of the twenty-first century. In the sequel, Donna graduates college, then goes on to have Sophie soon after. So, assuming Donna is twenty-two or twenty-three when she has Sophie, when Sophie is getting married at twenty Donna should only be in her early forties. This is confusing, because she was played by the then-fifty-nine-year-old Meryl Streep (though I will admit I really love and admire her immense talent). Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again supposedly takes place five years after Mamma Mia!, but the technology is quite advanced, with many of the characters using some of the latest iPhones. Amanda Seyfried, who plays Sophie in both movies, while beautiful and still rather young, does not look ten years after the original movie like she is a twenty-five-year-old – mainly because she is not a twenty-five-year-old. All in all the timeline and casting were so messed up and confusing that the combination truly upset me, which distracted me from enjoying the movie a little bit.

Another, much smaller issue, was the fact that playboy Bill mentioned an elderly aunt on the island, and in the first movie it is explained that Donna inherited the inn she runs from an elderly woman she cared for on the island for the beginning of Sophie’s life. This elderly aunt never appears but in passing mention in the second movie, and Donna is given the inn by a kind middle-aged local woman.

In the end, the music was excellent, the visuals were stunning, the acting was good, the dancing great, the story incredibly touching. I definitely found myself stifling sobs in the theater during the end of the movie, something that has only happened once before during The Fault in Our Stars (but that was an open sobbing).

I would recommend this movie a million times over. It was fun and pretty and good. And, if it had major flaws, these flaws did not prevent enjoyment of the movie too much. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a movie that I am glad I saw in theaters, whose soundtrack I listen to ad nauseum, and a DVD I will ask for for Christmas. That is my recommendation.

Did you see Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again? Did you like it? Did you find any of the flaws or more than I found?

Shallow Is Important, Too

I feel there is a pervasive school of thought that believes that people should only nourish their deeper selves. While it is important to nourish the finer thoughts and feelings one has, it is also important to nourish the shallower parts of the person.

For example: you aren’t with your partner (if you have one) simply because they look a certain way – at least I hope you aren’t – and you aren’t with them simply because they have a lot of things in common with you. You’re hopefully with your partner because you not only find in them a good, compatible friend, but also a physically attractive human being. It’s important to have things in common and to get along with your significant other. It’s also important to be attracted to them physically. Does being with your significant other because you’re both attracted to them (shallower) and compatible with them (deeper) make you shallow or deep? It makes you both – you can be both! You are a multifaceted, multilayered human being. Both these things – physical attraction and compatibility – are important to maintain a happy relationship.

In another vein, it’s okay to enjoy things that aren’t necessarily “of substance.” The idea that only books or movies or what-have-you that are exigent is an old one. Victorians looked down on novel readers, because novels typically didn’t have a point other than to entertain. But that’s okay. It’s okay to like things that don’t teach you some kind of lesson! It’s okay to like things that are just fun – you’re allowed to have fun! Things that are just fun, or pretty, or entertaining, are good and valid too.

So, it’s okay read Dostoevsky, but it’s also okay to read a romance novel, or two or three. You are a multilayered, multifaceted human being. Don’t just attend to one part of your being and starve another. This goes both ways: don’t starve your deeper self to feed the more shallow part of the self, and don’t starve your more shallow self because you think it doesn’t need nourishment. It does.

Go read War and Peace, or US Weekly. Watch Citizen Kane or Pitch Perfect. Go volunteer at a homeless shelter, or go swimming. Do what makes your soul happy, and don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it.

15 Facts about Me!

15 Facts about Me!
  1. I am a synesthete. (See earlier post on synesthesia.) My favorite color is cerulean blue. To me, the color represents joy and excitement, and the warmth and relaxation of the beach.
  2. Starting from a very young age, I was obsessed with the Titanic. I even met Bob Ballard and got his signed book (thanks mom!). To this day, I am still captivated by it, and Titanic the Musical is one of my favorites.
  3. My maternal great-grandparents came from Mariglianella, Italy, in the 1920s. My dad’s family has been in the U.S. for a long time, and they are mostly German-American. My dad’s surname is an Americanization of a German surname. Last Christmas my dad gave my sister and me a gift that proves we are Daughters of the American Revolution!
  4. I am a natural blonde. Until I was fifteen my hair turned almost white every summer. Also, my mother refused to do anything past trimming my hair for the first seven years of my life. I guess she couldn’t bear to cut the long, white-blonde curls.
  5. I am a lyric coloratura soprano. I studied vocal performance at Elon University for almost two years under Beth Carter’s instruction. I have sung in the Kennedy Center twice, and Carnegie Hall once, both times in choirs.
  6. I have broken my fifth metatarsal in each foot – on separate occasions, first in 2013 and the other in 2017.
  7. I love flowers. My favorite are pale pink peonies, though I also love roses, daisies, tulips, magnolia, cosmos, anemone, and hydrangea. (Thanks dad, for always bringing in your flowers from the yard.)
  8. My favorite book is the unabridged Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, though I haven’t read every page since the first read-through, because I learned which chapters I can skip. Les Miserables is also my favorite musical.
  9. I love to cook and bake, especially with unconventional combinations. One of my favorites is blackberry, ginger, and dijon on chicken, or chili powder on butternut squash.
  10. I love big band swing. I used to love the WAMU radio show, “Hot Jazz Saturday Night,” and looked forward to it every week, before it was cancelled.
  11. I’m currently in love with the TV show The Bold Type, which airs on Freeform. I love that it depicts strong female characters who support each other and lift each other up and make each other better people.
  12. On October 3rd, I will have been in a relationship with the love of my life for three and a half years. He is handsome, charming, funny, hard-working, supportive, loving, adorable, and crazy intelligent. He makes me a better me.
  13. My best friend and I have been best friends our entire lives. I cannot say enough good things about her, ever. She is beautiful, smart, strong, utterly hilarious, and quirky.
  14. I want to learn to crochet. I know how to knit (badly), but I’m told crochet is easier. It certainly looks more interesting.
  15. When I was a kid, I collected foreign coins. Friends and family heard about this, and assisted me in my collecting whenever they came back from overseas. Some of the coins are from countries that no longer exist, and I have no idea how many countries all these coins are from.

Cheer Up, Buttercup!

Do you ever wake up and it’s raining and the dog pooped in her crate overnight and you forgot a homework assignment and you’re down on yourself the whole rest of the day?

Me neither.

But, if that were hypothetically true for me, this is what I’d do to cheer up.

I’d name everything I was grateful for, even if it was something as simple as breathing and a full belly.

I’d walk my dog and be patient with her as she sniffed everything and searched for the perfect place to do her business.

I’d journal about how I was feeling, no matter how silly or stupid it seemed later.

I’d watch something funny, or at least some favorite of mine that’s uplifting.

I’d talk to a friend, whether in person or on the phone. I’d vent about my life, then be sure to ask and listen about theirs. Other people’s problems and triumphs are a good distraction from your own troubles.

I’d cuddle my dog and kiss her silky little head, knowing that her love is unconditional and eternal.

I’d list everyone I know loves me, and remember that they still love me, too, no matter how badly I feel or how badly my day is going.

I’d read an engrossing book and lose myself in its pages and story.

I’d eat something delicious and healthy. A full belly makes for a happier perspective.

I’d drink water. Being adequately hydrated means you’re more awake, which means you’re in a better mood, most of the time.


Five Favorite Movies

In no particular order:

  1. Midnight in Paris (2011)

Though this film is a Woody Allen film, I absolutely loved it. The premise of this film is strikingly similar to games I used to play and stories I used to write as a child. Plus, it takes place in Paris! With an all-star cast of characters we all know and love from the Lost Generation, this is a delightful movie.

2. Moonstruck (1987)

A classic, this film reminds me of my own family on the maternal side, albeit my family is much larger. A film that at first glance seems serious, it is a comedy that capitalizes on everyday hilarity and the awkwardness of family.

3. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

One of the best movies of all time, in my opinion. Jimmy Stewart is charming, and the whole film you’re rooting for him, even when that means he doesn’t get what he thinks he wants or needs. Funny and touching, a film for the family, never gets old.

4. Rebecca (1940)

This is one of my favorite books, and one of the few book-to-movie adaptations whereI believe the movie told the story better than the novel. Though it’s difficult to believe that Joan Fontaine is as plain as the heroine in the novel, everything else about the characterization remains consistent to the novel. A great book, the story really shines in the form of a film. Alfred Hitchcock does not disappoint.

5. Ever After (1998)

A retelling of the Cinderella story. As previously stated, I am a sucker for a Cinderella story. The relative historical accuracy of this film is gorgeous and lends a sense of truth to the story. Danielle is feisty but obedient, because she desires what we all do: love. Her stepmother, played by the beautiful Anjelica Houston, is a formidable but understandable villain. The ending is most satisfying.