Thursday, December 30, 2010

PA: Part II

I'm in the home stretch of my home time. I'll be flying back to Boston on Tuesday night, and the climate in Boston is seeming pretty welcoming! With hope, these fifty-degree days will melt all the snow on the runways and let me land at Logan International. As promised in PA: Part I, here's an update on what I've been doing:
  • Writing in my blog a lot. It's kind of boring here, and yet I can't seem to stop writing about it. Apparently, none of my other blog-having friends have this problem (cough...Oxford Comma).
  • Continuing to have some interesting culinary adventures. My Pancetta-Chestnut Stuffing on Christmas was amazing. Who knew that something inspired by an episode of "Gilmore Girls" could be so tasty? I also tried to make Molasses Cookies, and am thinking that cookie-baking isn't my forte. Next week's Ricotta Cheesecake and Leftover Cranberry Sauce Muffins should be more promising.
  • Eating a lot. Like way too much. That's the downside to making tons of delicious food and having parents with significantly more money to purchase said food than I do. Not to worry; in a few days I'll be back to school where I'll be broke and busy and have neither money nor time to eat and I can hit the gym and get all skinny again.
  • Watching old movies. I got my sister this collection of American Movie Musicals on DVD for Christmas. After seeing all four of them, these are my conclusions: Gene Kelly is dreamy, but I would have picked the other guy; Judy Garland has the crazy eyes; and Fred Astaire is a little indulgent in his films.
  • Aging, apparently. I threw out my back on two separate occasions, and I found a gray hair. Thank goodness for Biofreeze and the ability to yank out said gray hair. I'm only twenty-five; I don't know what's going on.

So that's my second Pennsylvania update. I hope I can restrain myself from writing anything else very boring until after the new year, when you get my list of outlandish resolutions.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Common Cents, or My Personal Circle of Hell

I read Dante's Inferno several years ago, probably in high school. It wasn't assigned or anything, but I felt I needed to read it. I don't really remember it very well, though I do remember there was a map. It looked like this:
Anyhow, I put this diagram up because I'm trying to figure out where I'll be going for this "sin" I'm committing right now. So I get the mail today and there's one of those packages of address labels as a "free gift" with your donation to the Paralyzed Veterans of America or whatnot. I'm not going to use the address labels because they have my Pennsylvania address on them, and I never send mail from there, and I never title myself with "Miss." The rub, however, is that they also sent me a nickel to include with my donation, because, as they say on the return envelope, "every nickel counts." Do you know what else the return envelope says? "Place postage here." That's right. They expect me to use a 44-cent stamp to send back their nickel. However, the fact that I find that completely unreasonable means that I'm probably going to go to hell.

At least it's not thirty pieces of silver.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

My Favorite Christmas Movies

Merry Christmas to all! We all have our favorite Christmas traditions, traditions involving extended family, food, and silly pajamas. No matter how we like to spend our Christmas Eves and Days, it is a truth universally acknowledged that we like our holiday movies and TV specials. In no particular order (well, in some particular order) here are my favorite ways to spend my holiday TV time:

1) "The Shop Around the Corner" (1940). This is a Christmas staple for me. It's not the most famous Christmas movie starring Jimmy Stewart, but it's definitely the least depressing. It's the predecessor to "You've Got Mail," telling the tale of two enemies who are secret pen pals in Budapest, Hungary. It's a cinematically simple film with a great cast.

2) National Lampoon's "Christmas Vacation" (1989). Nobody embodies the true spirit of a family Christmas like Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase), an overachiever with a big heart, bigger dreams, and the best intentions...until something goes wrong. The supporting characters are fantastic as well; my favorite is certainly Uncle Lewis (William Hickey) as the crotchety old toupee-wearing cigar-smoker who ignites (literally) one of the most hilarious moments in the movie (unless, of course, you're a cat person).

3) "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (1965). Does this even require an explanation? From Vince Guaraldi's unforgettable score, to the pathetic little tree ("all it needs is a little love!"), to Linus' recitation of Luke 2, this half-hour special is full of holiday goodness.

4) "A Muppet Family Christmas" (1987). This TV special is nearly impossible to find nowadays, but boy, am I glad our family taped it over 20 years ago. The story begins with Kermit, Fozzie, Gonzo, and their friends on a trek to visit Fozzie's mother for Christmas. Little do they know that Fozzie's mother has her own plans to leave her farmhouse and take a holiday in Malibu, leaving her house to a renter (Gerry Parkes). After the Sesame Street gang comes caroling, and Kermit and his nephew stumble upon some Fraggles, the entire Jim Henson franchise ends up celebrating an unexpectedly happy holiday together. For anybody who's ever had more overnight guests than sleeping space or a persistent icy patch on the front steps, this Christmas special is sure to hit home.

5) "Elf" (2003). I don't normally like Will Ferrell's movies, but this one is just adorable. Though I don't necessarily identify with Buddy the Elf, I'm glad there are some of him in the world.

6) "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946). Let's face it, this movie is really depressing, and if it were starring anyone other than Jimmy Stewart, I probably wouldn't watch it. But the parts that aren't depressing are pretty darn wonderful (for instance, the part that makes me hate the invention of the speakerphone). I've always wondered though, if Clarence really had been watching this whole series of events before showing up, shouldn't he probably have been aware of the fact that Mr. Potter had the $8000 the whole time? And how does Mr. Potter live as long as he did? Really.

7) "Scrooged" (1988). Of all of the modern-day adaptations of Christmas Carol, this is probably the best (especially since Tori Spelling is nowhere near it). Carol Kane is brilliant as the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the closing number ("Put a Little Love in Your Heart") is spectacular.

8) "Miracle on 34th Street" (1947). When I was in high school, I went to an audition for a radio-show style production of this classic. My dad drove me. He got cast as Kris Kringle. His delivery was awful. I, who poured my heart and soul into the audition, got cast as Alfred, the fat kid who sweeps the locker room. Despite these negative associations, I can't deny that this is a great story. Although, that whole courtroom fiasco would never fly in the real world (unless it were the O.J. trial...what?).

9) "Christmas Eve on Sesame Street" (1978). "But how does Santa Claus fit down those tiny little chimneys?" That is the question plaguing Big Bird on Christmas Eve. He poses a series of experiments, takes public opinion polls, and even waits up all night to ask Santa. In the end, the only explanation is that it's "a true blue miracle." Meanwhile, Bert and Ernie exchange their most prized possessions for gifts for each other in a sub-plot that would make O. Henry shed a tear. With great songs (not among the least of which is Oscar the Grouch's rant "I Hate Christmas") and the fact that it pre-dates Elmo, this is another Christmas classic.

10) "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (1966). I'm not really married to this one, but I needed to round out a top ten, and I am quite partial to Boris Karloff, and compared to the Jim Carrey version, this is a holiday gem.

Honorable Mentions: "Home Alone" (1990), "John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together" (1979), "The Muppet Christmas Carol" (1992), and "The Nightmare Before Christmas" (1993).

Now, before you get all in a fuss about what was (or wasn't) on this list, remember, this is my blog, not yours, and I have my reasons. For one, stop-motion animation creeps me out (at least Tim Burton owns it). Maybe when I watch "White Christmas" all the way through, or have annoying little boys who desperately want toy guns, I'll change this list. Until then, have a wonderful rest of your holiday and a happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

PA: Part I

It's been nearly a week since I've come home for Christmas vacation. I'll be here in Western PA until January 4th, and I'm trying to stay distracted enough to forget about the fact that I'm not working on my thesis and really need to be working on my thesis. Here's what I've been doing in the meantime:
  • Lots of holiday baking and cooking. Here's some of the stuff that I've made so far: Cran-Apple Crisp, Cinnamon Pie, awesome Chicken and Dumplings, Asian Cabbage Salad, and a Butternut Squash soup that everyone hated for some reason (don't know was delicious). It's not even time for the hardcore Christmas stuff yet. My Pancetta-Chestnut Stuffing should be out of this world.
  • Attending the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children's holiday program. My sister used to be a student there, so it was really fun for her to see all of her old teachers.
  • Christmas shopping! This includes buying clothes for me, and buying fancy purses for my mom in exchange for argyle sweaters she no longer wants to wear. I really want argyle to go out of style so I can wear it and feel like a nerd instead of an acapella groupie. Darn you, Rachel Berry.

Yeah...I said it.

  • Watching lots of mindless TV. That's the one thing I like about vacations from school. I can watch "Ugly Betty," "Gilmore Girls," and "The O.C." on the real channels our TV gets and not have to think about the fact that I should be doing homework instead.

I've probably been doing other things as well, but they're not really bullet-point worthy yet. As I said, this is only Part I of my Pennsylvania adventure. We'll see what happens with the rest of this break. Happy Last 5 Shopping Days before Christmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Spirit

It's the Christmas season, and for some reason, I'm feeling rather jolly. It's strange, because I'm never jolly, but this season, I'm ready to haul out the holly and fa-la-la-la-la my way to the North Pole.

I think it might have started with the decorations, or the music, or maybe the fact that I've been done with finals since this past Thursday. Finals went really well. The anthro one definitely required studying, but it was nothing too terrifying. Expert Witness took about five minutes...bless the professor's heart. The following weekend was filled with some pretty awesome parties. I attended a White Elephant (aka "Yankee Swap," "Nasty Christmas," or "Bring a Ridiculous Gift to be Placed in a Communal Pile and Selected at Random by Another Party Attendee") party and was blessed to not receive the live crustacean (that's right...someone brought a lobster). The following night was a ward Christmas activity that involved delicious food and skits. Anyway, I felt like I piled up some social points this weekend.

The musical aspects of Christmas were amazing. The ward choir Christmas program went off without a hitch (well...with one exception...); we even pulled off this amazingly difficult but awesome arrangement of "Of the Father's Love Begotten." That evening we had the Relief Society Christmas Concert, which also went really well.

As part of my Christmas Spirit having, I decided to make Figgy Pudding. It wasn't horrible, at least after all the rum extract cooked off. I'm excited to try some more holiday baking once I'm home and don't have to pay for ingredients. It should be awesome. I'll keep you updated. Until then...Happy Holidays (is what Terrorists Say!--Merry Christmas!)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wanted: One Boy-Friend

I've recently figured out what's wrong with my social life: this is the first time in my existence that I haven't had a really good male friend. In high school there were my chorus pals; in college I had Logan, Brad, and Colin; and then I moved to Pennsylvania wherein I had a hiatus from friends altogether; and then I moved to Boston where I have my select few female friends. Don't get me wrong--I love my select few female friends, but I miss having a male confidante.

The reason for my desire for a boy-friend (not "boyfriend") probably stems from the fact that, barring my select few female friends (and you know who you are), I really don't get along with other girls. I've tried to befriend the bubbly, giddy, Glinda-the-Good-Witch types at church in the hope that I could somehow socially "normalize" myself, but I just find it exhausting. And when I do try to associate with that type, I feel like a giant, throbbing, sore thumb. There's just a level of sparkliness that I can't achieve, and I don't really care to achieve it. I've come to accept the fact that I don't fit in with most girls that I know: I'd rather stick out than be interchangeable.

The problem in my quest for platonic male companionship is that most (note that I said "most" and not "all"--don't get all offended) of the men I've met are really into the sparkly, interchangeable type. Even the most fascinating story I can tell about dessicated human remains is no match for grabby hands attached to a dazzling smile shaded by bouncy blonde hair. And I'm not jealous, really, but is it so hard for a guy to say "hang on a second, Tina/Kellie/Mandy/Whatever, I'm almost done with my conversation with Alex"? As I mentioned before, the whole process is exhausting.

So this is my cry to the universe: if one of you relatively normal men wants to be my designated male friend, let me know. The only condition is that you treat me like your bro, both in the sense that I come before "hoes" (is that how you spell it?), and in that you don't ever try to date me (unless we're old and desperate and mutually agree upon it). Or any one of my previous designated male friends can just move up here to Boston.