Lowes Build And Grow – A Fun Free Way to Spend Saturdays in the New Year!

You know all those Saturdays that are coming up in 2012?  The ones where the kids are going to whine and cry about being bored and not having anything to do?  Yeah, it’s all coming back to you now.  Soccer is over, it’s too cold to tell them to go ride their bikes, and all those brand new toys they got for Christmas will become mountains of, “I don’t wanna play that again!”

Probably because it’s illegal to draw and quarter children (I’m assuming – I haven’t looked up any actual “laws”), Lowes Home Improvement Stores have come up with the BEST idea!  Not only will it keep your kids occupied for 30 minutes or more, it will give them a sense of accomplishment, keep the mess out of your house, and not cost you anything except a ride over to your closest Lowes!

Every other Saturday, you can register your child (recommended for children in grades 1-5) to take part in a building workshop.  Each workshop features a different project, and my kids have done everything from trains to miniature school type lockers.  The projects are made from wood, and the kits, the tools, and the expertise of Lowes employees are 100% free!  And if you participate in the clinic, you receive a Lowes apron, safety goggles, a certificate of merit, and a patch that you can sew on the back of Scout vests or sashes, or onto your Lowes apron!

The projects are really great toys – some of my kids’ favorites – especially because they made them themselves.  And they are the type of thing you don’t mind sitting on your desk when they’ve finished.

You can go to the Lowes website to register your child for upcoming workshops (January 14th is a castle, and the 28th is a dinosaur).  I recommend that you register in advance.  Lowes will take walk-ups, but only if there are kits available.  The workshops take place at 10 AM, and if you haven’t claimed your kit by 10:15, they allow a walk-up to take the kit.

http://www.lowesbuildandgrow.com/

What a great way to give the kids – and Dad – something to do with their Saturdays!

Five Things I Couldn’t Live Without – 2011 Edition

Product reviews are a funny thing.  I hate having to say unkind things about products.  I’ll tell you if I really and truly hate something, or have a bad experience (Archer Farms scallops wrapped in bacon – NOT a good idea), but for the most part, if I don’t like something, I recognize that it might just be personal preference, and I keep my mouth shut.

But there are some things that I love, couldn’t live without, and as we close out the year, these are some things you should really check out.

1 – Wegmans Supermarket – I’m surprised at how much I love Wegmans.  It’s a supermarket, after all, and how much can one love a supermarket?  Not only have they done a price comparison in our area to find out that Wegmans offers lower prices than the other big name grocery chains in our area, but the specialty items are amazing.  No time to cook?  Grab a crab cake platter, some hot soup, or a complete Asian meal – hot and ready to serve.  Want to cook something fast and easy?  Check out their selection of ready to cook (or reheat) items – everything from freshly marinated fish to BBQ spareribs.  My favorite thing?  If you sign up for the Wegmans customer savings card, you get the Wegmans Menu magazine in the mail.  Some of our favorite family recipes have come from that magazine. Fresh sushi, all sorts of samples, people walking around in chef coats – way better than the Acme.  I definitely could not live without Wegmans.

2 – Kerastase Bain Satin Shampoo – Have you seen my hair?  It looks an awful lot like that stuff they use to make scarecrows – on a good day.  This year, I discovered this L’Oreal shampoo, and I think we might be on our way to better hair!  My hair is what I like to call “crunchy”, and Kerastase is taking some of the crunch out.  It’s a little bit pricey compared to your drugstore or grocery store shampoo, but a little goes a long way, and it really has done some remarkable things for my hair.  Combined with the Kerastase conditioner, you could be the next, ummm, you know, I can’t think of anyone with famous hair after Farrah Fawcett!

3 – Bill’s Wonderland of Pets – This is not your typical pet store.  You won’t go in and find aisle after aisle and bag after bag of discount, run of the mill pet foods.  Bill’s is sort of a health food store for your pets.  He carries foods that aren’t primarily some kind of filler or pet food nastiness that you wouldn’t feed your dog if you knew that’s what you were feeding your dog.  There are bones, treats, even freshly baked dog cookies – all made with healthy, good for you ingredients.  And the staff there is so knowledgeable!  I went in looking for a fish based food for Lusi, who was on a fish based food in Italy, and ended up switching Harper – guess what?  No more itchy dogs!  I didn’t even realize how much Harper was itching until she wasn’t doing it anymore with the better food!  And now, you can buy Bill’s own dog treats – small, cookie shaped morsels of deliciousness that causes your dog to do anything you ask in exchange for one!  (note that I said your dog, because mine are as incorrigible as ever).  Great store, great people, great local business.

4 – Starbucks – You knew it was going to end up here, didn’t you?  As routine as brushing my teeth is my morning drive to my favorite Starbucks – and not just for a morning coffee (well, a morning drizzle of coffee hidden beneath a half a cup of milk and a very healthy splash of sugar free syrup).  It’s a warm, happy way to start my morning, and it’s really one of the few things I do on a daily basis that I feel indulges me.  I may swap my Starbucks budget this coming year for a personal trainer budget, but at least in 2011, Starbucks was yet again one of those things I could not live without.

5 – Disney World – Everyone should have a happy place.  Whether it’s a far off destination or snuggled in your bed with your fuzzy pajamas and a good book.  In my life, it’s Disney World.  I’ve celebrated just about every occasion there, forgotten troubles there, remembered being a kid there, and made many friends through Disney.  I’ve gone right after surgeries to aid in healing (because happy helps healing), and I’ve gone with the expectation that I could do a 5K (I didn’t, but I know I could have!).  I know, no matter what else is going on in life, I find comfort and happiness at Walt Disney World.  I always will.

 

Happy New Year!

2011 – What I Learned This Year

I could sum up my year in one word.  School.  I feel like the entire year was consumed by my educational aspirations.  But aside from all the -ologies I studied in 2011, I’ve learned quite a few other things.  With a year that saw me recovering from last fall’s bout with MRSA and then a stay in ICU battling kidney failure, I had lots of time to reflect on things – the good, the bad, and what was more important.

So here goes:

I learned that it’s perfectly okay to be sad about the things I’ve lost.  My sister, who died way too young; my dad, who fought for the last ten years of his life to make sure he snatched every bit of joy and happiness he could in the time he had left; the five babies I never got to hold or cuddle or sniff the tops of their tiny heads.  I know now that it’s okay to still find myself in a puddle of my own tears over not having those things.  But it’s even more important to celebrate and appreciate the things that I haven’t lost.  I have three amazing daughters, who can melt my heart with their beautiful smiles and warm me on my coldest days with their giggles.  I have a husband who loves me – cherishes me – and through all of his own battles, always manages to make me feel like his number one priority.  I am blessed with an awesome sister, terrific parents and step-parents, and extended family and friends that I adore.

I learned that it really does take the worst to make you truly understand and appreciate the best.  The worst snowstorms help you appreciate the warmest days.  A bad grade on a test makes you truly grateful when you get an A.  A bad eye day for Jim makes a good eye day such a gift.  Laying in bed in intensive care helps you to remember to find gratitude when “it’s only a cold” or “it’s a small cut”.  I’m going to bitch way less about how sore my nose is when I get a head cold and be happy instead that they discovered Puffs with Lotion!

I have finally figured out what a “good” doctor is.  I’ve had the same primary care doctor for almost 30 years.  While I’ve appreciated everything he’s done for me, I never really appreciated what a good doctor he is.  He’s funny.  I don’t mind going to see him, because I feel I will surely be entertained, but this year, when we needed balls to the wall, he stepped up to the plate.  And you already know that I truly believe I found God’s gift to medicine when I found Dr. Veitia.  So if you’re in the area, and need a primary care doctor, it’s Dr. Gary Heck.  Looking for a phenomenal surgeon?  Dr. Nestor Veitia.  And you’ll love them as much as I do when you meet some of the other doctors that are out there.

I”d like to say that in 2011, I figured out the meaning of life.  Well, at least my life.  I haven’t.  But I have made huge strides in figuring out what was important.  Family, friends, health, education, and Mickey Mouse.  If you discover the joy in all of that, you don’t really need to know the meaning of life – you just need to enjoy it.

Arthur Christmas – A Christmas Classic in the Making

It had everything you want a movie to have.  There were messages of morality –  of brotherly love; pride in and respect for your parents; commitment to getting a job done; appreciation for the elderly.  There was humor – that kids could get and parents would enjoy.  And there were elves.  Thousands of them.  What’s not to love?

The premise of the movie is Santa – who has an heir and a spare.  Steve, the heir, is a techno-savvy sophisticate, with a Santa suit from Armani waiting for the day that his father passes the Santa mantle to him.  The spare is Arthur, a bumbling but lovable son, dedicated not only to Santa, but to the IDEA of Santa.  We all know that Santa can get to every child in one night, and this movie shows you what happens when one child is missed.

The movie is a reminder of what Christmas is all about – the spirit of giving, the kindness of heart, and the love of family – even if the family is a wee bit dysfunctional.  And it’s darn funny in doing it.

I know it’s after Christmas, but this is just the time to be reminded of your holiday spirit.  The gifts are nothing but piles of empty boxes, scattered toys, and unopened socks.  You’re down to the Christmas cookies no one likes and the ham bone that you promise you’ll make bean soup with.  Tomorrow.

Go see Arthur Christmas.  I rank it right up there with Elf as one of my must see Christmas movies from this point forward.

Jay West Imports Should Try To Import Some Customer Service

To be fair, they no longer refer to themselves as Jay West Imports.  Even the sign outside now only says Jay West.  I guess we can abandon any hope of them importing anything, least of all decent customer service.

For years, I’ve been driving past the gorgeous gowns in the window at Jay West in Haddonfield, NJ.  I have only ever purchased one dress there, and it was Brighid’s Sweet 16 party gown.  Service then was fair, but Brighid saw her dress relatively quickly and we were in and out in less than 20 minutes.

When my sister announced her engagement a few months ago, I started admiring the windows again.  Whenever I’d see something I loved, I’d call Brighid and tell her to drive by and see it, knowing that Megan would hate it anyway.  But the gowns in the windows change quickly, and the styles are quite varied, so I thought it would be a great place for us to take Meg on the hunt for the perfect gown.

The store surprises you – it’s about the size of a bread box.  I had to make sure I had my Spanx on just to fit in the doorway.  Megan’s appointment was for 1 PM, and we were about 25 minutes early.  We expected to wait for a consultant to help us since we were so early, but the woman at the counter handed us off to one of the other consultants, and we were escorted past the velvet rope to the downstairs bridal area.

You don’t really get to look for dresses here.  The consultant asked Meg what she was looking for, and I thought we were pretty clear that we wanted plain, simple, nothing with lace, and it had to be light and casual feeling for the upcoming beach wedding.

To begin with, the consultant made us feel like we interrupted her private audience with the Pope.  She CLEARLY did not want to help us, and when we told her how simple of a gown we wanted, she must have seen visions of a hefty commission diminish before her very eyes.  She walked us around the tightly packed room, grabbing gowns here and there, asking two more times if Megan would look at something in lace.  We ended up with about six gowns that Megan approved, and we headed towards the fitting room.  It was at this point that the consultant asked what size bra Meg wore, so she could bring her a long line, strapless number more suitable to trying on gowns.  When she found out just how fortunately blessed my sister was in the area of bust size, she very quickly ruled out at least two of the dresses she had pulled, claiming that there wasn’t a way to wear any bra with them, and there wouldn’t be enough support for someone so well endowed.  Well, then why didn’t you ask that as one of your first questions?

Another thing she never did was ask if Megan had a budget.  Can you imagine finding the dress you love and can’t see yourself walking down the aisle without, only to find out it is way out of your budget?  That would be an absolute tragedy.

After we bothered her through trying on four gowns, she suggested we pull a few bridesmaid dresses, because Megan’s tastes were so simple, there wasn’t a wedding gown that would suit her anywhere in the real world.  She may not have used those words, but she completely stopped trying to find a suitable wedding gown.  She pulled about six very similar in style bridesmaid dresses, then seemed irked when Megan actually liked some for her bridesmaids.

She wandered off for a minute, then came back with a gown so heavily beaded, we’d have to get a front loader to get Megan down the aisle.  She tells Megan to “indulge her” and put the gown on.  It is a corseted style gown, which she mentions NOW, after we’ve already tried on a bunch of dresses, is really a good style for my sister because of her shape.  The gown looks stunning on (but so would a burlap bag on my sister), but is in the completely opposite direction of what Meg wanted.  Does this woman suggest they have something simpler in a similar style?  She does not.

So after being made to feel that we were completely irritating her that we walked into the store, she disregarded most of what we told her Megan wanted, then we were subjected to her telling us we were never going to find a wedding gown like Megan wanted unless we went with a bridesmaid gown.

We left, feeling disheartened from the experience.  I’d never go back there again.

Did we get a wedding gown?  Yes.  Was it the shape, style, and simplicity that my sister wanted?  Absolutely.  Did the consultant in the other store treat us like a nuisance?  Not only did she not, but we went in without an appointment and she still made us feel welcome.

Jay West is a long standing business, and they must be doing something right somewhere.  We just didn’t see it anywhere during our visit.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, Skamarakas Style

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Every creature was stirring, even those two damn dogs who were told to lay down and be quiet at 9 PM.

The stockings weren’t hung, because, as usual, I over estimated just how much one stocking can hold, and they will pull my banister down if I leave them attached with all that crap in them.

Oh, yeah, wait, I mean St. Nicholas over estimated.  Yeah.  St. Nicholas.

The children were whining and complaining from bed

That the new Christmas jammies were itching their heads (but it’s okay, because I told Granuaile she had to put the footie part on her FEET, and now her head’s not itchy any more).

Daddy in his boxers (the ones that say “I Got Yer Christmas Present Right Here” on them) and I in my – oh, wait, I’m still up and dressed.  Because it’s Christmas freakin’ Eve and everyone else gets the night off.  But I’m the mom, and there are presents to wrap, mostly because they didn’t fit in the damn stockings; dishes to do; a camera battery to charge; presents to put under the tree; and hopefully, when it’s all said and done, a cocktail to be had!

So yeah, Daddy had just settled down for his long winter’s nap.  I worked my ass off.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter!  I ran to the window to see what was the matter!

As expected, it was our cracker Christmas display falling over, yet again.  Santa kneeling at the Baby Jesus is asking for one of those LifeLine “I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up” buttons so he doesn’t have to rely on us to stand him back up every damn day; and the inflatable sled full of snowman is now pointing vertically, with the one snowman clutching his chest and yelling, “I’m comin’ to see you, Elizabeth!” as he looks upward toward the heavens.

(the original poem has a line here that references the new fallen snow, however, this is Jersey, and it only snows when I have somewhere important to go – I’m leaving that line out)

I’m speaking not a word, and I’m going back to my work.  There are presents to wrap and photos to fake (I try to photoshop a picture of a reindeer in front of our house for Granuaile each year – that kid will think there’s a Santa until she’s 30, so help me Bob!)

But for you faithful readers, I exclaim, with great thanks in my heart

Merry Christmas to you all! (Harper, did you just fart??? Holy Jeebus!)

The Christmas Cookie Crisis – Or Why Anna Should Stay Out of the Kitchen

You know those people who gather the family during the holidays and do happy, fun, traditional holiday things?  Yeah, we’re more like the Griswolds – we start out with the best intentions, but somewhere on the way to our Norman Rockwell Christmas, we take the detour at dysfunction.

Christmas cookies are no exception.  With the new KitchenAid Stand Mixer I got for my birthday in September, this was going to be the year of the cookie at our house!  No more scratching the word “Oreo” off of those chocolate sandwich cookies with the red middles and calling them my own.  No more soaking the ‘Nilla wafers in red and green food coloring, then telling the kids Elf pee made the cookies soggy, and Elf pee has magical properties!  No, not this year.  I was making my own cookies!

Of course, every child in the house clamored to help – until they realized that there would be more work involved than opening the package.  Once words like “mix, pour, drop, and separate” came into play, they opted to separate themselves from the whole process.

I began with an ambitious list of cookies I’d never made before, then figured I’d better throw in a few that I could not possibly mess up.  My old standbys were my Aunt Lee’s butter cookies, which I’ve made a bazillion times before; and Jim’s favorite – white chocolate macadamia nut cookies.  To those tried and trues, I added a list of new ones.  There would be pistachio cream cheese, lemon ricotta cheese, peppermint snowballs, jewel box cookies, ooey gooey Paula Deen chocolate cookies, and Snickerdoodles.  At the last minute, I threw in peanut butter blossoms, only because, c’mon, who doesn’t love chocolate and peanut butter?

So this is how it went.

Lemon Ricotta – Did I tell you about my new oven?  The convection oven that I don’t know how to work?  So, yeah, I put all three cookie trays in, and within a matter of minutes, the bottom tray was as close to on fire as you could get without actual flame coming out of the oven.  The parchment paper was burnt, the cookies were burnt, and the house stunk.  Good times.

After nearly burning down the new kitchen, I thought I’d better switch to something I know.  Aunt Lee’s butter cookies have always screamed “Christmas” to me.  It’s the only time of the year we ever had them, and they were always fun to make, because the kids could get involved in sprinkling them (not like the Elves and the ‘Nilla wafers – with sugar and jimmies).  I even had a brand new cookie press to make quick and easy work, which would surely help lure the children back to the kitchen.  Yeah, not so much.  The cookies were a disaster, not one came out of the cookie press in usable condition, and after almost an hour of messing with the whole thing, the dough got canned.

So with that boost to the baking morale, let’s tackle the peanut butter blossoms.  I have to say, these turned out okay!  I didn’t burn any, the kids helped roll the balls in the sugar, no one squashed the chocolate kisses as they came out of the oven.  Success!

So, on the heels of that fabulous success, and with the attitude that I’d better not press my luck, I grabbed the peppermint snowball recipe from Sandra Lee.  How could I mess these up, right?  You make these cookies with pre-made, store bought cookie dough!  It’s a no brainer.  Well, Sandra Lee’s cookies looked like this:

Mine did not.  Scrooge you, Sandra Lee!  Mine still tasted pretty good – even if they looked a bit scary.  They got all the flavor, none of the fluff.

Well, back to the tried and true, right?  How much humiliation can one woman take in a holiday baking season?

White chocolate macadamia nut cookies.  Well, of course I know my way around nuts – I live with a house full of them!  These probably turned out the best – closest to what they are supposed to be, no house fires, no culinary disasters.

I’m encouraged again!  Let’s try those Jewel Box cookies!  I knew I could rope the kids in for this one – poke their fingers in the cookie dough?  Of course!  That sounds a lot less like work and a lot more like Play-doh!

So, the recipe I have says it makes 66 cookies.  Yep, 66.  Does anyone EVER get the amount of cookies they are supposed to?  I NEVER do.  And when I see the ball of dough I end up with, I know that not only is 66 really optimistic, I think those Smucker’s people are messing with a whole different kind of grape concoction.  I can’t imagine jelly giving you these kind of hallucinations!

I roll the balls to the diameter they say they should be, and discover that Granuaile is the only thumb who’s print will actually fit on these cookies.  But it’s not fun enough for her to stick around for all of them, so Brighid and Eilis take turns putting their prints on the cookies, through the cookies, crushing them like fragile glass.  Even the 1/4 teaspoon of jam that I’m supposed to fill them with seems to overflow.  Something’s not right, but in the oven they go, and out they come.  They’re good.  Not pretty, but good.

This is about the time when I was praying the spirit of Christmas Yet to Come would turn up and show me to MY final resting place.  There would be no begging not to see the name on the tombstone – I’m just gonna roll right over….

Next to go into the oven are the pistachio cream cheese cookies.  I had to make the dough earlier, since they needed an hour to cool.  What could possibly go wrong with pistachio and cream cheese?  Sounds yummy, right?  So, why do they taste like cardboard?  What did I forget?  No idea.  But they’re nasty.  The dogs were offering to go into their crates voluntarily at bedtime if I promised NOT to give them a cookie.

After nearly six hours in the kitchen, you can stick a fork in me – I’m done.  I made up a tray of cookies for the house, and put together the treat boxes Eilis wanted to give her teachers for Christmas – which is why I really undertook this task.  Don’t worry, she’ll still get good grades – I hid the pistachio cookies on the bottom of the boxes!

Next year, when the bug strikes me that we need to do something traditional and holiday-ish, I may just finally learn the correct order of the gifts in the 12 Days of Christmas and just sing Christmas carols.  I’m fairly certain I can’t burn the house down doing that.

Fairly certain.

I Am Healed. Damn.

Well, there go the excuses. 

As you well know, I’ve seen some weight creep up over the past year during my health crises.  It’s been hard to find time or energy to exercise, especially with gaping wounds in various places.  Add to that a really full school schedule and a gernal unwillingness to get off my big old arse, and you’ll see that exercise has not been a priority.

Then there’s been the food.  I lost a bit of weight while I was in ICU in August, and then when I came home, things tasted funny.  And the things that tasted good, I shouldn’t have been eating.  So I gained back the weight I lost in the hospital, and developed a taste for the things I should not have.

And here I am – fat and unhappy.

 But once again, I am vowing to change.  During my break from school, I am going to walk.  Every day.  Rain or shine, snow or sleet, I’ll be like a real, old school postman – not one of those mamby pamby ones we’ve got here in Bellmawr, who seem to skip delivery if the sun shines too brightly or the wind blows over three miles an hour. 

I’m going to allow myself Christmas to enjoy the things I love, then vow to divorce them all – every sweetly decorated sugar cookie, every candied yam, every vegetable covered in a thick, delicious, fattening dip. 

I might even – Jeebus help me for saying this – do the 5K at Disney in May.

Maybe.

You’ve heard it before, but now that I’m well, I have no excuses. 

Hold me to it, gang.  Don’t let me let me down.

You Know You’re Poor When WalMart Pays You For Your Purchases

Oh yes.  I had to borrow money from WalMart today to make my purchases. 

Only me, right?

So, I go to WalMart, as you do, to pick up some snacks for the road trip Eilis and I are going on tomorrow morning.  While we’re there, Jim decides to buy some Sony gamer gift card thing that comes with some fabulous bonus only available through WalMart.  And since I’m already cutting into my studying time for my microbiology final, I figure we’ll take $100 cash back so I can go to New York City tomorrow without having to make yet another stop at the bank.

And then all hell broke loose.  The gift cards with the fabulous bonus attached don’t seem so fabulous when it comes to running them through the register.  The checker kept running the same cards through the same machines repeatedly, causing all sorts of chaos within the register’s computer system.  It starts beeping, buzzing, humming, and shouting “Danger, Will Robinson!” just as smoke begins to rise from the keyboard and it cries, “I’m melting, I’m melting….”

When all is said and done, we have to have a manager come over to find out what the hell happened, and apparently, what the hell happened is that our bank paid WalMart $250 out of my checking account to cover our purchases, which included the $100 cash back and the over charges made because she kept swiping the gift cards through.  Oh, but because the register is now down, WalMart has no record of the transaction.  So not only can I not take my purchases until I ring them up and pay for them again, I cannot pass go, I do not collect my $100, and I may not leave the store until it’s all straightened out.

Oh, and the gift cards are probably not valid.

Well, of course, I’m fuming.  Do I want WalMart to ring me up so that I have to pay another $250?  No, I don’t.  Whether or not my checking account can cover it, I don’t want to duplicate pay for my crap.  And I want my $100.  But I have no receipt that I ever purchased anything OR that I asked for $100 cash back because the register that contains the information committed suicide. 

The manager, seeing that I was dressed in my very best People of WalMart garb (not realizing until I was out the door this morning that I had stops to make), took pity on me.  She offered to pay for my purchases out of the store’s WalMart Customer Satisfaction fund (who knew they had this?), as long as I promised to come back when the credit she was going to issue to my checking account cleared the bank in three or four days. 

I pinky sweared.

So WalMart gave me money, rang up my purchases, I paid them, and I had my $100 cash back and then some.

And it wasn’t until I was out in the car that I realized the “and then some” was for the over charges the first cashier rung up.  So when I pay WalMart back, I’m paying them back for overcharging me. 

Stay tuned for Round 2.

12 Days of Christmas (Shows)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  Even as a grown up, I love it when the TV schedule is liberally sprinkled with Christmas specials.  While I always tune in for some of the newer Christmas movies – especially if they won’t make me cry – I still prefer the more classic holiday specials.

Here’s my list of my favorite 12 Christmas Specials – in no particular order.

1 – A Christmas Carol – This was, is, and always will be my favorite Christmas movie of all times.  I think the one that most stays true to the Dicken’s classic story is the one starring Alistair Sims as Ebeneezer Scrooge, and it’s probably the one I make sure I watch every year, but I watch them all – from George C. Scott to Mr. Magoo. 

2 – A Charlie Brown Christmas – I never miss it, ever.  Bringing back memories of sitting and watching with my dad, this is my warm, fuzzy, feel good Christmas special.  How can you not love it when the Charlie Brown Christmas tree droops with the weight of one dainty ornament?  But it all comes together, the true meaning of Christmas is told, and I can’t help but get a bit misty eyed when it’s all done.

3 – How the Grinch Stole Christmas – No, not the Jim Carrey one (although I love the Disney’s A Christmas Carol with Jim Carrey).  Nothing beats the original Seuss cartoon.  And for days, you’ll be humming Dah who Doraze!

4 – Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer – Are you seeing a trend?  Most of the specials I love now are the ones I loved when I was a kid, and this is no different.  An elf that wants to be a dentist?  A land of misfit toys?  What’s not to love?

5 – Prep and Landing – No one does stealth like an elf.  Just when I had given up on clever and captivating new Christmas specials, Disney came up with Prep and Landing.  A peek behind the scenes of Santa’s Christmas Eve operation is a real eye opener – in a good way!

6 – Elf – I gotta tell ya, there are times when it’s nowhere near Christmas when I watch Elf.  It’s one of the ultimate feel good Christmas movies.  And anyone who can make the four main food groups candy, candy canes, candy corn and syrup can’t be wrong in my book.

7 – The House Without a Christmas Tree – I would venture to guess that if you’re under 45, you probably don’t know this televised Christmas special.  I LOVED it.  Set in 1964, Addy is desperate to have a Christmas tree in her home, but her father, still grieving the loss of Addy’s mother several years before, refuses to bring the symbol of Christmas spirit into his home.  Of course, like all good Christmas tales, it ends fabulously well, but not until a few tears have been shed.  I get sniffly just recalling the star on top of the tree.

8 – A Christmas Story – Every year.  Christmas day. 24 hour Christmas Storyathon.  Stay tuned to this blog – you’ll soon see how much we love this movie (my children may soon see reasons to never watch again…)

9 – All Mine to Give – Okay, I said I don’t like movies that make me cry, but everyone needs one good cry during the holidays to appreciate how wonderful the blessings of the season are.  This movie classic (from 1957) is about a young boy who is charged with finding homes for his younger siblings on what has to be the worst Christmas Eve in holiday special history.  His father died from diptheria, and his mother succumbed to typhoid, but on her death bed, she makes the eldest of six promise her that he’ll find homes among the townsfolk for his brothers and sisters.  You might want to keep a hanky in each hand. It’s that sad.

10 – It’s a Wonderful Life – Oh, come on!  Did you not expect this to be on here?  And really, I could have gone between this and Miracle on 34th Street, but honestly, the kid in Miracle on 34th Street annoys me.  I’ve got enough kids annoying me at Christmas!

11 – Santa Claus is Coming to Town – I remember being so thrilled as a kid to learn the history of Santa Claus.  And Fred Astaire.  How wicked awesome is that?

12 – The Santa Clause – Tim Allen transforms from self centered business dude and way too busy dad to the Big Man himself.  And Bernard is my second favorite elf.  Seriously.