Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Christmas Carol- Stage and Screen

The Big Guy and I have a few holiday traditions that we've adopted over the past few years. Two of those traditions involve A Christmas Carol.

The weekend after Thanksgiving we put up our Christmas decorations. Once that's done and the house is all festive, we sit down with some hot chocolate or spiced cider and we watch the Muppet version of the movie. This tradition is actually one that my husband has been doing for a very long time. I love the innocence of the movie and the changes that were made so that the story would be better for children. It's become how we kick off the holiday season.

Our second tradition is going to see a live production at the Indiana Repertory Theatre. I've mentioned the IRT before, and this is one of the performances that makes me excited to have season tickets. There are always slight differences from year to year, but we always love it. If you're in Indianapolis this season, take a look at their website ( for tickets.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Christmas Cocktail Oops

Every now and again when I sit down to make a cocktail, I have something specific in mind. Then when I go to make that cocktail, what I want is not exactly what I get. For example, to go with A Christmas Carol, I wanted something that would combine some of the flavors and aromas that I associate with the holidays.

I mixed some apple cider with orange/cranberry infused vodka. I was expecting something with a little holiday spice and a general cozy feeling. That's not what I got. The flavor was good, really good, but not at all what I expected. There's a hint of vanilla, which plays nicely off of everything else in the glass, but it's not that cozy spicy cider flavor I had in mind.

I tried this same combination later with warmed cider and it was much, much better. Not ever recipe starts off as a gem. Just keepin' it real.

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Christmas Carol

I love Christmas. This time of year is my favorite for a variety of reasons. So I decided to celebrate by reading some books that I associate with the holidays. Next up, A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.

The story has been told many times, and with many variations, but it always seems to resonate. I think we all like a story about second chances and redemption. I think we especially like it at Christmas time- the time of year that seems to be devoted to forgiveness and seeing the best in those around you.

This isn't the easiest book to read. That's not because of the subject matter, simply the fact that it's Dickens. Anyone who's read one of his other works knows how the language can get a bit cumbersome. However, it's worth the added work to read the original.

I think it's easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle and the commercial side of the holidays. Especially when stores open on Thanksgiving. Seriously, I hope no one reading this supported that by actually going. It was a pretty disgusting display of the drive to have the best at any cost and only think about the money side of things. I decided not to go to any of those stores for anything this holiday season. I might even go so far as to stop shopping there completely.

Even though I hated the idea, I'm sure Scrooge would have been completely supportive of it. He probably would have been one of the first on board to open early. But, we see that change. He's lost sight of the human aspects of not only the holidays, but of life in general. It's those relationships, those connections that really make us human and let us live the full range of experiences that it has to offer. Sure those are the same things that make life occasionally frustrating or hurtful, but the good parts are worth it.

That's the biggest thing that I take away from this story- not to forget about the good things that life has to offer. Getting caught up in the negative makes it so that you're only able to focus on those things. After a while that becomes all you see and all you look for, and so many wonderful things go unnoticed. Taking a step back and adjusting your focus makes it possible to see the good again. That's what Scrooge discovers, or rediscovers depending upon how you want to look at it.

It's possible to find the good in the bad, and it's possible to share that good with other people. That's the other thing that I think the story highlights. Having things is only a benefit when you can share them with those who don't have them. There are a lot of ways to do that. You can donate your money or your time, and there are so many great organizations that need the help. It's especially easy to do this time of year, but they need help all the time. We've decided to give to the humane society where we adopted our dogs. It's a charity that I feel very close to, so it was an easy choice for us. My hope is that this story somehow inspires you to do more and to give more this year and next.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Nutcracker: Toasted Almond Martini

There were a lot of options for the drink to go along with this book. Something for the holiday would fit. Something with candy or lots of sugar would also work. After thinking it over I decided to go with something a little nutty. Specifically, almonds. 

It's a very simple recipe: equal parts Irish cream, coffee liqueur, and amaretto. Combine ingredients over ice in a shaker. Shake well. Strain into a martini glass. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Nutcracker

The refrigerator is full of turkey and other leftovers. The decorations on the mantle have been changed up again. Lights are popping up all over the neighborhood. It feels like everything has shifted and the new focus is on Christmas. Like a lot of people, this is my favorite time of year.

One of my favorite Christmas memories is being little and getting all dressed up to go into Chicago. My mom and I took the train in from Geneva and met my dad at his office. He took the afternoon off and the four of us went around the city. The first stop on the list, and my favorite, was Marshall Fields. Their holiday window displays were pure magic. One of the best displays they did was the holiday classic The Nutcracker.

I think most of us are familiar with the story, but just in case here's my quick synopsis of this version. (Like so many classic stories, there area lot of small variations among them.) It's Christmas Eve and a little girl named Marie is given a nutcracker by her godfather. Her godfather is an eccentric man who makes all sorts of marvelous toys and clockwork things. During the night, the nutcracker comes to life and defeats the King of the Mice with Marie's help. After the King of the mice is defeated, the Nutcracker is transformed into a handsome prince. He takes Marie to his kingdom in the land of sweets and she and her nutcracker live happily ever after.

I love the magic in the story. I love the strange world that Marie and her prince visit, and the things that they see there. It's easy for me to get lost in the imagery and pulled into the beautiful world that is created by Marie's imagination, or perhaps in some fashion by her godfather.