1. This H&M Christmas Short Film directed by Wes Anderson – I’m a fanatic when it comes to anything Wes Anderson so it’s rather shocking that I missed this advert from 2016. (Though it is also very possible that I have simply forgotten it. Damned menopausal brain. Though on a bright note, if I did forget it, I am getting to enjoy it all over again.) Either way, it’s wonderful!
Another amazing Christmas advert (I LOVE THEM) – be sure to have some tissue nearby.
2. This Animated Video Series, Rollin’ Wild – What if animals were round? (Or more accurately, what if animals were inflated like balloons?) Makes me laugh every single time I watch them. There are more videos at their channel. Sadly they only made a handful of Rollin’ Wild videos. I wish they’d start making them again, they’re delightful!
And here’s a Christmas video…
3. This Video on Accepting Compliments – so this chap is the husband of a friend of mine. Hearing him talk about his wife is especially wonderful for that reason. But because of the personal connection and his storytelling skills (and marvelous accent) the message really resonated with me. May be some of the best advice I’ve ever received. I probably should have learned this 40 years ago! (And why do we teach our children not to accept compliments????)
4. This Series of Holiday Photos with Stormtroopers – to see all of them you’ll need to click on the date (it says 5 years ago) right below where it says Mr. Llama. HILARIOUS!
5. This A-Frame Cabin for Rent on airbnb – One word – COZY. Click on any of the photos to go to the airbnb site to see interior shots. Next year I’m going to be traveling a LOT.
6. This Iconic London Hotel attached to a Train Station – The St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel opened in 2011 and uses spaces that were once occupied by the Midland Grand Hotel (which officially closed in 1935) and the St. Pancras Chambers which were apartments used as railway offices.
I have stayed at the hotel several times, I LOVE it there. And I especially love it there during the holidays (I am DEFINITELY going to spend a week in London next November). Not only is it convenient to have one of the major train stations right outside the door (and the British Library across the street) but there is shopping in the train station too. I mean, in theory I could go here and not leave a the building except to walk across the street to go to the library. IN THEORY (there are too many other places I have to visit when I’m in London, like my friends most importantly, and Fortnum & Mason, which is my mothership, and the V&A Museum, and Broadway Books in Hackney and of course there may be a show playing that I cannot miss, and, and, and … well, the list is endless!
Well before the St. Pancras opened, even after Midland Grand had been closed to being used as offices, the Spice Girls filmed one of their most famous videos at this location.
There’s an interesting story behind the filming of the video.
One last thing, and I haven’t been able to able to verify this, but I was told a story about how, when the Midland Grand Hotel was first built back in the 1870s, the air was so thick with smog that architect Sir George Gilbert Scott decided to paint the vaulted ceiling above the grand staircase with a night sky since London residents weren’t actually able to see through the haze. Whether that is true or not, it does make sense. Here is more information on the grand staircase.
1. This Discovery of the Fountain of Youth – Scientists in Israel claim they have been able to reverse the aging process simply using oxygen. GIMME SOME OF THAT!
2. These Cardamom Cookies from Unna Bakery in New York – I found these locally a while back but couldn’t remember where I bought them. Damned menopausal brain fog. I checked to see if I could order them online and yay, I could! LOVE these cookies. They are my favorite treat to have with a cup of tea in the afternoon. A box contains five packets of two, all individually wrapped, so you don’t have to feel obligated to eat the whole package just to keep them from going stale (which is what I tell myself when I do that.) They are just the right amount of spice and sweet. In my opinion, the perfect cookie. The Swedes do so many things right and baking is on that list to be sure.
There are other flavors to choose from too. I ordered some Coconut Oat Cookies to try and they were different but equally good.
3. This Recipe for Sweet & Sour Brussels Sprouts – thanks to my brother Chuck for sending this to me. I’m a big fan of Camila Styles and I’m subscribed to her e-newsletter, but lately my inbox has been inundated so I’m missing a lot.
This girl (me) can’t get enough Brussels sprouts. Sadly, this girl also is on a blood thinner which means she has to pace herself. Well, you know what Julia Child says, “Everything in moderation.” (FYI, the full quote is, “Everything in moderation… including moderation.”) You can find the recipe by clicking on the photo or here.
4. This Book Review (and Interview) of Henry Winkler’s Newest Book by Master Crocheter Jonah Larson – they are all so damned adorable! Note Henry Winkler’s pillow behind him – love it! And Jonah Larson is a wunderkind! You can read more about him here and here.
5. This Cookware from GreenPan – I’ve bought all my GreenPan Cookware from Food52 but it’s available in many places including World Market, Kohl’s, and Amazon. One of my favorite pieces, which I use ALL the time, is the 12-Inch GreenPan Venice Pro Nonstick Ceramic Everyday Pan (pictured right). It’s no longer available at Food52 but they still have it at World Market. And there is a slightly smaller 11-Inch version called the Chatham Nonstick Ceramic Everyday Pan at Kohl’s for significantly less.
From the GreenPan website:
GreenPan is a Belgian brand with an international reputation. It’s the brainchild of two school friends: Jan Helskens and Wim De Veirman.
Upon discovering that traditional non-stick pans released toxins when overheated and used PFOA during the manufacture of the coating, they set out to create a new alternative.
After a long search, they found the perfect material for their range: a ceramic coating called Thermolon™.
With the biggest challenge out of the way, the duo put an expert team together and had a lot of pleasure in designing cookware that looked beautiful, performed brilliantly and made cooking even more of a joy.
10 years later their pans are loved around the world.
6. This Test Flight– I may not be a fan of Elon Musk (I think he ‘s batshit crazy) BUT I cannot deny he has vision and his company is achieving astonishing things. Besides, my nephew works at SpaceX so as long as he’s there I know that they they must be cool!
7. This Music Video (and tweet) – Daniel Stewart is Patrick Stewart’s son. The music video is awesome!
8. This Virtual Chess Game Against Beth Harmon (at four different ages!) – I ADORED ‘Queen’s Gambit’ (along with everyone else) and now I’m obsessed. Chess.com has developed this clever online experience tied in to the hit Netflix series. I finally got brave enough to try to play 8 year-old Beth. It was a draw because we ran out of moves. I thought my brain was going to explode though it was working so hard.
9. These Edible Christmas Ornaments for Outdoor Trees – I’m a Hallmark (and now Lifetime too) Christmas movie junkie. This year Hallmark has an incredible number of new movies. One of my favorites is called, Christmas with the Darlings. In addition to the usual christmas cookie making/baking scene that occurs in every Hallmark movie, in this one they made animal-friendly ornaments and I thought it was brilliant. I will definitely be doing this next year! There are two different links. The link on the photo below will take you to a recipe for the birdseed ornaments pictured. The link at the beginning in bold takes you to an article with a variety of ideas and links.
Word of the Day (is actually the Merriam-Webster Word of the Year for 2020)
If you click on the graphic below it will take you to an analysis of the use and significance of the word pandemic for the year.
Quote of the Day
I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving and stayed safe!
And I don’t want to rub it in so I’ll let Charlie say for me what I can’t say myself….
Recipe as written by Jean Stoltz in the cookbook she made for her daughter, Jennie.
Makes two 9” pies
2 c. brown sugar
¾ c. butter
1 c. PET (evaporated) milk
4 eggs, beaten
4 c. pumpkin (note from Jennie, or 2-15 oz. cans of pumpkin)
1 tsp. each cinnamon, mace & nutmeg
½ c. whiskey (bourbon) or to taste – (plus a ½ c. for Gramma – WHOOPIE!!!)
Cheat – 2 frozen deep-dish pie shells, thawed (another note from Jennie, or if you are looking to make a pie crust from scratch and need a recipe, I love this one.)
Cream together butter and sugar. Add beaten eggs and spices, PET milk & pumpkin and mix well. Add bourbon and mix well. Pour into pie shells and bake at 400 º F for 50 minutes.
This recipe was given to your great-grandmother Canepa by Mrs. T. G. Breant in 1898. Grandma was the head housekeeper at Selma Hall * outside of Festus, MO.
Added this history of Selma Hall….
* Selma Hall, or “Kennett’s Castle”, is located four miles south of Festus and one mile east of Highway 61. Selma Hall, its formal name, is a house patterned after North Italian Renaissance country houses. It was designed by George I. Barnett, English-trained St. Louis architect, for Ferdinand Kennett, Mississippi River steamboat operator. Probably the finest antebellum home in Missouri, it was built in 1854, at a cost of $125,000, and was called Kennett’s Castle by river men who have persisted in calling the mansion this name. Its gray limestone walls and square, four-story tower crown a succession of terraces, which to the east overhang the Mississippi River, and to the west overlook landscaped grounds which include a formal garden. The house was gutted by fire on March 13, 1939, during the ownership of William O. Schock of St. Louis, but has been restored by the firm of Nagel and Dunn to approximately its original appearance.
Selma Hall was built on land given Mrs. Kennett (formerly Julia Deadrick) by her grandfather, John Smith “T”, an expert marksman in duels, and one of the largest lead-mine operators. The castle was occupied by the Kennett family until the Civil War time, when the castle was frequently fired upon from boats on the Mississippi. The family fled to St. Louis for safety. Tradition says that Union forces stabled their horses in the stone mansion, and this magnificent and historic structure, like many others of the antebellum period, was left in ruin. The home was eventually restored to its original impressive elegance. Selma Hall and its imported furnishings were indicative of the wealth and tastes of two aristocratic families – the Smith “T” and Kennett families – both prominent in early land development, lead mining, and other business activities of early Missouri.
from Historic Sites of Jefferson County, Missouri (Eschbach, Walter L.)
Sadly in 2018, Union Pacific, which had acquired the property from Missouri Pacific in 1986, decided to close Selma Hall (or Selma Farm as it is also known) as part of their cost-cutting measures. There is a fantastic article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about the history of Selma Hall with a lot of photographs. I’ve included the dining room photos with this recipe for obvious reasons. If you click on any of them you’ll pop over to the article.
And, in February of 2020, I found a listing for Kennett’s Castle (yet another name for Selma Hall/Selma Farm) for the mere price of $24,750,000.
These are in no particular order of preference. How many have you seen?
Get Santa (Netflix) – charming Christmas movie with a Paddington-esque quality (they were both released in 2014) where things go quite afoul for Santa. But with a little help from his friends he manages to make his deliveries on time. With Jim Broadbent as Santa Claus.
A Child’s Christmas in Wales (YouTube) – Starring Denholm Elliott and Mathonwy Reeves. This link is to the full film.
Godmothered (Disney+) – Starring Jillian Bell, Isla Fisher, and Jane Curtain.
The Holiday Movies That Made Us (Netflix)
Last Holiday (Peacock TV Premium) – Starring Queen Latifah, LL Cool J, Timothy Hutton, Alicia Witt, Giancarlo Esposito, Gerard Depardieu, and Susan Kellermann.
Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas (HBO Max) – Starring (the voices of) Jim Parsons, Mark Hamill, Gilbert Gottfried, Jay Leno, Fred Armisen, and Ed Asner reprising his role as Santa.
Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (Disney+ and Netflix) – Starring Mackenzie Foy as Clara with Matthew Macfadyen, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Omid Djalili, Richard E. Grant, Keira Knightley, and Misty Copeland.
LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special (Disney+) – Billy Dee does Lando’s voice!
It’s a Wonderful Life (Prime Video) – Starring Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, and Lionel Barrymore.
The Happiest Season (Hulu, begins streaming on November 24th) – Starring Dan Levy, Alison Brie, Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, Aubrey Plaza, Mary Steenburgen, Victor Garber, and Ana Gasteyer.
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (Netflix) – Starring Phylicia Rashad, Forest Whitaker, Madalen Mills, Anika Noni Rose, Keegan-Michael Key, Hugh Bonneville, and Ricky Martin. (Lisa Davina Phillip, who plays Ms. Johnson, is hilarious!)
Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square (Netflix) – Starring Dolly Parton, Christine Baranski, and Treat Williams.
Noelle (Disney+) – Starring Anna Kendrick, Shirley MacLaine, Bill Hader, and Kingsley Ben-Adir.
Holidate (Netflix) – Starring Emma Roberts, Luke Bracey, Kristin Chenoweth, and Frances Fisher.
Miracle on 34th Street (Disney+) – Starring Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwenn and Natalie Wood.
The Princess Switch (Netflix) – Starring a double dose of Vanessa Hudgens, Sam Palladio, and Nick Sagar. There is a sequel (also on Netflix) that began streaming on November 19th called The Princess Switch 2: Switched Again.
Last Christmas (HBO Max) – Starring Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Emma Thompson, and Michelle Yeoh.
The Man Who Invented Christmas (Hulu) – starring Dan Stevens.
The Holiday Calendar (Netflix) – Starring Kat Graham, Quincy Brown, Ethan Peck, and Ron Cephas Jones.
The Santa Clause (Disney+) – Starring Tim Allen, David Krumholtz, Judge Reinhold, Wendy Crewson, and Eric Lloyd. (There are two sequels, also on Disney+, with the same original cast: Santa Clause 2 adds Elizabeth Mitchell as the future Mrs. Claus and Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause adds Martin Short as Jack Frost and Alan Arkin and Ann-Margaret as the new Mrs. Claus’s parents who don’t have a clue who their son-in-law is.)
The Bishop’s Wife (Prime Video) – Starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young, David Niven, and Monty Woolley. (There was a remake with Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston called ‘The Preacher’s Wife’ and it was just okay. I mean, I’m a HUGE Cary Grant fan so it’d be difficult for anyone to top him in my book.)
A Bad Mom’s Christmas (Netflix) – Starring Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Christine Baranski, Susan Sarandon, and Cheryl Hines. (You can watch this without having seen the original ‘Bad Moms’ but it’s better if you have. Unfortunately the original isn’t streaming for free.)
Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (Disney+) – Starring Chris Sarandon (Jack Skellington’s speaking voice) and Catherine O’Hara (Sally and Shock’s voice)
White Christmas (Netflix) – Starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen.
A Christmas Movie Christmas (Prime Video and Hulu) – Starring Lana McKissack, Kimberly Daugherty, and Brant Daugherty (Kimberly’s real-life husband.) (FYI, little Cleary Herzlinger, who plays London, steals every scene she’s in.)
Disney’s A Christmas Carol (Disney+) – Starring (the voices of) Jim Carrey (who not only does Scrooge at all ages but all three Ghosts as well), Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Bob Hoskins, Lesley Manville, and Molly Quinn.
Santa Claus: The Movie (Peacock) – Starring David Huddleston, Burgess Meredith, Judy Cornwell, Dudley Moore (if someone else had been cast in Moore’s role this movie would have been so much better) and John Lithgow.
Holiday in the Wild (Netflix) – Starring Kristin Davis and Rob Lowe (I didn’t think I’d like this as much as I did but between the African scenery and the elephants, well, the baby elephants totally put it over the top)
Klaus (Netflix) – Starring (the voices of) Jason Schwartzman, J.K. Simmons, Rashida Jones, Will Sasso, Norm MacDonald, and Joan Cusack.
The Knight Before Christmas (Netflix) – Starring Vanessa Hudgens and Josh Whitehouse.
Home Alone (Disney+) – Starring Macaulay Culkin, Catherine O’Hara, John Heard, Daniel Stern, Joe Pesci, and of course our beloved John Candy. (There is also two sequels (both available on Disney+) but only Home Alone 2: Lost in New York is worth it. Tim Curry, Dana Ivey and Rob Schneider are fantastic in HA2 as staff at the Plaza Hotel. Sadly, the Orange Monster owned the real Plaza Hotel at the time the film was made and makes a brief cameo, so be forewarned.)
Dash & Lily (Netflix) – Starring Austin Abrams and Midori Francis note: this is an eight-episode series based on the novel by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan but it definitely is Christmas-centric. And if you love bookstores, particularly the Strand in NYC, you’re gonna wanna watch this.
And of course….
Die Hard (HBO Max) – Starring Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald VelJohnson, and Alan Rickman.
Course a lot of the best Christmas movies aren’t available on a streaming service for free:
Elf– Ed Asner is definitely one of the best Santas ever and Bob Newhart as an elf is pure genius. (Also, how many of you knew that Ralphie from ‘A Christmas Story’ was in this movie???? That’s him standing next to Buddy in the photo below. He played Ming Ming.)
Happy Christmas – not free anywhere but it only costs $4.99 to buy from AppleTV or Prime, which is a dollar more than it costs to rent. I still don’t understand why anyone would rent a movie that only costs a buck more to buy. I love a realistic, dysfunctional, midwestern Christmas, don’t you? (Plus, Melanie Lynskey, damn I love her.)
The Holiday – Oh to live in Rosehill Cottage. Sigh. (For photos of the interior, click here.)
Love, Actually – I mean really though, this movie is worth an investment. Surely you watch it every year?
Polar Express– I really liked this movie but similar to the Disney Christmas Carol it takes some adjusting to get used to seeing the animations where the voices are completely familiar (Tom Hanks) but the face looks a little off. You’ll see what I mean.
Christmas in Connecticut – I adore Barbara Stanwyck. And if you like the combination of Frank Capra and Barbara Stanwyck you should try Meet John Doe. Technically it’s not a Christmas movie but it has a climatic ending on Christmas Eve so I always think of it as a holiday film. It’s one of my favorites.
Miracle on 34th Street – this is the 1994 version. I don’t think it’s fair to try to compare a black & white film to a color remake. The tone and mood and atmosphere of a b&w film is going to always be different, simply because of the lack of color – and that’s not a bad thing. It’s just, it’s like trying to compare oranges and limes, they are both citrus but they are not completely interchangeable. I hope that this makes sense (I’m doing my rambling thing now). The bottom line is, I love both versions.
Joyeux Noel– you may not have heard of this French film but most likely you have heard the story of the truce that took place for one night on Christmas eve during World War I. This is the story of that event. Nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2006.
The Ref – if you can handle watching a movie with Kevin Spacey (sadly so many things are ruined for me now, but he does get terrorized for a while so that helps,) Dennis Leary is freaking brilliant. So are Judy Davis and Christine Baranski. (And if you happen to click on the photo below it’ll link you to a great review but ignore where it says it’s currently streaming on Netflix. The review is from 2016 and the movie has been pulled since then.)