Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas, Christmas Time Is Here

I'm not sure if what my family does at Christmas really constitutes for "traditions", but whatever it is, it's something I've been doing since I was a child. My mother and I always begin with our Christmas baking, which usually starts around the first of December and ends a week before the "big day." As the days tick away, we start looking forward to the little things like the children's Christmas concerts (which were great this year), decorating the tree, the first snowfall, the first Christmas song on the radio, and holiday shopping.

On Christmas Eve we pile the kids in the car and head over to my parent's house for dinner. Before dinner starts we open our Christmas crackers. We all try on our paper hats, some with better luck than others, and then trade our goodies around the table and share our jokes. We devour our meal in about ten minutes and then remark at the fact that the meal takes all day to prepare and is gone in only a matter of minutes. We then wash dishes and head over to the tree to open our gifts.

On Christmas Day we open our stockings and gifts from Santa. We watch the children play with their toys and then we head to the kitchen for a yummy Christmas breakfast. The rest of the day is spent usually in pajamas. It's a wonderful day of family and friends, and I hope this year is a happy one for all of you. God Bless and Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2008

I'm Cheating!!! **shh - you didn't hear that**

This post is all about holiday traditions in my family! Really it is!

It has nothing whatsoever to do with this box I just got in the mail!
Which contained these!

No! Rather - this post is TOTALLY focused on heartwarming details of my childhood - such as the traditional Christmas concert we would have every year with all of my relatives gathering in groups and trying to out-goofy each other - whereupon I suffered such indignities upon my young and tender person as having a maraschino cherry sell0-taped to my nose so that my family (Team Livingston) could belt out an off-key rendition of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer!
This post is about the fact that trips to the Emergency Room - for one reason or another - were almost a Christmas Eve Tradition in my household! (stitches, ski accidents, what have you...)
That's what this post is about. Not... um... say...
(OMG - it's the totally awesome frontmatter of my BOOOOOK! **shh - you didn't read that!**)
Or this!
(Eeee! Look! It's me!! In the book!!! **shh!**)
That's right. This post is about the fact that, these days, every year John and I listen to the soundtrack from A Charlie Brown Christmas on Christmas Eve and watch Die Hard on Christmas Day (Best Christmas Movie EVER!) and on Boxing Day we always start a marathon session of watching the BBC miniseries I Claudius.
This post is about traditions!
And my book. :-)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Chinese Food and a Movie

Here’s something that always really got to me as a child: not celebrating Christmas. I’m Jewish, so I celebrate Hanukkah instead. Sure, I loved the eight nights of presents, but I was always jealous of my best friend’s Christmas tree, Christmas lights, and her trips to visit Santa at the mall. I used to go over to my best friend’s house on Christmas day and stare longingly at her stocking hanging by the fireplace, her beautiful tree with all the shiny ornaments, and her piles of unwrapped gifts. She, in turn, of course, would visit my house for a night of Hanukkah, and would complain that I got to have eight nights of gifts, as opposed to her one day. Still, I wanted those Christmas traditions so badly: my sister and I begged our parents for a Hanukkah tree or at least for some Hanukkah lights on the house, and my mom used to tell us when we grew up we could do whatever we wanted to celebrate the holidays, but that she was not caving into our demands.

Here’s what we got instead: Chinese food and a movie. See, every Christmas day, my parents, my sister, and I would go to the movies in the afternoon and then get Chinese food for dinner. Usually, some of the best movies of the year open on Christmas Day, so this actually really was a treat, and it was also one of the only times that the four of us went to a movie together. Afterwards, we’d follow it up with Wonton soup and sweet and sour chicken at the always surprisingly crowded Chinese restaurant.

However, despite all our yearning for Christmas traditions, we also loved Hanukkah, and we had two very small traditions of our own. First, my sister and I had a strict schedule of alternating nights, for who got to pick the color of the candles and light the Menorah. (Thank goodness there are an even number of nights!) Then after lighting the candles and before opening the presents, we would sing the now decidedly infamous and totally unreligious “Dreidel Song” as fast as we could. (Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of clay. . .) I’m not sure where that came from, and I am positive it has no religious roots, because I’ve yet to meet anyone else who does this.

A few years back, the first time my husband and I celebrated Hanukkah with kids, I burst into the Dreidel song as I “lit” (well plugged in really – it’s electric) my menorah. My husband gave me a weird look, and said that what you are supposed to sing is the Hanukkah prayer. (A prayer – who knew?) He tried to teach it to me, even writing it out phonetically, so I could attempt to learn the Hebrew words. Since then, our tradition is to sing both the Dreidel song and the Hebrew prayer (and for my husband to make fun of me as I butcher the words!) before we open presents.

Still, my favorite holiday tradition was definitely the Christmas day movie and Chinese food (cinema and food – what beats that?), and when my kids get of movie-theater going age, it’s something I’d like to continue with them. Family togetherness and sharing in a good meal, probably about as much Christmas spirit as you can get without the tree, the ornaments, and the lights.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Maybe I'm The Oddball Here

but my holiday traditions are, well, non-traditional. So I’m having a hard time coming up with something my boys and I have deemed customary. I’m the girl who’s always looking for something new.

Two Christmases ago we took a last minute trip to Jackson Hole. I remember sitting in my chair by the fire on Thanksgiving while my boys were away with their father, thinking, this is ridiculous. I’m not spending the next holiday without them. We’re outa-here. That’s it. So I picked up the phone and within the next hour I had a snowboarding trip planned to the Tetons. I’m not saying I could actually afford it so much but when sitting alone on a holiday, we tend to make choices that are sometimes shall I say, extravagant? It may have taken me a year to pay for it, but we spent Christmas Day racing down the snowy streets of Yellowstone National Park on snowmobiles. We had lunch in a warming hut next to Old Faithful. (Our guide had timed our arrival perfectly.) Moose, elk and buffalo grazed only feet away from the safety of our snowmobiles. It may not have been traditional, but my sons will never forget it.

When it comes to our Christmas meal, turkey is usually not on the table. Last year we had king crab legs. Like I said, I’m the non-traditional type.

I used to read the boys Twas the Night Before Christmas until they stopped asking for it - sigh, sad face. My mother did that for my sisters and me, so I suppose that qualifies as a tradition. We do love to watch A Christmas Story on Christmas Eve. Is it TNT that runs the marathon around the clock?

Traditional or not, I’m looking forward to this Christmas. My son comes home for the first time in four months. I’ve missed him so badly it hurts inside and that’s something I hope never becomes a tradition.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Movies: My Holiday Drug of Choice

The past few years, as soon as the calendar reads December, my husband and I have sat down and made a list of "Must Do" activities for the holidays. Spanning from the basic, like "Buy Christmas tree" to the specific, such as "Make gingerbread cookies on Wednesday." A large section of our list is comprised of Christmas movies.

Watching Christmas movies, both horribly cheesy ones like Christmas With the Kranks and Jingle All the Way and classics, like It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story, are my favorite tradition. It’s just not Christmas without all those movies.

I especially love the fantastically bad made-for-television movies found on ABC Family and The Hallmark Channel. Last year, I found a new one to love: Holiday in Handcuffs.

Love. It.

Starring Mario Lopez, of Saved by the Bell fame and Melissa Joan Hart, from Sabrina the Teenage Witch. About a lonely girl, just dumped by her boyfriend, who kidnaps a stranger and forces him to pretend he’s her boyfriend to impress her family on Christmas. He’s pissed at first, but then…I’ll bet you can guess the ending. Anyway, that movie is like a candy cane—not much nutritional value, but awesome nonetheless.

Another favorite family tradition happens on Christmas Eve, after all the extended family goes home, when my siblings and I bust out all the fabulous home movies from twenty years ago. We watch videos and laugh at wardrobe choices, misguided perms and tacky sweaters. Like, "Did your shoes serve an orthopedic function?" and "Mom! I can’t believe you dressed me in that hideous velvet skirt!"

This year, however, is going to be a bit different. This will mark my first Christmas spent out of town, at my inlaws house in Ohio. It’ll be a little sad, but great to spend time with the Cincinnati crew. And you can bet I’ll be rummaging around in the basement for any old movies!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Magic of Christmas

In my mind, the magic of Christmas partially stems from this week's topic: Christmas traditions. Which really boils down to family traditions. Little (or big) things that extend from one generation into another...things that my parents did with me, that I'm now doing with my kids, that someday they'll do with theirs, is (to me) an essential ingredient in what makes Christmas special and magical.

Things from baking the same types of cookies each December with my children that I baked with my mother when I was growing up, to Santa filling their stockings with the same goodies (LifeSavers Storybook!) that he filled mine with, to driving around on Christmas Eve to gawk at all the Christmas lights, to so many more make me feel warm, happy, and loved.

As the years have passed, we've also started our own new, yearly traditions, that maybe, just maybe, my kids will also pass on to their kids someday. What are some of those new traditions? One of them began when my oldest two (who are now 16 and 18) were very little. One Christmas, I decided to give them each one present early--on Christmas Eve. See, I'd recently been divorced and had moved across the country, and it was just us, me and my two kids.

Anyway, my parents weren't able to make it out that year, and I knew I was going to be sending home lots of pictures of Christmas morning. And I wanted to prove to everyone that we were okay, and happy, and that I (as a young, single mother) had everything under control. Such a big thing to show in a few pictures, right? So in my frenzied Christmas mind, I decided the kids needed new pajamas for Christmas morning (for all those photos!).

On Christmas Eve, I gave them each one present, which yep, contained brand new, Christmas themed pj's for them to wear to bed that night. Now, every single year, my kids (and my husband) get new pajamas on Christmas Eve. I almost didn't do it a couple of years ago, but my oldest had a fit. She said to me, "But,'s tradition. You have to do it!"

And so I did.

Another tradition I started when the older kids were very young was purchasing one Christmas ornament for each of them for their stocking each year. This "new" tradition has extended to my family and many of my friends, and I hadn't even realized it was a "tradition" until my brother told his then-girlfriend (now wife) on her first Christmas with us, "My sister does this every year. Isn't this cool? She helps us grow our Chrismas memories one ornament at a time."

Wow. I loved that, and while I hadn't realized THEN I was creating a tradition, I know now. So yep...every single year, I scour the stores for the perfect ornaments for each person on my list. Because they expect it, yes...but also because they love it.

Traditions + Family = Christmas Magic.

And that's all I have to say on that!

Sunday, December 14, 2008


To celebrate the December 23rd release of Lesley Livingston's WONDROUS STRANGE, The Novel Girls are having their first ever contest!!

All you need to do to enter is become a follower of our blog by January 1, 2009. (Click "Follow this Blog" on the right hand bar -- you may need to scroll down a little bit to see it). We'll pick one winner, at random, from all our followers to win a SIGNED hardcover copy of WONDROUS STRANGE !!!

Good luck :-).

The Novel Girls