My season of celebrating Christmas has begun. This year I thought it would be fun to document exactly how I usually get into the spirit of the season, through music, movies, and rituals. I’ll update this post as I go.
Friday, November 23
Listened: Season’s Greetings by Perry Como, Christmas Party by She & Him, Bing Crosby Sings Christmas Songs by Bing Crosby, At Christmas by James Taylor
Saturday, November 24
Listened: Let It Snow, Baby… Let It Reindeer by Relient K, Christmas Songs by Jars of Clay, A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra by Frank Sinatra, Christmas radio
Watched: Grumpy Old Men
Did: put up decorations at my parents’ place
Sunday, November 25
Listened: Christmas with the Rat Pack, Songs for Christmas by Sufjan Stevens, Under the Mistletoe by Justin Bieber, Christmas radio
Watched: Elf (first 30 minutes)
Did: put up decorations in our apartment
Monday, November 26
Listened: Songs for the Season by Ingrid Michaelson, Christmas is Here! by Pentatonix
Watched: A Charlie Brown Christmas, remainder of Elf
Did: enjoyed the first Chicagoland blizzard of the season, first ceremonial snow-scraping of the cars
Tuesday, November 27
Listened: Christmas Portrait by The Carpenters, Snow Globe by Matt Wertz, Come On, Ring Those Bells by Evie, The Hotel Café Presents Winter Songs
Wednesday, November 28
Listened: “All I Need Is Love” by Cee-Lo Green & The Muppets, Light of the Stable by Emmylou Harris, Merry Christmas Good Night by Morning And Night Collective.
Watched: Holiday Inn
Thursday, November 29
Listened: Blood Oranges in the Snow by Over the Rhine, Merry Christmas Good Night by the Morning And Night Collective
Watched: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Friday, November 30
Listened: Christmas with Johnny Cash by Johnny Cash, Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas by Ella Fitzgerald
Sunday, December 2
Listened: Christmas Favorites by Nat King Cole
Tuesday, December 4
Watched: The Family Stone
Friday, December 7
Listened: Home for Christmas by Hall & Oates, Songs for the Season by Ingrid Michaelson
Sunday, December 9
Listened: Jingle All the Way by Bela Fleck & The Flecktones, Advent Christmas EP by Future of Forestry, “Mittens” by Carly Rae Jepsen, Stan Boreson Fractures Christmas by Stan Boreson
Monday, December 10
Listened: Advent Christmas EP Vol. 2 by Future of Forestry
Thursday, December 13
Listened: Christmas Collection, Volume One by Sleeping At Last
Friday, December 14
Listened: Oh For Joy by David Crowder Band, Pretty Paper by Willie Nelson
“Come on, Doc, it’s not science! When it happens, it just hits you. It’s like lightning.” – Marty McFly, Back to the Future Part III
A couple nights before my buddy’s wedding, I was at his house with a bunch of other guys for a time of toasting, roasting, and advice-giving. One thing I shared was how immediately evident it was to me that the couple was The Real Deal, and how a similar certainty hit me like a bolt of lightning when I first met my future wife.
Later on, the wedding reception was held at Ace Eat Serve, a ping pong hall in a converted auto garage serving pan-Asian cuisine. (Loved the amazing food and the novelty of playing ping pong at a wedding.) The ping pong tables outside were made of concrete and had metal nets with Ace’s lightning logo cut through them, which in the sunlight looked like this:
It’s almost as if I was at the temporal junction point for the entire space-time continuum. On the other hand, it could just be an amazing coincidence.
Here are four things I recommend to make your time in the kitchen better.
Onion goggles. My wife and I laughed at these when we saw them in a store, because they are laughable. It took a few passes before we gave them a try, and now I’m mad at myself for all that pointless, ugly onion crying I endured before now.
Gordon Ramsay’s onion cutting technique. After yet again botching what should be a routine process, I hit up YouTube for a more efficient way to cut onions. This one was a minor epiphany. Unless you need slices, this is the way to go.
Manual food chopper. I love being able to mince several garlic cloves in a few seconds. It’s a few more pieces to clean but totally worth it.
Immersion hand blender. I make breakfast smoothies regularly, but using a traditional blender was a nightmare. The ingredients would whip up to the sides of the glass and not blend, and it was a pain in the ass to clean. Got one of these on a recommendation and it changed everything. Easy to blend and clean, and it’s the perfect serving size. (And get you some reusable metal straws, people.)
I’m in the middle of David McCullough’s Truman, a 1,000-page biography (not including the end-matter). Given its girth I figured I’d have to take a break at some point. Sure enough, page 500 rolls around and I get a notification that Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is finally ready for me at the library. So I start that one and immediately love it.
Then I remember I have two forthcoming books I need to review for Booklist with fast-approaching deadlines. So now I’m in a book while reading another book, which itself is a break from another book.
A few months ago I submitted this case to Judge John Hodgman, one of my favorite podcasts:
I seek an injunction against my wife, Jenny. When I am cooking any kind of meat, I use a plastic spatula throughout the cooking process. Jenny insists on rinsing the spatula after the meat is no longer raw, but before it’s fully cooked. She says this avoids mixing any residual raw meat on the spatula with the cooked meat. I think this is excessive and unnecessary, and it degrades my autonomy as the cook. I have been cooking for years without the “mid-wash” without a problem. I ask the Judge order Jenny to cease and desist this behavior and let me cook in peace.
Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Only one man can decide, and he did!
I couldn’t believe it. They’d released many episodes since I submitted my case, so I assumed it was already passed over. Instead, to our shock and delight, we were listening to it for the first time together, breathlessly awaiting how the Judge would adjudicate our petty dispute.
I do regret the line about autonomy, as I know well the Judge’s bias against dudes trying to impose their own system for things on others. Yet in this case it was my wife trying to impose a system on me.
I don’t regret “mid-wash”.
I should have clarified that I was cooking meat in a stainless steel pan.
I’ve had occasion to drive into or through downtown Chicago several times recently, which is unusual. A few times it was for medical reasons, another for a conference in the Loop, and last Friday for a morning seminar at the University of Chicago.
Each time I do it I’m reminded of how beautiful Lake Shore Drive is.
If you’ve never been to Chicago: the city sits right next to Lake Michigan, and Lake Shore Drive runs north-south along the lakeshore. Except some museums, Navy Pier, Soldier Field, and one swanky skyscraper, it’s mostly beachfront and parks the whole way, so whichever direction you drive it (or bike or run it) will give you an amazing view of Chicago’s famous downtown architecture and the expansive lake at the same time.
On Friday I drove almost the whole stretch of the LSD, from the far north side to the far south side and back. Heading southbound, I think the scenic part of downtown begins at the Oak Street bend where the Drake Hotel sits. (Which to me always calls to mind the crucial Bible from the Drake Hotel in Mission: Impossible:“They stamped it, didn’t they? Those damn Gideons.”)
And northbound from the University of Chicago it’s scenic pretty much the whole way. You can watch the skyscrapers get bigger and bigger until you’re almost among them.
I don’t know how many other cities have anything comparable to Lake Shore Drive, so I’m happy to have it.
I started drinking coffee after college, and when I did I went straight to black, sometimes with sugar. It took me that long because my taste buds weren’t ready for the bitterness of black coffee. And yet when I did try to start drinking it regularly, it never occurred to me to use sweeteners, beyond a little sugar. I figured if I was going to drink coffee, I should like the taste of the coffee itself and not try to mask it with cream. Admittedly this logic is faulty, but it’s why this comic struck a nerve.
My wife, who’s part Swedish and embraces all things hygge, cherishes the coziness of the whole coffee drinking experience, special cream included. But I, embracer of my Finnish heritage and its concept of sisu, enjoy the pure, raw burn of good black coffee.