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For Catholics, the Christmas season officially ends tomorrow, 10 January, with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, thus marking the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. With that being said, it is time for me to reflect on the festive activities that I participated in throughout the Christmas season, mainly during the month of December. I had a jovial time watching Christmas movies, reading Christmas stories, consuming a mirthful beverage, and so much more as I celebrated the delightful season of Christmas.

As I mentioned in previous posts, dear reader, Christmas is not my favorite holiday; however, creating a Christmas Fun List helped me enjoy the joyous season with good cheer. Kelsi also created a fun list. Similar to Halloween, our lists consisted of movies (horror and classic), books, accessories, treats, and extras. Since we incorporated a Christmas Horror movie marathon and a Christmas Classics movie marathon as part of our fun lists, Kelsi and I had TWO Christmas chats. Again, Kelsi is the mastermind behind the technical aspects of our conversations and does an awesome job of hosting our chat and creating the finished product. I’ve included our Christmas Retrospective in this post.

Without delay, here are my thoughts on how I spent the Christmas season.

Movies

I selected 24 movies, 12 Christmas Horror and 12 Christmas Classics. What an insane amount of movies for me to view in a month! I decided to complete my Christmas Horror Marathon prior to starting my Christmas Classics Marathon. To read more about the Christmas Horror movies that I watched, to listen to the song I wrote about the Twelve Days of Christmas Horror, and to check out my conversation with Kelsi discussing the Christmas Horror movies, please visit my post “The Gift of Christmas Horror” which includes all three components. Unlike a few of the movies on my Christmas Horror list which I didn’t like very much, I loved all the movies chosen on my Christmas Classics list. The movies are ranked in the order of how much I liked them and the stars represent my rating.

My top six movies all received 5 STARS from me. I have seen all six of these films numerous times over the years. My absolute favorite is Love Actually. It is a fantastic romantic comedy full of wonderful characters whose lives intersect while navigating through the chaos caused by love and loss during the Christmas season. I watch Elf every year. It never gets old, and Will Ferrell is hilarious! Next up is How the Grinch Stole Christmas with the brilliant Jim Carrey as the Grinch. The 2009 version of A Christmas Carol is beautifully animated and terrifically terrifying in all the right places.

I had not seen Home Alone in several years, so it was a real treat to revisit. Andrew and I watched it together, and I laughed hysterically throughout the entire movie, especially at the shenanigans of the Wet Bandits. The Polar Express is another visual delight. I’m a fan of the author, Chris Van Allsburg, who wrote and illustrated this beautiful story. I love how well the film captured the heartwarming message of the book.

Out of the remaining six movies on my list, three of them were new watches. Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is a marvelously magical musical that gave me a holiday happiness boost. The young actress Madalen Mills who portrays Journey is pure delight. I hope to see her in other productions in the near future. Klaus is an amazing animated breath of fresh air with a heartfelt message and a new spin on the legend of Santa Claus. It is not a musical, but it has a lovely soundtrack. And, Rashida Jones, alum of The Office and Parks and Recreation, is the voice of Alva.

My third new watch, He Sees You When You’re Sleeping is an enjoyable movie-of-the week based on a mystery novel by Mary Higgins Clark and her daughter, Carol Higgins Clark. I’m a fan of both authors. In fact, I’ve been reading Mary Higgins Clark since I was 18 years old. This movie isn’t exactly a Christmas movie, but it takes place during the Christmas season. The acting isn’t stellar and there are some cheesy scenes, but it does have a decent plot. As for the final three movies, which were all rewatches, it was lovely to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas. My favorite scene is when all of the children are dancing on stage. Of course, Snoopy steals the show with his endless imagination and sense of humor. It has been over 20 years since I’ve seen The Muppet Christmas Carol. Luckily, I was able to see it with my hubby in the theatre. It is a lovely musical starring the talented Michael Caine as Scrooge alongside the fabulous Muppets. Last but not least, A Christmas Story. I know I have seen this movie quite a few times and in recent years; however, there were many scenes I did not remember, so I’m guessing I had it playing in the background while engaged in other activities. It’s not my favorite, but it has plenty of entertaining moments that make it worth the watch.

Books/Short Stories

I picked out two books to read throughout the month, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and Santa’s Twin written by Dean Koontz and illustrated by Phil Parks. Even though I have seen a variety of cinematic versions of A Christmas Carol over the course of my lifetime, I have never read the classic novella. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a superb piece of literature that I highly recommend to everyone. Santa’s Twin is another equally enjoyable read. It is a beautifully illustrated picture book with an endearing story featuring two charming and spunky little girls.

Initially, I was only planning to read those two books. Shortly after I finished them, I read four more terrific books. Two of them are picture books, The Polar Express written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg and The Animals’ Santa written and illustrated by Jan Brett. One of them is a splendid children’s lit selection that features a debonair mouse, Merry Christmas, Geronimo. The final one is an anthology, Krampusnacht: Twelve Nights of Krampus edited by Kate Wolford. I think anyone who is a fan of Krampus will enjoy this collection.

Thematic Potpourri

Besides watching both creepy and classic Christmas movies and reading holly and some not so jolly stories, there were several other thematic activities that I engaged in throughout the month. I wore a pair of Christmas socks a few times during the month. Every day at work, I wore different Christmas pins. Although I did not buy a Christmas sweater (the only item on my fun list I did not complete), I bought a Christmas mask to wear at work. I sent out Christmas cards to family and friends which included flying wish paper. Kelsi and I both included flying wish paper demonstrations in our chat.

I made a sweet and salty Christmas treat. It is super easy to make and only requires three ingredients (a bag of Snyder’s Snaps Pretzels, a bag of Hershey’s Hugs, and a bag of red and green M&M’s). I used my toaster oven and set it for about 275 degrees. Put a piece of aluminum foil on a pan (you can also do it without aluminum foil). Place pretzels on the pan first. Place a Hershey’s Hug on each pretzel. Put the pan in the oven for two minutes to make the Hug soft. Take it out the oven after two minutes and press an M&M on each Hug. I carefully take the aluminum foil with the treats and place it in the refrigerator to harden. Voila! You can basically make this treat anytime and for any holiday just by changing the colors of the M&M’s.

On Christmas evening, my hubby and I went over to Shelly and Kerry’s house for our annual Christmas visit. We generally have a glass of wine or a cocktail and enjoy leftovers from lunch. What a perfect time to try a Christmas cocktail! Kerry, who is our designated bartender, mixed the Grinch Cocktail for us. Instead of using Ginger Ale, he used Sprite. He also did not get the simple syrup or the green/red sanding sugar to decorate the rim of the glass. It was a yummy cocktail that I would definitely drink again. Afterwards, we enjoyed a glass of 19 Crimes Cali Red, featuring Snoop Dogg. With that, my Christmas Fun List is complete!

December was an amazingly merry month thanks to having a Christmas Fun list. Seeing Christmas decorations lit up in the evenings when I’d drive through the subdivision, reading thematic stories, and watching both creepy and classic Christmas movies added so much joy to my life. I will definitely be doing this again next year although with fewer movies on my list. What did you do to celebrate the Christmas season? I hope you will take a look at my conversation with Kelsi, dear reader. We’d love to get some feedback on our conversation and what we might consider for next year. Happiness!

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” ~ Dr. Seuss

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Halloween 2020 has come and gone; however, I must reflect on the fang-tastic activities that I participated in throughout October before I can get into the heart and soul of November. I had a horror-rific time watching Halloween/horror movies, reading scary stories, consuming a spooky libation, and so much more as it all led up to the magical night of Halloween.

As you know, dear reader, Halloween is my favorite holiday which makes the month of October super special for me. Inspired by my dear friend Kelsi, who also adores Halloween, I created a Halloween Fun List. Basically, it was a fun list of activities planned for the entire month of October that encapsulates the spirit of the season. My list included: movies, books, accessories, events, and extras. I took the liberty of incorporating some spur of the moment items which included a spooktacular conversation with Kelsi. We were actually scheduled to have our conversation the Thursday evening before Halloween; however, it was postponed because Hurricane Zeta swept through Louisiana causing damage and power loss. Unfortunately, Kelsi was one of many who lost power, thus putting a slight kink in out creeperific plans. Thankfully, her power was restored, so we recorded our conversation Friday night. Please check it out! It is my first attempt with this type of format. And, I LOVED it! Podcasting is something I really want to do in the near future, so having this opportunity was both important and exciting for me. Kelsi is such a pro and is responsible for setting everything up, editing it (such cool graphics), and getting it out into the world.

So, without further ado, my thoughts on how I spent the month of October.

Movies

I chose 13 movies. Five of them were movies I had seen before, but wanted to revisit since it had been quite awhile since I had seen them last. The Haunted Mansion (ghost story), Hocus Pocus (witches), The Nightmare Before Christmas (animated dark fantasy), Sleepy Hollow (headless horseman), and Salem’s Lot -1979 (vampires). Thankfully, movie theatres have opened again, and the AMC Theatre in Hammond is showing FAN FAVORITES for $5. I was able to see both Hocus Pocus and The Nightmare Before Christmas in the theatre to my great delight. I cherish both of these films. I enjoyed all of my re-watches, but was a bit disappointed with Salem’s Lot. I remember it being terrifying when I saw it as a kid but not so much as an adult. In all fairness it was released as a made-for-tv movie back in 1979. The head vampire is a nod to the German vampire Nosferatu (awesome), the vampire children floating outside the window are still creepy, and seeing David Soul again was visually appealing.

As for the other eight movies on my list, I was pleased with my choices. My new favorites are Train to Busan (zombies), The Ritual (Norse mythology), Death Note (Japanese death god), and The Innocents (ghost story). I definitely recommend them to anyone who enjoys the horror genre. The Vatican Tapes (demonic possession), Dark Skies (aliens), and Color Out of Space (sci-fi) were all entertaining. While they are not necessarily my favorites, they are all worth the watch, especially Color Out of Space. Based on a H.P. Lovecraft short story and starring Nicholas Cage (a fave of mine), it is an artfully, over-the-top gem. My only disappointment was House of the Witch (witches). It wasn’t terrible, but not really scary. There were a couple good jump scares, nice special effects and makeup, and an interesting plot twist. While some would enjoy it, it is one where watching it once was enough for me.

Books/Short Stories

I chose two short stories written by Edgar Allan Poe, “The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion” and “The Purloined Letter.” Of the two stories, I enjoyed “The Purloined Letter” more. It featured C. Auguste Dupin, a fictional character who uses his intellect and imagination to solve mysteries even though he is not a detective by profession. Then, I chose three short stories from A Newbery Halloween, and all three were gratifying. My favorite of the three was “The Year Halloween Happened One Day Early” written by Virginia Hamilton. The short story is taken from Chapters 7 and 8 of her book Willie Bea and the Time the Martians Landed which was inspired by “The War of the Worlds” radio drama.

Of the three children’s novels that I read, Ghost Squad, Witch Catcher, and The Collected, I was disappointed with The Collected. It didn’t quite have the same creepy energy as K.R. Alexander’s other scary books. I also added Coraline which is a reread for me. Neil Gaiman is a fantastic author and one of my favorites, and Coraline is a classic. I would highly recommend the book and the movie. Lastly, I tackled the monstrous novel NOS4A2 written by Joe Hill. It was AMAZING! I feel like I must devote a whole post in the future to this novel and Joe Hill because there is so much to say about it. Kelsi and I discuss it more in depth in our conversation, and she reviewed it on her blog Kelsi Explains It All.

October Reads

Thematic Potpourri

Besides watching spine-chilling movies and reading scary stories, there were several other thematic activities that I engaged in throughout the month. I wore Halloween socks and pins every day to work and on the weekends. My hubby and I attended a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I savored a wicked beverage called Witch Potion Cocktail while socializing with my best buds from high school. On Sunday evenings, I immersed myself again in The Walking Dead universe. On a whim, I posted a Halloween-related Snoopy picture daily on Facebook (my story). My favorite was Pinhead Snoopy. And, for the first time, I sent out a few Halloween cards to friends I know who appreciate the holiday as much as I do.

And, last but not least, Kelsi introduced me to David S. Pumpkins. It is completely absurd but totally entertaining. I watched it numerous times throughout the month.

Halloween Night

On Halloween night, I dressed as a witch. My plan was to hand out treats to all the trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood. One of our neighbors had signs made for anyone in the neighborhood who wanted to hand out treats. We placed the sign in our front yard, so the children and their parents would know who was handing out candy. I placed the candy in my cauldron and set it on a table. I wore a mask and socially distanced. Son #1 dressed as Cookie Monster and his girlfriend Kayla dressed as Oscar the Grouch. They brought an inflatable Haunted House that we set up in front of my table, so it looked like I was in the house. It became a huge hit with the children. Many parents took pictures of their children in the entranceway or near the haunted house. It was a pleasant night. Afterwards, I watched Eli Roth’s History of Horror. The episode was on witches. Then, I watched a little bit of Halloween before hitting the hay.

October was an incredibly BOOtiful month thanks to having a Halloween Fun list. Seeing Halloween decorations lit up in the evenings when I’d go for a walk, partaking in seasonal events, reading scary stories, and watching creepy movies added so much joy to my life. I will definitely be doing this again next year. I’ve already started compiling my list. What did you do for Halloween? I hope you will take a look at my conversation with Kelsi, dear reader. We’d love to know what you think and what we might consider for next year. Happiness!

“Villainy wears many masks, none so dangerous as the mask of virtue.” Ichabod Crane, Sleepy Hollow

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Autumn officially commenced on Tuesday and brought cooler temperatures with it. While the summer of 2020 was not how I originally envisioned spending my break, thanks to COVID-19, it turned out to be fairly pleasant. Back in June, I created a list of acceptable activities I could participate in while following the constraints mandated as a result of the pandemic. With the exception of planting new flowers in my garden (still weeded and watered existing plants), I participated in all of the activities on my list and added some additional ones. 

Bushwacker

Bushwacker

Social distancing limits socializing with people “in person” which is difficult for me because I greatly enjoy socializing with people in person; however, I did get to spend some “in person” time with my parents and a few friends. My hubby and I had a couple of drink nights with Shelly, her hubby, and additional guests (her mom, Mr. Mike, and our friend Karen). In June, we drank bushwackers (not a new cocktail for me, but new for my hubby) which are super yummy because they contain ice cream.

Jaguar Juice

Jaguar Juice

In August, we had two drink nights which featured two new cocktails, a Strawberry Cream Martini and Jaguar Juice. In addition to in person hangouts, I attended quite a few virtual improv hangouts this summer. And, thanks to my friend Brian, our improv group recently had two celebrity guests attend our hangout for Q and A sessions. One Tuesday night, Greg Proops hung out with us. The next evening, Jonathan Mangum joined us. Both have appeared on Whose Line Is It Anyway? and shared so much terrific information and encouragement with us.  

I scrapbooked a fair amount this summer on Andrew’s Ireland scrapbook. I have some journaling to complete on a few of his Ireland pages as well as his Wales pages, and then I can move on to his adventures in London.

Rock of Cashel

As I wrote in my last post, I enjoyed my “Summer of Poe.” Even though I didn’t get to read Poe’s entire body of work this summer, I plan to read the remainder of it in the near future. 

Chicken TaquitosChicken QuesidillasI did try my hand at some cooking this summer. I made chicken quesadillas, baked chicken bacon ranch taquitos, cranberry pecan chicken salad, crispy air fryer chicken tenders, and meatloaf with brown gravy. Yes, I know…lots of chicken. The recipes that I tried are basic (not many ingredients) because I don’t really enjoy cooking. Also, whatever I cook needs to also appeal to Andrew’s taste buds. Thankfully, he is not as picky as he used to be as a youngling. Out of everything I tried, he did not like the chicken salad which Barry and I absolutely loved. Since the summer is over, I have no desire to try any new recipes for the remainder of the year. 

Chicken Salad

As for exercising, I stuck with walking all summer. Rain or shine, I have not missed one day since I started back in March and hope to continue my streak. As for my weight loss journey, I wound up not taking it, even after all the preparation to start on June 1st and attempting to recommit in July. I also haven’t done much running. I dropped the ball, and I have had to reconcile myself with the fact that it may not happen this year. I’ve felt fragmented since all this COVID stuff has started, and I haven’t been able to focus on any one area for any length of time. I have too many irons in the fire, and I know I need to schedule my time better in order to get to everything I want to accomplish both personally and professionally. But, we all know, dear reader, that time management is my kryptonite. In fact, instead of taking items off of my plate and putting them on the back burner for a little bit, I have added more items which requires more time.  In addition, I’m not doing so hot on my 20 for 2020 list. Although, I still have a glimmer of hope that I can knock a few items off of my list in the remaining quarter of this year. We’ll see what the next three months have to offer. 

Despite not seeing friends I usually see, not doing activities I normally do, or not meeting goals I generally meet, I am grateful that I still had a summer break. My summer was different, dear reader, but much of it was also restorative, relaxed, and simple. And, sometimes, that is the blessing. Happiness!

“When summer gathers up her robes of glory, and, like a dream, glides away.”     ~ Sarah Helen Whitman

Kentucky

at my Uncle Manuel’s home in Nicholasville, Kentucky

 

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Jackson SquareA month ago, my hubby and I stayed overnight at the Blake Hotel in New Orleans. Since he travels a great deal for work, he occasionally receives a free stay at a hotel. With COVID-19 cancelling plans and limiting activities this summer, we decided to take advantage of the change of scenery. Between me working as a supervisor for the ACT at Southeastern earlier in the day and restrictions in the city, we knew we would not be able to do much in New Orleans except maybe enjoy a nice dinner and go for a short walk around the French Quarter.

Fortunately, that Saturday (June 13th) Phase 2 was implemented for the city. We had originally planned to eat dinner at the hotel; however, the hotel was only serving breakfast and lunch. The front desk clerk made a few suggestions of restaurants that would be open and gave us a couple of brochures with menus. So, after looking over the menus, we decided to call Oceana to see if we could dine in and if we needed to make reservations. As luck would have it, we did not have to make reservations, and we could eat in the restaurant. Additionally, eating at Oceana would count as trying a new restaurant (#11 on 20 for 2020 list). It would be the second new restaurant that I have tried this year.

Oceana-tiniWe were greeted by a friendly hostess who asked us to write our names and phone numbers in a notebook before being seated. Apparently, due to COVID, this is a social practice for restaurants in New Orleans. Appropriate social distancing was implemented within the dining area, so we felt comfortable. Emily was our waitress for the evening. She was lovely and took great care of us throughout the meal. Since this was the first time eating out in New Orleans in some time and probably would be the last for quite awhile, we opted to splurge. We started the evening off with Eggplantcocktails. I chose the Oceana-tini (Absolut Vodka, Bols Sour Apple Pucker, Midori, & a touch of sour mix) and the hubster ordered a beer. Our appetizer was fried eggplant sticks. Yummy, crispy, and not greasy! I love fried eggplant, but I do not prepare it at home. When given the chance to order it while dining out, I take it. Next up, the entrees!

I ordered the Mardi Gras Pasta, and Barry chose Blackened Catfish. Our chef did not disappoint us. Our meals were scrumptious, and we both ate every last bite.

Mardi Gras pasta

Mardi Gras Pasta

Blackened Catfish

Blackened Catfish

NOLA Bread PuddingWhen Emily approached us about dessert, we ordered the New Orleans Bread Pudding (to split) without hesitation. I adore bread pudding, and there are so many ways it can be prepared, so I rarely pass up the opportunity to indulge in such a delightful treat. Yum-yum…yum-yum-yum! It was one of the finest bread puddings that I have ever eaten. I’m actually fantasizing about it right now.

Of course, after eating all of that delicious food and feeling like a pregnant whale, we had to walk around to let our meals digest. Unbeknownst to us, we were about to get a surprising eyeful. One of the restrictions that was lifted in Phase 2 was the opening of bars. While there were not nearly as many people frequenting the bars on Bourbon Street as on a normal Saturday evening, there were more than we expected considering social distancing limitations. Anyway, as we were strolling along, I spotted butt cheeks (three sets in fact) through the open doorway of one of the bars. Imagine my surprise! At the exact moment that I am telling Barry what I had seen, a group of scantily clad bike riders passed right in front of us. We didn’t find out until the next day that we had witnessed World Naked Bike Ride NOLA. You really never know what sights you will see in the French Quarter.

We returned to our hotel to enjoy the rest of our evening. The next morning we had a pleasant breakfast at the hotel restaurant, Café at the Square. Shortly afterwards, we headed home. Our overnight trip may have been brief and lacked some of the bells and whistles the city of New Orleans normally offers; however, Barry and I had a fantastic time because we were together, and we rather enjoyed the change of scenery without the usual hubbub. Happiness!

Kat & Barry-Oceana

“A change of scenery can help everything.” ~ Drew Pomeranz

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