Category Archives: Holidays

Big Bird

Maybe I’m just getting old, but this year’s turkey was a gigantic pain in the ass.

Clocking in at more than 25 pounds, it was a huge and unwieldy bird that was challenging every step of the way. Next time, I think I’d be better off cooking two smaller turkeys. It would be more work in some regards, but after wrestling with the mega-brid, it’s worth considering.

Did I mention the stuffing incident?

When I was taking the turkey out of the stove, the roasting pan slipped and dropped onto the oven rack. It didn’t fall more than a couple of inches, but the impact was enough to launch a load of stuffing straight into the air. Some of it ended up in my hair, some on the floor, and some was on the cabinet doors.

My son walked into the kitchen. “What’s that up there?”

Holy crap — several clumps of stuffing were clinging to the ceiling.

Overall, it was not the easiest day, but the trouble was worth it. The turkey was spectacular — probably the best I’ve ever cooked — but more importantly, it was a great crowd of friends and family and everyone had a wonderful time. Spirits were soaring on our all-American holiday, soaring almost as high as the stuffing.

The Week That Was

An Itch for Christmas
A few years ago, there were lots of stories around about ticks in Christmas trees. Well, the good news is that ticks are not really a problem. The bad news? There could be 25,000 other bugs on your tree.

Quote of the Week
“People don’t know what wine tastes like until they taste it.” – Paul Vandenburgh

That’s either a brilliant nugget of wisdom or the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.

Crushing It
I made a lot of news promos, and I’m still impressed when I see something that nails it like this MSNBC spot.

These folks have been portrayed by the idiot in the White house as enemies of the people. Their response: we do this because we love you. Extra points for using R.E.M.’s Orange Crush.

Tie One On This Christmas

So, about the Christmas tree.

On our way home from getting the tree, we passed another car on their way home from the same mission.

The other car’s tree was secured with a cheap piece of frayed twine that looked like it would snap at any moment. I was sure the tree would tumble to the road on the first sharp turn.

I try not to be judgmental, but the ability to tie things down is a fair measure of one’s competence.

My wife wanted me to honk and alert them.

I refused. “No. He needs to learn.”

My tree? There was a ratchet strap across the middle holding it snug to the roof and then a heavy nylon rope to keep it from pivoting. I could roll the car over and that tree would still be attached to the roof.

It wasn’t exactly pretty; no sailor would be impressed with these knots, but they were secure.

People get stressed out at Christmas, but the key to having a nice holiday is to accept that there are some things you can control and some things you can’t.

Accept the things you can’t control, and you’ll be happier — tying a tree to your car is something you can control, so don’t screw it up.

Santa Season

I watched for a few minutes at Bob’s Trees as children lined up to visit with Santa. He had a real beard and a pretty good looking Santa suit. Maybe he was a tad thin, but that’s OK. Good on him for watching his weight.

To a little kid, spotting Santa is a pretty big deal — and seeing those children reminded me of something that still makes me feel bad.

Years ago, I produced a Christmas commercial for a local liquor retailer. The concept was simple: this store has such great prices, it’s where Santa shops for booze. I hired a local actor with experience playing Santa — he even had his own suit — and we spent a morning getting shots of Santa darting gleefully around the store picking out bottles for people on the ‘nice’ list.

All this was going great — but then, a woman came in the store with her young daughter to buy a bottle of wine. While we worked, the little girl kept peeking around the end of the aisle to catch a glimpse of Santa. Our talent played right along and coaxed the girl out from behind a stack of boxes. He was great, launching right into full Santa mode, and it really made that little girl’s day.

OK, that doesn’t sound bad, does it — and the commercial turned out great — so what’s the problem?

Even now when I think about that day — and this was nearly 30 years ago — I get the nagging feeling that it was wrong to put Santa in a liquor store. To that little girl, this was the real Santa, and I was using him to sell hooch.

Santa’s been used to sell so many things, but to see the power he has over children, right before my eyes — in a liquor store, for god’s sake — just made me feel dirty.

I’m probably the only person in the world who remembers all of this, but Santa, please accept my apology for exploiting your image in such a crass way.  I hope you can see fit to forgive me — and if you do, a bottle of Glengoyne 18-year-old Scotch might help ease my mind.

Candy Left Over From Halloween

A sack of candy on Halloween is a small thing that makes children very happy.

You remember dumping out that bag on the kitchen table and sorting through your loot. You’d carefully guard the good stuff, separate out the second-tier items (I’m looking at you, Smarties) and throw out the crap that looks sketchy. In my day, you’d sometimes get apples, which we discarded immediately.

But why do people insist on making this a bad thing with candy buy-back programs? I’ve written about these fun cops before, and how they tempt kids to trade their sweets for a small reward, as if having some Snickers bars is like keeping an illegal handgun tucked under your mattress.

This year a local mall is behind one of these schemes, offering the worst deal ever: for each pound of candy you bring in, they give you a gift certificate worth… one dollar. One dollar. But, wait — the offer is good for up to five pounds of candy, so kids could net a $5 payback. What a haul.

“But, Rob,” I can hear you saying, “They say the candy will be donated to ‘local organizations’.”

That’s certainly a nice idea, but here’s a better one: just take the funds you were going to pay those kids and give these “local organizations” something that will actually help them: cash.

The whole thing is beyond dumb.

Kids, you worked for that candy. Don’t be part of someone’s ill-conceived public relations scam. And parents? If you want to turn this into a lesson, here’s an idea: have the kids donate a little money for each pound of candy they wish to keep. Then, everybody wins.

Big Candy

When it comes to Halloween candy, it’s my policy to overbuy. Don’t be cheap; running out is a real rookie move, and whatever excess you have can go to the office the next day.

Last Halloween was my final one at the old house in Glenmont, so I decided to treat the kids to full-sized candy bars. It was a huge hit and made me feel like the King of Halloween.

But I wonder if it will bring unintended consequences.

There is a chance that kids will return to my old house expecting big candy bars, and the children — being by nature half-wild and unpredictable  — might not react well.

Imagine scores of kids looking into their bags and saying, “What? This was supposed to be the place with the big candy bars?!”

Who knows what tricks could befall the owners of my old home? But I’ll tell you what: Based on their behavior on the day of our closing, I do sort of hope that the little ghosts and goblins go into full fun-sized outrage.

But enough of that! Give generously on this spooky night and spread a little simple joy — or else risk tempting the dark spirits that reside in all of us.

Sign of the Times

We’ve been meeting a lot of the neighbors lately, and a few of them stopped to tell me they enjoyed this sign out on my lawn.

trump sign

The sign was a prop from our Christmas card. I had it made online by a company that prints campaign signs, and for some reason, they allow customers to modify the highly recognizable Trump sign. I’d post the Christmas card, but not all of the participants would appreciate that. The inside of the card read, “Finally, a candidate we can all agree on.”

Without context, some people might see the sign as a symbol of solidarity with our new president. Nothing could be further from the truth, but in conversation with the folks on my street, I’ve carefully avoided talk of politics. Good fences aren’t the only thing that make good neighbors.

The Tossing of the Tree

There’s no big hurry in my house to take down the Christmas tree. Many people believe it should be gone before the Feast of the Epiphany, which is January 6, but we’ve never met that deadline.

My routine is to lop off the branches and reduce the tree to a prickly stalk; it’s a lot easier than dragging it through the house intact.

My cut up tree would be of no use in the Irish Christmas Tree Throwing Championship, where contestants compete to see who can toss a five foot tree the farthest.

Rules are scarce. It’s hard to find information on how heavy should the tree be or whether a running start is allowed. There are also regional variations in these sorts of contests, some of which in Germany and England judge how high you can throw the tree over a bar.

tree toss

John O’Dea’s winning throw. Clare Herald photo.

This year’s winner — and defending champion — was John O’Dea of Limerick. The distance of the winning throw is unavailable, but he’s tied for the Irish record of 10.2 meters, or about 33 feet. German Klaus Pubnaz, holds the world record of 12 meters.

This contest is something we need here. Why just throw out a tree when you can literally throw one out? Come on, America. We can do this.

Must Be Santa