Thursday, December 25, 2008

Throw Another Yule Log onto the Fire

What in the world?  It's a four-hour loop of a burning log in a fireplace, accompanied by holiday tunes?  Yes!  It's the Yule Log, and it's what to watch - or listen to - as you open your presents on Christmas morning.  My first encounter with Yule Log was Christmas of 1996, the first year Marc and I lived in Boston.  It wasn't until a couple of years ago that I realized the Yule Log originated at a local New York television station, the brainchild of its President and CEO.  It is strange to see a program whose only content was a shot of a fire in a hearth, but listening to Nat King Cole's rendition of "A Christmas Song" can fill even the Scroogiest Scrooge with holiday cheer.  The Yule Log phenomenon is so great that there is a website dedicated to it, and Time magazine even ran a story on it.

The TiVo menu shows that Yule Log runs from 9am until 1pm on Christmas day, providing four hours of holiday enjoyment for everyone!

Christmas Eve Tradition

This is the only kind of coffee I'll ever drink:  Irish coffee.  And the only time I drink it is on Christmas Eve at O'Lunney's in Times Square. 

Ordinarily, we avoid Times Square as if it were the plague, especially at Christmastime when it's choked with tourists who apparently have never seen a neon sign.  Yet having a cocktail at this spacious Irish pub has become a Christmas Eve tradition for Marc and me.  

We first discovered this spot while exploring the city in 2000 during our first months in New York.  (It was our first experience with neon, too.)  Months later Marc and I met a friend at O'Lunney's on Christmas Eve, and the tradition was born.  Last night was our ninth visit.

Before our trek to O'Lunney's, Marc and I participated in another of our Christmas Eve traditions: walking around our neighborhood of historic Chelsea.  This year the decorations weren't as festive, but they were still pretty.  I love the old buildings in the area, and seeing them with Christmas lights and wreaths is delightful.

This building is on the corner of 21st Street and 10th Avenue.  It's gorgeous, and the people who live there always do a nice job with their tree (see below).

We felt almost like voyeurs taking this picture.  I hope those folks don't mind us looking in their window, but I'm sure they strategically put their tree in that spot so that we on the outside could enjoy it.

Outdoor retro lights!

A lovely wreath on a building on 22nd Street

Another Holiday Greeting

It's nice when the gifts you give are appreciated.  Kathy is enjoying her catnip-covered cushion Marc bought from Muji.  (We added the catnip.)

The catnip put her in a festive mood:

Holiday Greeting

Merry Christmas from Berkley the Santa Cat!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

O! Retro Tree!

It's our thinnest tree ever, and it has the fewest lights ever, but we love Retro Tree!  The giant, solid-colored bulbs are a throwback to our '70s childhoods. The ornaments, most of which were purchased over the years at an antiques store on 18th street in New York, add to the retro flavor.  It wasn't a style we considered before the holiday season began; it merely evolved by accident after Marc purchased the skinny tree in New Jersey.  

Here is Retro Tree in the early decorating stages.  It doesn't look like much right now, but have faith!  Marc is the premier tree decorator.  One Christmas Marc put almost thousand lights on our tree, but that tree was much bigger. This year's total tops out around 325.  

As the lights come together, Retro Tree begins to take shape.

Included in the tangle of lights are blue LEDs (energy efficient); clear flashers that Marc ordered from a Chinese website (not at all energy efficient);  and crazy, solid, painted bulbs that scream 1973 (a wasteful drain of this nation's resources).  

Of course, there has to be a Carolina blue bulb!  The ornaments are next!

First, Berkley helps us unwrap the ornaments that were stored in our front hall closet.  How thoughtful.

As mentioned earlier, we've purchased several ornaments at a place near us called Authentiques.  It's been a holiday tradition for Marc and me since we've been in New York.  

Marc's favorites are the old bells.

He loves stars, too.

My personal faves are these little guys, which were actually bought at Bloomingdale's.  They are so cute!

Marc's favorite bells look great amongst the icicles.

The lighting sets the tone.

My Bloomingdale's specials look great, too!

Red Santa and Green Santa are jealous that their tree isn't as nice as ours.  

Since Kathy is a Norwegian Forest Cat (well, she's just a mutt, but she looks like a Norwegian Forest Cat), the cold, winter holiday season is her favorite time of year.  And she loves trees.  And presents.

And here is Retro Tree in all his glory!  We love him!  Merry Christmas, everyone!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Holiday Shopping - Yuck

I really don't like to shop during the holidays.  When I go to a physical store, I always find things I want for myself instead of for the people for whom I am shopping.  Then there's my issue of hating people and crowded stores.  Rude people, poor customer service, and all that noise combine to create a nightmare for me.  Yes, I'm the one who chose to live in one of the largest cities in the world (an estimated 8,214,426 according to the 2006 census).  I'm not asking anyone to feel sorry for me; I'm just venting.  I know there are some things you have to buy in person in a store, but for the most part, I'd rather shop online.  

Which raises another issue.  I live in a building that doesn't have a doorman, so sometimes receiving packages can be a bit tricky.  If no one is home to sign for a package, UPS, FedEx, or the post office leaves a note.  After three delivery tries without a response from the package recipient, the shipping company takes the package back to its store.  (Is it actually called a store?  Warehouse?) Anyway, I have to pick up the package, which can be a pain because I have to walk all the way to the post office (3 blocks) or UPS (10-minute subway ride), or FedEx (less than a mile, depending on which location).  And I'm a big baby.

This Christmas everything I order online is being shipped to the Mail Boxes Etc. in Greenwich Village.  It will cost me, though:  $5 for envelopes, $10 for boxes up to 44", and $15 for boxes larger than 44".  True, it's almost the same as picking up my packages at the shipping locations (except that's free, actually), but I like the fact that MBE will call me when it arrives, so there'll be no back and forth, "Oh, I tried to deliver, but you weren't home" nonsense. Plus, I won't run the risk of my husband intercepting the packages and discovering from where I ordered his gifts, thus ruining the surprise of Christmas.  (He's lucky:  He ships my presents to his office.  Since I'm self-employed, I have no office.)

At any rate, holiday shopping is annoying.  I'm trying to get it out of the way early to spare myself a ton of bah-humbug moments.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Lyrical Lapse - A Grammar Lesson in Song Lyrics

I'm a fan of the Silversun Pickups.  Because I bought their albums Carnavas and Pikul through iTunes, I had no liner notes and therefore was not privy to the lyrics of their songs.  Just moments ago, I was listening to their song "Common Reactor" and wondered what kind of girl Brian Aubert was singing about in the second verse.  A quick Google search led me to the website, where I found the lyrics to the song in question.  So, here's the second verse:

"it's the colorless picture
in a heart shaped frame
the silhouette of a dough eyed girl
who at one point had a name"

Forget, for a moment, that there should be hyphens between heart and shaped and dough and eyed because that's not the real issue here.  I laughed out loud when I saw the phrase dough eyed girl because I pictured a girl with pizza dough dripping from beneath her eyebrows.  No, I thought the lyrics should have read doe-eyed girl, meaning this girl was naive or had the large eyes of a baby deer.  

I assumed that made this mistake between the two homophones.  (Homophones, as we all know, are words that sound the same but have different meanings and usually different spellings.)  Then I decided to browse through the official website of the Silversun Pickups, and a brief glance at their lyrics tab revealed the same thing as the lyrics website:  dough eyed girl.  

I was going to use this blog entry as a way to lambaste both the band and lyricsmania, but something told me to investigate further.  Imagine my embarrassment when I discovered that dough-eyed is an actual term, albeit a slang one.  According to, dough-eyed refers to women who "hang around [a wealthy man], be he attractive or not, looking to marry him for his money."  So, it's another term for golddigger.  Incidentally, the term dough-eyed does not appear in my standard dictionaries, real or virtual.

Before I apologize to the Silversun Pickups and to, I wonder which interpretation the band intended when describing the girl in "Common Reactor."  If the band was singing about a girl who was after a man for his money, then yes, she was indeed dough-eyed.  But if she was an all-too-trusting girl with an innocent, wide-eyed look on her face, then the term doe-eyed should have been used.  With a hyphen.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thanksgiving Yakitori - Two Days Later

With the savory flavor of grilled chicken and vegetables still lingering on our taste buds, my husband and I couldn't resist another night of yakitori cooking.  This time we bought tsukune, chicken meatballs, from Mitsuwa.  Lucky for us, the meatballs were already prepared, so that significantly reduced the time it usually takes to put all this stuff together.  

Tsukune with asparagus

Yummy skewers ready for grilling

Cooking this kind of food is a snap with our Japanese grill

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thanksgiving Yakitori

There was no turkey dinner at our place this Thanksgiving.  It worked out well because my husband isn't a turkey lover, and I'm not a fan of cooking a giant feast for only two people.  So we did what anyone else would do.  We grilled yakitori skewers!  

So what, exactly is yakitori, you ask?  It means grilled chicken.  Chicken wasn't the only thing we grilled; we also had shrimp, shiitake mushrooms, and okra. It was a yummy, if unconvential, Thanksgiving feast!

Chunks of cut-up chicken thighs interspersed with shiitake mushrooms and okra on skewers

Chicken thigh chunks soaking in a mixture of sake, mirin, sugar, and soy sauce.  Okay, I know this looks gross, but it's what makes the chicken and veggies taste so good!

Sliced shiitake mushrooms and shrimp waiting to be grilled

A cool and refreshing Japanese beer is the perfect complement to yakitori.

The finished product

I've Been Published!

Being new to writing, I'm so excited to have something published (see blog entry from September).  Forgive me for being a goof, but I've been published again!  This time the publication is Chopsticks NY, an English magazine dedicated to helping its readers "experience Japan in New York."  My story is about tenugui, a kind of cloth that has a long tradition in Japanese history.  I had the pleasure of interviewing Ruri Kippenbrock, the delightful owner of Wuhao New York Inc., a company that sells tenugui.

If you're in the New York or New Jersey area, pick up a copy of Chopsticks NY at a Japanese restaurant or supermarket.  If you're farther afield, check out my story here.

Facing the Facebook Pressure

I received another invitation to join Facebook today.  That makes four official invitations and countless pressure from other friends to become a part of the social networking craze.  When I asked what benefit I would gain from joining, one friend answered that Facebook is "a great way to waste time."  I waste enough time as it is.