Friday, December 20, 2013

It's a Wonderful Cookie

I began today with making Cranberry-Orange Bread for my neighbors while watching more holiday specials. Kung Fu Panda Holiday takes us back to China and the world of Po the Panda, the Dragon Warrior who taught the martial arts masters the meaning of heart. Now, he's been assigned to host the palace's big, elegant Winter Feast for the finest masters in the country. Po's excited at first, until he realizes that there's no fancy decorations or dancing allowed at the palace, and he won't be able to spend the Feast with his stork father. Though he tries hard be what everyone expects, he finally learns that feasts are more fun when you share the work and the rewards with those you love.

Moved to New York City for Night Court's first holiday-themed episode. "Santa Goes Downtown" is another variation on the "Is there a Santa?" question. Here, the Santa is an old derelict in a Santa suit who keeps insisting he's the big guy on the sleigh. Two runaways are brought into the court house and tries everyone's patience by not telling them their real names. It takes the man's knowledge of their names and their lives and Harry showing the boy (Michael J. Fox, just prior to Family Ties) that he cares to get the kids to feel a little less antagonistic towards their lives.

Switched to National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation as I finished the bread and slid it in the oven. In the only Vacation film set entirely at the Grizwaulds' home, Clark is gearing up for a "fun old-fashioned family Christmas." Overzealous Clark proceeds to cover his house with lights, dig a gigantic tree out of the ground, and invite both sets of grandparents, despite the fact that they don't get along. Things get even wilder when his hillbilly cousin Eddie and his family turn up about half-way through and create even more chaos. When Christmas Eve becomes a series of disasters one after another, Clark finally snaps...before he realizes that there's a lot more to the holidays than trees, turkeys, and annoying cousins.

Along with A Christmas Story, this is probably the most famous Christmas comedy of the last 30 years. There's some scatological humor and language, but otherwise nothing that horrible; great for teens who are now on their own Christmas vacations and adults who have their own problems with lights, trees, and family get-togethers.

Returned to animation while eating soup for lunch. Since I just started reading A Christmas Carol this morning, I thought at least one version of that was in order. I went with a favorite of mine, Rankin Bass' The Stingiest Man In Town. This mid-70s 2-D animated version of a live-action TV musical from the 50s boasts some nice music and a really fine cast, including Walter Matthau as Scrooge, Dennis Day as Nephew Fred, Robert Morse as Young Scrooge, and Tom Bosley as insect narrator B.A.H Humbug.

Stayed on the same disc and went with another famous Christmas grouch as I got ready to run to the Acme. How the Grinch Stole Christmas takes us to holiday-loving Whoville, where all of the tiny citizens are preparing for the big day with noise, colorful decorations, and roast beast...except for the Grinch, who hates the noise and the fun. He enlists his reluctant dog Max, dresses as Santa, and rides into town to steal their goodies and ruin the holiday. But the Whos' resilient spirit finally proves to the Grinch that "maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."

The Acme was busy, though probably not as much as it will be this weekend. I had a big order today, and it took me nearly an hour to get it all done. In addition to restocking soup and ingredients for baked goods, like butter, cake mix, cooking spray, and flour, I needed cherries and coconut for the Cherry Coconut Bars, Cool Whip and a graham cracker crust for a pudding pie for Jodie and Dad's party on Christmas Eve, and vegetables, bananas, grapefruit, and chicken for meals this week. Good thing there were a lot of great sales this week, from buy-one-get-one on the Smart Balance 50/50 Sticks (and I had coupons) to a dollar for Cool Whip.

I'm not entirely thrilled with my schedule. While I do have Christmas Day off, that's also my only day off this week. Evidently, half the store decided to either go on vacation or emphasize their second jobs starting the day after Christmas, leaving us short-handed. I have more hours after Christmas than before it! One front end manager said the head manager was worried about it being busy after Christmas. I'm not worried about us being busy after Christmas. Most people don't start stocking up for New Year's parties until it gets a little closer to New Year's Eve. I'm more worried about us being short of help.

(On the other hand, I only have one really late shift on Sunday, and a later start on Monday will allow me to get the laundry done without rushing this time.)

Went straight home and spent the rest of the afternoon behind the stove, making the Cherry Coconut Bars and Swirled Candy Cane Cupcakes. Put on It's a Wonderful Life as I baked. George Bailey (James Stewart) has lived in the same small town all his life, running his father's loan business after his death. While he has a loving wife (Donna Reed) and children and lots of friends who live in the houses his loans have built, he feels like a failure because he never fulfilled his dreams of traveling and going to college. A kindly old angel (Henry Travers) whisks George to a bleak alternative universe where he was never born...and George finally realizes what a wonderful life he really has.

I like this ode to the importance of friendship and community, but it's not for everyone. If you don't agree with director Frank Capra's pro-small-town sentiments, you probably won't enjoy the film. (People didn't get it when it came out in 1947, either - it was a flop at the time.) Not to mention, the last 20 minutes or so are filmed like the mysteries in vogue then and are so depressing, I was 12 before I'd watch the movie straight through.

Did two religion-themed Rankin Bass specials as I made breaded chicken cutlets with sauteed sweet potatoes and asparagus for dinner. The Little Drummer Boy and The Little Drummer Boy Book II are the tales of Aaron, the orphan drummer of the title who wanders the Arabian desert with his beloved menagerie. In the original special, he learns about love when he brings his injured lamb to the Three Kings to be healed, and finds a "king among kings" who knows more about healing than even they do. Book II starts where the first one left off. Aaron travels with one of the kings to retrieve a collection of silver bells that will be used to announce the birth of baby Jesus. When Roman warriors steal the bells to pay taxes, Aaron takes his menagerie and heads into the camp to get them back. But the price of Aaron's heroism is high for him...

Went into the bath after the specials ended. Ahhh. That felt really nice. I listened to the Caberet Christmas CDs Lauren gave me a few days ago and read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. A little girl recounts how a family of hooligan kids crash their way into the local Christmas pageant...and inadvertently teaches everyone the true meaning of the nativity story in the process.


Linda said...

Oh, I love The Best Christmas Pageant Ever! The narrative is so funny, but by the time you get to the end there's that emotional whammy, too.

Emma said...

So do I. I've been meaning to read it for a while. I'm so glad I found it at a yard sale a couple of years ago. :)