Dashing through the snow

I know I said in my last post that I’d write from California, but I just didn’t get around to it. Sorry. The truth is, I spent ten days in San Francisco relaxing and didn’t do one ounce of writing the entire time I was there. Sometimes you need a break, and I figure Christmas vacation is the perfect time to embrace laziness. And embrace it I did!

Hanging with Dougal on the back porch
My mom hanging with Dougal on the back porch, San Francisco

Now I’m in Bangor, Maine, with Al’s dad, step-mom, two brothers, and his family’s two dogs and three cats. It’s a full house but it doesn’t feel crowded. It just feels cozy. I love coming to Maine around Christmastime because it really feels like Christmas here. It’s cold (and getting colder). There’s snow (and there’s a lot more on the way). We all sit inside near a blazing pellet stove and eat unhealthy food. Like I said: cozy.

Hanging out in Bangor
Hanging out in Bangor


It’s quite a contrast from San Francisco, where the weather during our visit was stunningly gorgeous: warm and bright, with clear, blue skies. We took walks to the beach in short-sleeves, I went on a bunch of perfectly temperate outdoor runs, we had drinks on the back porch, and we saw some beautiful sunsets. I love a good California Christmas, and always will. But Maine in late December provides that classic, wintry feel that reminds me of growing up in Michigan, where Christmas was always white.

California Christmas weather
California Christmas weather

Yesterday morning, I went for a five mile run around Bangor and enjoyed the snow. (Ginger, Al’s step-mom, let me borrow her snow cleats, so I didn’t fall on the ice — always a risk with me). I paused to take some photos of the streets as I ran, and tried to remember the last time I saw snow. It must have been Christmas two years ago, when I went to Ottawa to visit Al’s mom and step-dad. Crazy!

Snowy Bangor
Snowy Bangor

Since Al and I have lived abroad for the past year, we’ve totally missed out on seeing any snow (not that I’m complaining, mind you), so it’s quite a shock to be surrounded by it now. And Maine’s just getting started: the weather report says that there’s a big blizzard on the way, and the high temperature in Bangor on Thursday will be negative 4 degrees Fahrenheit. I repeat: NEGATIVE FOUR IS THE HIGH.


Those kinds of frigid temperatures are mind-boggling to me. I guess I’ve been away from the North for too long to be able to even process what negative temperatures mean anymore. Not that I’ll be venturing outside to experience them for myself. No, no: you can find me by the pellet stove.

Buon Natale

We are spending Christmas in Italy this year with my parents and it’s been fantastic. We’ve been in Sorrento since Christmas eve and this is the first time I’ve had internet access, so please excuse the radio silence! Things will probably be quiet until we’re back in civilization (i.e., Africa) again, so for now, please allow me to placate you all with some pretty pictures of Sorrento.








Christmas comfort food

Since the much-hyped Mayan apocalypse failed to materialize today, I can finally look forward to Christmas! I mean, just as soon as I clear out a space in my doomsday bunker where I’ve stockpiled canned foods, weaponry, and a Nibiru-English dictionary, I’ll be able to hunker down and enjoy my favorite part of the Christmas season: movies, music, and TV.

So here, good people, is a brief list of my favorite non-edible Christmas comfort foods, in case you’re looking to expand your Christmas horizons this year.  Let’s start with music.

My Christmas playlist

          • O Holy Night.  I love this song, but I’m very picky about it – it must be sung by a children’s choir. If an adult man is singing this song, I will not enjoy it. For my money, it doesn’t get better than the version in Home Alone, which you can find here.  However, even better than that is our dog, Dougal, singing along to that version.  This happened as I was writing this blog post, by the way.
  • Breath of Heaven, by Amy Grant.  This is a religious song (it’s Amy Grant, after all) and it’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s sung from the perspective of Mary, which is different from most of your standard, ho-hum, Santa-and-Jesus Christmas songs.
  • The entire Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack, by Vince Guaraldi.  If you don’t already own this, please do yourself a favor and purchase it immediately. It’s a classic.  Also, watch the movie.
  • All I Want for Christmas Is You, by Mariah Carey.  I mean, come on.  It’s Mariah. And yes, I like the new version with Jimmy Fallon and The Roots.
  • Miracle of Love, by the Eurythmics.  I’m not sure if this is actually a Christmas song, but it puts me in a festive mood, even though it is objectively depressing. I also love the Eurythmics’ There Must be an Angel, because of this Disney video, which I watched on repeat as a child.  I understand that logically, I should associate this song with Valentine’s Day, but you know what? Festive is festive.
      • River, by Sarah McLachlan.  Wow, is it just me, or is my Christmas playlist sort of dark?  Yikes.  Let’s move on.

Christmas movies and TV episodes

  •  National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. I watch this every year with my parents and it never gets old.  It features a truly all-star cast, including Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Juliette Lewis, Randy Quaid, Brian Doyle Murray, and Johnny Galecki. It also contains one of my family’s favorite lines: “Clark! Slow down! I don’t want to spend the holidays dead.”  We say this to each other often.
  • Home Alone.  A sweet classic.  And the tarantula scene? I die. Every time.
  • Breakfast With Scot. If I can do one thing in this life of mine, I hope I can spread love for this truly charming little Canadian film about hockey, a gay kid, and two reluctant gay dads.  I feel like the trailer does not do it justice, but it’s heartwarming, funny, Christmassy, and cute, and it features Tom Cavanagh, who I’ve already mentioned on this blog as being one half of one of my favorite podcasts, Mike and Tom Eat Snacks.  Ugh, please just watch it, it’s awesome.
          • A Christmassy Ted.  This is the Christmas special of my favorite (now defunct) Irish comedy, Father Ted.  The premise of Father Ted is that three misfit priests are banished to a windswept island off the west coast of Ireland (the aptly named “Craggy Island”).  Father Ted has dreams of being rich and famous, Father Jack is a gross, largely inarticulate drunk, and Father Dougal is an idiot.  They get into all sorts of hilarious adventures, but the Christmas special is particularly funny.  I’ve gotten Al into Father Ted over the years and this is now one of our all-time favorite jokes – how to break the news of a death:

“Remember how your husband used to love a good laugh?”

  • The Snowman.  This is just straight-up beautiful, and the song Walking in the Air brings a tear to my crusty old eye.
          What can I say, I have a thing for boys’ choirs.  Also, the movie is introduced by David Bowie, who apparently did a lot of acting in children’s films in the 80s (Labyrinth, anyone?).

Well, I could go on and on about Christmas gems but I don’t want to lose you guys.  Check out some of my picks and let me know what you think.  Merry Christmas and happy Not-End-of-the-World!