I'm not opposed to the idea of Valentine's Day. I actually quite like it. I mean, I understand and sympathize with the argument that you shouldn't need a greeting card-sponsored single day of the year to tell someone you love them. Sure. Yeah, duh. Nobody actually only does that on Valentine's Day. And if you do, you're a butthole, and Valentine's Day isn't really for you, is it?
But there is an appeal of having a day of the year dedicated to reflecting on where your love life might be. If you're in a long-term relationship, having a marker to see how it might have grown and changed over the years is at least interesting, if not helpful, if you're open to it. If you've spent the last few V-Days with different folks, or with no one in particular, it might be somewhat painful, but could also serve as a way to reflect on the role of all relationships in becoming who you are, and what you actually really want from them.
The problem, of course, is in the execution of Valentine's Day. I'm not much for red roses and babies breath, but that's only an aesthetic problem, cause I think flowers are generally kinda cool. I can go without stuffed animals and factory candies, but am always a fan of sharing thoughtful cards and handwritten messages, and being intentional about all sorts of intimacy. (You know what I'm getting at.)
But the one place where I think we really need to rethink Valentine's Day? The love song. And that's where I need your help.
Over the holiday season, economists guessed that among folks who did any online shopping, more than 85% of them ordered at least one shipment from Amazon.com. In fact, the company hired 15,000 temporary employees, just to help with increased orders in November and December. Seeing as they employ around 31,200 folks during the rest of the year, that's a whole buncha jobs. And orders.
Shanghai-based multidisciplinary design studio Super Nature created this (very merry) art installation called Weaving Forest for the Detour 2011 festival in Hong Kong. The installation consists of two giant wooden reindeer sculptures and a series of smaller structures connected by long strings of yarn.
Last March, while visiting friends in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland, my friend casually remarked, under his breath, with a bit of scorn, "Oh, and there's the A Christmas Story house."
"Excuse me? Did you say the Christmas Story house?"
"Yeah," he replied, "people actually line up to go there."
"You mean, you can actually line up to go there? And see it?"
People have different priorities, I guess. But I knew my gift to myself (well, to my relationship) come December was determined, and last weekend I went. And it was incredible.
Couple that with some very freshly fallen snow, and a very, very good meal at a Michael Symon restaurant, and a Christmas day in Cleveland is about as festive as it gets.
Wanna see what it looks like? Good deal. Take a peak:
Each Wednesday, I post some of my favorite can't-miss links, images, and otherwise mindblowing goodies from across the web.
2011 saw some major eruptions by some of the world's biggest active volcanoes. The Atlantic features some amazing photographs capturing the steam, ash, toxic gases, and lava.
I love a seasonal beer. My first question upon sitting down at any pub or restaurant is always, "What are your current seasonals on tap." Often, it's the only way to try something new in all but the most beer-centric of establishments.
Well, except for the winter. I'll try nearly anything in the fall, do my best to get in all the summer seasonals I can, but until a few years ago, I tended to stick with the year-round standards. Perhaps its just cause it's twenty degrees out, but I tend to find most Christmas-y beers a bit too...Christmas-y. First, nearly all winter seasonals are ales (as that's when those yeasts could traditionally ferment), and most American microbrews really, really pile on the hops, which I find to be unbalanced. And secondly, "Christmas ales" are seriously spiced, like a cookie, and I tend to appreciate a beer that tastes like beer, not gingerbread.
Yep, these are likely on every craft/handmade/DIY/geek/tech/anything blog this season...but that's for good reason. That being: they're freaking awesome.
The stockings are hung, the plums are sugared, and you're well on your way to getting all those gifts wrapped. Now it's time for the real fun to begin, and by "real fun," I mean...cookies.
Of course, "Cookie recipes are just about infinite, because almost anything can be shaped into a circle and baked... But the basic cookie contains three key ingredients: butter, flour and sugar. That combination has not been bettered, and it can be varied in so many ways that, really, it’s the only recipe you need."
Okay, jingle bell-ers, you've got a week left. The tree is up, the presents purchased, and the fire aglow. Now, its on the really good stuff - cookie baking, gift wrapping, and watching the good Christmas movies.
And, of course, putting the final touches on the decorations. For this week is the week of adding just that extra bit of festiveness to your space. So, while you're munching candy canes, cracking up at Cousin Eddie's dickie, grab a pair of scissors, and add some comfort and joy to your spot with these easy paper craft Christmas projects.
At this point, if you haven't got your big, juicy gifts figured out, you're likely a little behind. Because now? Now is the time for the really fun stuff - the little, fun, often silly and preferably candy-based gifts you use to flesh out your giving...the stocking stuffers!
And if you're looking to break out of the M&M candy cane and new toothbrush tradition,
Like Bit-O-Honey around Halloween and Peeps on Easter, egg nog is the polarizing treat of the winter holiday season. People that like it like it, but people that hate it...well, hate it.
And for the first twenty-seven years of my life, I was one of 'em. A most hating of haters. Even the smell of egg nog was enough to shrink my Christmas spirits to three sizes too small.
But then I realized:
My friend Brittni maintains an amazing handmade marketplace and blog called papernstitch, and while I regularly appreciate her updates and the amazing artisinal objects, the picks are unabashedly, well, girly.
Except for this week, where Brittni's prepared a great collection of handmade and independently produce gifts for guys.
Dear friends -
Last holiday season (ManMade's first Christmas!), I created a mix of some of my favorite "alternative" Christmas songs, and it was a decidely huge hit with readers. The emails asking for another this year began in October, so seeing as it's the season for giving, my gift to you: the ManMade 2011 Modern Rock Holiday Mixtape!
Over the past few years, I've sorta developed an obsessive hobby of trying to find non-Andy Williams or Nat King Cole Christmas songs to soundtrack the kind of holiday that I've come to love as an adult.
Buying gifts for food people and home chefs can be a, uh, double-edged fork. On the one hand, there are endless kitchen gadgets and tools our there to play with, but on the other, passionate home cooks are likely to already have lots of the standards.
So, with that in mind, the brilliant food minds of America's Test Kitchen offer this great list of essentials, perfect for stocking gifts, as they all clock in at under $50.
The holiday season is full of awesome seasonal sounds - Phil Spector/The Ronette's perfect version of Sleigh Ride, plenty of Darlene Love, and the whole of ManMade's modern holiday mixtape. (2011 edition coming this week!)
But it also means the less-desirable holiday music...the schmaltz, the breathy vocals, the Josh Groban.