Ok, so it seems kind of cliche to end my countdown to Christmas featuring my favorite Christmas movies with It’s a Wonderful Life, but it really is my favorite Christmas movie. I remember the first time I saw it I was in fifth grade and they showed it to us at school on one of the days before Christmas break when you don’t wind up doing much of anything actually school related. I can’t say that I liked it then. Ew, boring black and white film. Yuck. Give me a break I was only 10 years old. As I got older and watched the movie again (and again and again) since once upon a time before NBC was annoyingly able to claim sort of rights over the film you were able to find the movie playing on tv almost any time of day any day of the week during December, I developed a great love for it. Don’t we all wish we could now the things we’ve done to touch others lives? For some reason one of my favorite scenes is towards the beginning of the film when George and Mary are walking home from the dance and singing Buffalo Gals. Unfortunately I couldn’t find that scene on YouTube so I went for the old standby ending, which is wonderful too. It still makes me tear up every time I see it. Merry Christmas everyone!
Ok, so I’m cheating a little with this one. I actually think of When Harry Met Sally as more of a New Year’s movie than I do a Christmas movie because of the final scene. There is a little bit of Christmas stuff in it, but honestly I don’t associate it with Christmas that much. Since the holidays are only a week apart I’m still counting it as part of the Christmas season. Plus it’s my blog so I can do whatever I want.
When Harry Met Sally is still one of my favorite romantic comedies. The first time I ever watched it I was totally not supposed to. We had a copy on VHS when I was growing up but because it was rated R my sister and I weren’t allowed to watch it. At some point after my sister and I were old enough to stay home without a babysitter we watched it when my parents went out and left us home alone. Sneaky kids.
Meet Me in St. Louis isn’t much of a Christmas movie either, but it will always be one of the best Christmas movies to me because it gave rise to my favorite Christmas song, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. The original version of the song as sung by Judy Garland in the movie contains the original and much better lyrical phrase “until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow” instead of the far inferior replacement lyric that doesn’t convey near the amount of import “hang a shining star upon the highest bough.”
A Very Brady Christmas is horribly cheesy as pretty much all things Brady are, but I absolutely love this movie. The other year I recorded it on our DVR and then never had time to actually watch it during December. I think I wound up watching it in February or something because even though I’ve seen it a dozen times I couldn’t stand to delete it without watching it yet one more time.
Again Steel Magnolias is not a Christmas movie per se, but there are some prominent Christmas scenes particularly at the beginning of the movie that make it somewhat of a Christmas movie in my mind. I unfortunately couldn’t find the clip I was looking for online, so I’m just embedding the trailer for the movie instead.
Best of lists are flying around hot and heavy this time of year. I decided to do something slightly different here. I am obviously not a critic, and I don’t specialize in any particular area of pop culture. I could throw together lists of things like top 10 movies, tv shows, songs, etc. but that just sounds exhausting and not fun. Instead I’m going to pick one (or maybe two) things in a number of categories that I’m calling the most memorable of 2012. I’m not even doing a real best of list because that would involve work like actually going back and looking at all the pop culture I took in this year and figuring out the criteria by which I was rating it, etc. That would be way too difficult for anything but books, which are the only thing I keep strict track of during the year as I read them. Instead, I am going with most memorable, in that I’m choosing whatever has stuck with me through the year. Unfortunately this does unfairly give advantage to stuff from the last half of the year since it’s fresher in my mind. Deal with it, but also feel free to remind me of things I may just be forgetting.
So without further ado here are the things I found most memorable in 2012:
Movie I Saw In a Theater
I don’t make it to movies as much as I once did, but out of the handful I saw this year I’m naming Argo as the most memorable. It’s the one movie I can think of that I have actively recommended to people since seeing it. The fact that I was sitting on the edge of my seat during a good portion of it despite knowing the outcome going in points to what a stellar job they did making it. If you haven’t seen it yet, please do. You won’t regret it. Though far from the best movie of the year I have to give a special shout out to Magic Mike, which gave me the best experience leading up to actually watching the movie. If you only knew the number of Twitter conversations I had with my friends Jenny and Sarah over the 6 months before that movie was released.
Movie I Watched at Home
I also don’t watch nearly as many movies at home as I used to either. Netflix is probably thrilled with the fact that we pay them every month for the privilege of having the same DVD sit on our TV stand. The existence of the DVR and back seasons of TV shows on DVD and streaming has allowed us to watch so many more TV shows than was ever possible before that I tend to choose those over movies. I have probably watched more movies at home than I am remembering, but the one that popped into my head when I thought about what to include under this category was Friends with Benefits. I’m not even entirely sure that the movie was released on DVD during 2012, but it’s when I watched it so it wins. As I have mentioned many times before on this blog, I love a good romantic comedy. Sadly, there is a dearth of them being made right now. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of them being produced period, and the few that have been released for the most part have been either duds or outright horrible. Though I wouldn’t rank it among my favorite romantic comedies of all time, Friends with Benefits was definitely the best romantic comedy I’ve seen in several years. It was smart. It was funny. The female protagonist wasn’t a complete idiot. A highly enjoyable film all around.
This one was easy. It’s Pamela Ribon’s You Take It From Here. Since I do review all of the books I read, I did in fact go back through the 103 books I’ve read so far this year (I’ll probably hit 105 or 106 before the year is over) and see what books I rated the most highly. There were a couple other fiction books that I rated the same as You Take It From Here, but this is the book that I definitely thought about the longest after reading it, and the only one I felt compelled to write about on this blog previously.
Non-fiction was a bit harder. I rated a good number of non-fiction books I read this year 9 out of 10. It was a good year for non-fiction book choices for me I guess. Usually it’s pretty easy for me to go through and pick out the one or two books I rate that highly. Ultimately I’m going to go with The Revolution Was Televised:The Cops, Crooks, Slingers and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever by Alan Sepinwall. You can read my actual review of the book here. I chose this over the other books because for one it feels a little meta to make my non-fiction choice in my most memorable pop culture things of 2012 be a book that is itself pop culture related. It also has the extra bonus for making me happy that a writer whose work I’ve long admired is getting such ringing praise for his book. Finally, it’s a fascinating look at how self-publishing can really work for someone who already has a built-in following.
It is no secret that I watch a lot of TV, so choosing which TV show to slot in here was a bit of challenge. In some respects it feels weird to do a best of TV thing on the calendar year since that isn’t how TV seasons run. So if I’m just looking at 2012 then for most shows I’m covering the end of one season and the beginning of another at least for network shows. Some cable shows manage to fall within one calendar year, but then there are others like those on USA that split their seasons up so bizarrely that I’m never really sure when I’m actually watching a new season or just another half of a season I already started. This can change how I think of things dramatically. For instance at the end of the last season of Vampire Diaries I loved where the show was at and spent all summer excited to see where the story was going to go next. Boy has that show squandered my love for it this season. On the other hand, although Parenthood has always been a show I’ve enjoyed this season they have really kicked things up a notch and made this an outstanding show.
Ultimately I’m going to cheat and choose two shows here. First, I’m going to go with Castle, which has long been a show I look forward to watching every week. Any show that I put on the top of my too watch list when it’s time to figure out what to watch each night automatically stands out. Castle has always been that show on Monday nights. They were in tricky territory this year with finally getting Castle and Beckett together, but so far they have handled it outstandingly. The show is just as fun as ever and taking away the will they or won’t they element has actually added to my enjoyment of their relationship, which is not always something that happens on TV shows because the writers so often screw that up. I do hope this also puts to bed the stupid Moonlighting curse theory that if you get the couple together the show loses all of it’s magic. As someone who actually went back and watched all of Moonlighting about 5 or 6 years ago, trust me the fact that Maddie and David briefly got together was far from what killed that show.
I’m also going to include Parks & Recreation. I did a binge watch of the first seasons of this show over the summer in order to catch up to the current season. It’s definitely one of the best sit-coms currently on television (and now that I say that I no longer feel bad about picking two shows because one is an hour long drama/comedy/procedural hybrid and one is a half hour sit-com). It makes me laugh every week, and the characters are delightful. I start smiling every week when I hear the theme song.
Though I had a hard time picking a TV show, I had no problem picking a specific episode of a TV show. That honor goes to Episode 3 of Girls, “All Adventurous Women Do”. This is the episode that sold me on the show for good, and it was mostly all due to this closing scene.
My early twenties resembled the lives these girls are living pretty much not at all, but despite that I remember the feelings of being entirely lost and confused during that time of my life. Though those feelings were born out different situations they come across in the same way to me. Anyway, there was something magical in that scene that just captured the life of a person in their young twenties for me that I loved.
When I thought about writing this the song I intended to write about was Ho, Hey by The Lumineers, and yet now that I’m writing this the only song I feel like I can honestly put down is Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me, Maybe. If I was doing best song or favorite song then yes Ho, Hey would definitely win, but since I’m going most memorable it has to be Call Me, Maybe. It was the perfect summer anthem, and unlike most overplayed pop songs I never really got tired of it. I was happy to jam out to it every time I heard it on the radio unlike the other two majorly overplayed songs of the year Gotye’s Somebody That I Used to Know and fun.’s We Are Young, neither of which I can bear to listen to at this point. Call Me, Maybe also had so many fun internet videos attached to it. It really was the song of 2012.
My Head is an Animal by Of Monsters and Men clearly wins this category. It the album I probably listened to the most this year, and it is a fantastic debut. I look forward to hearing much more from Of Monsters and Men in coming years.
It feels a little off to have my most memorable artist be a band that is not my choice for either album or song, but I’m going with The Lumineers for this one. As I mentioned under the song category, Ho, Hey is certainly one of my favorite songs of the year. Their second single Stubborn Love is probably the song that most competes for that title. Ho, Hey is a much happier feeling song though. I’m also digging the third single off their album, Submarines. Though my attempts to see them play live this year have been foiled numerous times, I will finally remedy that come February when I shall see them in concert in Philly. I am very much looking forward to it.
This was probably the hardest category to choose from because I saw some truly fantastic concerts this year, so I’m going to cheat and list both Florence + the Machine’s concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion and Brandi Carlile’s concert at The Lyric. Both of those concerts were full of so many elements that make a great show for me that I can’t choose between them. They were both wonderful.
Broadway Theater Production
I had the pleasure of making it to a number of shows on Broadway this year. They were all great, but my absolute favorite was seeing Sutton Foster star as Reno Sweeney in the revival of Anything Goes. Now that she’s off doing Bunheads on TV I’m glad I got the chance to see her perform on Broadways because she is fantastic. I’m sure she’ll be back one day, but for now I’ll know I didn’t miss it. Plus the amazing tap dance at the end of the first act was one of the best things I saw all year. I still grin thinking about it or watching versions of it on YouTube, which I still do. And hey, I saw this all the way back in January of 2012, so I managed to pick at least one thing that didn’t happen in the last half of the year.
Baltimore Theater Production
I have season tickets to two theaters in Baltimore, so I also saw a lot of theater in Baltimore this year as well. It was hard to choose in this category because I’m comparing the much smaller but wonderful shows of Centerstage with the large touring productions at The Hippodrome. Ultimately I’m going with Memphis because it was the first new musical I’ve seen in awhile that I loved.
I only regularly listened to three podcasts during 2012. Sadly that is now down to two since one of them no longer exists. RIP Extra Hot Great. I still miss you. While I adored that and still do adore Pop Culture Happy Hour, there was no real fair competition in this category. I was going to wind up picking an episode from the Nerdist podcast. It’s not necessarily that I enjoy any of their episodes that much better than Extra Hot Great or Pop Culture Happy Hour, it’s just that the fact that most of their episodes are interviews which makes it much easier to remember specific episodes compared to the segment discussions on the other two podcasts. I chose Nerdist Episode #267 in which they interview Tom Hanks. Everything about this episode was absolutely delightful from the way they got Tom Hanks to come on the podcast to Tom Hanks just being the best guest. I remember listening to this podcast episode during a particularly trying time for me at work this year, and it was just the best thing at the time to help calm me down and give me some smiles.
The Harry Potter franchise has almost nothing to do with Christmas though there are a few magical Christmas scenes in it. Those combined with the fact that the many of the movies often came out during the holiday season around Thanksgiving and Christmas and are now rerun on tv during Christmastime make them seem like Christmas movies to me. This is especially true of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone which features some of the most prominent Christmas scenes in the films and is still more lighthearted than the darker films later in the series.
The Sound of Music may seem like an odd choice for a favorite Christmas movie given that it has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas. The movie is certainly only a Christmas movie by association only. I tend to think of it as a Christmas movie for two reasons. First, it often gets shown on television around Christmastime probably because it’s a good family movie. Second, for some reason My Favorite Things seems to have been co-opted as a Christmas song for some reason. I often hear it mixed in along with other Christmas songs on the radio.
Last year I wrote a bit about some of the cookies and candies I enjoy making every Christmas. I made all of those again this year while also trying out some new recipes. If I was smarter I would save all these things up and do a Christmas baking countdown next year, but I guess I’m not that smart.
Chocolate nut caramels. These are one of my Christmas favorites. I often struggle even with a candy thermometer to get these to come out just right. This year was perfect. Even after all these years I still don’t feel like I have a knack for cutting them though. I feel like when my mom makes them she always manages to cut them into perfect little squares where mine always wind up all kinds of shapes and sizes. Oh well at least this way people know they’re home made I guess.
These cookie cutter sugar cookies are the ones I truly think of as Christmas cookies. They are of course the most labor intensive and with trying so many other cookies this year on top of having the neverending cold of doom since Thanksgiving I only made half as many of these this year compared to what I usually bake. A number of people have told me this is the best recipe for this kind of cookie that they’ve ever had, so apparently it’s a winner.
Good old Betty Crocker’s spritz recipe never lets me down. These are another holiday staple for me and it’s nice that they’re pretty easy to make. Plus I like any cookie I feel like I can deploy red hots on. Though I’m a bad wife because I refuse to make them with almond extract instead of vanilla like my husband prefers.
The final recipe I make every year is again another Betty Crocker recipe for Russian Tea Cakes. All the previous Christmas treats are things I make because my mother always made them at Christmas. Russian Tea Cakes are my own addition to the holiday baking routine as they are one of my favorite cookies. I unfortunately forgot to take a picture of these before I boxed them up for storage, but you can kind of get an idea of how many I made from this pic.
As I mentioned I tried out some new recipes this year. Some of them I will definitely make again perhaps even outside of Christmas, while some were disappointing and I won’t bother with again. First up in the disappointing category was this recipe for Praline cookies from the Pampered Chef. I ran across it on a blog I read and the blogger was exclaiming about how these were the best cookies she ever had and everyone at her father’s office raved about them. They’re ok, but certainly far from the best cookie I have ever eaten. I won’t be making these again, but they weren’t so horrible that I didn’t deploy them into people’s gifts.
Same goes for these red velvet, white chocolate chip cookies. I thought red velvet, white chocolate chip cookies would be extremely festive. However, as you can see they didn’t turn out very red despite adding way more red food coloring than the recipe called for. Additionally, the flavor was just so-so. If I’m going to essentially wind up with what looks like a regular chocolate white chocolate chip cookie I have better recipes for those than the way these turned out.
Now onto more successful recipes. Even though I refuse to make the spritz cookies according to my husband’s specifications I’m not a completely horrible wife because I did make peanut butter blossoms for him because they are his favorite. Despite generally like the chocolate peanut butter combination these have never been one of my favorite cookies and thus I’ve never made them before. Since I was trying out so many new recipes this year I thought it would be nice to add this one for my husband. There are a thousand versions of this recipe out there. I went with the Betty Crocker one because between it and the Hershey’s Kiss one it had the higher rating. Note that this recipe is for cookie exchange quantities, so I actually halved it and still wound up with almost 4 dozen cookies.
I made cookie bags for all my student workers, so I wanted to make a recipe that dished up a large number of festive cookies with minimal effort. I have made this recipe for home made funfetti cookies before and decided it would work well for this purpose. Last time I made them for a Halloween party and used orange and black sprinkles. For Christmas I of course got some red, green, and white Christmas sprinkles.
I have had this recipe for salted chocolate covered caramel cookies rolling around for awhile but had never made it before. It sounded delicious and I decided it was finally time to give it a whirl. The cookies turned out just as delicious as they sound. I will definitely be baking these again.
Finally, I tried out these chocolate covered cherry cookies. I’m pretty sure I snagged the link for this recipe from my friends Pete and Sarah, and if this isn’t the recipe they use than at least the idea for these cookies came from them. They are absolutely delicious and I will certainly be adding this to my regular holiday baking routine. I might even make some more when I get to my family’s for Christmas because I think they would be a big hit.
For now all the cookies and caramels have been boxed and bagged up and either given our or are waiting to be mailed to their intended recipients. All the baking is a lot of work, but it’s something I love doing so I don’t mind. Hopefully all the tasty treats will bring some Christmas joy to everyone who gets to eat them.
The Rankin Bass Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is a movie a remember watching every Christmas as a child. It’s obviously a Christmas classic that has stood the test of time since it is still played on tv every year. For some reason this is one of the most vivid scenes in my memory of the movie. I have no idea why.