The Sound of Music

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.

Christmas Treats

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.

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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.


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

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.

Annual Christmas Party at Max’s

As I wrote about last year, for the past nine years my friends and I have rented out the upstairs room at Max’s Taphouse for our annual holiday party. Kudos to our friends Kevin and Tracie, who usually organize the event for organizing it again this year despite the fact that there was a good chance they wouldn’t make it due to the impending birth of their first child. Their baby was born a few days ago, so they indeed didn’t make it in person. Though because we are the nerdy dorks that we all are they did Skype into the party for a little bit via my husband’s Nexus 7 tablet.

My husband and I should win some kind of prize since we brought the two most popular gifts for the white elephant gift exchange. Per the rules we play by after a gift has been stolen 3 times it is frozen and no one else can steal it. Our gifts were the only two that got stolen enough times to get frozen. I brought an Atari Flashback, which is some reissued Atari thing that came preloaded with 40 Atari games and looks like an old Atari, but of course is some new thing sold to nostalgiac old people like my husband who play it twice and then let it rot in a corner. I predicted that would be the hot present at the party. I wasn’t expecting the broken laser pointer cat toy that my husband bought to be so popular. It was some cat toy, possibly bought from Think Geek I think that is a laser pointer that you turn on and it randomly moves around for the cat to chase without you having to do any work. The motor in it is dead though, so it doesn’t move around anymore. I suspect most people did not realize that fact when they were vying for possession of it.

We managed to come home with yet another stack of crappy B movie DVDs. I swear every year one of us manages to pick the present composed of bad DVDs. I’m not entirely sure where they all are at this point, but I think we’ve amassed quite the collection. I got the complete collection of some little plastic toys called S.L.U.G. zombies. Ok actually looking that up I only got the complete collection of one of the series. I was just going off the packaging, but apparently there are way more of these things than I thought. Perhaps something people can look forward to seeing again at next year’s party.

It was as usual an enjoyable way to get together with friends and celebrate the holidays before we all go our separate ways. I imagine we’re going to need to start rethinking where we hold this party given the rapidly increasing number of children in our group of friends. Though people have been bringing their babies/toddlers to the party for the past few years it’s getting sort of unrealistic to think that a room in a bar is an appropriate place for us to have a party with that many kids.


Elf is a delightful little Christmas movie. I often find Will Farrell a little over the top and annoying. I like my comedy to be a little more subtle than his antics often are, but it totally works for him in a movie where he plays an elf who is supposed to be overly joyous. It’s actually been awhile since I’ve seen this movie. I should perhaps watch it again soon.


How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Based on the Dr. Seuss book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a great little holiday movie. It pretty much is the epitome of the plot of almost every Christmas related movie in which a grouchy, unloving person hates Christmas, tries to spoil it for others, but by the end learns a lesson and winds up one of the greatest Christmas lovers there is. Plus this movie gave us the great theme song.

NPR Sale-a-bration featuring Live Pop Culture Happy Hour

Today my husband and I headed down to DC to check out NPR’s Sale-a-bration. They opened up a little two day pop up shop of the NPR store in an empty space where a bank used to be on the main level of their headquarters. In addition to buying a variety of NPR items at a discount you could meet a number of NPR personalities and get them to sign your stuff. The highlight of the event was the live taping of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, which I have written about my love for before.

We had planned to meet up with some friends beforehand and meet their new kittens, but sadly Kate was sick and that plan fell through. We were still able to meet up with our friend Ed though. We serendipitously ran into Ed while he was walking from the Metro and we were looking for a parking space, so we didn’t have to worry about finding each other once we got there. Not that the space was big enough to worry about being unable to find someone you were supposed to meet there.

We got there a little after noon and did some shopping, then just hung around waiting for the show. I picked up an NPR Music t-shirt, an NPR luggage tag, and a Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me window decal.  I also snagged some free buttons from Bob Boilen, a Discover NPR Music button and a Tiny Desk button, which is my favorite.

Between 1 and 1:30 the space started filling up like crazy with people coming to see Pop Culture Happy Hour. I don’t think they expected nearly as many people because it definitely was not set up very well given the crowd. People were just shoved in around all the tables with sale items on them. The recording table was in the corner and just on floor level so unless you were right in front it was impossible to see anything, and given that I was near the back because I hate crowds and I’m super short I only got to listen. So I guess it was kind of like listening to the podcast like I do every week only worse since I was shoved in a crowd of people. Also, there were still people trying to shop or for some reason just standing around talking so it was sometimes hard to hear. I was kind of annoyed by one couple behind me who were just standing there holding a conversation the entire time. Why stand in a crowded room of people who are obviously trying to listen to something you don’t seem to care to listen to. Go somewhere else. If they ever do another live version of the podcast I will happily attend, I just hope next time they do it they do it in a space dedicated to doing the show. There was way too much going on there to make it fully enjoyable. I am very glad I went though, and don’t mean to make it sound like I didn’t have a good time because I very much did.

It was also so crowded in there that we almost had an issue with my husband not getting to see the show. We were parked at a meter so about 15 minutes prior to the start of the show he ran out to feed the meter and put our bag of stuff in the car. I had been joking that I wonder if anyone knew what the max number of people for the space according to fire code was and if anyone was paying attention. Right after Paul ran out to the car I saw the tell the security guard to not let any more people in. I was like oh crap, he’s not going to get back inside. There was a huge line of people waiting to get in, which he took a picture of.


Luckily they moved some stuff out the way and decided to let more people in, so he did eventually get back in. I was going to feel really bad if he sat outside for an hour and half waiting for me.

Here’s a picture of the crowd inside watching the show.

2012-12-15 14.05.11I stuck around after the show was over to grab some of the Pop Culture Happy Hour buttons they had made. Another friend that was unable to go asked me to get her some, so I braved the crowd and got us some. Now I am full of fun NPR buttons.

After the show they were apparently were also sticking around and moving to a nearby hotel bar for a real happy hour, which is great for people who wanted to interact with them more. I had had my fill of crowds by that point, so was just as happy to go home. It was a fun event and I look forward to the next time they do it.