Christmas

Toddlers and the Holidays: Mommy, Why are you so grouchy?

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by Blythe Lipman

xmasbooksIf you’re a mom or dad, you know how hectic it can get around the holidays. You wish there were more hours in a day, your mood is less than jovial and your toddler can feel it. But you don’t want him to get lost in the shuffle; he just wants to be a part of the planning, baking and all the wonderful festivities. Make time for the two of you. Not only is it fun, but a great way to calm down and enjoy the moment.

Here are some fun and easy holiday activities and recipes for you and your toddler to do together:

  • Before the holiday begins, go to the library and pick up a few age appropriate holiday books and spend time reading with your child.
  • Play holiday music in your home or car. The tunes are catchy and toddlers love to sing along.
  • Buy him a holiday activity book. Put on holiday music and ask him to make some special pictures. Then decorate your home with his beautiful pictures!

Modern Mince Mini-Pies

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by James Moore

coventgarden2There is something very special about visiting London during the holidays. The streets and stores are beautifully decorated and an overall "spirit" of the season is evident throughout the city. No matter where you stroll, there's "Christmas in the air" - whether it's the rows of fresh wreaths hung in Edwardian doorways, the gold holly and red berry garland that decorates Regent Street, the twinkle lights illuminating the posh shopping on Jermyn Street, the musical decorations inspired by the Rolling Stones on Carnaby Street, the Santa Land and Christmas Market in Hyde Park, the enormous fully decorated tree in Trafalgar Square, or the giant red ornaments at Covent Garden.

Of course Victorian London has had a strong role in how we celebrate Christmas today. A visit to the recently renovated The Charles Dickens Museum will remind anyone of the British influence on this festive holiday. As most of us know, Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol, which was published on December 19, 1843 and is often considered responsible for the revival of Christmas celebrations.

It may surprise some to know that Christmas was not a holiday in early America. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston. Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings. After the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favor, including Christmas. Christmas wasn't declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870. Apart from adding to the language of Christmas, with "scrooge","bah, humbug!" and all the rest of it, Dickens' book essentially renewed the Christmas tenets of family, good cheer, feasting, gift-giving and charity as well as popularizing the phrase "Merry Christmas!"

Tamales for Christmas

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by The Huffington Post

From the Huffington Post

xmastamaleWhen you think of Christmas dinner, what's on the table? Maybe a standing rib roast? A turkey with all the trimmings? Maybe a ham? For us, and for lots of excitable eaters across the Southwest, we also think of tamales. This traditional Mexican comfort food, eaten for breakfast or dinner (or anything in between really), is a cornmeal dumpling, stuffed with other goodies and steamed in a corn husk.

The most traditional tamales are stuffed with pork simmered for hours in a red chile sauce, green chiles and cheese or chicken with salsa verde. But we've also enjoyed sweet dessert tamales filled with raisins and pineapple on occasion. We want to warn you: you'd be hard-pressed to find a tamales recipe that isn't a bit of a project. Simmering pork requires time.

Blending the masa harina with the -- ahem -- lard (or whichever fat you decide to use) takes patience. Filling the corn husks with the right amount of filling takes practice and a willingness to mess up a few times.

But the result is completely worth it. Tamales are some of the heartiest, most comforting winter fare we can think of. Whether they're brand new to your family and friends, or a long-lost tradition, we really think 2012 is the tamale's year. Happy holidays and don't overfill your corn husks!

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The Twelve Books of Christmas

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by PR by the Book

It’s the holiday season and along with sipping cocoa by the fire, it’s the perfect time to cozy up with a good book. We thought we’d take the time to share some classic titles for your twelve days of Christmas. Maybe we’ll introduce you to a new title or two.

elfonshelf

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – Probably the epitome of “Christmas Classic,” this story has been parodied countless times and always drives home an important moral lesson.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss – Dr. Seuss makes us feel like we can spread the joy of the holidays to the grumpiest of people and reminded us that even if all the presents disappeared, we can still celebrate!

The Elf on the Shelf by Carol Aebersold and Chanda Bell – If you’re a parent of tiny children, you probably have embraced this new Christmas tradition of inviting one of Santa’s elves to help keep an eye on what’s going on around the house.

Here We Come a Wassailing-

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by James Farmer III

wassailing.jpg

“…Among the leaves so green… love and joy come to you,
and to you your wassail too,
and God bless you and send you a happy new year,
and God send you a happy new year.”

Though I’ve never actually gone wassailing per say, I have though, made a batch of wassail to fill my home with the scents of the season and share with friends and family. This Farmer’s wassail incorporates the garden and seasonal produce that will pack your home with fragrance for days to come. I actually make two versions of this wassail… the base basically the same for both, but one is much better for ingesting than the other, mainly because of the presence of sugar.

Wassailing is actually an act of celebrating somewhat noisily while drinking a concoction, wassail, of warm beer or wine seasoned with spices and fruit. An English tradition that was brought to the colonies, wassailing and making wassail became a source of delight, warmth, season’s greetings, and entertainment for merry folk; and rightly so! Making and sharing wassail is merry and bright!

Think Green for Christmas Décor…literally!

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by James Farmer III

thinkgreenplainwreath.jpgMost always, I find nature as my inspiration for arrangements and décor, thus green becomes my “MO” for all things fresh, natural, and beautiful. Green is nature’s neutral – found in different hues and shades in every wood, vale, forest and dale! Here are a few tips on “thinking green” for the Holidays and year round decorating as well!

I always like to have a green base to build from when making an arrangement, tablescapes, or even holiday décor. Choose your greenery wisely – it will be your support and skeleton, your contrasting tone, and your “roux” that brings the arrangement together.

Use what is in seasonfor the Holidays, I like the traditional greens like holly, boxwood, cypress, cedar, and magnolia. Add some pizzazz by contrasting shades of green like the dark of the holly and magnolia (use those velvety brown backs as well), lighter green from cypress and blue greens from cedar or junipers.

“Old Country” Hungarian for Christmas

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by Sue Doeden

turos-tezta-001a-1024x682My Hungarian grandma came to the United States when she was just a teenager. Her husband came before her to find a place for them to settle. She left her family behind to travel to a land of opportunity where she and her young husband believed they could create a better life for their family. Young Rose arrived with their first-born, a son, who was still a baby. I’ve often wondered what it was like for my grandma to be in a strange country, a place where she could barely communicate with the people around her and where she had no family or friends, just her Hungarian husband.

Over the years, Rose’s family grew as she and her husband ran their own boarding house and restaurant in Chicago. One day, when their four sons and one daughter were still very young, Rose’s husband decided to leave. He wanted to go back to “the old country.” Eventually, the strong and very hard-working single mother married again. She and her second husband, Paul, had one more son and one more daughter. They moved to a farm in Indiana to raise their seven children. Their daughter, Rosemary, the baby of the family, became my mom.

The five sons and two daughters grew into adults and moved away from their Indiana home, but I do not remember even one Christmas when they were not all together at the farm to celebrate together, coming back each year with spouses and children of their own.

Christmas in the Basement

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by Susan Russo

hellodollietin.jpgSpending countless hours trapped in a cold, dimly lit basement -- that's what I remember about Christmas.

In fact, it's my favorite memory of Christmas. I don't remember gifts I gave or received (except for my pink Huffy bike in 1979), but I do remember making Christmas cookies with my mom, which we did together for 20 years. Each year, it was a massive project that began in the market, moved to the kitchen, and was completed in the basement.

After numerous trips to the grocery store to buy obscene amounts of flour, sugar, butter, eggs, and chocolate, we would bake for 4-5 days straight, making about 2,000 cookies (that is not hyperbole).

Everyone got a tray of our cookies, including the paper boy. It got to the point that people would make special requests of my mom: please put more biscotti or pignoli cookies on their tray.

My mom never complained; she had the patience of a saint. Even when I added baking soda instead of baking powder (which I did) or dropped eggs down the front of the refrigerator (did that too), she never yelled. She always said something like, "That's alright, honey. It can be cleaned up." Then we would start the recipe over again.

Holiday Sweet Stuffed Mushrooms

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by Cathy Pollak

stuffedmushrooms.jpgMemories of holiday celebrations remain very food centric for me.  When I recall the roasts, turkeys and hams of holidays past, I am instantly transported to the chaos and love of the kitchens where those meals were affectionately prepared.

Christmas was always spent at my aunt and uncle’s home.  My brother and I could never wait to arrive there to play with our cousins, see all the new toys Santa delivered and for me, eat copious amounts of my aunt’s stuffed mushrooms.  These mushrooms somehow verified it was finally Christmas.  They were not fancy, just mushrooms with a piece of link sausage placed in the cap and baked to perfection.  I craved these mushrooms all year.  They would disappear within minutes of exiting the oven.

As we grew older the family increased and now boyfriends, girlfriends, new husbands and wives were also attending the holiday celebrations so the mushrooms would vanish at an even faster rate.  There were never enough of these little bites to meet the growing families’ demands and the competition to score a few was fierce.  I truly miss that.

My Best Christmas was Chanukah

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by Fredrica Duke

happy_christmanukkah.jpgI was never walked into a temple. Never. Not by my dad, the Jew. I thought being Jewish meant eating lox, bagel & cream cheese in a deli. Because that’s what my dad, the non-religious Jew told me. When we ate at Nate n’ Al’s, he would announce loudly as he seemed to be pointing to the food, “We’re Jews!!!”

I sang with my friend Cindy Lou Carlson in her church for the Christmas pageant. Those rehearsals alone put me in a church more times than I was ever in a temple – at least until my kids and step-kids became B’nai Mitzvah.

I’m assuming my mom was some sort of Christian, but your guess is as good as mine. She never walked us into a church and never spoke of any religion. So, there you go, two parents – one gentile, one Jewish – who offered zero religious guidance. We called ourselves half-and-half. This was pretty commonplace in Beverly Hills, though each family would often choose a side and go to temple or church. Christmas or Chanukah.

We celebrated Christmas, tree and all. Show business was up and down and some years we had big-time gifts. The trees were bigger in those years. At other times we might have skimpy trees with few gifts.

In Season - Candy Canes

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by Candy USA

kcc6_candy_canes.jpgCandy Canes

Legend has it that in 1670, the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany handed out sugar sticks among his young singers to keep them quiet during the long Living Creche ceremony. In honor of the occasion, he had the candies bent into shepherds' crooks. In 1847, a German-Swedish immigrant named August Imgard of Wooster, Ohio, decorated a small blue spruce with paper ornaments and candy canes. It wasn't until the turn of the century that the red and white stripes and peppermint flavors became the norm.

In the 1920s, Bob McCormack began making candy canes as special Christmas treats for his children, friends and local shopkeepers in Albany, Georgia. It was a laborious process – pulling, twisting, cutting and bending the candy by hand. It could only be done on a local scale.

In the 1950s, Bob's brother-in-law, Gregory Keller, a Catholic priest, invented a machine to automate candy cane production. Packaging innovations by the younger McCormacks made it possible to transport the delicate canes on a large scale. Although modern technology has made candy canes accessible and plentiful, they've not lost their purity and simplicity as a traditional holiday food.

From The National Confectioners Association

 

5 Stupid and Smart Ways to Not Gain Weight This Holiday Season

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by Susan Russo

Image'Tis the season of spreading good cheer and spreading waistlines. We have all heard it before – the average person gains one pound a year during the holidays. That is, except for French women, who apparently don't gain weight, ever.

One pound isn't so bad. What is bad is that most people never lose that pound and then continue to gain a pound each year afterwards.

There is no shortage of articles telling women how not to gain weight during the holidays. Some are practical; others are, well, simply stupid. Below are a few of my favorite stupid suggestions and my common-sense alternatives. They work for me, and I hope they'll work for you too.

Stupid Suggestion #1: Avoid Alcohol At Parties.
Telling people to avoid alcohol at a holiday party is like telling women inside of Nordstrom to avoid the shoe department. Ain't gonna happen.

 

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