Miracle on 34th Street

One of the great things about holiday magic (which, shut up, is something that I very seriously believe in) is its ability to elevate the mundane: cheesy made-for-TV movies and classic cartoons are simply better by virtue of their Christmas-y subject matter. So when you take a justifiably engaging and entertaining movie and sprinkle that Christmas magic all over it, you have an instant classic.

So it is with Miracle on 34th Street, released 65 years ago, and my absolute favorite holiday movie ever since I first saw it six years ago. For those who haven’t experienced it, it follows a mother and young daughter who don’t believe in anything they can’t see, including imaginary games, magic, and certainly not Santa Claus. The movie traces their encounter with a department-store Santa who, the movie sincerely posits, is The Real Santa Claus. As they slowly come around to the possibility that this “nice man with a white beard” might be more than they initially thought, they realize they’re not alone. Santa, or Kris Kringle, as he’s officially known in the movie, has spread his charm to every character, be they young children or greedy department store heads.

So the plot has a LOT of cheese-potential, but somehow, in the execution, Miracle on 34th Street manages to underscore the story with enough gravitas and serious, earned heart that there’s not even the whiff of cheap sentiment. And the characters are not just well-written, but perfectly cast: Edmund Gwenn, who plays Kris Kringle, won an Oscar for this role, and it’s so deserved. It’s impossible to watch him and not wish that there really WAS a Santa, and that he decided to just go ahead and let these filmmakers film him just doing his thing. The rest of the cast is spectacular too, especially the adorable, but again, in NO WAY cutesy Natalie Wood as the young girl.

If you need a reminder as to what’s so special about this time of year that could make the craziness worth it (so… all of us), please watch this. You’ll be positively HUMMING with Christmas magic by the last scene!

The perfect, hilarious, original 1947 trailer shows almost NO footage from the movie, but captures its charm and essence perfectly:

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ce_op2qG24%5D

WHY do they not make trailers like this any more???

(Photo courtesy of Modern Times)

Holiday Gift Guides

I adore gift-giving. It’s shocking, really, from someone as selfish as I can be (I’m an only child! Not accustomed to sharing!), but I get so much joy out of figuring out what to get for a loved one that s/he will appreciate, but not have thought of for him or herself. So I let myself go a little crazy at Christmas, starting usually right after Thanksgiving.

But — besides the schadenfreude-laden glee that I get from reading Walmart-related tweets — I can’t stomach crazy Black Friday trips to the shops. There’s the pressure to grab-and-buy-and-grab-and-buy, there simply isn’t enough selection, and it’s rare to find a brick-and-mortar store that’s perfectly curated to my tastes. So, unsurprisingly, once I’ve gathered my list for the year, I turn to the internet for help.

And help it does! Gift guides are a very popular feature for blogs at the end of the year, because duh, these are my people, and having an opportunity to go into raptures about awesome stuff found in every crevice of the internet is pretty much nirvana.

I’m too late to do a gift guide of my own this year, but I thought, for those of you who are still searching for the ideal present, I’d do a quick roundup of some great guides that helped me this year. These are actual ones I used, so if you’re on my list and see something that you love, DO NOT BUY IT FOR YOURSELF. At least not till after Dec 25!

Happy gifting:

  • Design*Sponge’s gift guides, which are themed by both topic and price point, and absolutely chock full of exquisite, just-right things.
  • A Cup of Jo’s gift guide is targeted to specific people in Joanna’s life, but her thoughtful explanations of why each is a fitting gift will have you thinking of the folks in your life that would just love these things too.
  • Cool Hunting’s guide is a microcosm of exactly what the site is about: things that are insane, a bit superfluous, and sure to be appreciated by those folks that just get you.
  • Hammacher Schlemmer’s gifts are, yes, the ones from the SkyMall catalogue. This probably tells you all you need to know about me, but I think a lot of the things here perfectly skirt the line between ridiculous and useful, at least for my beloved friends and family. As it is, I’m mourning that our upstairs hallway’s walls are apparently not tall enough for the world’s largest write-on map mural!

(Photo courtesy of Design*Sponge’s jewelry gift guide. So sparkly!)

Mint M&Ms

Part of what makes the holiday season so great is the seasonal treats. It’s also something that we can all delight in, regardless of beliefs or crotchetiness (which, wow, is totally a word, huh.) levels. I’m sure there is someone out there who detests gingerbread houses and pumpkin lattes, but our paths have thankfully not yet crossed.

The treat I’m most looking forward to this season is the glorious Mint M&M… or more accurately, 492804325 of them, which is how many I consumed last year. Incredibly, I didn’t even know about their existence before last year, so I’m really just making up for lost time here. I’m pretty sure they’ve begun stocking these in the stores now, so here’s hoping that Evan is really into ladies with an extra 10 pounds and extremely fresh breath!

In a similar mint-chocolate vein, I picked up a box of these gorgeous treats at TJs the other day — no Mint M&M or anything, but they’re still pretty irresistible.

What other holiday indulgences should be on my list?

(Top photo courtesy of The Stephen Mosher Blog, bottom photo courtesy of Chow Chaser)

Happy Schmoopy Christmas: Emmy the Great & Tim Wheeler

Hooray, it’s the holiday season! I’ve never been a Scrooge — anything that involves celebrating, presents, singing, and lights is going to be all right by me, plus I’m a total sucker for the idea of magic-in-the-air scenarios. It’s more than a bit embarrassing, but I’ve long ago decided to just own it and try not to notice anyone’s (yes, I mean you!) eyerolls.

So with glorious Thanksgiving over, I’m in FULL ON CHRISTMAS CHEER mode now, and thus go all my obsessions lately. Today, the one that’s been dominating my Spotify account: Emmy the Great & Tim Wheeler’s This is Christmas.

I’m a longtime Ash fan, but have bemoaned the fact that Ash doesn’t seem to be actively making new music. I had heard inklings of Tim (Ash’s lead singer) making music with someone else a while ago, but didn’t pay it much attention till I saw recently that he was touring in December in support of the Christmas album that he and that someone else, Emmy the Great, released last year. Ever since I started listening to it, it’s been jangling nonstop in my head and ears, because it’s really damned catchy.

But beyond that, I’m truly obsessed because it not only celebrates but gleefully rolls around in the infectious sparkly magic (I told you I liked Christmas!) unique to this time of year. Emmy and Tim are also an item, a fact that’s actually relevant, as almost every song is a paean to Christmas romance: to having a special someone to walk with in the snow, drink mugs of hot cocoa with, and snuggle down with in front of a brick fireplace. It’s the tritest of cliches, but you know that I don’t care, and neither do they. Outside of a brief flirtation with sarcasm in my teen years, I’ve never been a lover of irony and too-hip-for-thou-ness, and the sheer enthusiasm and sincerity with which Emmy and Tim embark on their celebration of Christmas love is guaranteed to put a smile on all but the dourest of faces.

As I’ve noted, it’s available on Spotify, but a small taste of my favorite tracks:

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URCNMEbgd_w%5D [youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=beBSv40QjkA%5D

And bonus Emmy & Tim adorableness (even for those of you who primarily celebrate this time of year as Alcohol Time):
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYo-D2bb2nQ%5D

(Image courtesy of Jeff Shanberg and My Czech Republic)