Reruns and earworms and holidays oh my

Since I have the execrable “Do they Know it’s Christmas?” in my head, I figured I’d post a lightly edited rerun.  You’re welcome.

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Back in 2004, John Scalzi posted an invitation to fantasize: if you had the ability to expunge one highly annoying but popular Christmas song from the world, which one would it be? He posited “Feliz Navidad,” which is an honorable entry. It has the requisite parasitic catchiness, yet is definitely awful – it will stay in your head, annoying you quite effectively long past New Year’s. But I would have to say it is not popular enough, and really, not quite awful enough to make my list.

Others in the comments ganged up on “Do they Know it’s Christmas?” which is another effectively awful tune. “Feed the world/Let them know it’s Christmastime.” Er… feed the world, let them know it’s Tuesday, for crying out loud. Feed the world, let them see next week! But I don’t think it has enjoyed enduring popularity past 1984, so it wouldn’t make my list either.  Or… er.  It appears the cast of Glee has remade it.  Joy.  I haven’t listened to it, but I won’t stop you if that sort of pain is your kink.

What would I pick? There is a lot of awfulness to choose from out there amongst the holiday fare, so it is a difficult task to pick just one. As it was, as I plowed through my mental inventory of dogs barking “Jingle Bells,” “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” (John’s personal pick for least favorite), Springsteen’s “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” (Clarence has been waiting for that new saxophone for a very long time now), and “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” which is hateful because it is so repetitive and interminable, I was able to narrow my hatred down to two selections:

1. “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” There is so much to hate in this song, it is hard to know where to begin. It is syrupy and swoopy. Its subject matter is disturbing. It tends to be sung by treacly choirs of little kids doing basic choreography in time to the music (I should know – I was in one many years back). It seems exploitative and deeply, deeply wrong. Bleah. *Shudder*

2. “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” I may get some John Lennon-loving backlash here, but I can’t stand this song. It sounds like someone bleakly going through the motions of optimism. It is, in fact, wrong (“War is over now” – hah.  Really? Magical thinking in a holiday pop song.  Cute). But the crowning achievement of awfulness is Yoko Ono’s strangled yowl, aggressively commanding everyone within hearing range to have “A very merry Christmas/And a happy New Year/Let’s hope it’s a good one/Without any fear.”

You better watch out, indeed.

The great Julekake lamination of aught-nine.

As with last year, I made Julekake this year.  The big difference is I got off my hind end and decided to experiment.  My grandmother’s recipe makes five full-size loaves at one go.  This is a quantity of dough that swamps my stand mixer and, in the words of my mother, “You don’t knead it, you hug it.”  In other words, it is an incredibly daunting prospect to contemplate for any amateur Julenisse.

Modifying baking recipes is not something I’m qualified in any way to do.  My friend Linsey is an expert in such things, and from reading her blog I know there is seemingly endless trial and error in these experiments.  But I wanted cardamom and dried fruit in a lovely, slightly chewy, perfect for breakfast toast sort of way.  And so I fired up a spreadsheet and commenced to calculate.

My first experiment (five loaves down to three) was actually very successful.  Not enough cardamom, but I was (I believe) understandably cautious: cardamom is pretty pungent.  But the texture was perfect.  And I could get the bulk of the kneading done with the stand mixer and finish by hand.

We stored two of the loaves in the oven.  John’s idea, and not a bad one.  But it is a bad idea to preheat the oven without checking to see if there is anything in there first.  And so, preparing to roast a chicken, John essentially laminated two loaves of Julekake.

So I made two more batches.  Nine total loaves is proof of concept, I think.  And I think I’m finally getting the cardamom calibration correct.

I still won’t make the mistake of thinking that I did anything other than get lucky with my first attempt at modifying a baking recipe.  But it’s nice to have a more manageable version.

Laughter, drifting down from on high

This week is one of those funny, stubby weeks – a few days of work, a few days off, John is picking up my mom from the airport and working an odd, late day tomorrow due to a faculty senate meeting.

As a result, we have that semi-giddy, let-off-the-leash feeling you get when life is off kilter.  We watched Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch this evening – growing up in Red Sox Nation, we felt both the hero and the heroine’s pain.  And also their triumph.  It was a surprisingly nuanced movie.  If you like sport, or love someone who likes sport, I can recommend it.

I’m not ready to go to bed yet, and I can hear John upstairs laughing at Milo.  It’s a good sound.  Hearty and loud.  It makes me look forward to the holiday weekend.

5K – take two

Do I need to apologize for light posting?  I suppose I do.  A combination of work-crisis and middle of semester has my thoughts otherwhere these days.  So, very sorry if you are expecting great — or even not-so-great, but just regular, thankyouverymuch — thoughts from this space.

So, what to do when one is rather stretched for time?  Add another commitment, that’s what!  In this case, it’s the Komen 5K Race for the Cure, which I will be doing on June 6.  If you care to sponsor me, the link is here — no dance o’ Paypal needed this time, since they use a service to help their runners and walkers collect funds (though the service could use some help on the back end – is it so hard to make the runner or walkers’ links easy to find for said runner or walker?  Apparently, yes.  Or someone just needs some help with their UI).

ANYway, I need to go off and get in a run while today is sunny so I’m actually in training for this!

And a very big “Happy Easter” for all of my readers who celebrate the holiday.

Groan…

I just realized today is St. Patrick’s Day: a day that, for me, manages to ruin beer and the color green all in one fell swoop.  (I had thought my shuddering distaste for green beer had been documented before, but a quick Google search shows me I am wrong.  Let me just go on the record then as saying that Bud Lite is an abomination, and Bud Lite with green food coloring in it?  Um… there are no words.)

The Metro should be VERY interesting this evening.  I’m expecting hordes of college students in sparkly green wigs, having started getting their drunk on at noon.  Let’s just hope that I’m wrong.

Yes we can… haz bukkit

John, Mel, Yvonne, and I made a snowy trek into Frederick, MD yesterday.

Frederick - snow.

(Yes, for all of my northern friends – that is a piddling amount of snow. But it’s the only snow we’ve had here all winter).

Our mission? Beer and yarn. We visited The Flying Barrel for brewing supplies and Eleganza for yarn. John picked up a brewing kit:

We can haz bukkit

Basically, some specialty equipment and two very big buckets.

I picked up some lovely blue and green yarn. I’m pondering a scarf pattern.

And that’s pretty much us today. We have friends out on the Mall in the scrum of the Inauguration, but my crowd-phobic self isn’t really interested in standing in the cold to watch the JumboTron. So instead, we have me baking bread and John brewing liquid bread.

I don’t do resolutions

So why did I just subscribe to a French-language instructional podcast? Hmmm.

Happy Holidays to all

This morning started with some Santa Hat silliness:

Simon, modeling the Santa hat.

Some of the zoo were less into this idea:

"Do.  Not.  Want."

Dash wants nothing to do with this nonsense

And some are game for anything:

Toshie Claus

John got power tools, because he’s been a very good boy this year:

John got TOOLS for x-mas

Brian and I took a walk with Tosh:

Bri and Tosh

And all that’s left is to make and eat a fabulous dinner and wish everyone a safe, happy, and healthy new year:

Nutcracker

All the best to you and yours.

Christmas miracles

…or, for want of a dishwasher, the floor was lost. Our old dishwasher was a malcontent, with rusting racks and a tendency to cook food on to dishes every several loads instead of washing it off. Unfortunately, it was also entombed in its hole. A layer of pergo and two layers of vinyl flooring (with an extra subfloor in between) created a ledge over which the grumpy old appliance couldn’t be removed. So, out went all of it:

Out, out, damned pergo

John demonstrates the... unloveliness of our old floor

Pretty, no?

The final subfloor.

I think the disgusting subfloor is rather festive with the tree in the background, don’t you?

Here’s the tree itself in all its glory. I’m sparing you the scene just to the left, which is everything that usually lives on our countertops, relocated to the dining room table.

Christmas tree 2008

John’s got a new subfloor down, and our new flooring should arrive… in time to have a proper kitchen floor by New Year’s.

The chaos in the kitchen wasn’t severe enough to divert me from my desire to make Julekake – Norwegian Christmas bread. Full of dried fruit, walnuts, and cardamom, it makes lovely buttered breakfast toast. I got a good first rise:

Julekake

A good second rise:

Julekake

And perfectly lovely loaves:

Julekake

Let’s hope the Julenisse and the Dala horse are fierce enough to protect the cooling loaves from Dash…

Reruns, sort of

I think I posted this item last year – the original lineup of the Indiana University a cappella group called “Straight No Chaser” and their completely hilarious “12 Days of Christmas.”

[well, crap – the original was deleted from YouTube]

The story gets better – on the strength of their YouTube output (put on the web for a reunion), the original group were offered a record contract.  And so, years after graduation, they decided to grab that crazy brass ring and get back together to record a Christmas album called Holiday Spirits.  Our friend Bob sent us a copy of it: it’s FANTASTIC.  If you love lush harmony, clever arrangements, and flawless execution, do yourself a favor and buy a copy.

Here’s them doing Christmas in Washington:

YouTube Preview Image

If you don’t love any of these things, I’m sorry your heart is cold and dead.  There’s nothing I can do for you.