Jamie’s Christmas Cookbook

Jamie Oliver has been the king of stunning Christmas cooking specials for years. These episodes have made me wish that he and Jules would adopt me on an annual basis. They already have 5 kids, what’s one more? So I’m pretty much bursting with visions of sugar plums after learning that he’s released a gigantic Christmas cookbook today. According to the publisher’s website, Jamie’s even designed the recipes so that they can be cooked at the same oven temperature allowing you to easily mix and match the dishes to build your own perfect Christmas meal.

Recipes that cook at the same oven temp?! What tomfoolery is this? Seriously though, why don’t more people present menus in this manner? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ended up with a dinner timing nightmare that involves me running from stove to toaster oven and back again. Very clever, Jamie!

Right now the book appears to only be available in the UK but I’ll keep an eye out to see when it hits the shelves in the US.

Obscure Christmas Episodes: A Year in the Life

I was listening to The Nerdist’s interview with Sarah Jessica Parker the other day (which is great) and I ended up checking out her IMDB page. While there I found a tv credit from the 80s for a miniseries called A Year in the Life and noticed that the word “Christmas” appeared in the title of 2 of the 3 parts for the show. I instantly wished I could check them out, but seriously doubted I would be able to find anything. I was really wrong. The entire movie is on YouTube.

It’s rather blurry and definitely was converted from someone’s old VHS but I watched it anyway. Surprisingly, I kind of loved it. Other people probably did too since it won an Emmy, a Golden Globe, and eventually was given a full 22 episode season. The grandson in the film cracked me up and the clothes and hair are amazing. You can practically feel the aqua-net in the air. In addition to Sarah Jessica Parker, you’ll also find Adam Arkin (Chicago Hope), Amanda Peterson (Can’t Buy Me Love), and Eva Marie Saint (On The Waterfront). Grandpa Jo is played by Richard Kiley (if you look him up you’ll definitely know who he is). The series takes place in Seattle so there are shots of the public market and lots of rain. It’s also a drama so don’t blame me if you need a tissue. I’m just here for the Christmas.

Christmas Galore (OK Feast of the Winter Star but Whatever) in Stardew Valley

Christmas Year 4 Stardew Valley

I talked about my love for the video game Stardew Valley (and it’s inherent foodie friendliness) on my other blog back in April. It’s now almost August and I’m STILL playing. Not quite as much as when I first started but I did just celebrate my 4th Christmas in game. OK. It’s not actually called Christmas. The official title of the holiday is The Feast of the Winter Star, but as you’ll see, it bares a very strong resemblance to the most wonderful day of the year.


As I sit in my 80+ degrees office at 11:00 AM in July, I can’t help but be a little nostalgic for the threat of snow and the prospect of mittens. Stardew Valley doesn’t disappoint in this respect. As soon as I wake up in the game I check the forecast and always get a little excited when the weather man announces an upcoming storm.

The snowstorms in this game are absolutely mesmerizing! Twitter user @kirin87 made this animated gif of snowfall in the game and I think you’ll agree that it has a rather hypnotic effect. The winter season of Stardew Valley is by far my favorite. The music, the landscape, the lack of usual farm frenzy all combine to create a very quiet environment. It’s tremendously relaxing.


To really get in the spirit of the holiday season I like to sport a little red ensemble and a jaunty Santa hat. As you can see, I’ve also begun decorating my house. It’s not exactly up to Clark W. Griswold standards but it will do for now.


I hope that in the next game update the creator will add more decorative options because I have serious deck the halls envy when I walk around town and see all of the other houses sporting wreaths and lights and all manner of sparkly touches. Leah has candy canes.


Pierre’s store is festooned with garland.


Penny & Pam’s trailer has oodles of twinkly lights.


Grandma Evelyn’s rainbow theme is completely on point.


Then we have Robin’s house. I assume she’d win the decorating contest if there was one. What an overachiever. Hmm…maybe that activity should be added to the game! Dear Concerned Ape please take note.


During Stardew Valley’s winter there are two special events that take place. One is the Festival of Ice. The big moment of the day is a fishing contest which I usually win, now that I finally understand how to fish, go me!


The other takes place on Winter 25 (aka The Feast of the Winter Star). At some point in the month you’ll receive a letter from the mayor letting you know who your secret santa will be. Your job is to bring that particular townsperson their favorite thing. In return they usually give you complete garbage but I suppose it’s the thought that counts. My first year playing reigning mean girl, Haley, gave me a glow ring which is awesome and let’s you see in the dark so you don’t run into trees at night and get lost in overgrown forests. After that, various townspeople have given me shells, sticks of wood, and rocks. Umm…yay? Rumor has it there’s a slim chance you’ll get a tea set. I’m holding out a little hope that this will happen.


During Winter 25, the downtown area of Stardew Valley is extremely pixel pretty. There’s a huge, lovely tree and everyone gathers to share a feast.


However, just like real life holidays, Stardew Valley keeps it real. Moody Sebastian is annoyed with his family.


Someone drinks way too much.


Dad Demetrius already knows he’s just getting another tool from his unimaginative family (at least it isn’t a rock…) be grateful, dude!


People worry about eating too much. To which I say, chill out Jodi! You’ll be back at step class with all the ladies on Tuesday. Which also means that none of you will be in your respective shops and homes when I need something. I’m not bitter about that at all. Nope.


After all that holiday drama it’s no wonder I’m having an It’s a Wonderful Life moment on a bridge…I kid! I kid! I just like standing around in the snow.


Finally! A Real Stars Hollow Christmas!


Now that we officially know Melissa McCarthy will be putting in an appearance during the Gilmore Girls revival on Netflix we can get down to the important things. The major one that I’ve been wondering about (of course) is whether or not we’d be gifted with a new Rory and Lorelai Christmas. Disappointingly, Gilmore Girls only ever had one Christmas themed episode. It’s a great episode, but it’s also a bit of a downer. Lorelai and Rory are in a fight, Richard collapses which puts an end to Emily’s amazing party, and everyone spends the entire time at the hospital. You certainly get all of the “feels” but not of the sugar cookies and gently falling snow variety. Plus, I absolutely believe that if anyone would put on a killer Christmas it would the wacky people of Stars Hollow.

Thankfully though it appears that we’re going to get our wish! In the above Instagram pic, shared by one of the show’s producers, my little eye spies candy canes, a decked out tree, bright red bows, reindeer, a sleigh, and oodles of garland and fake snow. Do you think Kirk will dress up like an elf? Maybe Taylor will be the town’s Santa? Might Luke possibly serve eggnog at the diner? Could the winter episode’s plot be a Gilmore Girls meets A Christmas Carol crossover? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Potential 2016 Christmas Movies in the News

elizabeth_banks_in_fred_clausThere are actually quite a few feature films with Christmas themes popping up in the news lately. Whether or not they actually become fully fledged productions is of course anybody’s guess. We all know that hollywood is notoriously fickle. For instance, I’m still pretty miffed that the rumored remake of Christmas in Connecticut starring Jennifer Garner never happened. It would have been perfection. Maybe they’ll change their minds? Probably not, but in the meantime here’s what I’ve come across so far:

Elizabeth Banks is producing a Mrs. Claus film. Right now it’s being reported that she maybe won’t star in the movie but I have a hunch that she will. How could she possibly resist? Bustle has a great lists of reasons why she’d make the perfect Christmas Queen as well in case you need any additional convincing. I also hope it’s a bit dark and weird, which seems like a pretty good bet considering some of the people involved.

The Let it Snow adaptation has been rumored to be happening for awhile and I was very confused last year and accidentally thought that Love the Coopers was Let it Snow.  A valid mistake really as Love the Coppers was apparently originally titled Let it Snow. This time I have the right book-film project though. I promise. Supposedly we’ll be watching this movie on December 9th, 2016 but since they just found a director I’m not so sure about that.

Disney is reportedly making a new live-action version of The Nutcracker which will be directed by Lasse Hallström. Hallström also directed the delicious film Chocolat. Hmm…maybe Johnny Depp can play the Nutcracker? Somehow I think he’d roll his eyes at the mere suggestion but you never know. He does like bizarre roles.   

Finally, we have Office Christmas Party (let’s hope they jazz up that title a bit) with Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, T.J. Miller (that guy from Silicon Valley), and Kate McKinnon. I don’t currently feel very excited about this, but maybe they’ll actually come up with a more original premise then people get drunk, shenanigans ensue, and it snows. If so, I’ll happily get on board.

A Christmas Carol MOOC

christmas_carol_old_bookI wish I’d known about this in December, but I suppose better late then never… This morning I discovered that edX offers several mini self-paced bookclubs and one of the titles they’ve created is a MOOC for Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. I haven’t had a chance to browse the materials very much yet but I just love the idea and thought I’d share.

I try to read A Christmas Carol every year. Granted, lately I’ve only managed to listen to the Tim Curry narrated audiobook (which is fabulous by the way) but I feel like that counts.

Silly fact: I actually still have my copy of the book that I purchased for 4th grade literature class. I also distinctly remember that this was the novel that introduced me to the word melancholy. How fitting…especially considering that I am now thoroughly entrenched in the post-holiday grumpiness that is a grey, cold, New England winter in January. I think I’ll go read about some roast goose and snowy London to cheer myself up.

A Good Snowman is Hard to Build

Now that it’s no longer Christmas (le sigh) and I’ll soon have to pack away all of the pretty twinkling lights and beloved ornaments it appears that it’s time to switch into winter mode. It finally snowed in Portland, Maine last Tuesday. It was very pretty and made the holiday decorations around the city look like we lived inside a magical snow globe, but really weather…you couldn’t have timed that a bit more usefully — like on December 25th?!

However, I know that snow, snow, and more snow is a huge deal for many people. While, our last storm did not leave us with the type of fluff that would allow you to build a proper snowman I did manage to find a really precious app that very cleverly turns the art of building a snowman into a challenging puzzle game. It also features a relaxing, perhaps even Zen-like soundtrack. I absolutely never listen to music in apps so the fact that I play this game with the sound on is some sort of miracle.


I’d definitely recommend looking into A Good Snowman is Hard to Build so that you actually have something to do besides binge watch Netflix during the next wintery storm. In addition, I’m holding out hope that one of the snowmen I build will eventually feature my name. I mean, Chris got one, so why can’t I?

Just in Time for Christmas Earns a Spot in my Annual Rotation

Last night I Finally watched a Hallmark movie that didn’t make me cringe or roll my eyes. So much of the made for TV slate this season has been almost unwatchable. The sets look shabby, the decorations cheap or sparse, scenes that are supposed to be parties with just a handful of extras milling about. Not to mention the plots being a great big yawn. I watch these types of movies because I’m looking for that magical, escapist, Christmas wonderland look and feel and Just in Time for Christmas (ignore the really lame title) gave me that happy, bubbly, razzle dazzle I’ve been waiting for.

Of course it helped immensely that there was such a strong and quirky cast including Christopher Lloyd as the main character’s grandfather and William Shatner as a coachman meets fairy godmother hybrid. Eloise Mumford (you might recognize her as Kate from Fifty Shades of Grey) is absolutely adorable as the kind, super smart, and stylish psychology adjunct trying to decide between her fabulous hipster coffee shop owning boyfriend and a once in a lifetime opportunity to get a tenure track position at Yale. I’m now seriously obsessed with her hair. This is extremely superficial of me but true.


The premise may sound a bit done to death but I really like movies and tv shows where people get to explore their regrets or the path not taken (like Being Erica or The Family Man) so I loved the story and was actually really sad when it ended. Plus the set decorations were excellent. They’re really elaborate and gorgeous, and most definitely professionally styled. It was just what I was hoping for! So far this is the best one of the year.

New Home Alone Storybook

I’m a Home Alone superfan and I’m extremely excited to be seeing it again in a theater this week. If you’re a little Home Alone obsessed too then this new storybook from the always spectacular Quirk Books should be almost as awesome as actually making your family disappear on Christmas so you can run around your house like a maniac eating Crunch Taters and all the cheese pizza your little heart (I mean stomach) can stand.

I’m loving the illustrations. Would it be weird to buy two copies? One to read and one to pull apart and frame? Now there’s a thought. Anyway, one can NEVER have too much Kevin McAllister in their life, especially during the holidays.