This Christmas, I just want my family back

When I was little I used to watch Home Alone and dream about how wonderful it would be to accidentally go to New York -- hopefully missing some school along the way and generally getting to plan my own vacation. Well, I had my own vacation when I went to London, and I did love that, but now that I'm experiencing what not being away from my family this close to Christmas is like, I'm understanding the end-of-Home-Alone message a lot more clearly. It SUCKS not being close to your family this time of year, especially when shootings are happening in elementary schools and people are warning you about the end of the world. All you want to do is hug the people who share your genes, and feel prepared to die having done so.

Okay, I'm being a little dramatic. But honestly, as I see photos on Facebook of my brothers at Christmas parties and am told our dog looks thin and hear about present wrapping and forbid myself from seeing The Hobbit with friends here and make to-do list after to-do list in a fruitless effort to make time pass more quickly, I realize this: there really is no place like home...for the holidays.

And I have the best family in the whole wide world.


Dec Update #2

Merry (almost) Christmas! This little guy keeps me in line while I work...
I am happy to report that I have completed my second knitting project! I won't announce what it is or post pictures *just yet,* since it might spoil certain followers' Christmas presents! I will say that it involves cables. And that I'm awfully proud of myself, and delighted to have learned a new skill this season. Up next for me is figuring out how to pattern and combine colors correctly. (See my "W" fail above.)

There is a reason you haven't heard much from me in this area -- it's because I'm not doing it. I'm not proud of myself, but J has graciously defended my failure, saying I was a bit far-reaching in my hopes to become a regular runner in the month of December. He's right: not only has my busy schedule made it practically impossible to find time to run in the daylight hours, when I finally do find the time it's either freezing cold or rainy. Or, in the case of this morning, sleeting. I suppose exercise is something like the creative process: you've gotta pump past the less desirable parts if you want to see any results. Sadly, I have a yuppie and/or dancer preference to do my exercising indoors. Nevertheless, I intend to keep with my practice as much as I deem possible. Especially if I'm going to buy anymore Dryer's slow-churned Peppermint Ice Cream....
I haven't had a chance to practice much make-upping. I did manage to pull off a Minnie Mouse face for my last party gig:

I also made a trip to the mall last weekend and asked one of the Clinique ladies to help me find a red that would suit my skin tone. I told her I didn't want anything berry-y, but couldn't really pull off anything too orange. She gave me "Red Red Red," which she said looked nice with my fair skin. I felt silly wearing the stuff around the mall with my maroon sweater, but with a little mascara and a black dress, this is probably just the tone!

Excuse the selfie shot. Just evaluate at the colors, k?
Funny thing is, I told my dressing room buddy I was searching for a red lipstick better than the ones I already had, and when I put on my Revlon shade -- "Temptation" -- she said it looked smashing. Under the warm dressing room lights, it did look rather nice. So my perfect red might already be right under my nose (literally, in this case!)
Other than that, I'm wearing theater makeup 5 days a week for my performances, so all I want to do on my days off is be my makeup-free self!

I have a Secret Santa who's making rehearsal so much fun! Giggles galore. She gave me this creepy-cute doll:

In regards to Christmas, I can't wait to get home. Seattle's miserable and yucky, as it always is this time of year (and too much of the rest of it), and ever since the tragic news Friday, I've been wanting to hug my whole family. In true Christmas tradition, I'm going to watch White Christmas with my mom and have coffee with my Dad and wake up my brothers by bursting into their room yelling -- like they did to me so many years in our youth. I wonder sometimes how many more years we have before we're spending the holidays in different locations. I don't like to think about things like that. I guess there's no reason we can't be the kind of family that all gets together for Christmas Eve or something, even though that's never how we did it ourselves.
Other things to do:
-Bake Triple Ginger Chocolate Chunk Cookies (I'll be sure to post the recipe!)
-Visit Auntie's and my favorite shopkeeper
-See the lights downtown*
-Watch Downton Abbey Christmas Special
-Take a ride in one of those carriages, maybe? I've always wanted to do that.
-Knit. More.
-Hang out with our dog-that-isn't-really-our-dog-anymore -- we have him "on loan" for Christmas -- what a laugh!!
-See Les Miserables and The Hobbit
-Post-Christmas sale shop for clothes I need to replace (in preparation for minimalism month! Get ready!!)
Okay, enough boring you with my personal agenda. Hopefully the world doesn't end before I'm able to get home and have a gol' dern hot toddy.

*Whenever I write "downtown" anymore, my finger seems to skip over the second "w" in favor of "Downton." Hence, the following to-do.


Christmas Movies I Love

The following is a running list of holiday movies I've watched this year, my favorite parts from each of them, and for what occasion I recommend them:

1) Planes Trains and Automobiles

Why I love it: Three people -- Steve Martin, John Candy, and John Hughes. Before Judd Apatow and his cronies, there was this holy trinity of comedy. The storyline's fraught with sap, but it's worth sitting through the 80s syth soundtrack just to watch the hilarity that ensues throughout.

Best Part(s): It's a toss up. Steve Martin's f*ck-fraught monologue, which could even put Clark Griswold to shame, AND John Candy playing the piano on the car dashboard. Oh, AND the taxi cab chase-down between Martin and Kevin Bacon. You could almost believe he's playing the same character as She's Having a Baby, and he just happens to be on business in New York. Again: love John Hughes.

Occasion: Just before Thanksgiving, with your roommates, while you all dream of eating turkey and other food you can't afford.

2) Elf

Why I love it: Besides the genius that is Will Ferrel and the secondary genius that is John Favreau, who came up with the story, it serves to contrast the commercial American life in tandem with the true delights of Christmas. When seen through Buddy's eyes, even a crappy cup of coffee becomes holy.

Best Part: Every part where Will Ferrel is arguing with people about his being an elf. Again, this man is a comic genius.

Occasion: Early in the season with group of good friends, homemade cookies, and hot scnapplettes.

3) Home Alone

Why I love it: John Hughes is the Aristotle of family comedy. If you know me at all, it goes without saying why this movie is in the top three of my Christmas favorites. When this movie gets rolling (somewhere around "I made my family disappear!"), the Culkin heartwarming is infectious, and you find yourself looking for the second installment just 5 minutes after "KEVIN! WHAT DID YOU DO TO MY ROOM?!"

Best Part: When Kate McCallister is fighting her way through the airport, snapping at all the Frenchies. I love Catherine O'Hara! Also, JOE PESCI!! Seriously, how did they get him to do this movie?!

Occasion: With your siblings. 

4) National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

Why I love it: Every time I think I've seen this movie too many times to appreciate it anymore, I find some dear soul who hasn't ever seen it, and I don myself John Hughes Wise Man, and bless them with 90-some minutes of Chevy Chase slapstick hilarity. Seriously, did it ever get better than 80s family comedy? "Merry Christmas... Kiss my ass. Kiss your ass, kiss his ass... Happy Hanukkah." Splendid.

Best Part: Two parts of physical comedy that I can never stifle laughter during -- When Clark's decorating the house and he gets stuck on the back of the ladder, then puts his hand over, under, over-under, unable to figure out how to get around. It's perfect. Also the chewing of the too-dry turkey.   Oh, wait! And the bit on the sled. And Eddie and the eggnog. And OF COURSE the "Where's the Tylenol" monologue.  Okay, I've gotta go watch it again.

Occasion: With anyone who's a National Lampoon Vacation series virgin.

5) Home Alone 2: Lost In New York

Why I love it: It's all the delights of the first movie, but this time it's in NEW YORK. What kid wouldn't love to get left in that city with their yuppie parent's credit card and an endless supply of fool-proof one-liners? You can tell how much John Hughes loves about this place just by how he tells the story -- for years I'd felt like I'd been to New York just because I'd done the cinematic journey with Kevin so many times.

Best Part: As usual, there are many, but my favorite moments of this flick have to be the Darlene Love "All Alone at Christmas" montage and all the Plaza hotel scenes. Tim Curry is splendid. My brothers' favorite line tonight was Joe Pesci's "You open your mouth and you'll be spittin' gum out through your forehead."

Occasion: With your siblings again. Or better yet, with the whole family.

6) Little Women

A Preface: Because I shared this movie with two dear girlfriends of mine so many years in a row, it feels almost sacrilege to watch it without them... But I think the first time we watched it together it felt just as bad to watch it without my mama. Mom used to rent this right around the time it started to snow -- or when I got sick, I seem to remember. She's the greatest Marmee.... Anyway, it's never too late to share the movie with new little women, even if they'll never quite be the Hannah-Jo and Katie-Beth and Sharmee you remember!

Why I love it: Christian Bale and Winona Ryder make this movie for me. I always have to resist the urge to stop the movie when he moves to France because it breaks my heart every time. I'm still trying to understand, even though now I can appreciate Professor Baer's attributes now better than when I was a little girl. Also, a young Kirsten Dunst delivers every Amy sting flawlessly.

Best Part: There are too many to choose, so I will proffer favorite lines instead:

"If I weren't going to be a writer, I'd go to New York and pursue the stage! Are you shocked?"

"I'm so degraditated -- I owe at least a dozen limes!"

"Evangelina and I will make you some tea..."

"Don't be such a beetle!"

"Oh Jo, how could you? Your one beauty!!"

"A letter. That'll show him."

"Jo, you have so many extraordinary gifts; how can you expect to lead an ordinary life?"

Occasion: All piled up on the couch with Trader Joe's Jo-joes and Pound Plus Chocolate and two best friends.

Stay tuned!


December Update

Good news on the knitting front! I finally finished my socks!



As you might be able to tell from the pictures, the first one (on the top and on the right) ended up being a little short. The second was, of course, the better of the two. It's at least an inch and a half longer than the first.

Irregardless, I'm proud of my miniature triumph, and feeling very toasty!


On Knitting...
   *With other knitting nerds: it's inspiring and it feels something like having tea with a bunch of wonderful old women.
   *A (far more experienced) knitting friend of mine pointed out: "When I realize I have two extra hours to knit, I get so excited." That's exactly how I'm starting to feel!
   *Always write down your # of stitches. You will never remember the amount.
   *It invites a tremendous opportunity to brood on just about any subject. Between stitches your thoughts are racing toward impending doom and present concerns: "Knit one, purl one -- What is my life?? -- over, under, over, under -- Will I ever succeed at anything? -- Purl one, knit one, purl one -- If only this could be my job..."

On Running...
   *In the dark: it's more fun, less intimidating, easier on the breath.
   *Beneath Christmas lights: it's beautiful and also more fun.
   *To a place you get to shop or look at books: it's a goal that's so much more satisfying than "I almost suffocated myself with my own strength! YUHS!"
   *I still hate the idea of it before I get out there. I'm afraid I always will.

I've started editing some film footage for a media company; getting a head start on January's project! Honestly, I worried that video editing would feel like work if it wasn't my own project, but I really had a lot of fun with my first assignment. There's something strangely absorbing and satisfying about working out a precise audio match or fade-in.

In other news, our Christmas show opened in Seattle Center this past Friday! We had an excellent opening night audience and a beautiful reception afterward. I get really excited whenever I step outside after the shows, because the fairy lights are all over the trees and The PNB Nutcracker is just about letting out... It's the only time I'd ever call living in Seattle "magical."

Annnnnnnnd, even though I'm without my original Jo and Meg this year (not to mention Laurie), it's just about time to pop this favorite into the DVD player:

Seriously, just hearing that Orchard House theme gives
bittersweet nostalgia goosepimples.