Monday, December 26, 2011

Another Christmas Visit By Mr. Potato Head

As we drive to Orland, Florida and suffer from candy coma, classic Christmas tunes blare from the CD player.  Seeing as how the drive's supposed to be six hours but thanks to the traffic it'll be closer to eight, there's been tons of time for me to remember some of my favorite Christmas memories.

My all time favorite was when I was only four. I'm not so sure if my memory is just that good or if it has something to do with the fact that my dad videotapped that morning, but ayways, I'll share it with you.  It was the year Toy Story had come out, and all my little sister wanted was a Mr. Potato Head.  When we'd visited Santa that year, I of course had a very exstensive list complete with a puppy, a new dolly, crayons, and multiple Disney Princess movies. But still, all she wanted was a spud of her own.  So, when we ran to the living room to see if Santa had visited, little Becky's face was probably the cutest thing ever when she saw not only Mr. Potato Head but also Mrs. Potato Head, Spud Children, and Potato Pets!  We also got a golden retreiver, named Jingles, bikes, and a Barbie Jeep that year.  Still, Becky's prized present was still Mr. Potato Head.

Which brings me to Christmas 2011.  Every year Santa always gives us each a toy along with all our growny gifts.  Joseph got Monoploy, and I got Buzz Lightyear Operation.  But Becky, she got a new Mr. Potato Head.  Her original spud muffin has long been discarded.  But that certainly didn't stop my baby sister from tearing open the packaging yesterday and rearranging his face to her favorite expression (wide-eyed with his tongue out).  She may be 19-or a least she will be on December 30th- but nothing can come between Becky and her Mr. Potato Head.  I bet she'll even take hers back to Gaineville with her when she leaves in a few weeks.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Afternoons With My Grandmothers

Christmas Cookies With Ma
It's been a tradition for as long as I can remember that each year my sister and I bake Christmas Cookies with our grandmother, Ma.  When we were little, sprinkles would hide underneath Ma's cabinets until well after Easter, but over the years, we've become quite professional.  If you'd like to start a new tradition of your own, I'd definitely suggest cookie sugar baking!  They're simple, tasty, and fun!

Ingredients for Homemade Cookie Dough:
The Dough 
  • 1 lb. butter
  • 2½ cups sugar
  • 4 Cups All Purpose Flour
  • 2 eggs 
Cream together the butter and sugar with your mixer.  Gradually add the four cups of flour.  Lastly add the two eggs.  Chill for eight hours.

After you've cut your dough into your favorite holiday shapes.  Bake for 8-10 minutes at 350ºF and enjoy!

Cutting Out the Cookies 
The Three Girls Elbow Deep in Icing 
Our Finished Product 
An Afternoon In Albany 
This afternoon, we loaded into my grandmother's Cadillac and made the 2½ hour drive to Albany, Georgia.  My great grandmother, Billie Berkshire, lives in an adorable assisted living facility down there, and we wanted to visit her before all the Christmas Craziness sets in.  She's truly the cutest little old lady ever.  She still wears makeup, fancy jewelry, holiday sweaters, and gets her hair down ever week.   She showed us her bedroom and miniature decorated tree before we settled down and gave her gifts.  We'd brought her some of our delicious homemade cookies, and when she opened the tin she exclaimed with glee that they were too pretty to eat.  She was so thoughtful.  When she found out Becky and I were coming, she insisted that one of her friends stop by the local Christian bookstore and pick us out something too.  She's so thoughtful, giving us matching stuffed reindeer.

As for lunch, she'd reserved the private dining room...yes, it's quite swanky there!  She was a little bossy to the head chef, telling him that we wanted mashed potatoes instead of the roasted ones on the menu, but seeing as how she'll be 97 in January, he just said "yes man."  After our magnificent meal (complete with specially ordered apple pie and ice cream), she showed us off to all of her friends.  My little brother, Joseph, wheeled her around as she pointed out the bingo room, the library, the garden, and the decorated doors of all her friends.

One of her best friends, Louise, is 105.  I'm pretty sure the only reason why Grandma Berkshire hangs out with her is because compared to her she's quite young and spry.  That reminds me...One of our running jokes we have about Grandma Berkshire is her age.  She constantly lies about it.  Usually, she'll tell people she's only 92, instead of her actual age of 96.   Doesn't she understand that by the time she's reached her age there really isn't much of a difference?  But today, when we asked her, she surprisingly answered truthfully.

 I hated having to leave her, but we had a long drive ahead of us and had to make it back in time for dinner.  As we were leaving, she told my grandmother, Ma, that us visiting made her Christmas.  I don't think she realized, but seeing her made mine too.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Top Ten Christmas Movies

 I've been watching quite a bit of ABC's 25 Days of Christmas but I don't always agree with their choices.  So, I decided to list my all time favorite holiday flicks. 
 If it was up to me, these top ten would be on constant repeat.

10) Eloise at Christmastime:  The precocious six-year-old Manhattanite of Kay Thompson's beloved Eloise books gets into the holiday spirit while playing cupid in this made-for-TV comedy.  Like much of the hotel staff, she's excited about the upcoming marriage of Rachel Peabody, the daughter of the hotel's owner, to handsome Brooks Oliver.  However, Eloise learns that Brook's motivations for marrying Rachel are not sincere, and so the youngster ties to sway Rachel away from her fiance and toward Bill, a good-hearted waiter in the hotel's restaurant.

9) A Little Drummer Boy:  Every time my dad watches this 1968 Christmas classic, he cries.  It's the beautiful story of an orphaned drummer boy.  He hates humanity but finds his life forever changed when he meets the three wise men on route to Bethlehem.  With its adorable animals and sweet storyline, this 30 minute movie is just perfect at helping me remember the real reason for the season.

8) White Christmas:  With its catchy tunes and beautiful costumes, no wonder I love White Christmas.  The storyline follows a successful song-and-dance team who becomes romantically involved with a sister act.  The double couple teams up to save a failing Vermont inn. Starring Bing Crosby and Danny Daye, it features the songs of Irving Berlin, including the title number "White Christmas."  It truly is a feel-good flick.

7) Rudolph:  When I first moved to Manhattan, this was the first movie I purchased all on my own.  By far it's one of my favorites.    This iconic claymation is the story of everyone's favorite red nose reindeer.  Along with Hirby the Elf and the misfit toys, they search to find a place that will accept them for what they really are.

6) The Polar Express:  On Christmas Eve, a doubting boy boards a magical train that's headed to the North Pole.  The 2004 computer-animated film is based on Chris Van Allsburg's book of the same name.  From the crazy conductor to St. Nicholas himself, Tom Hanks provides the voice for six distinct characters.  With its catchy songs and brilliant colors, it's certainly proved itself to be a modern classic.  But, it's the dance sequence of waiters who dispense hot chocolate on the train that ranks it as one of my most favorites.

5) Miracle of 34th Street:  After becoming Santa's replacement at the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Kris Kringle is hired by the event's coordinator, Doris Walker, to play the part for the flagship New York City store on 34th Street.  While Fred Gailey, an attorney and neighbor of Doris,  is babysitting the young divorcee's six-year-old daughter Susan, he takes her to see Kris.  When Doris finds out she asks Kris to tell Susan that he isn't really Santa Claus, but Kris surprises here by  insisting that he is.  It's a family friendly film filled with just enough romance.  And it wouldn't be as good if he didn't have a happily ever after.  Plus, it's available for instant watch on Netflix.

4) It's a Wonderful Life:  An angel helps George, a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman, by showing what life would have been like if he never existed.  Starring James Stewart and Donna Reed, the film has been named one of the most inspirational American films of all time.  It ends with a ringing bell of the tree, signifying that an angel has earned his wings.  George happily confirms this now realizing that while he did not get to follow his dreams of world travel, he truly has a wonderful life.

3) Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas:  ABC Family may play the 2000 Jim Carrey remake, but my favorite story of the grumpy green Grinch is the original.  It follows a hermit who hatches a plan to steal Christmas from the Whos of Whoville.  But thanks to a few words from Cindy Lou Who, he realizes the error of his ways.

2) Santa Claus is Comin' to Town:  After the truck that delivers letters to the North Pole breaks down, its mailman tells the story of how Santa Claus and several Christmas traditions came to be.  With lovable characters like Kris Kringle, the Burgermesiter, Topper the Penguin, and the Winter Warlock no wonder it's my absolute favorite animated holiday movie.  Whether you're 4 or 84, it's definitely worth watching. Plus, it's not too long.  So if you need a quick holiday fix, it's the perfect movie to watch.

1) The Santa Clause:  Hands down, The Santa Clause is the best Christmas move of all time!  Tim Allen plays Scott Calvin, a man who inadvertently kills Santa on Christmas Eve and finds himself magically recruited to take his place.  I remember seeing this movie in theaters when I was a little girl, and now each time its on (or its two sequels), I always stop what I'm doing and watch it.  Truly, it's the best holiday movie out there.  If you haven't seen it, stop what you're doing this very minute, and check it out on YouTube.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Finished With Finals

Even though I've been back in Georgia for two days, I wasn't actually finished with my finals until noon today.  Sure, I'd taken my exams, but I still had a 1500 word essay due.  Of course, once my delta flight landed Saturday at 2:30, the procrastination officially began.  It wasn't a hard assignment, but I just couldn't bring myself to write it.  That is, until 6am this morning.  But you know what, I finished it with  23 minutes to spare.

The Family Christmas Party
Part of my reason for procrastination was our family's annual Christmas party.  Yesterday, we all gathered from far and wide and spent the afternoon celebrating the season.  Even though we only get together once of twice a year, it's always a wonderful catching up session.
My Mom Gave Us These Glasses as our Advent Gift
and We Decided We Had to Take A Kid Picture 
Cute Parent Pic 

Ma and Her Granddaughters 

All the Kids Listening to Matt Read
the Real Christmas Story, Luke 2:1-14
Time to Celebrate
Now that my semester's done, it's time to celebrate.  Becky and I are watching Disney's Once Upon A Christmas on VHS.  I love its previews; the movie's from 1999, so they all  say "now available to own on video"...seriously, too cute. And, I'm excited for an entire month of fun reading.  I'm in the middle of Candace Bushnell's Lipstick Jungle, and after that it's on to Super Sad True Love Story.  The Strand displayed it as one of best books of 2011, so I'm excited if my idea of a best book matches theirs.  The third novel by American writer Gary Shteyngart, it takes place in a near-futer dystopian New York where life is dominated by media and retail.  The son of a Russian immigrant, protagonist Lenny Abramov, a middle-aged, middle class, and otherwise unremarkable man whose mentality is still in the past century, falls madly in love with Eunice Park, a young Korean-American struggling with materialism and the pressures of her traditional Korean family.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Take on the Final BCS Ranking

In a metropolitan college like NYU, sports make take a back seat to academia and the arts, but that's certainly not the case for state school across the country.  So when my journalism professor challenged us to write a commentary, I certainly had no trouble picking my football.  Here's my script for Wednesday's live webcast.  

Tonight I’d like to discuss the approaching BCS National Football Game.  On January 9th, No. 2 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide will once again take on the No. 1 ranked LSU Tigers in what some are calling “the football game of the century.”  Now, I know the Oklahoma State head coach, Mike Gundy, went on Sports Center after the Dec. 4th final ranking and questioned the appearance of two South Eastern Conference teams in the national championship.  He argues that until there’s a year without a team  from the conference ranking number one or two in regular season, all other leagues are simply be discredited when the voters are deciding on the big game matchup.  But, I’m sorry this year, there’s no questions the polls spoke the truth.  Obviously, LSU deserves to be there.  They had a pretty hard lineup playing against teams like Arkansas and Tennessee and still remained undefeated.  After they won the December 3rd SEC Championship against University of Georgia, there was pretty much no doubt on their place.  But as for the Crimson Tide, they defeated four ranked team this season, including Penn State, Arkansas, Florida and Auburn.  Sure, Alabama didn’t play for their conference title like the Oklahoma Cowboys, but that’s only because both LSU and Alabama make up the Western Division of the SEC.  Both Alabama and Oklahoma had one loss this season, so it wasn’t like voters could have chosen two team who were undefeated.  But the Cowboys lost to unranked Iowa State while the Crimson Tide was to No. 1 ranked LSU by three points in overtime.  Don’t get me wrong, Oklahoma State’s a good team; they finished the season at number three and they’ll take on Stanford at the January 2nd Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, but the polls chose correctly for the ultimate title...Alabama deserves another shoot at LSU.  And the January 9th, BCS Championship Game is gonna be a great matchup.  I know I’ll definitely be watching.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Soho Trees

Between the smell, the ornaments, and the presents underneath, most of us would agree a Christmas Tree is a staple for the holidays. But getting one in a big city like New York isn't an easy task.
 But as Ashley Thublin discovered, one company is making it a whole lot simpler. 
In fact, you don't even have to lift a finger.

Christmas Trees To-Go 
     It may not be the typical holiday tradition, but this year customers are able to place to-go orders for their Christmas trees.  
     Just like with Chinese take-out, Soho Trees offers a quick  and cheap delivery service for their busy customers.  
     "We offer a full service where as we'll actually pick out the tree for you right over the telephone," said Scott Lechner, Soho Trees Chief Operating Officers.  
     In a busy city like Manhattan, it's all about convenience.  Open 24/7 with 11 locations, they're willing to deliver at almost any time.  
    "We often deliver at unusual times like three o'clock int he morning in this crazy city of New York," Lechner said; "You get in touch and we'll get you a tree." 

Will it be right for you? 
     But will they pick out the right one for you?  Lechner says each tree is chosen with care.  They pick it out as if it were going in their home.  
     Whether you select it yourself or had your tree delivered, don't forget to ask for an extra inch to be cut off before you stick it in the stand.  And, give you tree about a gallon of water each day to make sure that fragrant evergreen scent lasts the whole month of December. 

To see NYC's 20 Best Holiday Attractions, click here.
More Than Just Trees 
     But Soho Trees is more than just greenery.  They're a one-stop shop for all your holiday needs.  From blow-up snowmen to stockings, wooden-reindeer, and singing puppies, they've got it all.  
     "We offer a full array of products that aren't available in most Christmas tree stands," said Lechner. 
     Santa visits every Sunday, and they even have a team of decorators and light experts.  
     As for their prices, wreaths range from 40-55 dollars, while box ornaments cost about 10.  On average, a seven foot tree cost about $140.  For more information, visit their website, 

And if you're in the mood for Step-By-Step
Instruction on Simple Christmas Crafts...
Click Here  Or Click Here

Happy Anniversary to My Blog!

Happy one year anniversary to my blog, Southerner in the City.  That's right, this day last year was my first ever post about keeping true to my Southern roots while embracing the Manhattan lifestyle.  Over 120 blurbs have been written with topics ranging from interning with Good Housekeeping to my lack of a love life.  Hopefully, I've suggested books you'd like to read and given you some good recipes and crafts too.  It's been tons of fun to write, but I'm just getting started.  Here's to another wonderful year!

My Friday was blissfully mundane.  I started class at my usual 8am time slot, then spent a few hours in my second home (a.k.a. the Journalism building) before my three hour Resource Center shift.  The Arts Collateral had its very own destressing event for Lafayette residents, so I got to spent an hour doing one of my favorite things...baking cupcakes.  As for this evening, I spent it wth my Brooklyn babies eating pizza and watching Harry Potter movies.  It may not seem so out of the ordinary, but for me it was just the tiny break I nereded a I gear upo for finals week.

Oh. One last thing, as I was going through my "archives," I noticed I never included my alltime favorite Christmas cookie recipe.  They're called Seven Layer Cookies, and for our family, no special event would be complete without them. They're quite tasty and super simple.


1/4 lb. butter
1 c. crushed graham crackers
1 c. angel flakes coconut
1 pkg. Nestle chocolate chips (6 oz.)
1 pkg. Nestle butterscotch chips (6 oz.)
1 can sweetened condensed milk, NOT evaporated milk
1 c. walnuts meats, chopped

Melt butter in an 9 x 13 inch pan. Add layer by layer (do not mix) above ingredients in order listed.
Bake 32 minutes at 350 degrees in an aluminum pan OR 28 minutes at 350 degrees if a glass dish is used. Cut into bars when cool.  ENJOY!

**Note, because of the way most of these ingredients are packaged, I usually make two at a time.  If you're doing that, just buy an additional can of sweetened, condensed milk and have an extra stick of butter on hand.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

My Ode to Crate and Barrel

I've officially discovered my new favorite spot in the City. . .Crate and Barrel.  I know, I know it sounds a little silly, but seriously, I love everything about this store.  I was walking home from the gym last night and decided I'd take a quick look inside.  They had a cute Christmas plate in the window, so I just figured what the heck I could use another holiday decoration.  Walking through the doors was like entering a Sussie Homemaker paradise.  A few of my favorites finds include a spatula with cupcake imprints, a candy cane shaped pan, recycled sari garland, tons of ornaments, and so many plates.  Resisting the urge to buy it all was hard, and I ended up buying  the cutest Christmas cup.  Dancing elves and tiny snowflakes decorate its sides, but I think it was this super cute advertisement that sealed the deal.  When I left the store, my wallet may have been a little lighter but I had a wonderful red bag filled with precious presents to show for  it.  But, I'm a little scared I may be addicted.  After a full day of studying-I literally spent eight hours sitting in the same chair of Kimmel working on two paper-the only thing I wanted to do was eat a bowl of ice cream (even though it was 40º outside) and wander around Crate and Barrel.  Obviously, I knew their merchandise wouldn't have changed from yesterday, but I needed to see their bright and colorful decorations just the same.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Decorating the Dorm

My Sparkly Pink
 Christmas Tree

Today may only be December 2nd, but my seasonal celebrations have already begun.  On Thanksgiving morning, I turned on the Pandora Holiday Station, and it won't be changed until well after the New Year.   I've already watched Rudolph and drank the first gingerbread latte of the year.  Even when I was at work yesterday, the little boy I babysit was playing "What Child is This" and "Jolly Old St. Nicholas" on the piano.  Each day leading up to Christmas, I  also get to open an advent treat.  A few years ago, Momma started this tradition, and even though I may be living 1000 miles away, she makes sure I have a special surprise.  It's nothing too  big (yesterday I got cupcake shaped post-its and today Big Red), but unwrapping the trinkets sure do put a smile on my face.  And of course, I wouldn't be my momma's daughter unless my apartment looked like Santa's elves decorated it.  As soon as I got back from the airport Monday night, I set up a tiny tree, hung my stocking, and changed the plate rack to include candy canes.  I even made a pitstop at the Union Square Holiday Market after class today.  I found my baby sister the cutest birthday gift--hopefully she'll like it.  And tomorrow morning, I'll be heading over to SohoTrees; my next story will feature the local company and the whimsical way they do Christmas.  If you ask me, it really is the most wonderful time of the year!

Gingerbreads, Candy Canes, and Ornaments-How I Love My Plates