holidays

  • kwooa7qa1589g4e3jypn 0b34d

    Well folks, Fox News has broadcasted yet another embarrassingly confusing approach to political sensitivity, this one so absurd, it is liable to make you laugh until your eggnog comes shooting out your nose.

    Personally, I've never considered the importance of gender equality in the sphere of cookies, pastries, and other baked goods. In fact, I've never thought about food having gender at all. But Tammy Bruce, a Fox News Consultant, says it only makes sense, after being bullied into censorship for one's whole life, that the small things become a "tipping point." And the last straw for her is being told she ought to call gingerbread men "gingerbread people."

    Yes, you read that right! Tammy Bruce stated in a conversation with Fox News host Tucker Carlson that what tipped her over the edge is the suggestion that anyone would consider calling gingerbread men "gingerbread people," because "obviously, they're men."

    The Huffington Postreports that the conversation was sparked by recent events in a coffee shop on the grounds of Scottish Parliament. The coffee shop decided to start calling the cookies "gingerbread people" as part of a drive against sexism in Parliament. But for Bruce and Carlson, it is an attack on their free speech and, well, they aren't going to stand for it!

    Tucker Carlson responded to Bruce in an even more inflammatory matter: "So, maybe the lesson is that some of us shouldn't participate in our own spiritual neutering and that we should, at every step along the way, say 'I'm not complying with that.'

    I told you it was funny. At least they gave us a new holiday game, which I encourage you to join: every time you call a gingerbread cookie a "gingerbread person" this holiday, you get one point for "spirtually neutering" those at Fox News who feel the need to gender the world - even our belovedly ambiguous gingerbread cookies.

    Top Photo: Fox News

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  • Happy Christmas by Viggo Johansen 1891 e1544470500415 9b7f6

    There’s nothing more quintessentially Christmas than a Victorian Christmas, complete with mistletoe, tinsel, and candles on the tree. But there was more to Victorian holiday decorating than tinsel and candles. Just like us, many Victorians had a fondness for glitter and gold. In my new Victorian Christmas romance A Holiday By Gaslight, there’s a scene in which the guests at a country house party decorate for Christmas by gilding acorns and artificially frosting the tips of holly and ivy leaves with crystals. These Victorian decorating ideas didn’t originate in my fevered authorial brain. They were actual methods used to create glittering, gold-flaked, holiday cheer.

    An issue of the Delineator from 1900 declares that “one of the handsomest effects” for the Christmas tree was “having the tips of the green boughs glittering with crystals and reflecting the lights in many brilliant colors.” It goes on to state that:

    “One would suppose, at first sight of the glittering display, that some expensive method was necessary to produce the effect, but the process of covering the green twigs with crystals is very cheap and simple.”

    At this juncture, I feel it necessary to warn you that you should definitely NOT try this at home. Many recipes the Victorians employed for decorating were highly toxic and not at all safe for use. The information provided below is purely for your historical edification.

    The Christmas Tree by Albert Chevallier Tayler 1911 e1544471938356 2a54fThe Christmas Tree by Albert Chevallier Tayler, 1911.

    To produce the effect of glittering crystals on Christmas tree branches, the Delineator recommends the application of a solution of alum and boiled water. The recipes reads as follows:

    “Put into a bucket a pound or more of alum and pour a gallon of boiling water upon it. Place the tree in such a position that the tips of the boughs may remain in this solution for some hours— perhaps overnight. Repeat the process until as many boughs are tipped with crystals as will make the tree very beautiful; or, if preferred, cut off the twigs, crystallize them and fix them again on the boughs.”

    This method of frosting could also be used to create crystals on the leaves of holly and ivy. The 1881 edition of Arthur’s Illustrated Home Magazine describes one method for doing so, writing: 

    “On one pound of alum, pour a quart of boiling water. Whilst still warm, suspend the leaves in it by a string tied round the stalks; leave them in for twenty-four hours and then hang them up till dry.” 

    Arthur’s also offers a few more methods for creating snow-like crystals on Christmas tree branches. One was by coating the surface of the branches and leaves with gum solution and then “sprinkling thickly with flour.” Another, used to create an effect that resembled hoar frost, was to drape white cotton wool over the branches and then:

    “Drop gum upon the wool, wherever frost would naturally form, and sprinkle coarse Epsom salts over it.”

    As an alternative to Epsom salts, a Victorian could purchase “frosted glass, ready crushed.” Or, for an even cheaper solution, Arthur’s advises its readers to:

    “…crush with a garden roller, any pieces of glass, such as old bottles, which have been saved up during the summer for this purpose.”

    Christmas Tree by Alexei Korin 1910 5ae28Christmas Tree by Alexei Korin, 1910.

    Along with frosted branches, gilded acorns and walnuts were also very popular Victorian Christmas decorations. Golden fruits were very much in style as well. According to the Delineator:

    “Golden fruit is popular on frost-tipped Christmas trees and reminds one of the orange-tree bearing the ripened fruit in an early frost or snow-storm.”

    Gilding requires far less explanation than frosting. For this, Victorian simply used gold leaf. However, for something like Christmas decorations, there were less expensive methods for gilding fruits and nuts. The Delineator advises its readers to:

    “Hammer a long tack into the end of the walnut by which to suspend it after gilding. Using a feather or soft brush, wash the nut with mucilage; then roll it in gold powder until it is well gilded; or, cover it with tin foil in imitation of gold leaf or paint it with gold paint.”

    I hope the above gives you some idea of how Victorians created gilding and frosting on their Christmas decorations. For more Victorian Christmas cheer, check out my new Victorian Christmas romance A Holiday By Gaslight!

    Top photo: Happy Christmas by Viggo Johansen, 1891.

    This article originally appeared on MimiMatthews.com and is reprinted here with permission.

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  • ThanksgivingForTwo 691ad

    All the classics of this holiday meal, scaled down for a socially distanced celebration.

    My mom’s idea of Thanksgiving dinner was a far cry from the traditional turkey, stuffing, and apple pie suppers my school pals were having. Mom opted for Empire Kosher chicken (roasted with no seasoning whatsoever), canned asparagus, and, if we were lucky, an Entenmann’s cake shaped like a turkey. In my adult years, Thanksgiving became what I call an orphan supper. I’d invite my friends over who either had no family or wished they didn’t, and put together a bountiful potluck supper laced with love. (If you don’t get the family you want by blood, get it by choice—this is especially true in my gay community.) Of course, lots of issues come up with T-Day: on the top of my list is how friggin’ horrible its colonial roots are. Plus this year, we’ve also got Corona to contend with! Which means swapping large, glorious gatherings for intimate settings. So I’m cooking a Thanksgiving dinner for two, using it as an occasion to be grateful for my chosen family, the indigenous history of the land I live on, and the foods I find most comfort in. (If you’re decolonizing your diet, take only what works for you!) Then I’m inviting a slew of my favorite people to join me from their own suppers on Zoom.

    Yum Town Turkey Thighs

    I think white meat turkey is an abomination. I’m a thigh girl all the way—the dark meat is so much sexier and more interesting. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Dry two turkey thighs with paper towels. Rub all over with salt, pepper, and paprika. Melt a stick of sweet butter, mix with a few smidgens of chopped fresh rosemary and fresh thyme, and a good plop of mustard (any kind will do). Toss the seasoned turkey thighs in the herb mustard butter, getting it under the skin, too. Slice up two white onions. I like to cut them into half-moon shapes, but float your boat. 

    Drizzle a little olive oil into a baking pan and spread it around. Put the onions in the bottom and lay turkey thighs on top, skin side up. 

    Roast for about one hour, or until your meat thermometer says 170 degrees. I always baste once or twice along the way with drippings. Let the thighs rest for 10 to 15 minutes tented under foil before carving—it makes it way better.

    Simple, Glorious Baked Sweet Potatoes

    I’ve tried all kinds of fancy shmancy Thanksgiving sweet potato dishes, but I always go back to simple, baked spuds. Wash (I mean really scrub) and dry one average-size sweet potato for every person you want to feed (leave that gorgeous skin on, it’s got loads of nutrition). Poke holes with a fork around the potato, a few times on each side. Lay on a baking pan lined with parchment or foil, because it will get messy! Roast at 400 degrees F until a fork stuck into the sweet potato comes out easily, probably 40 to 50 minutes. Cut open that sweet potato and slather with butter or vegan butter, salt, and pepper—it’s pure heaven. 

    Gotta Love the Sprouts

    Buy one bunch or package of fresh Brussels sprouts. Trim hard ends and any funky outer leaves, then cut each sprout in half the long way. Toss sprouts in olive oil, kosher salt, and fresh ground pepper. Lay them on a baking sheet and roast in oven at 400 degrees F until sprouts look brown and feel soft, about 30 minutes. Sprouts may look a bit burnt—that’s fabulous. Eat them plain, or mix a few dashes of Sriracha with a good plop of honey and toss the hot cooked sprouts in it for sweet and spicy glory.

    Basic, Fabulous Cranberry Sauce

    In a saucepan over low heat, mix up a half coffee cup of sugar, a few smidgens of brown sugar, a half coffee cup of orange juice, and a half coffee cup of water. Cook over low heat until sugar dissolves. Dump in a bag of fresh cranberries. Cook until the cranberries are all soft, about 10 minutes. Then turn up the heat a little and cook until the cranberries all burst. Reduce heat to low and cook until everything looks nice and cranberry saucy (another 10 to 15 minutes more). I like to throw in a good pinch of salt to even out the sweetness and a good pinch of fresh ground black pepper for a little zing. I have also been known to toss in a dash of hot sauce. Hey, why not? 

    By Chef Rossi
    Photographed by Ify Yani

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  • sally 5c6a7

    With the holidays right around the corner, and a huge assortment of seasonal films available to warm up your heart, it’s essential to pick the right flick that best suits your zodiac sign. Taking it one step further, we found films featuring the ideal female leads for each sign. Stir up the hot chocolate and grab some gingerbread cookies, prepare to enjoy the movie that best matches your zodiac sign, based on strong female characters who saved the holidays. Enjoy!

    Aries (March 21-April 19): Sally Albright from When Harry Met Sally

    sally cc779
    Sally, like the sign Aries, is a successful writer who knows what she wants and doesn’t settle for anything less (even her food orders are direct and to the point). She argues her views throughout the film, stressing her needs, desires, and wishes—only to realize at a New Year’s Eve party, love was right in front of her the whole time.

    Taurus (April 20-May 20): Julia Biggs from The Preacher’s Wife

    preacherswife 21515

    With her amazing singing voice, loving smile, and strong personality, Julia Biggs takes on the Venusian qualities of the sign Taurus. Not to mention she even charms an angel into falling in love with her beauty and grace, much like the alluring Bull.

    Gemini (May 21-June 20): Rachel and Cheryl from Almost Christmas

    almostchristmas a6dfd

    These two sisters butt heads throughout the film, ultimately competing to see who can prepare the better Christmas meal. Their sibling rivalry (which resembles the dualistic nature of twin sign Gemini) comes to an end when they realize blood is thicker than water, and they decide to help each other enter each of their respectable new phases of life.

    Cancer (June 21-July 22): Mary Hatch from It’s a Wonderful Life

    maryhatch 6bb3a

    When she finds out her husband’s bank is in financial dire straits, Mary enlists the town to help out. Using her protective Cancerian energy, Mary utilizes her inner strength to save the town, the bank, and her husband’s demise.

    Leo (July 23-August 22): Shelby from The Best Man Holiday

    shelby b5e5a

    Shelby roars out her big ego and star quality throughout the film, much like the sign Leo. However, Shelby also has a softer, loyal, and generous side to her—which resembles the dedicated lion—all that make her a dependable and trustworthy friend—even if she has a hard time showing it.

    Virgo (August 23-September 22): Lucille “Lucy” van Pelt from A Charlie Brown Christmas

    lucy 09e85

    Using her rigid and opinionated views, Lucy dictates the merriments of the holiday, even scorning her brother, Linus, and Charlie Brown for not obeying her orders. While Virgos may not be as austere as Lucy, she resembles the Mercurial sign because of her investment in working hard and patience to help her BFF and brother have a wonderful holiday.

    Libra (September 23-October 22): Iris and Amanda from The Holiday

    theholiday 468cf

    Looking for love in all the wrong places forces Iris and Amanda to swap homes for the holidays, only for them to restore balance, tenderness, and peace through love (again), much like endearing Libra.

    Scorpio (October 23–November 22): Sue from Bad Santa

    badsanta 7bb4a

    Even with her fetish for Santa Claus, Sue manages to bring holiday cheer by transforming Thurman’s life to become more regimented and steady. Just like the sign Scorpio, Sue uses her hardiness and inner strength to reshape and rebuild her life, as well as Thurman’s, bringing hope, love, and kindness to the holiday.

    Sagittarius (November 22-December 21):Georgia Byrd from Last Holiday

    lastholiday 81362
    Upon learning she has an incurable illness, penny-pinching Georgia Byrd jets off to Europe to live like a Queen (no pun intended)—much like indulgent Sagittarius. She teaches us all to live in the moment and embrace life.

    Capricorn (December 22-January 19): Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas

    days 0a52b

    Much like steadfast Capricorn, Sally uses her determination escape the constraints of Dr. Finklestein and help Jack save Halloweentown. Her sweet and shy demeanor resembles the earthy characteristics of Capricorn, who is the ultimate savior (like Sally) of the zodiac.

    Aquarius (January 20-February 18): Cindy Lou Who from How the Grinch Stole Christmas

    cindylouwho 5ddef

    Cindy Lou Who uses her innocent humanitarianism, like the sign Aquarius, to act as the moral compass in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Cindy Lou Who opts to fill her cup with love, not presents, much like Aquarius, teaching us all a lesson on materialism during the holidays.

    Pisces (February 19 to March 20): Ghost of Christmas Present from Scrooged

    christmaspresent 73827

    By showing Frank his wrongdoings, the Ghost of Christmas Present uses her magic to inspire him to change, much like Pisces, who has the ability to transcend through and heal through mysticism.

    Top image: the Nightmare Before Christmas

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