The television season is half over and to celebrate the networks are avoiding programming anything interesting. I find it absurd that at a time of year when people are hanging out at home for days on end, there's practically nothing to watch. All the good shows are in reruns. If you like sports on TV you've got it made, but otherwise you're screwed. I also noticed recently that I've been following General Hospital long enough to be on my fourth Carly. I don't watch every day but often enough to know the main characters and their relationships with one another. My favorite Carly was Sarah Brown, the first of my Carlys. Carly is a bitch but Sarah Brown made her a likeable bitch, plus she used to do something I have seen few actresses pull off in soaps or any other form. She used to laugh and cry at the same time.
The year-end best-of lists are a nightmare. I feel like I must not have been alive in 2005. I haven't seen the movies, haven't read the books, haven't listened to the records. I have spent much of 2005 reading blogs, watching television, and chasing a toddler around playgrounds. The MSM hasn't been offering me the best blogs or television shows or playgrounds of the year. Why not?
Since posting about the searches that bring visitors here, a new one has cropped up. People are asking variations on the question "does vinegar go bad"? Short answer: no. But vinegar does sometimes develop a solid substance on its surface. This is called mother, I kid you not, and if you take your mother and combine it with wine you can make your own vinegar. There are probably more steps to it than that and I haven't actually done it. Perhaps in 2006. Anyhow, if your vinegar has a mother, fear not. Strain it out and proceed as usual.
This is the first year I'm paying such close attention, but it does seem like the first Christmas season in which no one has wished me a "Merry Christmas." This could be because my world is peopled with well-intentioned liberals who fear offending anyone with their holiday greetings, especially someone they know doesn't celebrate Christian holidays. But most of the people who wish me whatever they wish me don't know what I celebrate or don't celebrate. They're just being inclusive or conforming to the new norm. "Happy Holidays" is less direct than the phrases it replaces, "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Chanukah" or "Happy New Year." "Happy Holidays" is weak and vague. It really means, "Merry Christmas unless you don't celebrate Christmas, in which case Happy Whatever-it-is-you-celebrate." The thing I really don't like is that the coincidence of Christmas and Chanukah makes Christmas people think that Chanukah is more important than it actually is. Sometimes I feel like getting all pissy and saying, "If you didn't have a holiday this time of year, you would never have heard of mine."
At the same time, it is "the holidays." School is out, the kid's day care has the week off, we're traveling to be with family, everything feels festive. I like Christmas music, at least the old tunes like "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and the really old ones like "Come All Ye Faithful" and "Greensleeves." I like tasteful decorations and lights and I love seeing Christmas trees in people's houses. "Happy Holidays" secularizes the celebratory mode that takes hold of the whole culture in late December and in a way the demagogues who don't like it are right: it is about draining religion out of the season. For people like me, "the holidays" includes the experience of all of these Christmastime things without including the celebration of Christmas, the observance of a holiday in honor of Christ. I cheerfully wish "Happy Holidays" to everyone I see and everyone wishes it back to me. No one seems to be muttering under their breath, "Godless pinko Jew punk!"
I never understood eggnog until recently I noticed some intriguing suggestions linking eggnog and ice cream. It turns out that eggnog is basically ice cream soup. The ingredients are pretty much the same. I prefer my winter libations a little less rich and milky so in place of the nog I recommend a Manhattan cocktail. If all goes well, I'll be bathing in these from here to Epiphany.
Chill a cocktail glass by filling it with ice cubes and cold water. Put four or five ice cubes in the container of a cocktail shaker and add a healthy glug of sweet red vermouth, four shakes of the Angustura bitters, and about two normal drinks' worth of whiskey or, if you're hardcore Wisconsin, brandy. My favorite liquor in Manhattans is Canadian Club but Maker's Mark bourbon is just as good and brandy's not at all bad. I also like to add a drop of maraschino cherry liquid. Serious drinkers would laugh, so at your own risk. Now you stir the cocktail, swirl it around really, and strain it into the cocktail glass (emptied of its ice bath). The garnish is a cherry or three, never two, impaled on a toothpick. Splurge for the expensive cherries by all means. I don't but I really should. E won't go near Emily Gilmore drinks like these but when I make them she does demand that I feed her maraschino cherries.
We embark tomorrow for the Land of Slow Connections, so posting will be sporadic at best until the very end of 2005. I do hope to photograph some of my mother's cooking while we're visiting. Her food might be a bit camera shy but I plan to be persuasive.