Megan and Amanda Talk Amongst Themselves

Today and tomorrow, Amanda and I discuss whatever crosses our minds. Please comment with whatever crosses your mind.

Megan: Last Thursday morning, I went to a local gourmet shop to pick up some cranberry-walnut bread for that day’s festive holiday meal (see: Thanksgiving, Turkey Day, Can’t Get Off The Couch, Football Fiesta, et al). We arrived about half an hour after the store had opened, and the proprietor told me the bread had just arrived:

“The truck got caught in Thanksgiving Day Parade traffic (it was coming from Manhattan, home to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade). Not like it doesn’t happen every year and you can’t anticipate it!”

I laughed, ‘cause duh, annual events are entirely predictable (Except for Chinese New Year, that one always takes me by surprise).

Amanda: I don’t think I even notice Chinese New Year’s, though I wouldn’t mind going to a party like that if someone would invite me..

BTW, the truck people should have said the giant Hello Kitty balloon (my favorite, natch) fell on them and squashed the bread. That would make a better story.

M: Except—oh, damn, I forgot to even THINK about Christmas. Not like I didn’t know it was coming. I do love the season, but man, is it stressful. A constant ticking clock reminding you that it’s 23-22-21-20 days until Christmas, and are you ready? Have you taken advantage of the free shipping yet? How is your budget? What about your distant friends and the line at the post office?

A: Hey, I bought a lot of stuff on the big online sale Monday! I got 20% off Bobbi Brown lip balms (which I wear all the time), some sweaters from J. Crew. I haven’t used my $15 off coupon from Sephora yet. Oh, and I bought a great book called “Read My Heart: A Love Story in England’s Age of Revolution.” Come to think of it, though, none of these things are presents, except to me. And my budget is already in the hole. I better find some more bargains immediately!

M: This year, my husband and I are buying a BIG TICKET item for our nine year-old son (sometimes he eyedrops on the blog, so I’m not saying what it is). He and I generally get an assortment of clothing and books. Sometimes Scott likes to challenge himself by NOT getting me books, which is also sometimes my not-as-favorite gift exchange times. Hm.

Anyway, I’ve already gotten Scott an argyle sweater vest, a money clip with a typewriter key “F” on it, and a book on the science of food and cooking (he does not blog eyedrop). Not sure what else to get, since we’re also getting new windows for ourselves. Nothing says holiday like new windows. Sigh.

A: I know the feeling. I need new brakes on the car. Merry Christmas to me! I’d rather spend the money on nail polish and new books.

M: Ah, nail polish! For some reason, that seems like the ultimate luxury to me; probably because not only do you spend money on the polish itself, but you also have to find time where you don’t need your hands while the polish dries.

A: That is when it’s a good time to watch “Pride and Prejudice” for the 651st time and call it research. By the time the Netherfield ball rolls around, the nails are dry!

M: Oh, bliss. I use ironing the husband’s shirts as an excuse to watch MI-5 (Matthew MacFadyen with his blinky blue eyes, mm). Dunno if I could justify all the hours of P&P for my fingernails. Must see if I can.

A: Do a pedicure, too! Lots of time for that.

M: Amanda, who do you buy for?

A: I’ve managed to pare down my gift list to parents, brother, a few friends—oh, and the dogs. Yes, I buy the dogs gifts, but usually only sweaters and chew bones. My Poodle Abigail, aka the Scourge of Squirrels, is getting a great new toy called Hide a Squirrel. She will probably disembowel it in the first five minutes and want another toy.

M: Hide The Squirrel sounds really naughty, honestly. Maybe for that erotic zoologist story you’ve been planning?

A: LOL! I once had an idea for an erotic botanist, but erotic zoologist might make more sense…
Everyone else is getting books, and Starbucks cards. Maybe a DVD or two.

If anyone is looking to get me something, there was an eBay auction for a commemorative fan from the wedding of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI. The opening bid was only $2600, a bargain!

But in reality I asked for books, and sent everyone my wishlist from Tartx. (I’m really liking the Madame de Pompadour pendant, if anyone just MUST get me a present, LOL)

M: What is your favorite holiday food? Your least favorite?

A: I don’t like pumpkin pie, and yet I do like pumpkin cheesecake. And anything made of chocolate is always welcome at my house. (that cranberry bread you bought on Thanksgiving sounds yummy, too)

M: My favorite holiday food are the homemade donuts my mother-in-law makes on Christmas Eve. I know I’ve waxed on them before, but really—think about it—homemade donuts?!? How can it get any better? I also like the Prosecco and pomegranate juice Scott gives me on Christmas Eve (probably so I won’t complain too much about spending another holiday with his family. All I can say is, he’s lucky I have an untraditional family).

M: What weird McCabe traditions does your family have (beyond the usual)?

A: Well, my father always makes his “famous” margaritas on Christmas Eve. They really are stupendous, but very strong! Somebody usually ends up doing something crazy (not to name names, but it’s usually my brother…)

A: What about the Framptons? And are there any trads we should start here at RR?

M: Heh. For a few years, we would drive around the neighborhood looking at crazy Christmas lights. I love excess when it comes to holiday decorating. Scott and I had a conflict of family when we first started dating, because I would wrap gifts in newspapers and get clever with the gift tags, whereas he is totally traditional wrapping paper/fancy bow/To and From. Once we sorted that out, we meshed okay. Which is to say, I eschewed my grubby ways and embraced traditionalism. I still pine for the rhinestone-encrusted puffer fish my mom put on our Christmas tree, though.

A: Okay, I would pay good money to find a rhinestone puffer fish. I love, love, love tacky holiday decorations! I’ve been wanting one of those snowglobe inflatables to go in my tiny front yard. One that looks like a fabulous holiday aquarium would be the BEST.

M: Gotta clarify: My mom went to the Boston Aquarium, and bought actual puffer fish, then spray-painted them gold and silver and stuck old rhinestones in their eyes.

And I am DYING for a vintage blow-mold Santa Claus to put on top of the little roof on top of the foyer.

M&A ask you: What is your favorite holiday food? Your least favorite? What are your idiosyncratic traditions?

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Amanda McCabe
13 years ago

Oh, and I forgot about the “Pride and Prejudice” board game–I would love to have that, too! But I would need Risky visitors to play it with, no one here would 🙂

Megan Frampton
13 years ago

Amanda, either we scared everyone with our meandering, or we wrote so long they’re all still reading.

If you get the P&P board game, I’ll play next Nationals!

Margaret Evans Porter
13 years ago

I was watching Matthew MacFadyen in the new Little Dorrit being broadcast in the UK. He’s put on a considerable amount of weight. Unless he was padded, but his face was so plump–compared to the way he looked as Darcy–that I doubt it.

13 years ago

Oh, holiday food! All of my favorites are from the many years my family spent in Germany when I was a kid. On Dec. 6th (St. Nicholas) we would awake to yummy yeast bread (kind of like challah bread) men with golden raisins as eyes and buttons that my mother used to bake – and open the little presents in the stockings.

For the holiday season itself, I’ve been completely addicted to Spekulatius – a German spiced Christmas cookie full of ginger, cinnamon and cardamom. They’re devilishly hard to find. I’ve resorted to begging care packages from my friends in Europe.

The other favorite is Gluhwein (mulled wine)! And our local Christmas market used to make little hard candies that tasted like Gluhwein but alcohol-free for my underaged consuming pleasure.

Hmm, clearly I need to plan a trip back soon!

Diane Gaston
13 years ago

Sorry ladies. I had to put hair color on my hair. It was an emergency. People were mistaking me for a skunk, my white stripe was so wide.

You two sure do chat. How nice for us.

Favorite holiday food: My mother’s frosted sugar cookies. You know, the kind that are cut outs. We have Christmas trees, reindeer, stars and circles.

Idiosyncratic traditions: We used to hang our stockings on the bar that locks our patio door. Now we can hang them over the fireplace, thanks to those cool temporary hooks you can buy.

Megan Frampton
13 years ago

Margaret, I googled images of MacFadyen, and I think you’re right! He looks all puffy, not nearly as cute. Darn it.

Elena Greene
13 years ago

Those puffer fish ornaments sound so weird and brilliant, Megan!

Our own holidays are pretty unconventional because we celebrate Hannukah and Christmas with a dash of pagan winter solstice for good measure.

This year we will have our immediate family “Christmas” (we do that the weekend before heading out to my parents for the actual holiday) on the same date as the start of Hannukah. So we’ll be opening presents under the tree in the morning and lighting the menorah, eating latkes and playing dreidel in the evening. It works for us. 🙂

Over the past few years I have simplified both celebrations a bit, scaling back gifts, etc… because losing my mind was never the point, I think!

For anyone finding the holidays too stressful, I highly recommend a book/workshop called Unplug the Christmas Machine.

Elena Greene
13 years ago

Oh, as for favorite holiday foods, a Lithuanian cookie called medauninkai, made with honey and spices.

Least favorite–smoked eel is part of the traditional Lithuanian Christmas Eve dinner. People say it’s delicious but I have never gotten over my childhood fears enough to try it.

Amanda McCabe
13 years ago

“He’s put on a considerable amount of weight.”

Oh, no, Margaret! Don’t disillusion me!!!

For some reason, I am not hungry for cookies. A friend of mine makes wonderful gingerbread ones with a sugary cream cheese icing, and my mother makes a sort sugar-fruit cookie. Lois, those German cookies sound wonderful! Have you ever tried to make them myself?

Amanda McCabe
13 years ago

Oops, that was meant to be “now” not “not”. Sadly, I am never not hungry for cookies…

13 years ago

Matthew MacFadyn the puffer fish. He had put on weight when I watched Death at a Funeral. But I’ve put on weight, too, so I’m not without sympathy. (Although I am clearly not anyone’s screen obsession, lol, and hence blissfully free from that “weighty” responsibility.)

Amanda, I ordered Tartx bookmarks for my girlfriends. The bookmarks are lovely and fit my unemployed budget this year. I love Tartx!

Diane, I’m famous for my sugar cookie cut-outs. My sisters request them every year. My younger sister is in India (scary) and will miss the holiday, but I have orders to save cookies for her return in January. Last year I shipped a box of See’s chocolates to her. Can’t get them in India!

We are holiday simpatico. On X-mas eve my daughter and I get hot chocolates and drive around with the windows down looking at lighted houses and singing along to christmas music. It’s kinda sleigh-like.

We also do funny tags, making them from a personage who offers a clue to what’s inside.
Your desire for a light-up Santa takes me right back to the small Wisconsin town where I lived as a child, and I bet that puffer fish was awesome!

Megan Frampton
13 years ago

Smoked eel, ugh.

Janegeorge, my husband makes an annual Xmas disc (he collects Xmas music), and we play that while driving around, too. So yes, way simpatico!

Cara King
13 years ago

Jane George wrote: Matthew MacFadyn the puffer fish.


My favorite holiday foods: pumpkin pie, mince pie, latkes, and stuffing.

Traditions: watching Oscar-bait movies!

And I like music, too. At my grade school, about half the kids were Jewish, and about half were some sort of Christian, so at our holiday concert we always sang every Hannukah song ever written (there aren’t that many of them) and changed as many Christmas songs to holiday songs that we could — and we still had half of the songs be Christmas songs. But one of the nicest things about it was that we weren’t always singing the same-old same-old songs — and some of those songs I wish I heard more nowadays…


13 years ago

Mmmm lemme see…

I am the youngest of five and my mother used to makes us sing carols for the guests (and there were always guests for Christmas Eve’s big dinner).

When the grandkids started coming, she wrote a Nativity play and made the kids act it out. It was actually good 😀

We would have dinner around ten PM and start opening presents at the stroke of midnight, solemnly calling each name and handing one present at a time. With anywhere between forty and sixty people each year, it becomes a long, noisy, messy process.

Now that my mother sold her big house and is moving to a two bedroom apartment, we’ll have to figure out a new way of celebrating Christmas, I guess 😉

Janet Mullany
13 years ago

Fave holiday food: Thanksgiving/Xmas sludge–what you get when you mix leftover mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and cranberries. It’s best eaten with a spoon while wearing easily-washed clothes (altho I’d say that’s the case for most things I eat). As far as I’m concerned I could bypass the turkey altogether.

I loved MacFadyen in MI5–all the cast, in fact. What a great series. BBC American isn’t carrying any more of them, last I heard, because they claim there isn’t an audience for TV drama. Boo hiss. Maybe PBS will come through.

I want a cordless drill for Xmas. I suffer from severe tool envy.

13 years ago

Oh boy, food. . . well, as soon as Thanksgiving comes, I know I get to have the turkey dinner again on Christmas! We just never really have a lot of leftovers, which is oh so upsetting to me. LOL 🙂

Traditions. . . well, I could never get Mom to not open the presents on Christmas Eve and wait to Christmas Day. Sigh. Never works. LOL 🙂


13 years ago

I will admit…I actually like fruitcake. I make a mean cherry-date-pecan fruit cake that’s to die for.

Mmm…I think I’ll make some very soon!!

Louisa Cornell
13 years ago

Can you get the MI5 series on DVD here in the States. I have never seen it. Okay, Matthew is going to HAVE to quit eating Keeley’s home cooking and hit the gym!

Favorite Christmas food? My Mom’s chicken and dumplings made completely from scratch using the enamelware bowl that belonged to my Mawmaw. And then there is her Japanese fruit cake and Lane cake. Oh and her Divinity and Chocolate fudge! COME ON CHRISTMAS!!!

I buy gifts for all of my pets too and they each have their own stocking – bone shaped for the dogs and fish shaped for the cats. And believe it or not my single wide trailer has a real fireplace so I have a very crowded mantel come Christmas time.

13 years ago

Cherry date pecan fruitcake, mmmm!
Fellow fruit cake lover, here.

Amanda McCabe
13 years ago

Michelle, your cake sounds delicious! My grandmother used to make a fruitcake I totally loved–not at all the stereotypical heavy-as-brick thing. So I know it can be done very well. 🙂 (plus I think hers took a whole bottle of brandy…)

Louisa I am very glad to see I’m not the only one who does stockings for the pets! My Poodle has one my mother gave her, which is embroidered “Nice” on one side and “Naughty” on the other–it gets switched back and forth depending on how she is behaving. 🙂

And I got MI5 through Netflix!

Susan Wilbanks
13 years ago

Favorite Christmas food? Martha Washington Candy. It’s easy but labor-intensive. You mix powdered sugar, sweetened condensed milk, and chopped pecans and roll it into balls, which you dip in semisweet chocolate. Sort of like truffles. I also love pecan pralines and divinity, but they’re beyond my cooking skills to make.

13 years ago

Puffer-fish ornaments would certainly help the cats get into the holiday spirit.

I like all the normal Christmas foods, and a few abnormal ones. Egg nog is good. Egg nog is very, very good. 🙂

And I must admit, I like a Christmas pudding with rum butter. And did I mention egg nog?