The folks in Moosehead Lake must keep the local taxidermists busy, because you see stuffed animal heads everywhere you go. And when the holiday season rolls around, they can’t resist decorating them with Santa caps and seasonal colors.
Beary Christmas, everyone! And a Moosey New Year, too!
We’re at the point in the holiday season where many of us have begun to experience Christmas music soundtrack overload, and we feel like we might go into a saccharine sentiment coma if we hear It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year even one more time. That’s why You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch has become such an essential part of the holiday season. You can be sitting in a restaurant, hearing a standard mix of songs like Up On The Housetop and Frosty the Snowman, and then suddenly detect the strains of You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch cutting directly through the sugar content, and you find yourself using your best super-deep voice to sing about bad bananas with greasy black peels.
Written as a key part of the TV broadcast of How The Grinch Stole Christmas that was first broadcast in 1966, the music for You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch was composed by Albert Hague, and the song was memorably sung for the TV show by Thurl Ravenscroft, the same actor who voiced Tony the Tiger and his “they’re great!” catchphrase. But it is the lyrics to the song–penned by Dr. Seuss himself–that are a hilarious revelation and a wonderful antidote to the unrelenting spun sugar sweetness of most holiday soundtracks. Here they are, in all their glory:
You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch You really are a heel You’re as cuddly as a cactus, you’re as charming as an eel, Mr. Grinch You’re a bad banana with a greasy black peel!
You’re a monster, Mr. Grinch Your heart’s an empty hole Your brain is full of spiders, you’ve got garlic in your soul, Mr. Grinch I wouldn’t touch you with a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole!
You’re a vile one, Mr. Grinch You have termites in your smile You have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile, Mr. Grinch Given a choice between the two of you I’d take the seasick crocodile!
You’re a foul one, Mr. Grinch You’re a nasty-wasty skunk Your heart is full of unwashed socks, your soul is full of gunk, Mr. Grinch The three words that best describe you are as follows, and I quote “Stink, stank, stunk!”
You’re a rotter, Mr. Grinch You’re the king of sinful sots Your heart’s a dead tomato splotched with moldy purple spots, Mr. Grinch Your soul is an appalling dump heap overflowing with the most disgraceful Assortment of deplorable rubbish imaginable, mangled up in tangled up knots!
You nauseate me, Mr. Grinch With a nauseous super “naus”! You’re a crooked dirty jockey and you drive a crooked hoss, Mr. Grinch You’re a three decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce!
You have to give Dr. Seuss credit for coming up with lyrics like “your heart’s a dead tomato splotched with moldy purple spots.” He understood that the Christmas spirit is best demonstrated with some negative contrast, before the central character is redeemed. It’s the same approach that makes Dickens’ A Christmas Carol such a classic.
And maybe I’m wrong–but doesn’t it seem that You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch becomes more popular every year?
It always produces a good, warm feeling when the holidays approach, you know lots of people will be traveling and anxiety will be high, and the inevitable dire warnings get issued about “travel hell” and disastrous weather. During this time of year, it’s great to see news stories like this one–about a huge winter storm bearing down on the Midwest that is expected to “evolve” into a “bomb cyclone,” just in time for Christmas.
I recognize that it’s got to challenging to write about the weather–how many different ways can there be to describe an approaching snowstorm?–but I have to give special credit to the writer of that piece, with the use of “evolve” suggesting that the storm is some living, malignant creature, ready to transmogrify into something even more fearsome and terrible. And, of course, “bomb cyclone” is the latest scary phrase for a bad snow storm with high winds. We didn’t used to call them “bomb cyclones” when we were hit with severe snow storms in past years; the weather people pretty much stuck with “storm of the century.” “Bomb cyclone” sounds a lot cooler and more hazardous, though.
Good luck to everyone who will be on the road over the holidays. Keep your chin up, try not to let the predictions of disaster and travel delays quash your holiday spirit, and be ready to move fast to lay in ample supplies of toilet paper and bottled water if that dreaded “bomb cyclone” goes off.
Yesterday I was walking past the former downtown Lazarus building when I noticed that two of the original display windows had been decorated for the holidays, as would have been done back when the Lazarus department store actually occupied the space. The two windows definitely give off a throwback Christmas vibe, with the ankle-deep cotton ball snow, the gold ornaments and fixtures, and the carefully placed mannequins dramatically displaying the women’s dresses and coats.
I think these are now the only two of the display windows that remain, but in the old days there was a row of them, and people would actually make the trip downtown just to check out the new goods that were featured in the the windows. In all likelihood, they would then go inside the Lazarus to see Santa and do some shopping–just like what is shown in the scenes of A Christmas Story. The display windows were a great form of point-of-purchase advertising, and a good window designer could definitely increase sales. Equally important, no kid’s Christmas list was complete until they had taken a look at the department store display windows to see whether there was something cool there that should be added.
I’m glad to see that these two display windows survived, even though the Lazarus department store is long gone and the building itself has become a kind of multi-purpose office space. I’m sure the cotton ball manufacturers are grateful, too.
The baking weekend is not over until the tins have been assembled with care, so this morning I enjoyed some quality tinning time, which special attention to layering and cookie distribution. (Fudge, almond bars, and gingerbread men bring up the load-bearing bottom, for example.). There not too much left over, either, which is good news!
All of my holiday duties have been fully and faithfully discharged, with one exception: holiday baking. So this weekend we will be working on some serious cookie creation and fudge making. We’ve got all of the ingredients (at least, until I inevitably realize that I have forgotten something) and I’ve got the Sirius XM Holiday Pops channel to give me some musical accompaniment. Let the baking begin!
I came up to Cleveland yesterday and had a chance to walk around Public Square before dinner. It was brightly decorated for the holidays, and with the Terminal Tower in the background I got the full sense of a Cleveland Christmas.
My visit reminded me of Christmases long ago, when my grandparents would take us to Cleveland to visit the department stores—Higbee’s, Halle’s, and Polsky’s—look in the display windows, enjoy the bright lights, go to the toy department, have lunch, and of course visit Santa. Our annual trips to Cleveland made the holidays even more special.
Now that December is here, and the Thanksgiving holiday is well behind us, it’s time to start thinking about holiday baking. This year, I’m going to try some new recipes to with some of my traditional favorites. I’m interested in adding a bit of international flair to my baking efforts, and in doing some poking around the internet I stumbled across a recipe for sequilhos, which are a traditional Brazilian cookie made with cornstarch. So, the cookies not only have a South American lineage, they also will be gluten-free for our gluten-intolerant friends. Even better, this recipe only has four ingredients and sounds simple to make.
Ingredients: 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature; 1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk; 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt; 2 1/4 cups of cornstarch
Combine the butter, sweetened condensed milk and salt in a large bowl and use a spatula to mix everything until the butter is incorporated into the condensed milk. Slowly add the cornstarch, mixing first with the spatula and then, as the process gets harder, using your hands until a smooth dough forms. (The website indicates that judgment should be used in this process, because you might not need every grain of cornstarch and don’t want to overdo it if the dough looks right.)
Roll the cookie dough (about 1 teaspoon per cookie) into balls and press each ball with your thumb. Place the balls on a two baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Using a fork, slightly flatten the cookies, then refrigerate the cookies for 30 minutes to avoid them spreading when baking.
Preheat oven to 350ºF with a rack in the middle. Bake the cookies for 15 minutes or until they begin to gain some color on the bottom but remain pale on top. Cool the cookies while still on the baking sheets for 15-20 minutes, then move them to a rack to finish cooling.
These cookies are supposed to be fairy light and addictive. Sounds like a good Christmas cookie to me! I’ll probably add some colored sugar to some, and perhaps some jam to others, just to put the cookies into the proper holiday spirit.
Last night we legged it over to Indian Oven for dinner, and on the way back we walked through Columbus Commons. It is all decked out and lit up for the holidays. The brilliant display includes colossal outlines of Christmas bulbs–which also reminded me of the “five golden rings” from The Twelve Days of Christmas–that are strategically positioned at various points on the grounds to allow for posing-within-the-ring selfies (something we saw other visitors doing while we were there) as well as nutcrackers and an assortment of different holiday objects. With some of the lights blinking and others configured to resemble dripping icicles, it’s an active light show, too.
The Columbus Commons decorators didn’t quite attach lights to every square inch of the park–as the photo above shows, they wisely left the central grassy area open for the benefit of neighborhood dogs and outdoor yoga fans–but otherwise all of the trees, shrubs, beds, fountains, and the big stage are adorned in just about every color you can imagine. Add in a giant TV that displays footage of a burning yule log, and you’ve got a pretty impressive display. If you’ve got kids and they like light shows, it is definitely worth a visit.
Merry Christmas to everyone! May this special day bring you happiness, peace, serenity, time with family and friends, a moment or two for reflection, and a visit from Santa Paws carrying the present of your dreams on his back.
I’ve distributed my cookies and fudge and am glad to see that I was on point in calculating volumes: the cookies and fudge are gone, the tins are filled, and there is nothing left over. I’ve tried to allocate cookies to have each tin feature a range of different colors, too.
Thus ends the 2021 holiday baking frenzy.—and it’s only December 8, which has to be a record!
Tonight I powered through the last of the baking and cookie decorating. As always, it was fun.
Tomorrow morning it’s tin time. I’ll be glad to get the cookies and fudge out of the house and on their way, to remove the nibble temptation. For now, though, it’s time to kick back with a glass of wine and watch some TV while the icing hardens.
Today was a full day of baking, and good progress was made. There is more to be done, of course, but the baking period is off to a good start. I’ll do more over the next few days, but for now it’s time to do the dishes and de-flour the countertops.
This year I’ve decided to resume baking, and sending out, Christmas cookies to family, friends, and clients. Last year I reluctantly took a year off, breaking a long-running tradition, because of the COVID pandemic. Although the coronavirus is still with us, the CDC says–after more than a year of experience and testing–that there is no evidence that COVID can be transmitted through food or food containers, so long as basic precautions like washing your hands are followed. So, this year I’ve decided to get back to normal and return to my holiday baking efforts.
If you’ve got some good cookie recipes that you don’t mind sharing in the comments, I’m all ears. And I’ve reprinted, below, links to blog entries from prior years that provide links to some of the recipes for the cookies I’ve baked and posted in the past, if you’re on a recipe hunt yourself. The links below will take you to blog entries with recipes I tried in the prior years and, at the bottom of the entry, links to other new recipes I tried that year.
So far I’ve taken the initial steps to prepare for the holiday baking frenzy: finding my old recipes, and (thanks to Kish and The Container Store) laying in a supply of very festive looking silver cookie tins, some of which are shown in the photo above, that I’ll be filling with the baked goodies. The next step will be to figure out which specific cookies I’ll be baking, and then preparing my shopping lists to pick up the ingredients. I haven’t quite decided for sure, but I think this year I’ll get back into the swing of things by focusing on some tried-and-true favorites, like iced sugar cookies, Dutch spice cookies, and cranberry hootycreeks. I’ll probably try a few new ones, too, because experimentation is good for the baker’s soul.