After-Christmas Update

After-Christmas Update:

1)     A couple weeks ago, I wrote a review of Terri G. Long’s novel In Leah’s Wake as part of a blog tour run by Novel Publicity.  For that review, I won best blog entry, and received a $100 Amazon gift card as a prize!  It was very very cool, and I am very grateful to the folks at Novel Publicity for choosing me.

2)     This week I participated in another blog tour run by Novel Publicity, this time for Farsighted, a YA fantasy novel by Emlyn Chand (who also happens to be the very awesome president of Novel Publicity).  If you haven’t seen those posts yet, please check out this author interview from Monday, and my review of Farsighted from Wednesday.  On both posts you can find information about entering to win prizes.  Today (Friday) is the last day to participate, so don’t wait!

3)     I had a wonderful Christmas.  Christmas Eve at one aunt and uncle’s house.  Christmas at my house with my mother and brother (I made Coq Au Vin for Christmas dinner, and it turned out pretty damn good, if I do say so myself.  And we went to the movies to see Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game of Shadows).  And Boxing Day (the day after Christmas), also at my house, with my grandmother and another aunt and uncle, for which my mother and I made ham with all the usual side dishes.

4)     I received a $250 Amazon gift card from my father and stepmother for Christmas, and I am going to have a BLAST spending it all (especially in conjunction with the $100 I already received from the blog tour prize). ^__^

5)     I also received a record player, which I’d been begging my mother for.  I’ve been playing the records I already have almost to death, and it’s definitely time to add to my little collection.  Thankfully, I just learned of a decent-sized records store not too far from where I live, so my brother and I are planning a trip to spend more money. ^__^

6)     For next week, I should be back to my usual blogging schedule: Science/Fantasy Monday, Bookworm Wednesday, and Free-For-All Friday.  I’ll have another book review for you on Wednesday, as I have just finished reading Beka Cooper: Mastiff by Tamora Pierce.  I was thinking about doing a review of the new Sherlock Holmes movie too, but I’m not sure how many people care.  I guess we’ll see…

7)     I should be making more minor (and possibly not-so-minor, depending on how things go) changes around the blog in the next couple weeks.

Okay, that’s all from me for now.  I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and/or Holiday of your choice (^_^), and I wish you all a Happy New Year!  I’ll see you all in 2012!

Why I Love the Holiday Season

Happy Holidays, folks!

I love the holiday season.  Let me share with you a few of my reasons why.

It’s no secret, Christmas is a pretty big deal in my family.  Even though my brother and I are in our twenties, and we have assured my mother she doesn’t need to go overboard, she still insists on doing her best to FILL the bottom of the Christmas tree every year.  Christmas Eve dinner with my grandmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins is a HUGE affair.  My mother, brother, and I ALWAYS go to a movie on Christmas night, and spend the next day lazying around the house and playing with all our presents.

Also, we have four Christmas trees.  Yes, you read that right, FOUR.

We have the original tree, which mom started the year before I was born.  It has all the traditional ornaments — silly Hallmark ornaments, hand-made ornaments, Disney characters, and Star Trek ornaments, etc.

When I was ten or eleven, my mom decided she wanted a more elegant red-and-gold-themed tree.  So then we had two.

My brother took over managing the original tree, because he still loves buying silly ornaments, like reindeer wearing hunter’s outfits, and dancing fish, etc.  And, when I was thirteen, I started collecting ornaments for my own tree, which is a Victorian-inspired, pink and white tree.

Then, a couple years ago, Target came out with a new series of ornaments in crazy-bright colors like teal, purple, pink, and lime green, that I simply could not resist.  So I started collected ornaments for another tree.  I call it my Dr. Seuss tree.  And it is AWESOME.

My mother has also recently started collecting ornaments for a blue and silver tree, but she didn’t have enough ornaments yet to fill out of a whole tree so I didn’t take any pictures.  But next year we’ll have FIVE trees.  Yeah, we’re a little nuts.

We just love Christmas, what can I say.  We also have a side table filled with Santa Clauses:

And the fireplace mantle is lined in Nutcrackers:

We simply love the beauty of it.  We love the color and the light and nostalgia, and the new, and the elegant, and the fun.  It gives us joy, even when other things are difficult, frustrating, or depressing.  Christmas movies help too — Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Santa Clause is Coming to Town, A Year Without Santa, and the Muppets Christmas Carol are some of the best movies ever.  Oh, and The Nightmare Before Christmas (which I watch far more often than can possibly be normal) is totally and completely BRILLIANT.

Now, I know there are always complaints about Christmas becoming too commercial.  And I’m not denying that is often true, and it makes me sad.  So many people who only care about what they can get out of it.  Who spend all their time and effort making sure they get what they want, instead of reveling in the joy of giving to others — when the GIVING is seriously the BEST part.  Sometimes, I despair for the fate of this season.

But then I read things, like this short memoir-ish piece by Oindrila Mukherjee (a UH almnus) about the simple joy and beauty of snow: “My First Snowfall.”  Or I read the dozen or so articles about the “layaway angels” who go around to K-Marts and pay-off layaway accounts for needy families: here’s one such article.  Or I just pause in the act of addressing Christmas cards and really THINK about how grateful I am for my three best friends, who have on more than one occasion been the only things between me and total despair, who have on occasion been quite literally the only things keeping me alive.  And these things remind me of what is so special about Christmas.

(For a ton of really fantastic Christmas-y posts and links check out Tiffany A White’s Holiday Mash-Up!)

So I hope I can share a bit of this feeling with all of you.

So go hug your mother or father.  Tell your friends how much you appreciate them. Decorate a tree, or light a candle, or enjoy the weather.  It doesn’t matter what you are: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, and everything in between…  This season (while perhaps initially instigated by religion) is not ONLY about religion.  The holidays are about family and friendship and beauty and joy and hope and compassion and charity, all of this in the face of despair and poverty and the hardships that seem to keep piling up year after year.  Life isn’t easy.  And this season is NOT about pretending otherwise.  It’s about giving each other the only things that make life WORTH it, despite the fact that it’s NOT and NEVER WILL BE easy.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanza, Happy Holidays, Joyful Season, or Happy/Hopeful New Year’s.  There is so much to worry about, to be afraid for, to be angry about… but there is also so much to be grateful, glad, and hopeful for too.  Let’s carry those things with us into the new year.

I love you all!