Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas All!

I hope everyone has a great day.
All the best in 2009!

Not only is this a great version of the song, this family is so cute:

Wishing You a Merry 'Vintage' Christmas! from Jared Foster on Vimeo

I opened my presents and I must say, no matter how old you get, there is something fantastic about ripping through paper to reveal the surprise inside. My sister got me some DVD sets, so I'll have plenty to watch. Kari, Andrew and the girls sent me the most incredibly delicious smelling Lush products ever - they smell just like Christmas. My brother gave me two books - Pyongyang (which I've wanted to read for ages) and one about the Golden Compass. My parents sent me a ton of stuff - two more books, chocolate, Lush and Body Shop products, the requisite socks, popcorn and dill pickle flavouring, taco and fajita seasoning, new mascara, and more. I'm going to be well-read, well-watched and yummy smelling for the rest of the holiday!

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? This all depends. If I do stuff in advance, I tend to like to wrap. However, I'm also a slight fiend for a certain brand of environmentalism - I hate buying what I already have and could reuse. So, I wrap first in whatever stuff the kids wrapped gifts to me in that can be reused. Then, time and supplies permitting, I would go to paper. This year, everything was super last minute. I also very much reuse boxes to mail stuff in - I think my mom and I passed one box back and forth about five times.

2. Real tree or Artificial? Due to a highly allergic family, we always had artificial at home. Now, I have a charming tree made only of lights and some candy canes - you gotta make do. At least this year I didn't get bored halfway through and just make a star ;) One of these days I'll have a real tree.

3. When do you put up the tree? Whenever I have spare time/it strikes my fancy. This one was put up super late at night because I couldn't sleep and needed some holiday cheer. As children, I think it was often the weekend of Daniel's birthday - which also coincided with the Santa Claus Parade in Bolton.

4. When do you take the tree down? Sometime in January, I think, whenever I stop feeling lazy. I wonder if I can rejig it somehow for Lunar New Year?

5. Do you like eggnog? I have only ever liked it once - when Meghan made it here in Korea.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? The Emily of New Moon books.

7. Hardest person to buy for? It differs. I find that I am either very inspired or not at all. Maybe my mom lately - I find her easy to buy for when I'm around her, less so when I live far away. I send my father books - no idea if he likes them, but they are always ones that I have read that I think he might find interesting - so, not hard for me, but who knows if I'm any good at picking them. My brothers are sort of hard, though Daniel tends to get very odd gifts and generally ones I have bought in convience stores. Lindsay always provides a list, so she could be incredibly easy, though I don't ever shop using the list 'cause I'm diffficult like that. The girls are super easy - the only time I have found it hard to find them something is on Borocay.

8. Easiest person to buy for? Myself? I admit, I get myself gifts too. This year I bought myself fancy coffee (and yep, the cheaper stuff is just as good), many, many books, and a G-Wiz. And no, mom, you don't want to google that to find out what it is. For people not my mom - I really like it and Shawn will enjoy hers once it arrives!

9. Do you have a nativity scene? I don't believe in God, so no. Nor would I consider myself a Christain of any kind, even a lapsed one. However, I love the idea of a holiday dedicated to family and friends and keeping in touch - which is why I normally embrace Christmas cards and gifts and would love to make it home for the holidays one of these years. However, if I found a cool nativity scene when travelling, I'd totally buy one - after all, I have more than a few Buddhas and I'm not Buddhist either. Possibly my most Christain souvenir so far is an icon I bought in Greece.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Both. I mail cards to my close friends and family. Then I email everyone on my contact list. This year I admit that I pared down that list tightly - life has been busy and so I didn't ever get around to buying new Christmas cards. I had some left over from last year and that is what everyone got. However, there are a few people who will be getting New Year's postcards.

11.Worst Christmas gift you ever received? There really isn't a worst gift, is there? After all, even if the thing itself sucks, there is always the thought behind it. The most hilarious would have to be the whitening cream from one of my students a couple of years ago - I wasn't sure if I should point out to them that being quite white already, my goal in life is actually to look tanned - though without any risk of skin cancer, naturally.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? Miracle on 34th Street. The original. I like Home for the Holidays too, though that's a Thanksgiving movie.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Whenever a) I have a trip back to Canada planned, to save on postage later or b) I am in a new foreign country with cheap souvenirs (so, not Japan, though I did grab something for my brother Andrew there that will hopefully amuse him and some waaaaay too expensive dolls for the girls.)

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Yes, I have. First off, I always trade in any books I don't love - and no one need be insulted, because I do it with books I buy myself too. I have to really have loved a book to be willing to pay its fare back to Canada and one must assume that one day my parents are going to get fed up of the library that lives in their house (though I'm hoping I've got at least ten more years of tolerance left!) I regularly regift things my students have given me - especially when they give me traditional Korean things that I either have bought myself already or am not interested in. I don't think regifting is a bad thing - I think that if you do it thoughtfully, then it is just a wise redistribution of things that have already been produced and paid for. Things should not go to waste simply because I don't love them. I also quite happily buy people used books as presents - after all, I'd love for people to send me used books. I am quite happy for people to show up at my parents' house demanding some books from my unread pile to mail to me too! My parents' might not be as amused, but there you are.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Turkey!!! I'm not sure how I survived those vegetarian years and the existence of a full turkey dinner is the reason I will never be a strict vegetarian again.

16. Lights on the tree? Naturally. It'd be fun to try candles if I ever get a real tree.

17. Favorite Christmas song? I'll be Home For Christmas. But really, anything by Nat King Cole or Bing Crosby, because they remind me of the only two Christmas albums we played when I was growing up.

18.Travel at Christmas or stay home? My last holiday season at home was in 2000. The last two years I was in Korea for Christmas day itself but off to Thailand and the Philippines just after. This year I'm staying put, though hopefully continuing the Gecko's turkey dinenr tradition. Assa!

19. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer? I can and I did on a recent pub quiz. And I know they were all female.

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Not only do I not care, I can't recall what my parents did.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? My parents are evil and made us wait. And then when I got to be a teenager, I was super evil and refused to get out of bed early, making my siblings wait. Now, well... I usually wait. Sometimes I just rip them open when they arrive in the mail. Last year I seem to think I opened them early in a homesick moment - which seems a better idea than waiting just to wait, I think. To be fully honest, I did that this year too.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? The weather. Only if there is going to be snow is winter weather pleasant. And even then, I don't see why it has to last more than a month.

23. Favorite ornament theme or color? Do I sound like a gal who has an ornament theme? Dudes, I have a poster from the Seoul Drum Festival on my door because the tag line for the festival that year was "Beat it! Feel it! Enjoy it!" I support the Cocks, which I think are a football team, though perhaps I have the wrong sport, because Smithie sent me the magnet and it is the MOST AWESOME MAGNET EVER! This year my ornament theme is the three unbroken, over-priced candycanes I bought at the Filipino store when I went in to put some credit on my phone.

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? TURKEY!!!

25. What do you want for Christmas this year? Better health, which I think is coming, and the love of family and friends, which I already have.

'Tis the Season to Be Generous
By Katha Pollitt

This article appeared in the January 5, 2009 edition of The Nation.
December 17, 2008

Money's tight this year, I know. But tradition is tradition. So here's my annual list of suggestions for your end-of-year donations. Read on to learn about some great groups that help people who are worse off than you are.

1. Commune des Femmes de Kamanyola (CFK). Ann Jones's recent Nation story about the horrific wartime rapes, often followed by mutilation if not murder, of hundreds of thousands of women in Congo highlighted the work of this grassroots organization. Founded by a mother who refused to accept in shame and silence her teenage daughter's rape by soldiers, CFK takes rape victims to the hospital for treatment and drugs to prevent STDs, HIV and pregnancy; pressures their families to accept them; works to prosecute rapists; and educates communities that rape is not men's right--or women's fault. Make your check out to IRC, with CFK on the memo line. Address: Heidi Lehmann, director, Gender-Based Violence Unit, International Rescue Committee, 122 East 42nd St., New York, NY 10168-1289.

2. Bronx Freedom Fund. This year-old organization posts bail for indigent people awaiting trial on misdemeanor or nonviolent felony charges in New York City's poorest borough. These are men and women who without the fund would languish in jail for perhaps six months for lack of $500, including many who are innocent and would plead guilty just to be free. Of all clients bailed out, 95 percent have returned for every court appearance and half have had their cases dismissed. Bonus: money used to post bail is returned when the cases are over, so a single gift can keep on giving. Address: 860 Courtlandt Ave., Bronx, NY 10451;

3. Iraq Veterans Against the War. The little group you supported last year through donations to Vietnam Veterans Against the War has doubled in size and is walking on its own. Help IVAW organize vets and soldiers against the Iraq occupation, develop support networks for war resisters, present Winter Soldier testimonies about the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations, and run truth-in-recruiting education in schools. IVAW supports reparations for the Iraqi people and full benefits for returning vets, including mental healthcare. Address: Box 8296, Philadelphia, PA 19101;

4. Resurrection After Exoneration. An outgrowth of The Innocence Project of New Orleans, RAE is run by John Thompson, who spent eighteen years on Louisiana's death row after being wrongfully convicted, and provides housing, training and life opportunities to innocent people released from prison. Did you know that Louisiana has one of the highest exoneration rates in the country as well as the highest per capita rate of incarceration, with a recidivism rate of almost 50 percent? You can help exonerees start to rebuild the life the state did its best to destroy. Address: 3301 Chartres St. New Orleans, LA 70117;

5. Health in Harmony. Two years ago, Nation readers helped kick-start this small group with a big idea: provide poor Indonesian villagers with healthcare in return for giving up illegal logging in the gorgeous, fragile rainforests of Gunung Palung National Park. It's working. People and nature can flourish together, with your help. Address: 6114 La Salle Ave., Suite 752, Oakland, CA 94611;

6. The Lambi Fund of Haiti. This year's hurricanes have devastated Haiti's poor and deforested countryside. The Lambi Fund works with grassroots groups to plant trees, start organic vegetable gardens, give pigs and goats to malnourished families, build cisterns to provide safe drinking water and teach methods of farming that prevent the erosion that has made recent storms so deadly. Building women's leadership is a part of everything they do. A dollar goes a long way in Haiti. I'm just saying. Address: Box 18955, Washington, DC 20036;

7. Godparents Association. Founded in 1998 by a Ugandan and an American, this group helps Ugandan girls who resist female genital mutilation by sponsoring their education so they can grow up and change their culture from within. It's working: the first girls have gone on to become nurses, midwives and, just this year, graduates of Kampala University. $575 pays one year's tuition for one girl (or boy--because men need to be part of ending this tradition). Smaller donations are welcome, too. Address: 409 Waldemere Ave., Bridgeport, CT 06604;

8. Women for Afghan Women. As I've written in previous years, WAW does on a shoestring the work that is the only way to bring peace, democracy and progress to ordinary Afghans: clinics, schools, women's councils, orphan sponsorship (only $50 a month--think about it!), small-scale economic projects that simultaneously let a woman feed her family and improve her status within it. WAW fights forced marriage, domestic violence, rape and other abuses of women's human rights. If you're disturbed by the resurgence of the Taliban, this is the way to fight them. Address: 32-17 College Point Blvd., Room 206, Flushing, NY 11354;

9. This web-based organization lets you choose among thousands of public-school classroom projects--maybe one in a school in your neighborhood. Books, musical instruments, sports equipment, class trips, calculators, paper--paper?! It's truly shocking how many essentials kids are expected to do without. Gift certificates make a great last-minute present.

10. The Modest Needs Foundation. For struggling low-income people, one unexpected event--an illness, a fire, a car that dies, a missed child-support payment--can quickly lead to poverty, even homelessness. MNF stops that process by offering financial help up to $1,000. The website ( lets you decide where your donation goes. In these harsh economic times, there's probably no better way to offer a lifeline to a stranger.


J.G. said...

Happy Christmas to you! Sounds like you are already having it!

Maria said...

I love your enthusiastic and infectious zeal for life! Merry Christmas and happy holidays!