Make Those Christmas Lists… Then Check ‘Em Twice!

To me, the key to keeping the Christmas season as stress free as possible has to do with planning; I love lists, and they’re super important this time of year when there are literally dozens of things I want to do between now and New Year’s Eve.

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(I need this notebook. Such truth. Sapling Press, $7.50. Get it here)

I’m not alone in my assessment, as a quick search for “Christmas checklists” will show. My favorite, however, comes from the queen of entertaining, crafting, organizing and beyond: Martha Stewart. My mom used to subscribe to her magazine, and one year the November issue included a handy checklist to keep you on task beginning with the last week of November and running up through the third week of December. I like that this particular list breaks things up into weeks instead of trying to dictate each day so you can juggle accordingly.

My mom still has the copy that we tore out of the magazine, but thanks to the internet it’s also available to print.

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Grab your copy here

Other important dates to keep in mind as you get ready for the most wonderful time of the year are the holiday shipping deadlines.

“To ensure timely delivery of cards, letters and packages within the United States by Dec. 25,” the United States Postal service recommends items be shipped by Dec. 15 for standard post, Dec. 19 for first class mail, and Dec. 21 for priority mail.

For international items those dates depend on the country. For example, for shipment to Europe the deadline for first class international service is Dec. 8, while the deadline for priority mail is Dec. 11.

Packages bound for men and women in the military are based on their APO/FPO/DPO AE Zips.

For the full list of deadlines head to https://www.usps.com/holiday/

Now get planning so you keep your holiday cheer intact and the 12 Pains of Christmas stays a silly song instead of a reflection of your life.

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Upcoming Christmas in Connecticut events:

Bizarre Bazaar at the New England Carousel Museum, Bristol, Nov. 21: 10 a.m.-4 p.m., a holiday art and craft show with over 50 exhibitors in a festive atmosphere. Includes free children’s activities and carousel rides. Admission costs $1. thecarouselmuseum.org.

Sleigh Bells Ring Christmas Fair, Bolton, Nov. 21: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Handmade gifts, hot food, baked goods, visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus. Free.

Festival of Trees, Danbury, Nov. 21-22: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. live entertainment, holiday shopping, 200 raffles of custom trees. Admission for adults is $10, seniors and children, $5. annsplace.org/festival2015

A Christmas Carol at the Downtown Cabaret Theater, Bridgeport, Nov. 21-22: Admission costs $23 for adults, $19 for children. dtcab.com/show/a-christmas-carol/

A Christmas Carol at the Hartford Stage, Hartford, Nov. 27-Dec. 27: Admission, times vary. hartfordstage.org/christmas-carol/

The Mark Twain House & Museum 35th Annual Holiday House Tour, Dec. 6. Advance admission costs $30, or $35 at the door. marktwainhouse.org/visitor/spotlight_event.php

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas is Christmas Magic

Each year, Christmas movies on TV get churned out by the dozens. Since I basically love anything and everything Christmas related, I’m usually a fan of these feel-good movies. However there’s a special place in my heart for some classics that, in my opinion, deserve a watch each and every year, no matter your age.

For my husband and I, this list includes more recent films like Love Actually, The Holiday and The Family Stone. Then there are the children’s classics like Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Growing up in my family also meant A Very Merry Cricket and Ziggy’s Gift as well as The Snowman, a short film with no words – just music – based on the book of the same name by Raymond Briggs.

Then there are classic films such as Miracle on 34th Street, It’s A Wonderful Life, Meet Me in St. Louis, Christmas in Connecticut (duh) and White Christmas.

It’s the latter that I’m going to focus on, beginning with a confession: despite my Christmas adoration, White Christmas somehow slipped under my radar and I’ve yet to see the whole thing. Please keep your gasps of shock to a minimum.

Recently however, I was able to experience the story on the stage and let me tell you, I am obsessed! It’s literally my new favorite show.

My husband loves Thanksgiving and tries to get me to keep my Christmas cheer under wraps until the day after the fourth Thursday of November so he can enjoy the day. But since he also loves me oh-so-much (I’m truly blessed), when the opportunity came about to give me a Christmas surprise in November, he took it.

And that’s how we ended up at the Palace Theater in Waterbury Nov. 8 to see Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, which was adapted from the 1954 film and first took to the stage in 2004.

I’m not kidding when I say the performance was magical. Just ask my husband: I was practically crying with joy the entire time. The tagline for the performance is “get ready to see a play that’s as fresh as newly fallen snow!” and it truly was.

White Christmas tells the tale of a famous song-and-dance team that tries to covertly help the owner of a Vermont inn (who was also their general when they fought in the Army ten years prior during World War II) by putting on a Christmas show there.

And, along the way, the duo falls for a bubbly sister act (because the Christmas season is the season to fall in love!).

Of course, all this unfolds with the music of Irving Berlin, including classics like White Christmas, Snow, and Blue Skies.

Honestly, the storyline and the music would have been enough for me to leave the theater – which is beautiful, by the way – happy. But along with the above there was also great acting, fantastic costumes and fabulous sets.

Sean Montgomery and Jeremy Benton were hilarious as Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, and Kerry Conte and Kelly Sheehan were captivating as Betty and Judy Haynes.

It’s impossible for me to say what part was my favorite, but I loved the train scene when the group is heading up to the Vermont Inn unbeknownst to Bob, who thinks he and Phil are making their way to Florida for Christmas. The audience looks in on the train car from the side, and even though you watch people enter the train from the stage, as soon as the door shuts and they’re in the bustling car filled with a warm glow, packed luggage racks, and seats filled with passengers, you get lost in what’s going on and almost forget it’s set up on a stage.

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Snow – The Irving Berlin’s White Christmas 2014 National Tour Company, Photo by Kevin White

Watching the play in Connecticut, I loved when the state got a mention when Bob figured out they weren’t heading in the right direction.

“Aren’t these people wearing pretty heavy clothes for Florida?” he asks, as he notices passengers in gear more fit for wintry weather than the Florida sun.

“These trains are always cold. Aren’t you freezing? I’m gonna complain to the company,” Phil replies.

The train conductor sticks his head in and announces, “Providence!”

“Well, you’re gonna boil in Miam – did that guy just say ‘Providence’?”<br.

“What? Provid…? Oh, yeah, Providence, Virginia. It’s an old Revolutionary town. I think Jefferson came from there.”

Phil manages to keep Bob fooled for a few more minutes. Even after the Betty and Judy suddenly appear, Bob remains hoodwinked and says to them, “You ought to be ashamed – following us all the way to Florida.”

But when the train pulls into the next station and the conductor announces the full name – “Providence, Rhode Island! Arriving Providence!” – he realizes what’s going on.

“Arriving Providence, Rhode Island? I should have known I was being shanghaied back in ‘New Haven, Delaware.’”

I honestly can’t say enough about this performance – the songs, the dancing, the theater magic – it was brilliant. I was amazed with the set changes they managed, and loved all the scenes in the barn, especially at the end when it’s decorated for Christmas and the barn doors open up to reveal… well… you’ll just have to see for yourself!

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The troupe started their season with the performances in Waterbury, and they’re now making their way around the country. The closest they’ll be to Connecticut again is, coincidentally, Providence, Rhode Island (NOT Virginia) on Dec. 8-13 and I abso-posi-defi-lutely recommend including the show in your holiday plans.

For more information go to irvingberlinswhitechristmas.com.

The Starbucks Red Cup.

I nearly had a meltdown Nov. 1 and that’s not an exaggeration.

I had wandered to my nearest Starbucks in a candy coma from consuming too much Halloween chocolate the night before,  meant for trick-or-treaters that never showed (Does anyone else notice fewer costumed kids out there? Where have all the children gone? Sarah Sanderson is this because of you??).

I arrived at the Green Mermaid with my husband and caught a glimpse of a departing customer and a flash of red out of the corner of my eye.

“Did I just see a RED CUP?!”

My heartbeat quickened excitedly. Not wanting to get my hopes up, I reasoned, “Maybe it was just a passion iced tea.”

But NO. Upon entering I discovered my eyes had not deceived me and THEY’RE BACK.

I fanned myself like some woman from the regency era.

Scrubs faint

…or the cast of Scrubs.

“omigodomigodomigod the red cups are here! It’s Christmastime!”

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The husband rolled his eyes.

After ensuring I was going to be alright,  letting me have my moment of excitement and then settling me down, we headed to the counter to order.

“The usual?” we’re asked.

NOPE.

It didn’t matter that it was Nov. 1; I made the switch to warm drinks accented with peppermint and I was totally OK with it.Red Cups

Yes. I realize getting a jolt of Christmas spirit from a coffee shop is silly and commercial and the result of brilliant marketing. And yes, I realize you can technically get a peppermint mocha at any time of year. The same holds true for my favorite, the peppermint white mocha, which I like to describe as what happens when magic is sprinkled over sparkling snow and it turns into a warm beverage.

But even more than the sights of Christmas stock popping up in stores (which, trust me, gets me quite giddy), those bright red cups filled with toasty drinks give me the Christmas feels. And I swear they taste better when sipped from cups tinted those rosy hues.

My absolute favorite season has finally come back around, they seem to say: it’s time for Christmas in Connecticut!

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P.S. despite that initial exuberance, I’ve been attempting to keep my Christmas craze to a minimum. My husband’s favorite holiday is Thanksgiving and he doesn’t like when it gets skipped over, so I try to give the day it’s due (and I love it as well!). But my excitement is bubbling over and I may or may not have already made a list of festive things I want us to do, and I may or may not be listening to Christmas music after he goes to work.

Then there’s the fact that he didn’t exactly help matters when he gave me a Christmas surprise last weekend that literally had me crying with joy… (I’m SO not complaining)

P.P.S. All this hullabaloo about the cups and their lack of images is ridiculous. Yes, they make me excited the season has drawn near, but I don’t think they symbolize Christmas… and they never have! They’re just a reminder that it’s here. And anyone who has time to complain about the cup they drink their latte out of needs to reevaluate their life.

The end.