Sunday, December 30, 2012

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Have yourselves a merry little...

This Christmas I asked Santa for some peace on Earth and goodwill to all mankind. Hope he delivers.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Gift wrapping is a bitch

The second most stressful thing about the holidays? Gift wrapping.

First you have to pick the right paper. Then you have to cut it to just the right size. Then you have to tape it together -- without getting the tape stuck to itself or smudged with fingerprints -- and fold the ends just so and tape them. And the eternal debate: ribbon vs. bow vs. nothing?

I like Jimmy Kimmel's advice: Why not just wrap the person's head? (Which, after watching this very funny video of Jimmy Kimmel's Aunt Chippy trying to wrap a box on Jimmy Kimmel Live, in a video titled "Chip's Tips -- How to Wrap a Present," made even more sense.)

And that, friends, is why there are gift bags.

Bonus video: "How to Wrap a Cat for Christmas."

I don't know what drug that cat is on, but I need to get me some.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Did you hear the one about the world ending on 12/21/12?

I laugh in the face of apocalypse! Ha ha!

First up, why you shouldn't drink at work....

I was also amused by this Weekly World News front page, as edited by REM.

But the funniest bit I read regarding the world (as we know it) ending on 12/21/12 was this End of the World FAQ Guide from NASA. Scientists can be such apocalyptic killjoys, what with all their facts and hard science. Sheesh.

But just in case those NASA scientists are wrong, it's been fun knowing and writing for all of you. Peace.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

You pet owners will understand

I have a confession to make. I suffer from OLRD, Obsessive Lint Rolling Disorder. I just can't help myself. Whenever I see a few strands of cat hair, I have to lint roll them up.

Oh sure, I have tried other methods, but nothing gets fur and fuzz up like a trusty roll of sticky paper.

I love lint rollers so much, I have one in (nearly) every room of the house. And I am not afraid to use them.

I even lint roll my cats.

For years, I have kept quiet about my obsession, fearing no one would understand or that people would mock me. But after seeing this brilliant ad from Scotch-Brite titled "Lint Police," I know I am not alone.

I am so sewing on a "no lint" patch onto my black suit jacket.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Dogs make (almost) everything better

Once again, this blog has gone to the dogs.

But there is something just so doggone funny about a a cute canine photograph. And I don't know about all of you, but I have been in dire need of a reason to smile of late. So I asked a bunch of my dog-loving, dog-owning friends to send me funny or super cute pictures of their dogs. Which they did.

I hope these pictures make you smile as much as I did.

Oh, and if I left out a picture of your pooch, please email it to me. If I receive enough funny dog photos (that are not grainy, underexposed or overexposed) I will do a follow-up post.

First up, Bella. Just wook at dat wittle King Charles Cavalier Spaniel puppy face! I dare you people not to say "aaaaw."

Next up, Winston, aka Winnie the Pooh.

Now before you start shaking your head about Winston's mom putting a helmet and Doggles on him, read what she wrote me:
Just so you don't think I'm one of those people who dress up their dogs....I decided after watching [Winston] clunk his head and get goose eggs and cuts on his head... and getting poked in the eye... to become one of those people. My family is horrified. [However,] I will do what I must to make our blind Winnie the Pooh's life a little more comfortable.
I don't care what your family thinks, C. You're a good mom.

Though while we are on the subject of people who dress up their dogs, let us take a moment to admire Tillie, who let her humans dress her in this cow costume.Yet still loves them. (My cat, Felix, is disgusted.)

And behold this adorable pug, who is all heart.

Though I am slightly disturbed by the cannibalistic undertones of this photo of my friend N.'s pug, Pansy.

Ah, what could be sweeter than two dogs peacefully snoozing side by side, like Daisy Mayhem and Patsy Marie, my friend "Betty Cracker"'s two boxers?

Perhaps a lovable lab baring his, uh, twig and berries as he happily snores away on the couch, like my friend Vinny here?

Dogs sure do know how to relax.

Though lest you think that dogs are just a bunch of slackers, Zoe here wants you to know she puts in a full day's work -- and knows Photoshop.

But the best thing about dogs? They are always there to welcome you home with a great big hug.

I love that spot so much, I've been pestering the spouse to let me get an Irish Wolfhound. (Though that dog has at least a foot and probably close to 100 pounds on me. So probably not a good idea.)

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas from Raven, Dave S.'s whipador....

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Putting the "Cat" in Christmas

Watching the latest Simon's Cat video, titled "Santa Claws," brings back fond Christmas memories. Fond for me, that is. Not so sure for my mother, who was the one typically shooing our two curious Siamese cats away from the tree and all of the fragile ornaments we had carefully placed on it.

Fortunately, our Christmas trees -- and ornaments -- fared much better than Simon's.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Fewer semi-automatics, more mental health care

My daughter’s school is about 20 minutes away from Sandy Hook Elementary. When I arrived at school midday (I volunteer in the library), there were two cop cars outside. Despite them, I had no problem walking into the building that houses the library -- no checking in anywhere, no locked doors. Sent a chill down my spine.

At the time I arrived, I had no idea that an entire classroom of kindergartners, as well as several teachers and administrators, had been mowed down just a few miles away. I only learned that shortly before I left the library.

Many of the teachers who work in our district live and have kids who go to school in Newtown. I cannot imagine the fear they felt.

I heard that Obama brushed away tears as he talked about the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. I also read that he said now was not the time to talk about gun control, or words to that affect. But if not now, when?

How many innocent people -- too often children -- have to die before politicians take a stand against the NRA and pass tougher gun and ammo control measures? I'm not saying the government should strike down the Second Amendment (though I would not object). But it's time to put a ban on semi-automatic weapons (the weapon of choice for mentally deranged killers), limit the amount of ammunition one can purchase, and institute strenuous background checks. Yes, that won't solve the problem. But it's a start.

And while the pols are at it, how about making it less expensive for Americans to get mental health care? Maybe if we made it easier to get mental health care and more difficult to buy guns and ammo, we could avoid another tragedy like the one that took place today... and the one in Aurora... and the one in Tucson... and the one at Virginia Tech... and the one at Columbine.

More about the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy here.

UPDATED 12/15/12: More food for thought: "Twelve facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States" by Ezra Klein of The Washington Post (via I found these two paragraphs particularly telling and tragic:
If roads were collapsing all across the United States, killing dozens of drivers, we would surely see that as a moment to talk about what we could do to keep roads from collapsing. If terrorists were detonating bombs in port after port, you can be sure Congress would be working to upgrade the nation’s security measures. If a plague was ripping through communities, public-health officials would be working feverishly to contain it.

Only with gun violence do we respond to repeated tragedies by saying that mourning is acceptable but discussing how to prevent more tragedies is not. “Too soon,” howl supporters of loose gun laws. But as others have observed, talking about how to stop mass shootings in the aftermath of a string of mass shootings isn’t “too soon.” It’s much too late.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Putting the ho ho hos in Christmas

Apparently, putting the Ho in Halloween was not good enough for Victoria's Secret. Now they've gone and put the ho ho hos in Christmas.

(Not that I am saying that Victoria's Secret models are hos. But they are going to freeze their tuchuses off dressed in those skimpy outfits at the North Pole. Just saying.)

Also, my suggestion re next year's Victoria's Secret Christmas video? Less singing, more cleavage.

Moving right along....

While I understand Victoria's Secret is an "intimate apparel" company and that sex sells, selling sex for Christmas just seems, I don't know, wrong. (I don't know about all of you, but I do not want to envision mommy French kissing Santa Claus.)

Call me an old fart but it used to be if you were naughty, you got a lump of coal, or nothing. Now if you're naughty, you get lingerie from Victoria's Secret.

Though, seriously, who buys panties that say "WHERE'S MY GIFT?"

THE SCENE: The boudoir
GAL (dressed only in her new Victoria's Secret "WHERE'S MY GIFT?" panties): "You like?"
GUY: "Where's my gift? I've got your 'gift' right here, sweetheart."

(See, this is the reason I don't write romance novels, people.)

Hoping you've been nice this year....

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My Top 12 Reads of 2012

The following 12 books are my favorites that I read in 2012 -- the books that made the greatest impression on me or that I remember the most fondly.


The Time in Between by Maria Dueñas. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to live through the Spanish Civil War or the Second World War in Spain, or Morocco, but thanks to Maria Dueñas' beautiful prose, I almost can -- in a good way. Told from the point of view of a young dressmaker, whose world is turned upside down several times by misfortune and war, The Time in Between is a story of fortitude, friendship, and fashion. It is also one of my new favorite books. Couldn't put it down.

Magic Words: The Tale of a Jewish Boy Interpreter, The World’s Most Estimable Magician, A Murderous Harlot, and America’s Greatest Indian Chief by Gerald Kolpan. I do not know if I could do a better job describing this book than the subtitle does -- certainly not in under 100 words. Suffice it to say, I loved this book. And if you are interested in the history of the American West, showmanship, or magic -- or love a rousing tale of adventure, mystery, and love, you will enjoy Magic Words. By the way, as with many of the other books listed here under "Fiction," Magic Words is based on actual people and events, which makes it doubly delightful in my opinion.

The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones. The Last Chinese Chef is a love story, about food. Specifically Chinese food. No, not the food most of us Americans call Chinese but authentic, classic, timeless, exquisitely prepared and served Chinese food that is served in China, at least in certain restaurants and homes. It is also a culinary history (of sorts) of China and a story of friendship and family. And to a lesser degree it is the story of a food writer who discovers her late husband was not faithful and may have sired a love child. If you love food, how it is prepared, how it tastes, or stories about food, The Last Chinese Chef is a must read. Though I warn you, this book will make you very, very hungry.

Sacré Bleu: A Comedy d'Art by Christopher Moore. This was the Christopher Moore book I managed to read all the way through -- and I'm glad I did. Having just returned from a trip to France, and having an abiding love of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painting, I was immediately sucked into Sacre Bleu, which claims to be about the color blue (or ultramarine), and it is. Sort of. But it is more a sly, witty work of historical fiction covering the French art world of the 1890s. If you are a Christopher Moore fan, a lover of Paris (particularly during La Belle Epoque), and/or a fan of Impressionism, this book is a must read -- though you may not think of Impressionism in the exact same way again after reading it.

Angelina's Bachelors: A Novel with Food by Brian O'Reilly. When Angelina D'Angelo's beloved husband, Frank, suddenly dies, she pours her grief into her cooking -- which leads her to discover new friends and a new life. To quote on book review, "Filled to the brim with homemade warmth, Angelina’s Bachelors is a sweet tale of overcoming grief, redefining family, and following your heart -- through food." O'Reilly, a producer at the Food Network, and his wife, a cookbook author, enrich the story with recipes and a true love of food. A feel-good read, perfect for a chilly night.

Rococo by Adriana Trigiani. I laughed, I cried. Rococo is the story of Bartolomeo di Crespi, B. to his friends and family, a New York-trained interior decorator who has decorated nearly every home in his home town of Our Lady of Fatima, New Jersey. The book is supposed to take place in the 1970s, but the story -- of chasing a dream (to renovate his home-town church), of family (a warm and funny albeit dysfunctional Italian one), and the quest to find the perfect ottoman -- is timeless.Very funny.

Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson. I'm not sure why I loved this book. Maybe it's because I love magical realism and the exotic, or maybe it's because I'm a bit of a geek. But I could not put it down. Literally. A story of hackers and jinns, Arabian royalty and rabble, good and evil, Alif the Unseen takes the reader on an extraordinary journey into the unseen -- a kind of modern Arabian Nights.


Killed at the Whim of a Hat by Colin Cotterill. A cheekily written mystery, set in Thailand, featuring eccentric characters (the narrator, a wise-cracking female crime reporter, her body builder little brother, and her hacker extraordinaire transvestite older brother, Sissy), and a plot that keeps you guessing. Cotterill's followup, Grandad, There's a Head on the Beach, is also good fun.

The Case of the Missing Servant and The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing* by Tarquin Hall. I loved these two "Vish Puri, Most Private Investigator" mysteries, which are set in India (mainly in Delhi). I loved the whimsical characters, the (Anglo-American) author's use of language, and the humor. If you like a witty mystery set in an exotic locale, check out The Case of the Missing Servant -- and if you like it, The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing.


Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X by Deborah Davis. I clearly have a thing for art history books. Also John Singer Sargent (one of my favorite painters). And Belle Epoque Paris. While nonfiction, Strapless often comes across as historical fiction, which I consider a good thing. A fascinating story about the painter John Singer Sargent and "Madame X," aka Virginie Amelie Avagno Gautreau, the subject of perhaps Sargent's most well known -- and infamous -- painting, Portrait of Madame X.

The Hare with the Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal. Part art history, part memoir, The Hare with the Amber Eyes is one man's poignant search for the family history behind a set of Japanese netsuke (wood and ivory carvings) he inherited, which takes him to Paris and Vienna and Odessa. As a Jew, I was heartsick reading about the treatment of the Jews, even prominent ones, such as the author's great-grandparents and their extended family, in the early through mid-1900s in Europe, particularly in France and Austria, where much of the book takes place. A must read for lovers of art history, memoirs, and/or Europe before and during the Second World War.

Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell: Adventurer, Adviser to Kings, Ally of Lawrence of Arabia by Janet Wallach. Before stumbling upon this book at my local library, I had no idea who Gertrude Bell was or anything about the history or formation of Iraq. Boy, was this book an eye opener. The incredible story of an incredible woman, Desert Queen shows how (and why) things went so terribly wrong in the Middle East -- then and now -- and why any Western attempts to "fix things" or bring democracy to that region will most likely fail. To repeat myself, fascinating.

For more great reads/book recommendations, click here (or on the BOOK NOOK label at the bottom of the post).

So what were some of your favorite reads of 2012? Please leave a comment with the name of the book and the author.

*I'm counting these as one selection.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The bigger the boobs, the better the present?

A friend just emailed me this article about a controversy in the UK over this card (at right) aimed at 13-year-old girls.

For those who can't make it out, the text on the front of the card says: "You're 13 today! If you had a rich boyfriend, he'd give you diamonds and rubies. Well, maybe next year you will -- when you've bigger boobies!"

And I agree, giving a 13-year-old girl diamonds and rubies is outrageous, even if it is her birthday and you are a sheik. But the part about getting a rich boyfriend -- and better presents -- when you have bigger boobies is absolutely true.

This is yet another tempest in a D-cup. (And no, I will never get tired of using that line.)

I actually applaud the card for keeping things real. Girls with bigger boobs (who are not hideously overweight and do not have faces that would scare off little children, or rich boyfriends) do get richer boyfriends and better presents than flat-chested women (unless the flat-chested woman has an exceptionally beautiful face). If it wasn't true, plastic surgeons would be out of business. 

Indeed, I don't think the card went far enough. What it should have said was, "-- when you've bigger boobies and that acne has cleared up!"

Monday, December 10, 2012

Football humor

Before I was a football fan, I was a football fan's girlfriend. (Back in the day, when the spouse and I lived in Chicago, and we were not yet married, we would go to the Cubby Bear by Wrigley Field to watch New York Giants football games with my future brother-in-law, who would tell me to go stand in the babe section.) So I could totally relate to (and laugh at) this video titled "Every Fan's Girlfriend: NFL" from the NOC.

Today, I am proud to say, I watch New York Giants (and New York Jets) football games whether or not the spouse is around. However, I am still waiting for the spouse to agree to salsa dancing lessons (though we did name our Chevy Cruze rental car "Victor.")

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Happy Hanukkah, Bitches

Friend of the blog Another David S. sent me this Hanukkah video from Bubala Please, titled "Making Latkes" (which was sent to him by his mother), and I just had to share.

WARNING: Some of the language in this video is definitely NOT KOSHER. So probably best not to watch it with kinder in the room.

And if you liked the first Hanukkah episode from Bubala Please, be sure to watch Episode 2, "Hanukkah Bush," below.

WARNING: The language in this video is also inappropriate for kinder, bubbehs, too.

I so want to pimp out a Hanukkah bush right now and eat some latkes.

On a more G-rated note (G being for Geek), check out this amazing instructional video on how to light a menorah -- with a robot and a little nitroglycerin -- created by the Jewish nerds at the Israel Institute of Technology, aka The Technion.

[A tip of the kippah to fellow blogger Dave S., a real mensch, for that excellent video.]

Wishing all my Jewish friends (you goyim, too) a MF good Hanukkah.

Friday, December 7, 2012

It's the little things

Just received my shipment of eight tiny (187ML) bottles* of Charles de Fere Jean Louis Brut Champagne from!

 Looks like it will be a Happy Hanukkah (which starts tomorrow at sundown) and a Merry Christmas after all!


*I'm a lightweight when it comes to alcohol, rarely being able to ingest more than a few sips of wine or beer or spirits without getting a killer headache. So I am always loathe to open a bottle of wine, and especially Champagne, for fear of wasting it. That's why I was delighted to come across these delightful mini bottles of bubbly -- Charles de Fere Jean Louis Brut -- while dining out last summer. More proof that good things often come in small packages. Now I can enjoy a sip of Champagne whenever I like, without the headache or the guilt.

UPDATED: Voila! My Champagne Menorah!

(I tried using my magnum of Dom Perignon, but it wouldn't fit in the frame.)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

All I want for Christmas is...

Jimmy Fallon (and the Roots) making annoying Christmas songs listenable again.

Yes, folks, Jimmy Fallon has done the impossible. He has made me like Mariah Carey's overplayed, oversung Christmas song "All I Want for Christmas Is You" likeable again. Even more amazing, he has made Mariah Carey likeable. (The producers of American Idol should send Fallon a check.)

Check out this great Late Night "Music Room" version of "All I Want for Christmas Is You," performed by Jimmy Fallon, The Roots, Mariah Carey, and a bunch of adorable elementary school kids.

Take that, Justin Bieber!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

It's the 2012 J-TWO-O Holiday Gift Guide!

It's the 2012 J-TWO-O Holiday Gift Guide, your one-stop blog post for fun, quirky yet practical, as well as inexpensive, Chanukah and Christmas gifts!

First up, Holidickeys -- mostly because I love saying "Holidickeys." Say it with me now: Holidickeys. So what are Holidickeys? Per the Holidickeys FAQ page, "Holidickeys are faux collars inspired by the changing seasons.  You may refer to them as dickeys, toppings or johnny collars. Holidickeys come in Peter Pan and Ruffle collars and in a variety of seasonal prints." (Note: These dickeys are just for women.)

And speaking of shirts, how about a stylish, super comfortable tee or a polo shirt from Prepster Pineapple? Makes a great stocking stuffer for the preppy guy or gal in your life! (Did you people seriously think I was not going to pimp my own business?)

And speaking of guys, forget beer goggles. Instead, get him a pair of beer socks! (Sock It to Me also has other great socks for men and women, including sushi socks, bacon and eggs socks, and ninja socks.)

To warm the hearts and (other parts) of coffee, tea, or cocoa drinkers, consider the Chalk Board Mug from the Spoon Sisters. No more having to guess which mug has decaf! (Click on the link to see other great kitchen-related gift suggestions.)

And what goes better with a cup of cocoa than a delicious chocolate-covered Hanukkah-themed pretzel rod from the Painted Pretzel? (That would be a rhetorical question, i.e., don't answer. Work with me here, people.) Heck, forget the cocoa, just give me a six-pack of dark-chocolate-covered pretzels. (Sadly, their Deck the Halls Christmas gift pack already sold out, but the Painted Pretzel has other yummy chocolate-covered pretzel gifts still available.)

Moving from the kitchen to the living or dining room, may I suggest the Brooklyn Slate Cheese Board? Perfect for entertaining, plus no more people asking you, "What kind of cheese is that?"!

For the nerd in your life, how about a Star Wars-inspired flash drive from

Mimoco also has Star Trek, Hello Kitty, and super hero flash drives.

And speaking of Star Wars (and nerds), how about a lightsaber flashlight? Perfect for when you go to the dark side! (Batteries included not.)

Getting back to fun flash drives, check out this cool lipstick flash drive, which would make a great stocking stuffer or holiday gag gift for the woman in your life or a female friend with a sense of humor.

Or maybe your lady prefers more traditional hardware? If so, why not get her this 135-piece tool kit -- in pink! Sisters are doin' it for themselves. (Though my father always said the only kind of hardware a woman wanted was this.)

And even though you probably have a set of salt-and-pepper shakers, I think the Silent Butler Cutlery Salt and Pepper Shakers from is pretty cool, as well as environmentally friendly!

Speaking for eco-friendly gifts, check out these adorable soy tealight candles from Green Irene, which come in creme brulee, spiced chai, and other tasty flavors. (They would have come in handy after Super Storm Sandy blew through, though I personally can't stand scented candles.)

Looking for a gift to give the celebrity obsessed or a magazine lover? Head on over to YourCover, where you can create a personalized fake magazine cover of your loved one -- or coworker or friend.

For you cat lovers or those who have friends with cats, I recommend the Cat Scratch DJ Turntable (mostly because that picture cracks me up, though my cat, Felix, would probably use it).I also like the Sharp-End Cat Pencil Sharpener, which makes a nice stocking stuffer, and the Cat Tao Glasses from Uncommon Goods (which have become our favorite glasses since my sister-in-law bought me a set for my birthday last month).

And for the dog person in your life, I suggest the Bad Dog Tumblers or the Interactive Dog Puzzle.

Last but in no way least, for those in a charitable mood this holiday season (or to teach a youngster in your life the importance of giving, as opposed to receiving), give someone you love a cow... or a goat*... or a pig this holiday season, courtesy of Did you know, and I quote, that "The gift of a dairy goat can supply a family with up to several quarts of nutritious milk a day -- a ton of milk a year"? And "Extra milk can be sold or used to make cheese, butter or yogurt." When was the last time a gift you gave to someone did that?!

Want to recommend a gift? Just a leave a comment with the name of the item and a link to it.

*Putting the baaaa in baaaah humbug?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas is a beach

Growing up in New York City, the child of divorced parents for whom Christmas meant very different things, Christmas was always a confusing holiday to me (and not just because I was Jewish).

For my mother (a Jew from the suburbs of Philadelphia), Christmas meant getting out her bags and boxes of Christmas ornaments, which she had begun collecting in her 20s. Untangling and then testing strand upon strand of twinkly lights which, no matter how carefully we put them away the previous year, still wound up getting tangled and having loose bulbs, which caused the entire strand not to work. Putting on a stack of classical music records on her old but serviceable portable stereo. Pouring herself a glass (or two) of good red wine. And then spending the evening (and possibly the next) decorating the enormous (to me) tree she picked up somewhere on Lexington or Third Avenue.

To this day, even though I have not decorated a tree with my mother in well over 20 years, I have fond memories of Christmas -- and not just because it was the one day of the year when I received a pile of presents and could wake my mother up before 9 a.m. (though that didn't hurt).

For my father, a near-scratch golfer (and also a Jew), Christmas meant going someplace warm to play golf with his buddies. It was also the holiday I was assigned to spend with him. So typically as soon as I had finished unwrapping and admiring my hoard of Christmas goodies, I was whisked off to the airport to spend the next six or seven days on or a near a beach someplace, either alone (as my father played golf all day then had dinner with friends) or with the "mother's helper" who would accompany me when I was younger.

And I hated it, even though I love warm weather and palm trees. Not only was I horribly lonely at a time of year that's supposed to be about getting together with friends and family (both of which were in short supply in my life), but Christmas, at least to me, meant a nip in the air, snowflakes falling, people skating at Rockefeller Center (or Wollman Rink), and singing Handel's Messiah with a group of strangers -- not palm trees, pina coladas, and Reggae music (though I have since come to love all three of those things). Also, the crowds and lines at the airport were enough to deter any sane person from traveling at that time of year.

That is probably why, after I graduated from college and no longer had a winter break, I stopped spending Christmas in the Caribbean or Florida -- even though I start pining for warm weather as soon as the temperature dips below freezing.

Then, this weekend, while strolling the beach on Sanibel Island (while the teenager was away at the Yale Model Congress) at sunset, the spouse and I came across this little Christmas tree, all lit up, just a few feet from the water.

A couple had placed the little Christmas tree there in hopes of featuring it on the cover of this year's Christmas card. And as I stood there, looking at that little tree all lit up, the water gently lapping in the background, the sun setting just ahead, I felt an overwhelming sense (or should I say tidings?) of comfort and joy. And I realized, Christmas can be a beach or the North Pole -- or something in between. What truly matters is not where you spend it but who you spend it with.

Wishing you comfort and joy this Chanukah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa....