Category Archives: Holidays

Merry Christmas, From One of the Oldest Christmas Gifts I Remember

Christmas is always a magical time of year, and even more so for children. In fact, that’s one of the things I miss about my kids being little. They still enjoy the season, but they don’t have the same kind of wonder they used to.

I’ve been spending the last couple of months rearranging my office, and I finally have a good place for an old friend of mine. Meet Fudge Bear.

Poor guy doesn’t have any of the fabric left on his nose, and there are some threads coming out of his paws, but he’s not in terrible shape after all these years!

I was in first grade when my parents and I were grocery shopping at our local membership warehouse. I spotted a huge cardboard box filled with the most adorable teddy bears. I was absolutely in love with the tweed bowties, noses, and paws! It broke my heart not to go home with one, but I made sure to talk to Santa about it.

To my delight, I got my very own bear on Christmas Day that year. I knew there had been a big bin of them at the store, but I was quite sure that mine was made by elves up in Santa’s workshop.

Over the years, and with several moves, a lot of my childhood possessions have been lost to time. Fudge, fortunately, isn’t one of them. He’s been on my bed, in the back of the closet, mixed in with my daughter’s stuffed animals, and seated on a random chair. Now he gets to stay in my office. Sometimes he’s in my desk chair, or in the reading chair, or on the blanket trunk, but he always has a place here.

Merry Christmas from Fudge Bear!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Is Die Hard a Christmas Movie? The Debate is Settled!

It’s that time of year again. Christmas trees are in every window, shoppers are getting their last-minute gifts, and children are all hoping for that one special toy. But the most die-hard fans of Christmas are…watching Die Hard, right?

I personally love it when the old Is-Die-Hard-a-Christmas-Movie debate comes up on social media. It seems that everyone is particularly adamant about their opinion, although I’ve noticed that neither side usually backs it up with any proof.

To settle the debate once and for all, let’s take a look at the elements of a Christmas movie and whether or not John McClane and crew bring it to the table.

It’s the Holiday Season: I think we can all agree that a Christmas movie has to take place at Christmas time, at least in part. McClane comes into town for Holly’s company Christmas party, so there’s really no doubt as to the time of year. There’s not a lot of holiday music, since we mostly hear typical action movie soundtrack, but there is a little bit. There’s also lots of seasonal decor, some of which even gets used to fight the bad guys. John could’ve chosen regular old packing tape that I’m sure would be in that building somewhere to strap a gun to his back, but did he? No. He went for the Season’s Greetings tape, like any good little elf would do.

Isn’t it Romantic?: Most holiday films seem to have at least some romantic element to them. There’s something about this time of year that makes us all want to have our loved ones with us. George Bailey falls back in love with his wife (and his life) in It’s a Wonderful Life, and even Rudolph finds Clarice.

Personally, there’s no doubt to me that Die Hard is romantic. I remember seeing John McClane walk barefoot across broken glass when I was about ten (don’t worry, it was on cable and edited), and I thought it was the most heroic, romantic thing I’d ever seen. In fact, everything he goes through to save his estranged wife and as many other people as he can is one hell of a romantic sacrifice. And of course, despite their differences, John and Holly are together at the end.

Miracles Do Happen, Don’t They?: You can’t have a Christmas movie without a Christmas miracle! Whether it’s snow on Christmas Eve, a gift that only the real Santa could bring, or a crabby old man having a change of heart, something amazing has to happen!

You could say that Die Hard is full of Christmas miracles, actually. Do you think he would’ve survived that fall down the elevator shaft at any other time of year? Or his dive off the top of the building with a fire hose around his waist? How about the massive amount of blood he must’ve lost throughout the length of the film? And all while barefoot! These definitely aren’t everyday occurrences.

If those aren’t good enough Christmas miracles for you, then consider Sergeant Al Powell’s final act of shooting the last terrorist. He’d been so traumatized by a past mistake he’d made that he never thought he’d be able to draw a weapon again, not even to protect someone he loved. But the close bond he and McClane have built over the walkie-talkies gives him the courage to save his friend.

A Quotable Christmas: Many of the great Christmas classics have a great quote that just about everyone can recite. There’s Tiny Tim’s “God bless us, every one!” We all know that every time a bell rings, and angel gets its wings. One of my personal favorites is from Home Alone: Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal! While “Yippee ki yay, m*****f*****” might not make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, it sure is catchy.

In conclusion, I contend that Die Hard is absolutely a Christmas movie, considering that it has all the required elements. Is it fair to exclude it from the holiday movie list simply because of the action sequences, dead bodies, blood, and f-bombs? Maybe we should think about those as added bonuses, something for the grownups to enjoy after the kids have gone to bed and we don’t have to keep it PG anymore. Besides, this is a holiday movie that I can watch with my husband without him making fun of it, so it’s definitely staying on my list!

Merry Christmas, readers!

***

Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Please consider using my links to do your shopping and help me out at no extra cost to you!

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Christmas Movie Time! Single All the Way

It’s just one week until Christmas Eve! That means that amongst all the last-minute shopping, gift wrapping, and baking, there’s still time to watch Christmas movies! This is one of my favorite things about this time of year. It’s a lot less pressure than everything else. 🙂

Today’s selection was a new one this year, Single All the Way. I honestly skipped over it a few times as I was skimming Netflix. I mean, how many I’ll-pretend-I-have-a-significant-other-to-please-my-family-at-the-holidays movies can they make? It’s getting to be a pretty tired trope.

Fortunately, Single All the Way actually makes it work! I don’t want to give away too much, but there are some nice twists that make it fit a little bit less into that trope than it might seem. I also think it’s great that there are starting to be more Christmas romance movies about LGBTQ couples. Even better is that Peter’s family isn’t bothered in the least by the fact that he’s gay. It comes up, and they’re certainly aware of it, but nobody is trying to change him or get him to go out with a woman. His family genuinely loves him for who he is, and maybe they know him better than he knows himself.

I honestly really liked this movie, and it’s definitely going on my list of favorites.

What movies are you watching? Do you have any suggestions for me? Let me know!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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More Christmas Movies: Father Christmas is Back

I’ve mentioned before that it’s always a risk to try out a new Christmas movie. There are so many old classics to love, after all! But there are several newer ones that have become classics for me over the last few years, so I can’t help but try out at least a few new ones.

And it seems pretty safe when I see a new Christmas movie that is a Netflix original (often a good sign) and has a cast that includes Kelsey Grammer, John Cleese, and Elizabeth Hurley. Right?

Well…

This movie is nothing short of awkward. The basic storyline is that a father who left on Christmas Day over twenty years ago has finally returned. His four somewhat dysfunctional grown daughters now have to deal with it. Sure, this could be a great comedy, and it should be considering the cast. But it’s really not funny at all, and so much time is spent setting up how awful these people are that it becomes boring. It’s the family Christmas gathering that makes you wish you pretended to be sick and stayed home in your pajamas.

I recognize the looks on their faces. It’s the same look I had while trying to watch this movie.

I’m no great movie critic, and it’s difficult for me to pinpoint exactly what went wrong here. I just know that it did, at least for me.

Have you watched Father Christmas is Back? What did you think? I’d love to know!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Christmas Movie Time! The Christmas Inheritance

While this year I’m hoping to explore some new holiday films I haven’t seen yet, I just couldn’t skip out on one that’s become a recent favorite: The Christmas Inheritance.

Here’s a quick summary from IMDB: Before ambitious heiress Ellen Langford can inherit her father’s gift business, she must deliver a special Christmas card to her dad’s former partner in Snow Falls, the hometown she never knew. When a snowstorm strands her at the town inn, she’s forced to work for her keep, and in the process, finds romance and discovers the true gift of Christmas.

With the typical Christmas romance trope of a spoiled young woman who has to return to a small town to fulfill the family tradition, The Christmas Inheritance has just about everything you’d expect: a cute inn, a guy who’s heart has been broken, troubles that keep our heroine from just running back to the city, and a scene that makes me sob every single time no matter how many times I watch it.

Even though I’ve pretty much watched this movie every year since it came out, it was still absolutely worth having on while I wrapped Christmas presents. (Sorry to anyone who has tear stains on their gift…see note about the scene that makes me cry.) The acting is actually pretty good, which doesn’t always happen in movies like this. The story isn’t particularly new or earthshattering, but it’s definitely satisfying. If you’re looking for warm, fuzzy feelings as you curl up with your mug of hot cocoa, then The Christmas Inheritance is it!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Please consider using my links to do your shopping and help me out at no extra cost to you!

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Consider buying me a cup of coffee to help keep this blog going! Every bit helps!

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Christmas Movie Time! Starting the Season with Love Hard on Netflix

Christmas movies are one of my favorite things about the season, but it’s always hard to decide where to start. An old classic, or something new? And with as many terrible Christmas movies as there are out there, it’s always a risk to grab a new title.

Love Hard poster.jpg

But I went ahead and chose Love Hard on Netflix. A story about dating apps and catfishing doesn’t sound very holiday-ish. Neither does the MA rating! I’m not always keen on modern movies in this genre, but Love Hard didn’t disappoint! A fun story, truly great characters, character arcs that occur in side characters as well as the two mains, and references to other great Christmas movies made this an absolute hit for me. Throw in some laughing, crying, and laughing-and-crying, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be adding this onto the list of movies I watch every year.

What Christmas movies are you watching? I’d love to know!

***

Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Our Christmas List is Growing Up

I’ve been working on Christmas since last Christmas. No, I don’t put my tree up the day after Halloween, or even the day after Thanksgiving. I’m working on the gifts.

A couple years ago, we started doing our shopping the day after Christmas. It might make it sound like a drawn-out, stressful thing, but it has a lot of advantages. It lets us peruse through clearance sales, buying nicer items than we might normally be able to afford. If I want to do some handmade items (and I usually do), I actually have the time to enjoy making them. We also get to slow down and pick out gifts that are meaningful, instead of just, “Oh, crap. I don’t know what to get you. Here’s some lotion.”

I sat down this evening to look over our Christmas list and I realized something: My kids are growing up. The careful lists I keep (coded for what has yet to be bought, what has already been bought, and what has been wrapped) used to be full of dolls, blocks, and other random toys. My kids still have some toys on their lists, but they’re swiftly moving away from the primary-colored plastic Mega blocks and toward finely painted Schleich figurines. More and more gifts are electronics, or accessories for them. My oldest daughter (who is nine) has items on her lists like earrings, a knife, and new boots. Yep, she’s a replica of myself at that age, but it’s strange to see it happening to someone else.

I admit that in some ways it makes me yearn for their younger years. You know, when they didn’t talk back, argue about when they take their showers or what they watch on television, or bring home a surprising amount of drama from school. I can’t help but miss their more innocent days.

On the other hand, it is so awesome that they are finally a bit independent! They are absolutely brilliant (my six-year-old has a gargantuan vocabulary!), and I can have meaningful conversations with them. As far as the Christmas gifts go, it’s nice to know that if I buy them a $30 gift, it’s probably going to last them a few years instead of getting shoved under the bed and forgotten in six months. I think it is so awesome that my nine-year-old wants a pocket knife and is interested in going deer hunting.

As I watch my children and their Christmas lists evolve, it’s nice to reminisce about my tiny babies while I share deep thoughts with my about-to-be-big kids. I’ll go buy the boots that are almost big enough to fit me, and the chapter books that nobody wants to have read aloud to them. And I’ll enjoy it just as much as I always have.

My Christmas Wish List on an old typewriter

 

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November 19, 2015 · 9:22 pm

The Anti-Climax of Christmas

Even thought it’s a bit stressful, it’s fun to get ready for Christmas.  I enjoy putting up the tree and going through all those ornaments my kids have made over the years.  I love decorating the mantle with garland and my Christmas Snowbabies.  It’s fun to wrap presents as long as it isn’t on Christmas Eve.  Isn’t it great that they still run that same Hershey’s kisses commercial from 1989???

But then, it’s over.  Once we’ve visited every relative and stopped by every holiday party, once we’ve unwrapped all the gifts and pitched the crumpled paper into the trash can, all the holiday spirit is gone.  The tree is now just in the way, and the gifts are just something else I have to find a place for.  The miniature village looks more like a ghost town.  Christmas carols regress back to the equivalent of nails on a chalkboard.  All of those Christmas cookies that seemed pretty innocent on the 23rd are now chock full of guilty calories.  People talk about getting depressed during the holidays, but most of it for me comes after the holidays.

Ah, well, time to move on to the next holiday.  A new year, and time to improve myself (at least for a month).  Time to make resolutions that I’m really going to keep this time (I really will get in shape this year.  Really.  Oh, look, cookies!)  And time to start worrying about what to give everyone for Christmas next year (I just can’t help myself!)

Mmmm....red velvet cookies!

Mmmm….red velvet cookies!

 

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If You’ve Ever Wondered Why I’m a Nervous Wreck…

Please note:  This was meant to be posted before Christmas.  I got pretty far behind with the kids bringing home stomach bugs, the passing of my dear Cutie Cupcake, and then of course preparing for Christmas.  It seems a bit less relevant now, but it would be a shame to waste it! 🙂

Wednesday, 6 a.m.  The dread sets in as soon as the alarm on my cell phone goes off.  It’s one of those ringtones that sounds pretty pleasant when you listen to it while you’re wide awake, but is horribly annoying when it actually wakes you up.  I usually wake myself up by thinking of all the things I need to do for the day.  It’s really not a good idea.  I know that I will need to walk two dogs (who can’t be walked simultaneously) and wake up three kids all pretty much at the same time.

As I pass by my son’s room, I see that there’s no light under his bedroom door.  No surprise.  His alarm is set to go off before mine does since he’s such a slow poke in the mornings, but as usual he has turned it off and gone back to sleep until I blaze into his room and roust him.  One of these days I’m going to get really mean and douse him with a bucket of water, but for the moment I’m still too nice.  One dog goes out, while the other whines that he wants his turn.  My eldest daughter is up and dressed, all on her own, but she’s whining (again) about how tired she is.  We are all tired, I tell her, but it never sinks in.  I start trying to wake up the youngest, who’s 5.  I can’t seem to get her trained to an alarm clock.  The hulking hunk of Hello Kitty colored plastic on the corner of her dresser can be blasting beeps that can be heard all over the house, but she will still be snoring peacefully.  I can come up to the side of her bed, however, and ask her quietly what she dreamed about, and she will be wide awake and chattering in a moment.

Her kindergarten class is making gingerbread houses this morning, and they asked for volunteers. When she presented the flyer to me last week and said, “Will you be there, Mommy?” well… How could I say no? It doesn’t matter that an elementary school is the worst nightmare of an antisocial germophobe; if big blue five-year-old eyes ask you to go, you go. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, even though one little boy insisted on eating ask if his decorations before they could make it onto his house, and one little girl insisted on licking each decoration.

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I realize when I get home that I had promised her a pretty dress to wear to her holiday recital tomorrow night, but I never went and bought one. I tear through the girls’ closet, feeling like the worst mother ever. I come up with a glitzy black number that her older sister wore three years ago, and hang it with shaking hands at the foot of her bed, simultaneously hoping it’s good enough and reminding myself that it must be good enough.

Oh, crap. We’re supposed to make treats for the Girl Scout holiday party.

I pause here for The Middle. This is the one pleasure I allow myself that I actually DON’T feel guilty for. Two reruns are aired back-to-back at lunchtime, and I bask in the glory of their dysfunction daily.

When the kids get home from school, the evening chaos begins.  Trying to orchestrate three children in their homework and their chores while also finding time to make dinner is simply not a calm process.  We try to squeeze in some down time on the couch somewhere among baths, packing backpacks for the next day, deciding who’s eating school lunch and who finds school spaghetti deplorable. Oh, yes, and baking cakes for Girl Scouts.

At some point I collapse into bed and fall asleep while visions of undone chores dance in my head.

Thursday, 6 a.m.

For the first part of the day, suffice it to say we can just repeat the first couple of paragraphs for Wednesday.

After a few cups of coffee, I’ve cranked out the rest of my paper.  I click save just in time for my husband to remind me we need to go to town and run some errands.  This pretty much means the rest of my day is shot, because by the time we get back home it will be almost time for the kids to get home.  Did you know that around 3:30 every vehicle that comes down our road sounds like a school bus?  True story.

Fortunately, there’s no homework today so we can get straight to icing the cakes we baked for Girl Scouts.  The girls each want to do it themselves, independent little things that they are, and I eventually let go of my OCD and just let them have at it.  Sure, you can put sprinkles on it.  Dump the whole darn container on there for all I care, as long as they’re done and I can shove them back in the fridge.

It’s time to get ready for Claire’s holiday concert.  I always make a much bigger deal out of these things than need be.  Always.  I get on my best sweater, actually bother with putting on makeup between shouting at the kids to stop fighting already, and try to explain to Violet why camouflage snow boots might not be the nicest attire for her little sister’s concert.  I get Claire into her sparkly black dress (which she was thrilled with…phew!) and the black tights I’d grabbed at Walmart when we ran errands.  Then I have to remind her incessantly that no, you simply cannot carry around our giant furball of a cat while you’re wearing black.  Several lint roller sessions later, we’re finally ready to go.

You know how on Black Friday you see lines of people waiting to get into stores?  That’s what our elementary school looks like at 6 p.m. the night of a concert.  The smart ones get their early to grab their seats so they don’t have to be standing at the back of the gym like they did last year.  We get a decent spot on the bleachers near the stage, but once the kindergarteners file onto the stage, I can just barely see my daughter over the top of a poorly placed microphone stand.  Next year we’re leaving 45 minutes early instead of 30.

Back at home, the kids undressed and coerced into bed, I fall asleep on the couch watching my favorite show and wake up with an undeniable craving for chocolate chip cookie dough.  After arguing with myself about it for awhile, I haul my pajama-clad self into the kitchen and start baking.  Fast forward half an hour and I’ve eaten enough cookie dough to satisfy my craving and make me feel incredibly guilty.  I leave the mixing bowl in the sink to soak overnight.  I’m ready to curl up in bed and read until I fall asleep with a book on my face.  It’s been a long day, just like all the other ones.  As I settle back into my  pillow, I realize my son doesn’t have any clean pants for school tomorrow.  Sigh.

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National Dog Day – Porkchop and Leo

It’s National Dog Day, and since even I have to take an occasional break from Dragon Month, I’ve teamed up with the good folks at Dropcam to talk about what kind of PUPtectors I have.

PUPtectors

First up is Porkchop.  You’ve seen him here before.

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Porky is my fuzzy shadow.  When I’m working, he’s under my desk chair.  When I’m cooking, he squeezes himself between my feet and the stove.  You can always count on Porkchop to be in the middle of the action.

When you have dogs and daughters, a puggle with fairy wings is inevitable.

When you have dogs and daughters, a puggle with fairy wings is inevitable.

Porkchop’s PUPtector personality is the Barking Buzzer.  He will bark any time he has the opportunity.  There’s the obvious stuff, of course, like barking at the mailman or when someone knocks on the door.  But there’s also a bark for every car that goes down our road, a doorbell on TV, the evil yellow school bus that picks up the kids in the morning, or random noises from the mischievous cats.  Yesterday morning the garbage truck came by, and he actually barked with his mouth full.  Too cute.

My other sweet pooch is Leo.

Leo loves his girl!

Leo loves his girl!

He might not look like it from this picture, but Leo is definitely The Bouncer.  He barks at the normal things, like the mailman, and howls mournfully when he hears a siren, but otherwise he’s the strong and silent type.  Leo lets me know what he thinks of people, and I’ve always trusted his opinion.  If Leo doesn’t like you, I don’t like you.  At one point, I was staying in an iffy section of town, and Leo scared off a would-be intruder with his massive bark.  He might be getting up there in his years, and only have three legs, but I always feel safe if Leo is around.

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Happy National Dog Day!  Remember there are many dogs waiting in shelters for your love and attention, so don’t contribute to puppy mills.  Those of you here in Southern Illinois, be sure to visit P.A.W.S. for your next furbaby, and to check out Leo’s modeling debut.

This post inspired by:

Dropcam-logo-horz

 

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