Anna Claus Holiday Must Haves

When you stop believing in Santa you get underwear.  –unknown

Okay, so I’m not really a member of the official Santa Claus family, but Christmas is my FAVORITE time of the year!  I am well versed in all the songs of the season, I know the “Code of Elves” verbatim and I’ve successfully completed several Christmas-themed Buzzfeed quizzes online.  So OBVIOUSLY I’m practically an adopted member of the Claus household!  As a self-appointed Christmas authority, I feel obligated to share these twelve little goodies with the planet to ensure you and yours experience your best Christmas yet!  In no particular order, I cheerfully present to you Anna Claus Holiday Must Haves…

  • Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris.  I read this collection of short, satirical (and politically incorrect) stories every December for many, many reasons.  Mostly because who doesn’t love the escapades of a grown man parading around Macy’s as an Elf, the unlikeliest Christmas Eve houseguest EVER and the snarkiest review of children’s Christmas pageants you’ll ever read?  Nothing gets me in the holiday mood quite like this fun (and funny) book.  Complete brain candy, it is good for continuous laughs.
  • Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas  If you love jazzy, upbeat Christmas music this album is for you!  The 60s style jazz offerings are traditional yet they possess that special “zing.”  CAUTION:  The “cool cat” vibe this album induces may cause scatting!  Wonderful background music for doing just about anything holiday-related.
  • Candy Canes  Nothing says Christmas like candy canes.  Sweet and pepperminty I try to consume as many as possible.  Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, it’s not unusual to find these tasty treats (and their tiny crumbs) in my purse, in my pockets or in my mouth!
  • IMG_2064Pandora’s Swingin’ Christmas Radio Station  This is the ONLY internet radio station I listen to during the holidays.  On the computer and on my phone this is my go-to background music for the holiday season.  Here you’ll find everything from the Rat Pack Christmas album and Louis Armstrong offerings to Michael Buble and everyone in between.
  • Santa Hat (Reindeer Antlers optional)  My all-time hat of choice, the Santa hat comes out right after Thanksgiving and lives among the coats all Christmas season long.  This year I’ve decided to add reindeer antlers to the list of approved December head-gear.  Very festive!
  • Starbucks Christmas Blend and Peet’s Holiday Blend Warm, sweet and spicy…this is what Christmas tastes like!  For a coffee lover like myself this is a terrific blend that gets the day going…also serves as the perfect addition to an evening dessert.  Would I like another cup?  Of course!
  • Nativity  Nativities set the scene for a Christ-centered holiday.  Our family nativity is my all-time favorite and I love to share the story about how we acquired such a unique set.  I also love visiting the homes of family and friends and seeing their nativity displays.  Most times it leads to another wonderful story as well.
  • Cookie Baking  I am probably guilty of too much cookie baking during this time of the year, but I love it!!!  I wish we could live off Christmas cookies, but I’m afraid of what we might look like if I got my wish.  Too many favorite cookies to name, I especially love making treats to give away to family and friends.
  • Hallmark Channel Christmas Movies  The Christmas season would not be complete without the Hallmark Channel!  Who can resist seeing all your favorite teen heartthrobs return in these fun and romantic Hallmark movies!  Nothing says it’s officially Christmas like the picture-perfect Christmas towns and tales of true love conquering all.  It’s the gift that keeps giving…round the clock with a new opportunity to spread a little holiday cheer every other hour!
  • Holiday Flicks  My all-time favorite is It’s a Wonderful Life, a classic with the lovable Donna Reed and her screen beau, Jimmy Stewart.  Watching the Charlie Brown Christmas is a must.  I also like to sprinkle in a little Christmas with the Kranks, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story and Elf among others.
  • Christmas Lights Tour This is a tradition that goes way, way back for me.  I can remember piling up in the car as a child and checking out the Christmas lights in my little hometown.  Today, we continue to take (drag) our children out to look at the lights.  This year we cranked our adventure up a notch with a Holiday Lights Scavenger Hunt.  Great fun!
  • Snow Never a guarantee, but snow really makes it all perfect.  It seems that whenever it snows the world seems to slow down a bit…offering us a moment to take in and savor everything around us.  The holidays typically fly by…I need a little snow to take it all in.

A few honorable mentions to my list:  holiday cards, cocoa, caroling and Christmas parades!  They don’t call it the most wonderful time of the year for nothing.  Wishing you the Merriest Christmas!

 

KEEP CALM, Summer’s Coming (15 Days of Sunshine-Inspired Songs) SONG 6

Sometimes the best vacation is a staycation.  –author unknown

I love the movie, “The Wizard of Oz,” for many reasons…but especially for the line,”there’s no place like home.”  It’s just so true.  Of course, one never knows just how much they love home until they move away.  At least that’s how it was for me.  That’s why this next song made my summer music playlist.  I can remember coming home to visit my parents and my dad blasting this song on repeat FOR HOURS AND HOURS in the garage.  The funniest thing was that no one complained.  In fact, there were many times that I caught family members singing along!

“Heaven” by Los Lonely Boys came out in the summer of 2004.  I was in my late 20s, married with one child…and I was pretty much anything but hip.  But there’s something about this song that just makes you feel cool–regardless of age.  “Heaven,” written by a trio of brothers from Texas, captures a laid back summer vibe with its infectious chorus.  Peaking at No. 16 on the Billboard Top 100, the tune went on to No. 1 on the adult contemporary charts for 16 weeks.  Interestingly enough, the song also registered on the country music charts, too.  The song eventually led to two Grammy nominations and one win in 2005.  Their biggest hit to date, this song set the tone for so many that summer.

It doesn’t take much for me to remember that afternoon at my parent’s house.  It’s always a party when we visit!  Lots of family, food and laughter.  I can still see my son (a toddler at the time) working his dance moves outside in the garage with my dad.  Whenever I hear “Heaven” it puts a smile on my face and I am grateful for both summer and a place to call home!

Up Next:  SONG 7…”That’s when I had most of my fun….”

KEEP CALM, Summer’s Coming (15 Days of Sunshine-Inspired Songs) SONG 5

I could never in a hundred summers get tired of this.  –Susan Branch

“Steal My Sunshine” by Len hit the airwaves during my first summer as a resident of sunny California.  The song was all things Golden State–feel good, shiny, pop-inspired, retro and contemporary fun–imagine how surprised I was to find out that it was the product of a Canadian group!  This little goodie hit the pop charts in 1999 but takes some of its great music flavor from both the 70s and the 80s. Besides all that, who doesn’t love a song whose music video features an orange moped posse?

While crawling through my Bay Area commute, I recall scanning my radio presets only to discover this song playing simultaneously on two stations!  Whaaaat? Both the pop and the alternative station spinning the same tune, whoa–this song must be special!  So I turned it up and quickly added another song to my list of favorites.  “Steal My Sunshine” was inspired by a night at a rave, helped reunite an estranged brother and sister, and almost didn’t make it make it onto the group’s CD (fortunately it was retrieved from its hiding place…under the cowriter’s bed!)  All of this makes for quite the story behind a song that landed in Billboard 100’s top ten and on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “Best Summer Songs of All Time.”

This catchy song was still receiving plenty of airplay when I finally had an opportunity to visit Los Angeles that same fall.  It was the perfect background music for a trip to Venice Beach, celebrity sight-seeing and soaking up all things California.  Today you can still find it on a number of summer playlists…including mine.  All the more reason to love a song that enjoys elite “one-hit wonder” status as it “perfectly captured that warm, lazy feeling you get when late summer still seems like it could last forever,” at least according to Stylus Magazine (2007.)  And I think they’re right on.

Up next:  SONG 6…how far is heaven?

KEEP CALM, Summer’s Coming (15 Days of Sunshine-Inspired Songs) SONG 4

If you are lucky enough to be at the beach…you are lucky enough.  –author unknown

Some days are made for the shade and this beach classic definitely fits the bill.  “Under the Boardwalk” by The Drifters made its debut in 1964.  This tune tells the story of a quiet, secret getaway just for two amid the busyness of the surf and sand.  Personally, I remember hearing the song as a young kid and it was the catchy chorus that had me hooked.  Only later did I really grasp the song’s meaning…and it still makes me blush to this day!

One of the more interesting notes to this little ditty is that this one song has two different lines in it…depending upon the version that you’re listening to.  The mono version of the song says “we’ll be falling in love,” while the stereo version says “we’ll be making love.”  Back in 1964, the mono version served as the radio edit since the “steamier” stereo version was banned from the public airwaves.  Further research puts former Drifters vocalist Johnny Moore as the lead singer.  Moore was asked to do the main vocals after the then current Drifters frontman, Rudy Lewis, died of a suspected drug overdose.  The last-minute move resulted in a No. 4 spot on the Billboard Top 100 and earned the song a place in the Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

While this song has been revised dozens of times, the original Drifters song is the one that sweetly whispers “summertime” into my ear…and I can “almost taste the hot dogs and French fries they sell….”

Up Next:  Song 5…”Karen, I love you…!”

 

KEEP CALM, Summer’s Coming (15 Days of Sunshine-Inspired Songs) SONG 3

Don’t bother me, I’m on vacation.  –author unknown

“Drums, please.”

Summer is finally in full swing, but I’ve been listening to this jam continuously since April!  “Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince was a chart-topper in 1991.  Back then, I was a self-involved high school student and summertime was my time 🙂

When you’re a teenager summer means staying up late, sleeping in, pajamas all day, and ice cream for lunch…behavior completely unacceptable for adults (?)  And what would summer be without friends?  Back then my BFF and I made a pact to go out every single night…and in our small town that meant cruising Main street.  Never mind that we were the only car out on a Tuesday night.  Never mind the miles we burned (or the gas we wasted.)  Never mind how crazy our parents thought we were.  We had each other AND our music…and one of those songs was this one.

A summer playlist staple, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince won a Grammy for Best Rap song that year.  The tune also topped out at No. 4 on the Billboard charts and was eventually re-released as a new remix in 2012.  (A little different from the original by fun nonetheless!)

Twenty-six years later, “Summertime” still represents all of the highlights of my teenage life between May and August.  Sunglasses, flip flops, no place to go and all day to get there.  There were cookouts, afternoons at the pool, backyard volleyball, water fights, cruising, river parties, friends and of course, boys.  And even when I managed to grow up a little and snag some part-time work…SUMMERTIME was always my full-time job.

 

Up next:  SONG 4…”we’ll be having some fun….”

KEEP CALM, Summer’s Coming (15 Days of Sunshine-Inspired Songs) SONG 2

The ocean is a mighty harmonist.  –William Wordsworth

Listening to “Beyond the Sea” is like starring in your own personal musical.   I imagine sand, surf, sunshine and fun!  I’m the lead (of course,) gracefully dancing alongside a dreamy surfer WHO CAN SING.  There’s an ensemble of dancers and extras moving melodically to the beat.  And in unison, the cast perfectly depicts life on the beach…all while belting out the oh-so-catchy chorus!

Long before I ever visited the ocean this song painted an amazing picture…one that didn’t disappoint.  In real life, the ocean is a force all it’s own and being near it provides some sort of “magical power” (I believe they call it positive ions.)  Whatever it is, it’s calming and peaceful.  It’s mesmerizing and energizing.  It’s blue perfection.

Bobby Darin’s rendition of “Beyond the Sea” made the song famous in 1959 when it reached no. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100.   However, his version was one of several remakes of Jack Lawrence’s rendition of “Beyond the Sea.” And Lawrence’s adaptation was actually taken from the French song “La Mer” by Charles Trenet.  Trenet’s original melody was an ode to the ocean while Lawrence’s interpretation was rewritten to be that of a love song.  Quite a history for a little ditty that has been featured in countless movies and televisions series since it originated in the 1940s.  All that aside, it’s the perfect addition to my summer music playlist…taking me oceanside…even if it’s only in my imagination!

UP NEXT:  Song 3…drums, please!

KEEP CALM, Summer’s Coming (15 Days of Sunshine-Inspired Songs) SONG 1

Summertime is always the best of what might be.  –Charles Bowden

As soon as the first warm rays of sunshine arrive, this song comes to mind!  Suddenly, it’s 1985 and all is right in the world.  “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves was a chart topper when I was just 10 years old.  Double digits, no worries or cares and summer was so close I could practically taste it (the song was released in May.)  There are two things I find absolutely charming about this little ditty…1) despite the fact that this tune came out more than 30 years ago, my kids practically know all the words AND 2) the song has one of the most dreariest music video settings EVER!

Thanks to pop culture, “Walking on Sunshine” has been the catchy, upbeat, background track to more than a handful of movies and television shows, it’s been highlighted in a variety of commercials, and is featured on countless “best of summer” playlists.  The song has been rerecorded at least three times and is a universally popular cover for bands worldwide…making it hard to believe that it was the group’s only top 40 hit in the U.S.  Searching up the video on YouTube is a real treat, too!  Hard to believe that this song, which invokes so many sunny, feel good vibes, was shot on an incredibly gray, bleak (typical?) day in England.

As a kid, I really only remember cranking it up on the radio while eating popsicles and dancing around my mom’s kitchen.  Now, it’s a permanent feature on my own summer music playlist.  I still crank it up today…in my own kitchen, of course (popsicles optional.)

UP NEXT:  Song 2…a classic, beach favorite!