Saturday, November 30, 2013

BBW Candles

They say that scent is the strongest sense tied to memory. It is no wonder then that I associate certain candle fragrances with Christmas. Since I worked at Bath and Body Works during the holiday season, their candles are holiday essentials in my house.
My favorite of their candles is “Winter.” When I was young, my mom had a set of figural candles shaped like Santa, Mrs. Claus, a snowman, and a sleigh and they smelled exactly like “Winter.” I will forever associate that scent with Christmas, and although I keep stocked with enough of these candles so that I won’t run out, I refuse to light them after the holiday season.
Another that I really love is “Fireside” which smells just like a wood-burning fireplace in action. Although we have a fireplace, it is convenient and comforting to just light a candle.
They also have a scent called “Cranberry Woods” which has a less positive connotation for me. When I worked at BBW, I got sick one night we were doing a floorset, when we re-arranged the store for a new promotion. I had all the flu-like symptoms: chills, sweating, queasy stomach, and fatigue. But I couldn’t just leave, so I stuck it out and began re-arranging the candle tables which seemed to get heavier by the hour. Unluckily for me, I didn’t realize that the original set-up was like a teeter-totter and when I cleared one side, the other side was too heavy to stand on its own, and dozens of candles crashed down onto the floor. The majority of the broken ones were “Cranberry Woods” and the scent flooded the store, and my face turned about as red as the wax.
RADIO: Cinnamon Bear “Weary Willie”, Jump Jump and the Ice Queen “Tim Meets Jump Jump”, Jonathan Thomas and his Christmas on the MoonJonathan Promises to Find Santa”
MOVIE: I saw The Holiday for the first time this year, and I immediately fell in love with it. It has three things that I absolutely love: Kate Winslet, old movie references, and Christmas. How could I not enjoy it?
It’s about two women who are ready to get over the men in their lives, so they swap houses and take a personal holiday. In doing so they meet new men.
If you’re looking for a way to ease into Christmas, look no further than this film. It is set during the Christmas season but it doesn’t knock you over the head with references. Instead, we’re treated to cozy visuals, a sweet love story, and characters who begin to care deeply for the strangers they meet. Get yourself a mug of hot chocolate and snuggle up in a blanket on the couch when you pop this DVD in. And don’t forget to light your favorite candle to complete the effect.
SONG: “I Wish it Could be Christmas Everyday” by All-Star United

GIFT MEMORY: At Bath and Body Works, we sold a large snowman luminary. It was adorable, mostly white with a red scarf and a silver top hat. I dubbed him “The Big Fat Snowman” and I wanted to buy one, but at $35 and with me trying to save money for my looming wedding, I couldn’t afford to splurge.
Then one day I came to work to prepare a floorset and saw that the snowmen were going to be 50% off at the start of the new week. Darina, one of my co-workers, also had had her eye on the snowman but didn’t feel right treating herself, so we devised a plan. We couldn’t buy things for ourselves, but we could buy gifts. I prayed no one would buy all of them, and they didn’t. On Monday, I came into work on my day off to meet Darina as we purchased our snowmen, and then exchanged them as gifts. We laughed and made a show of the ceremony, gave each other big hugs, and went on our way with our prizes. (That’s one of the great things about Christmas; even the silliest of things are more fun.)
I proudly exhibit my snowman each year with various holiday fragrances burning inside. It is still one of my favorite decorations.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday

Until this year, I have never been brave (or crazy) enough to venture out on Black Friday, but I have had to work it.
There is nothing like working in retail at Christmastime. It makes you forget that you’re being paid minimum wage and working with a lot of slackers who take advantage of how difficult it is for a company to fire someone.
The spirit of the season is in full swing at Christmas. Sales come easily, so the stress of achieving sales goals goes away. People enter the store with money to spend and the desire to get the perfect gift. It is hard not to get caught up in the excitement of it all, and the mall is the perfect place for sensory overload.
There are decorations hitting you square in the face as you get close to the mall. You don’t have to step inside to see it. I recommend going to Easton if you’re ever in central Ohio during this time of year. It’s a sprawling shopping center with a large central bi-level indoor mall with a movie theater and lots of restaurants and dozens of outdoor shops along small pedestrian-friendly streets. There are lights everywhere and a trolley and horse-drawn buggies outside. The smells of baking and burning holiday candles are everywhere. People are milling around bundled in their warm coats and scarves, and for some reason most of them are dressed up for the occasion. And there is music floating around every store, every hall, even in the bathroom.
Of course, with the amount of people who are shopping, some of whom are stressed out about money or getting the right item or simply being out in the crowds, there can be some frustrating situations at the mall. And the people who are working are most likely putting in a lot more hours than usual, and they are probably tired. Here is some advice for shoppers to help your trip go smoothly and to help keep the salespeople from snapping. 
Advice for shoppers: 
  • No, if the tag is missing, it is not free
  • Yes, you're going to have to wait in line.
  • Plan ahead. Check out store ads, look online, and bring in pictures of the items you want so you can be in and out in no time. But be aware that there are such things as online exclusives, or gasp!, the store might be out of stock of something. 
  • Most stores will not hold items for you on big shopping days like Black Friday and Christmas Eve. If a salesperson decides to break this rule to do you a favor, please thank them! 
  • Keep an eye on your children. If you don't have the patience to watch them or to make them behave, don't bring them. Salespeople are not babysitters. Once when I worked at Victoria's Secret, two boys under seven came into the store with their mother who wasn't watching them. They went into the window and pulled the bras down off of the mannequins. A mall shopper passed the window and became outraged, came into the store to yell at our manager for the "disgraceful" window display. We had no idea the boys had done that, and while I got a good laugh out of it, it caused a situation that had to be diffused. We also used to have children climb on the giant pink dogs who promptly fell down and hurt themselves because of negligent parents. It is hard enough keeping everything in order at the holidays without having children destroying displays and running into customers. Please watch your kids. 
  • When you’ve come to the store for a specific item and can’t find it, ask if there are any left. Often stores have access to inventory on their computers, or at the very least a salesperson can check the stock room for you. However, if they tell you they’re out of something, accept that answer. Don’t start digging in understock or rifling through boxes in hopes of finding a stray item. Not only does that make it more difficult for salespeople to replenish the dwindling stock on the shelves, but it makes them suspicious of you. 
  • Let your cashier know before you finish checking out that you need gift receipts. If you can group the items on the gift receipt together so he doesn't have to excavate your long list of purchases to make sure they all make it on the gift receipt, that would be especially helpful. 
  • Be pleasant! After all, it's the most wonderful time of the year. Yes, there are sales goals to make, and salespeople often required by their employers to tell you about something on sale or something new. If you're not interested, just smile and nod and thank them. Don't give them a dirty look, or worse yet, completely ignore them.   
  • If they do a good job, please call in to complete that survey. Most respondents are people who have had a bad experience, so it is nice to hear praise every now and then, and often you'll get a discount on a future purchase for your trouble.

My first Black Friday was a big success. I went out with my friend Theresa and her family. She told
me they were making shirts, and I assumed the worst, gaudy airbrushed things that screamed, “Look at me!” but they weren’t like that at all. They were black shirts with high-end iron-ons that said “Black Friday Dream Team” with a target in the middle. A few passersby noticed them, but they weren’t too showy. They were just fun.
We began at 5:30 in the morning and ended at 4 p.m. My feet hurt, my shoulders hurt, and I just want to curl up on the couch. But now that I don’t work at the mall and because I don’t have a lot of girl friends, I don’t often get to go shopping in the way a girl likes to shop: slowly, extravagantly, and for hours.
The deals didn’t blow my mind, but I did see lots of great gifts, and lots of things I wanted to buy for
myself, but I refrained. One store I did allow myself to splurge at was Bath and Body Works because they had 2 for $22 candles and they allowed us to use multiple coupons, so I got $10 off a $30 purchase and a free item. My house will smell fantastic this year.
The girls kept telling me how unlike a usual Black Friday this one was, and they credited that to the fact that so many stores are open on Thanksgiving now. I enthusiastically refuse to go shopping on holiday, a value I learned from my dad, who pounded the ideals of the good old days into our heads by explaining that if no one went out on holidays, the stores wouldn’t be open because they wouldn’t be making money. While I know my efforts are futile, I stand by the notion that all of us deserve a true collective holiday from work a few times a year.
I don’t think I will ever feel that I need to shop on Black Friday, but it was a lot of fun to go out with a group and try to get great gifts for our loved ones. If you’ve never gone, I recommend it.
RADIO: Although I am a far bigger fan of classic movies than I am of old time radio, I especially enjoy listening to radio during the holidays. This is largely due to the fact that there are several children’s programs that were broadcast in the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
This year, I recommend that you listen to these programs the way they were originally aired. If you don’t have children, you might feel a little silly listening to these things, but I defy you not to like them even just a little bit.
Jump Jump and the Ice Queen (begins tomorrow) can be streamed here:
Jonathan Thomas and His Christmas on the Moon can be streamed here:  
If you want to stream them one per day per Christmas, listen to Cinnamon Bear “Paddy O’Cinnamon” and Jonathan Thomas and his Christmas on the Moon “Santa and the Squeebublians”.
MOVIE: When I was a kid, we rarely went to the movie theater. Although prices then were less than
half of what they are now, my mom didn’t work and my dad supported us on a warehouse income. Fun money was a rarity. So when my parents piled my sister and me into the car for a surprise outing, we were excited even though we had no idea where we were going. 
We met my extended family at the movie theater to see Jingle All the Way. At the time, I really enjoyed it as a straight movie, but these days it’s a great representation of the cheesy nonsense of 90s movies. 

The film addresses a hot-selling toy reminiscent of the Cabbage Patch Kids of the 80s or the Tickle Me Elmos of the 90s that people fought each other to buy for their kids. My sister got an Elmo a year after they were nowhere to be found. It was a cute toy, but by that time I was getting too old to enjoy things like that.
SONG: “My Christmas List” by A Simple Plan

GIFT MEMORY: Over the years, I have received some really great gifts. The one I remember wanting the most was my Makeup Beauty doll. For the life of me, I can’t remember why I had such a strong desire for it, but I hoped and wished and prayed for that doll, and I got it.
My grandma has always asked us kids what we want every year, and she usually gets the item we want the most. No socks and sweaters and lame gifts from her; she goes the extra mile to get us fun things.
Makeup Beauty was a great doll for the bathtub. She was all plastic with long blonde hair. She wore a plastic bathing suit and came with an assortment of colored crayons that you had to wet to apply. They were very similar to bath paints, and although the commercials claimed you could wear her makeup too, it didn’t look anything like the stuff my mom put on every morning.
Here is the commercial: (Sorry I could only find it in Dutch)  

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Day

This year, and every year, I am thankful that Christmas is just around the bend.
How anyone could hate Christmas is beyond me. This is a time of year when people are kind to each other, when people are cheerful and willing to help strangers and express their love for their family. For those of us who may have a hard time saying “I love you,” gift giving and baking and spending time together are the perfect ways to express ourselves.
As long as you don’t procrastinate, the season isn’t stressful. And after all why would anyone wait to indulge in something so wonderful?
So many people complain that we have lost the true meaning of Christmas, that it has become too commercialized. Sure, businesses take advantage of an opportunity, but they also get caught up in the fun. Many of them spend thousands of dollars on decorations that aren’t necessary for them to make money. It’s just fun to be excessive at this time of year.
But while many people won’t outwardly express that they’re Christians in this politically correct world, by participating in the festivities, they’re expressing something Christ-like. If God is love, then our celebrations of Christmas are breathing examples of the reason for the season; we haven’t deviated at all.
I want to spread my Christmas cheer this year in the form of a blog that celebrates all the things that make this holiday wonderful for me. I hope it will remind you of your happy memories and inspire you to check out something new to incorporate into your Christmas traditions. 
SONG: “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” by Andy Williams 
MOVIE: Miracle on 34th Street kicks off Christmas with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, which is when many people is the marker for the start of the Christmas season (although retailers begin earlier and earlier each year). This year, forecasts of wind made it questionable whether the large balloons would fly, but the weather complied and the monstrous characters are floating down the street.
Miracle on 34th Street is Christmas canon because it addresses our natural tendency toward doubt. Everyone eventually loses their childlike innocence and stops believing in things, whether that be Santa or the Boogeyman or maybe something more mature, like the existence of God. While I am not claiming that believing in Santa is as serious as believing in God, the question of faith in this movie is ambiguous enough to relate to Christianity. Luckily, the tone is light and this movie is a delight to watch annually. With a cast like Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O’Hara, and Natalie Wood, how could you go wrong?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

It's a Wonderful Life 2: Lost in New York

They're making a sequel to It's a Wonderful Life?!? What the what?!?

According to Variety, "The sequel, titled 'It’s a Wonderful Life: The Rest of the Story,' is being financed by Allen J. Schwalb of Star Partners who will also produce along with Bob Farnsworth of Hummingbird. The duo are aiming to get the movie into theaters for the 2015 holiday season."
I don't care how much the studio promises the film will retain the sentiments of the original. You don't mess with a classic, especially not one as beloved as It's a Wonderful Life (which wasn't a big success at the box office originally). And how likely is it that a sequel to such a classic would be a financial success anyway? I mean, how many people have actually seen A Christmas Story 2? It's stupid to take the chance, and to risk tainting the original is akin to blasphemy.

Poor Frank Capra must be stirring.