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A Hard Candy Christmas

I am one of three people in the GTA who still send Christmas cards by post. The other two are 97 year old female twins who never married and live on the Danforth in the house they were born in.

I am an anachronism. And happy to be. In fact, it remains a favourite ritual of mine, despite the ridiculous amount of time and effort it takes, ranking right up there with baking my mother’s recipe for shortbread and preparing festive packages full of carefully chosen goodies for shipping overseas to friends two months in advance.

But my card-writing ritual doesn’t feel absolutely right unless I follow carefully prescribed motions: chalk it up to a heightened sense of occasion.

First, I prepare hot chocolate. I cannot address the first envelope without a mug of this at my side. And not from a package. I am talking real hot chocolate with whole milk and cocoa, boiled on the stove using a timer.

Then I put on six of my beloved mixed holiday CD’s featuring tunes no one admits to owning. Top of my list?  Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s “Once Upon a Christmas,” with corny, wonderful tunes like “A Hard Candy Christmas.”

Second comes Andre Gagnon’s Christmas Album. (They actually used to call them “albums.”) It’s simply not Christmas season until I hear Gagnon and his sublime piano playing.

Next I clear my desk in order to begin arranging my supplies in an assembly line. Out first come my Sharpie Ultra-fine markers, lined up in red, blue and green, followed by Christmas stamps, sparkle glue, address labels and stickers. Yes, I said stickers. And no, I am not an elementary school teacher.

Over the years I’ve bought cards, ordered them online, and made my own from scratch, using just the right knife to create a classic ragged edge on thick cream-colored vellum.

I set out to make each card an event unto itself, a distinctly personal missive for everyone on my list. I include my favourite seasonal quotes and jokes and the occasional New Yorker cartoon, Christmas-themed of course.

One of the funniest ever: Two little girls are pictured chatting in the park. One says to the other: “I like the Easter Bunny: I find him less judgmental than Santa.”

And this one: Santa is stretched out on a psychiatrist’s couch and says to the doctor: “Sometimes I don’t read my mail.”

The piece de resistance: my sealing wax kit with my brass monogram tool, a treasured gift from a dear friend. Sealing letters this way is a 600-year old tradition, one that secured the confidentiality of important missives. Long ago, betrothals were pre-arranged. Therefore true words of love were covertly written and sealed so the recipient could be assured their passion was kept secret. Private political documents held an impression pressed over a strip of velvet. A broken seal implied broken trust … and no one of integrity would dream of tampering with the wax emblem.

It’s decadent and fun stamping the letter M in gold wax on the back of each envelope. It adds the final touch of elegance and tradition to my greeting.

There’s no one who doesn’t adore getting a big red envelope in the mail the week before Christmas, hand-addressed to them and embellished within an inch of its life.

And I love doing it.

Like Kenny and Dolly, it is the perfect pairing.

Oscars 2011

Random takes and tweets on the ceremonies:

Did James Franco look like he desperately needed a nap? He had the look I get when I sleep ’til two in the afternoon: vacant, dishevelled, slightly deranged.

It’s Cate Blanchett – “an Oscar winner and always stunning”, says Hathaway. Thus differentiating her from all those other Oscar winners who are now living under the L.A. freeway?

Further with Cate, handing out the makeup award for the Wolfman with a shudder, saying “That’s gross,” I think she was actually back-referencing the cadaverous Kirk Douglas’ leering egomaniacal presentation earlier. He was always such a hound dog (I read his bio, yes I was the ONE.) and he readily admits same. P.S. I am NOT Spartacus!

The wonderfully manic Live-action Short winner Luke Matheny for God of Love announces: “Ugh, I should have got a hair-cut.” No, say it ain’t so. That’s some impressive height on a wonderfully vast black bouffant.

Toy Story 3′s Lee Unkrich: “I want to thank the Academy and I never thought I’d be saying that,” says Unkrich. Um, why not? is there a bizarre history there? To wit… “I want to thank the Academy and I never thought I’d be saying that, after they sold my dog to the circus.”

Sandra (“Sandy” to Ryan Seacrest) Bullock is always a stand out. Perfectly dry and droll. Heavenly. To Jeff Bridges, “You won last year: when is it ever enough, Jeff? Huh?”

Colin Firth takes the stage as the winner, looking – as ever – like he has some unfortunate embarrassing news to reveal. “I am sorry, Academy, but all your cars have been towed and compacted. Thank you for coming.”

He should have danced. And so should we all…

Random tweets.

These are 10 things I know:

1. Classic is best. If you get into a race of fashion do’s and don’ts you cannot win it. Run your own race. Draw your own finish line.

2. Champagne is a truth serum. Nothing quite like it. Crystallizes everything – for me anyway.

3. If any of us truly realized our immortality or the all-too-brief stay we are allotted here, it would be impossible to go on. This is knowledge we must set aside if we are to function fully here. Put it in the vault: that is the deal.

4. If I knew at 20 what I know now I wouldn’t have known what to do with it. I wouldn’t have believed it anyway.

5. Why was I always so reluctant to let myself shine? Fear? Probably. I think we are scared of the light we can emanate if we would only allow ourselves.

6. Chunky peanut butter is just better.

7. There is no one with a more romantic voice than Neil Diamond. If you don’t agree, just listen to “September Morn.”

8. I like the idea of porridge better than the real thing.

9. Small talk after about 10 minutes becomes absolutely exhausting.

10. I have a feeling of utter futility first thing in the morning. After my second coffee it starts to dissipate.

Random tweets, all. Good night.

Golden Globes Reviewed

Random tweets:

Zac Efron has made the mistake of thinking his career isn’t connected to his hair.

Tilda Swinton looks like she came from the future to deliver an important message.
TELEVISION, ITS CALLED TELEVISION! NOT TELEVISUAL, TILDA! Shut up. Notice, no direct shot of the height difference between Pacino and Swinton. And I am temporarily blinded by the glare off Tilda’s frock: Tilda, who will never again utter the three words: Jennifer Love Hewitt.

Is Al Pacino a part-time anesthesiologist? Why does he so obviously fail to mention the mother of his TWIN CHILDREN? Incredible to be so famous and have so little class…

Of course as a method actor, Pacino prepped for You Don’t Know Jack by suffocating several nursing home patients.

I have now formally given up any hope of Annette Bening ever again brushing her hair.

Robert Pattison needs to smile. I mean it, smile, Bob.

I am now formally crushin on Robert Downey Jr.

Claire Danes could cheer up too. I mean, you’re a spokesperson for frickin eyelash stimulant. And I see Temple Grandin is still shopping at Mark’s Work Wearhouse. Are those two dating?

I say Ricky doesn’t go far enough.

Of Swans, Stuttering Kings, Fearsome Fighters, and Facebook.

I watched the Critic’s Choice Awards last night, including the Red Carpet lead-in.  My first reaction was that the people assembled – both before and during the ceremony – had a level of enthusiasm akin to a group of patients awaiting root canal.

It was quite deadly. And normally I am all over these shows: I have watched them forever- and always unapologetically – ever since I curled up at my mother’s feet and watched with her on our little black and white set as the impossibly glamorous Susan Hayward accepted her Oscar in 1958 for “I Want to Live.”

It didn’t help that one of the pre-show interviewers last night was pouring forth pure valley-speak, pronouncing “didn’t” as “dih-unt,” and seemed to be not quite sure of where she was. I am not kidding. Kind of blunts the patina, eh what?

Arnold Schwarzenegger (sp) who opened the show, acquitted himself quite well actually (will wonders ne’er cease?). “Any movie about ballerinas that can get me to sit through it three times has my vote.“ He also said that with his governorship behind him he is looking for acting jobs and that HE should have been the selection to play someone who couldn’t speak properly, NOT Colin Firth as the stuttering king.

Ba da bing! Oh, Arnold, no you dih-unt!

The gowns – and cleavage – were stunning, nevertheless, the Botox and Cartier brazenly on display, and no shortage of Moet Chandon being quaffed at the tables.

Here’s a rundown of who got what: Natalie Portman won Best Actress as expected for Black Swan. Colin Firth won Best Actor for the K-k-k-k-ing’s Speech(my bad). He had the most gracious and entertaining acceptance speech of them all, talking about the gloves being off for the evening, at least until tomorrow when Hollywood retrenches for the next awards go-round. He also said he hoped to have another 20 years with his wife but it would not be nearly enough. Pure class. Christian Bale and Melissa Leo got Best Supporting nods for the Fighter. (Can’t wait to see that! Love Marky Mark.) And finally, the Big Kahuna: The Social Network walked away with Best Picture, predicted by many pundits.

Funniest bit of the night was by Jimmy Kimmel, and as I said, the crowd gave him no props at ALL. He did a good cop-bad cop thing with Emily Blunt, presenting a humanitarian award to Matt Damon for his work in bringing fresh water to the third world through water.org.

Emily B waxed rhapsodic about Damon’s selflessness and worthiness while Jimmy volleyed back derisively.

“I see you’ve got some Evian on the table there, Matt. No shortage of water there, eh?’’

And, “Matt Damon: Star of the Bourne Identity, the Bourne Ultimatum, and the Boring Supremacy.”

“Sean Penn? Listen, Damon, he is in Haiti right now, carrying heavy things!”

Jimmy, I, for one, laughed out loud.

Our culture of fear.

Following the sad story of Natasha Richardson reinforces for me the kind of culture we are living in. It is basically a culture of fear.

All the reports now are focused on helmets. Buy them, wear them, never take them off. Save your life. Endless discussions and film clips of brain swelling and surgical procedures. In fact on the National last night it showed there were a mere 14 deaths due to brain injury on ski hills in Canada in the last DECADE! (When I say mere, I don’t minimize the tragedy or the value of the lives lost, but you get my point).

But very little discussion about the very real fact life is precarious, accidents happen every day, in less likely places than ski hills. Life is fleeting, fragile. The message should be: Live it fully. Not carefully.