Christmas in Kyoto

Christmas in Kyoto did not sound promising but the flight was cheap. Having spent the last several Christmases huddled around the small wooden tables of the German Weihnachtsmarken, hands wrapped tightly around steaming ceramic mugs of glühwein, we expected Japan to be a bit of a disappointment in terms of holiday spirit.

There would be no Christmas markets selling roasted sausages or over-sized steins of altbier. There would be no outdoor festival tables to provide the inevitable camaraderie that accompanies the mass consumption of mulled wine in freezing temperatures. Communication would be near impossible as both my wife Lauren and I spoke very little Japanese and could not read kanji or katakana.  

Nonetheless, one evening as we approached the bottom of our second bottle of wine, we decided Kyoto would make for a fine introduction to Japanese culture, with the added bonus of seeing drunken Japanese “salary men” stumbling around in Santa hats.

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Can There Be A Perfect Christmas?

by Connie Hand                                                   

When I lit the Christmas tree this evening, I sat down and gazed dreamily at its ribbons, lights, and decorations. Christmas is a magical season and the tree is part of that magic.

All of a sudden, I started to chuckle as I thought of our first Christmas  many years ago and the disaster of putting up our first fresh-cut tree.

That December 23rd, I knew putting up our tree in the evening would be perfect with a little planning. I got out the glistening new ornaments and ribbons. There were about eight strings of tiny white lights. The tree was on the porch cut just so that it would fit in the waiting tree stand. We were excited and looking forward to a lovely evening trimming our tree while listening to Christmas music and toasting our first Christmas together. It would be the beginning of making our own holiday traditions.

I got out two crystal flutes, an ice bucket with a bottle of champagne, a splurge of caviar, some crackers, and deluxe mixed nuts while my husband, Jeff carried in our perfect tree. He put the tree in the red stand and screwed the fasteners tightly. He stood back proudly and looked at me expectantly. As the smile on his face turned into a look of panic, I managed to squeak out “It’s crooked”. He insisted it was straight and then stood back to admire his handiwork. As he sheepishly turned to me, he admitted that it was very crooked. The tree came down but  recutting the trunk proved impossible so I suggested putting some paper coasters under a leg of the stand. We finally had a straight tree.

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7 Least Romantic Places For Valentine’s Day

by Debbie Wilson

Usually, at this time of year, I’m thinking about hearts, flowers, and chocolate in sweet, loving surroundings. I can’t believe that every year I descend into embarrassing fantasy clichés, so, this year, I’m trying something different. I’ve set out to find places where you or Cupid would never think of going.  Places you can immediately eliminate from your Valentine bucket list.  


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Nothing Says Love Like Bacon Grease

by Melissa Josue

Water droplets beat against the bedroom window, which framed a gray sky that poured all day into the evening. But the smell of hot butter browning in a skillet and the buoyant sound of trumpets and keyboard from the radio lifted my mood. I’ve only experienced Mardi Gras through weekend parades leading up to Fat Tuesday. But not the evening often touted on the news as an occasion of unabashed revelry and regrettable drunkenness.

“This must be a nostalgic time for you, isn’t it?” I asked my boyfriend Charles while he browned the French toast in a melted layer of what he calls “fake butter,” a cholesterol-free alternative to butter that I try to keep in his fridge should we decide to treat ourselves to a heavier brunch. I thought he was going to reminisce about stumbling out of the Napoleon House after having had too many beers or talk about the things he and his high school buddies did to get girls to catch their beads.

But instead, he prepared for Fat Tuesday as though it were Christmas. Reminding me weeks in advance to keep the evening free. Pulling out plastic beads to wear to work or offer his daughters. Interspersing the weekends before Mardi Gras with meals containing some variation of grits and cheese, a heavy cream sauce, and way too much butter for the sensibilities of a girl who practiced portion control with a kitchen scale. His shameless use of animal fat was both horrifying and endearing. If a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, he reciprocated by spending equal time over the stove to cook his way to mine.

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