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32 posts from December 2006

December 31, 2006

New Year's Eve Traditions

New_years_eve By Sarah

It's surprisingly easy to start a tradition. You do something one year. Everyone says do it again and so you do and before you know it, voila!, you're on your way. And though New Year's is supposed to be celebrating, uh, the new, it seems this holiday rivals Thanksgiving for traditions, from who holds the parties to what's served. (Shrimp cocktail and hot artichoke dip, definitely. Recipe to follow.)

Growing up in Pennsylvania, the New Year's Eve tradition in my house required my parents to traipseEdible_panties  up to the Lubrecht's for a very adult (drunken) neighborhood New Year's Eve party. The next morning, I'd awaken to find my parents uncharacteristically still asleep and odd items by the phone. Edible panties stand out. Why, my ten-year-old brain wondered, would someone want to eat their underwear?

Later, when I was young and single, I'd celebrate New Year's Eve in Philadelphia with my lifelong best friend, Lisa, who had the grooviest apartment in Rittenhouse Square. Once I went to New York, assiduously avoided Times Square, and could not get into my brother's apartment on Tenth Street because his brother in law was having a coke-laden party there. This meant my friends and I were forced to freeze on the streets between $6 cups of coffee until dawn. New Year's Day in New York is a religious experience. Empty. Wasted. Cold. Bare.

Personally, I believe New Year's Eve is a night to stay inside, off the roads and surrounded by the warmth of family or, in our case, the mayhem of kids. The new tradition in our house is to hold two parties - one for Anna's teenage girlfriends and one for Sam's ten-year-old buddies. The ratio usually runs 2 adults: 12 kids. Frightening.

Valium This year, Anna's throwing a dinner party with black olive pasta, lahsis and, for dessert, coconut and dark chocolate tartlets. Sam's friends will eat the leftovers. Or throw the leftovers. Or, worse, steal the desserts. They have swords and all sorts of weapons. I have Valium.

Yesterday, while shopping for some New Year's related items, I passed by a nail salon where women were lined up, getting ready for the Big Night.  I felt a tiny twinge of jealousy. Those New Year's Eve bashes at hotel parties in Philadelphia and New York were so long ago that I've almost forgotten the heady experience. Though I can still remember clicking down the city sidewalk in heels way too high and dresses way too flimsy for a frigid winter night, lipstick red, hair sprayed and sparkled, giggling uncontrollably out of nervousness and anticipation.

Then I went back to the task at hand - picking up the ingredients for artichoke dip. And earplugs.

Happy New Year's!


Artichoke Dip Recipe

Hot Artichoke DipHot_artichoke_dip

1 can of artichoke hearts
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut artichoke hearts into quarters. Mix Parmesan cheese and mayo together. Add artichoke hearts. Pour mixture into small baking dish. Bake until hot and bubbly.

Serve with crackers


December 30, 2006

Margie's Favorite Blog

Margie's Favorite Blog

By Me, Margie

The Boss Ladies told me to pick my favorite blog of the year. It was a tough choice - I mean face it, I'm always good. So I just chose my very first real blog in 2006. I had snuck in and done some short stuff, but this was my first, and they say you never forget. Unless it's, you know, forgettable. Which mine wasn't. Not that some of them haven't been. Please. It just goes to show that you never know with people - some guys look totally hot but when it comes down to it, they just cannot get it done, if you know what I mean, and I think you do. See what I did there? I led you straight to the blog. Because sometimes, it's just not worth trying to educate these guys - I'm not running some kind of 'No Loser Left Behind' program up in here.

Vibrators Gone Mainstream

By Margie, left in charge while the Book Tarts take Friday off to enjoy the summer weather, so she decided to post whatever she wanted, since no one is here to check.

I knew if I was patient enough, I’d live to see the day that anyone could buy a vibrator at the gas station. It kind of puts a whole new spin on alternative fuels.

We’d already made such progress from the mail order days of the plain brown wrappers and the parking in the back of the scumbag XXX Video stores, that I didn’t dare hope for this kind of universal acceptance. The first real sign that we were getting somewhere was when catalogs like The Sharper Image and Time for You started carrying ‘personal massagers’. Who was kidding who? What part of your person do you need a cordless, C-shaped, waterproof yet easily sterilizable buzzing machine to massage? Anyone who could fit that thing anywhere else belongs in a circus (and P.S., call me).

By the mid-‘90s, a woman with taste could choose any number of nicely decorated stores to browse a selection of vibrators in various sizes, shapes and colors. You can mark the evolution of feminism any way you want, but I for one consider the opening of the higher class adult toy stores catering to women as a milestone.

The next step was thanks to Dr. Ruth, who came out said it:

Orgasms are important for better health.

(They cure headaches! They reduce stress! And my favorite: They’re great aerobic exercise! It beats the hell out of 20 minutes on the treadmill, I’ll tell you that.)

Dr. Ruth even recommended a vibrator. Of course, calling the Eroscillator just a vibrator is like calling the 1958 Ferrari 250 GTS California just a car. The Eroscillator is a scary looking thing at first blush, but friends who have it swear by it. Oh, the swearing they do - trust me, honey, you do not want to be in the next apartment if you have any sexual issues whatsoever. Really, it’s like a live taping of an Ellora’s Cave audio book. Do they make those? Hmmm, I may have to check that out later.

Then came the sex toy parties. Oh happy day! Now we could get together and drink with our friends and take home a party favor that’s ten times better than any tupperware container. No more leftovers, if you know what I mean. Plus, the demonstrations were informative and educational. There is nothing I like better than learning a little something - or a big something, depending on the mood.

Things were humming along nicely and then, a bump in the road. Who would have thought that national security concerns would have an impact on vibrators? Not my friend Carol, who was more than a little surprised to see someone waving her vibrator around in the carry-on luggage inspection area. More recently, many airport personnel will ask if you’d like to have your bags inspected in private. Too late for Carol, but maybe not for someone else.

The immediate response was the marketing of vibrators shaped like ordinary items you’d pack in a suitcase: lipstick, cigars, shop vacs, flashlights, baseball bats, laser pointers, that kind of thing. Heh - just wanted to see if you were paying attention. One of my friends carries one on her key chain, right next to the Swiss Army Knife. After the unfortunate Carousel incident of 2005, my policy is not to approach anyone holding either of those things in a way that indicates intent.

I thought we had reached the peak of vibrator accessibility, but what do you know -great ideas pop up everywhere. There, in the gas station mini-mart, is a vibrator cleverly disguised as a razor. The first time I saw it, I just laughed - who is going to fall for this - a razor, my ass - who needs a waterproof razor that vibrates? I’ll tell you who - people with nosy roommates. And people with kids who don’t want to have to answer a lot of questions. But mainly, it’s got to be people who have to travel a lot. Now, no matter what kind of battery operated companion you’re packing, you can duct tape a Lady Shick to the side and call it a razor. It’s freakin’ brilliant.

Come on and tell Aunt Margie - what keeps you buzzing?

December 29, 2006

Rebecca's Pick

Rebecca's End of the Year Couplets and Blog Pick

In the news…

Katie got a bigger chair
Ann did Locks of Love with hair
Meredith set her alarm
Rosie’s comeback works like charm

Women comin’, women leavin’
Still get my news from Jon and Stephen

In publishing..

Frye tells big and little lies
Oprah nails him ‘tween the eyes
OJ’s book gets finally tanked
Judith Regan’s ass gets spanked

Some series gone – we all shed tears
Thank god our Tarts had banner years

In Politics…

Cheney shoots guy in the face
Macaca loses Senate race.
Rummy’s out, Pelosi’s in
But we want peace – not just a win.

Dems take Congress – could be good
Let’s focus on what people should.

And now – to continue this week’s program – the following is my favorite Rebecca Blog of 2006 – it was originally posted September 22, 2006, and the comments are actually funnier than the blog, so if you want some more laughs, click on September 2006 on the right hand margin and scroll down to the 22nd.

Man Law
By Rebecca the Bookseller

01adco1901 For those of you who don't watch much TV (particularly those of you who do not watch sports), there is a series of beer commercials based on the concept of Man Law.  The Men of the Square Table (Burt Reynolds, Jerome 'the Bus' Bettis, Oscar De La Hoya, Ty the Rodeo Champ, WWE wrestler Triple H, a Motocross guy with a tattoo show on cable, an astronaut, that guy who cut his own arm off, you get the picture) debate and determine, for purposes of creating a written record, the unspoken laws of Men.

Man_law_3 For example, when posed with the question: "If a friend gets you a beer from the bar, is it acceptable for the friend to stick his finger in the opening to bring back several beers to the table at once?"  Answer by consensus:  "No. You Poke It, You Own It."  Sage advice all the way around, really.

Some Man Laws are universal: Shotgun is shotgun.  The call is determinative.  Never leave your Wingman.  The Wingman Rule has been challenged through the ages with everything from "But I'm bleeding from my eyes" to "But Chuck Norris is waiting for me at home."  No dice.

In an effort to gain a better understanding of this unwritten code of conduct, I sought the wisdom of several men from varying backgrounds and geographic locations.  Now, as a public service to you, our TLC readers, and as a tip of the hat to our male readers (you know who you are, and if you don't, seek counsel), here are some Man Laws - from our panel and from the Square Table.  We invite you to add to our list.

  • Man Law on Refrigerators:  The garage refrigerator is for beer only.  It's not about the space; it's about drawing a line.  A Man from NC adds: in the event that an attractive female party guest is wearing a thong, all beer shall be promptly moved to the bottom shelf of the fridge. Our Man in Vermont wonders why this is an issue.  His Man Law:  The main fridge is for beer only.  Everything else goes in the garage.  An interesting approach, and one that I'm sure makes him a very attractive catch for most women.
  • Man Law on Food:  Regardless of weather, the grill is always the cooking appliance of first choice.  A Man from the midwest contributes: further, salmon is a fish, and not a color.  And a Navy Man serving overseas reminds us that No Man shall use a utensil of any kind to eat ribs.
  • Man Law on Hair Care: No man shall use more than one hair product, if at all.  A Man in L.A. - arguably the hair capital of the world - adds: moreover, the maximum amount of time allowed for a man to style his hair shall be no more than one minute times the number of inches of the mane.  No exceptions.
  • Man Law on Dating Your Best Friend's Girl, Who Just Dumped Him:  "Your best friend is dumped by his girlfriend. How long before you can ask her out?" Under normal circumstances, such woman is Off Limits.  Forever.  Exception: if she is drop-dead gorgeous, the time limitation shall be no less than six months.  A Man from New England contributed the following proviso: just bedding the chick, who is probably vulnerable and ready to get drunk anyway, does not count as a date as long as you don't call her afterwards, and no one else finds out.
  • Man Law on Homophobes Using Beards:  Henceforth, any homophobic gay man who uses a woman as a beard shall be known as a McGreever.  Usage:  "Leave it to that McGreever to waltz out of here with the only hot girl in the joint."
  • Man Law on Bachelor Parties: A Law Man from Texas summarized the rules: No cameras.  No recording devices of any kind.  Any man who makes a phone call to any female - other than a certified professional - during a bachelor party may be beaten senseless with no repercussions.
  • Man Law on Commando Attire:  The only acceptable length of shorts and bathing suits is at least two inches below any possible line of manparts exposure.  This is the codification of the rule more commonly known as keeping the mouse in the house.

Okay, it's your turn.  Let's here 'em.

December 28, 2006

Book Tour, Redux

From our TLC archive, March 2006:

by Nancy Martin

You can say things from behind the wheel of a car you'd never say face-to-face. My mother explained the facts o'life to me on a trip to the grocery store. (It was after a local junior high student was raped and murdered by her math teacher, but let's save the discussion of potential psychological not to mention mathmatical damage of that kind of timing for another blog, shall we?) My mother employed the driving technique so she wouldn't have to look me in the eye while I considered what she and my very dignified, tie-wearing, conservative father did when their bedroom door was locked.

I used the same technique with my daughters, too. Worked like a charm. At least from my perspective. Maybe they're still reeling from the shock, but I don't think so.

When we did the college search, I drove my daughters all over the eastern seaboard looking at schools from UNC Chapel Hill, through Yale and Harvard all the way to Williams, and it was my last chance, I thought, to do some mothering. We talked about everything. Things we'd have a hard time saying here at TLC---no, wait, Sarah's blog on Tuesday pretty much broke those barriers, huh?

Anyway, now that I'm on a book tour, and my media escort--that's her preferred title--is my 24-year-old daughter Sarah, the other foot is on the gas pedal, and she's telling me stuff about her life, her friends, her relationships, and her post-graduation plans while my face does things I'm so glad she can't see.

Before we set off on this trip, my husband took me aside and said firmly, "You're going to have to give up some control."

After all, Sarah's 24 and has traveled internationally more than I have, and she's giving up her spring break to haul her mother all over Ohio and Kentucky, so she ought to be allowed to be the boss now and then. As a result, this trip is a breeze compared to last year's Bataan Death March.

Until now, I have disapproved of those writers who hire their kids to work for them. You know who I mean. Their sons and daughters design graphics, maintain websites, arrange tours, do PR, etc. etc. I felt that kind of thing was unfair to the children. It held them back from making their own way in the world.

Maybe it does.

But there's nobody else who can say in the 2 seconds before a TV camera rolls, "Get the spinach out of your teeth." Or today's "You need a mint, Mother." When we were lost in the search for a particularly well-hidden Barnes & Noble: "Calm down. You can't panic over every little thing." There's nobody else you can trust completely. Nobody who will be totally, brutally, honest when you really need it. Not even your mom. Certainly not your husband who never hesitates, never even looks up from the newspaper anymore when you ask, "Does this make me look fat?" He says without a blink, "You look fine." It's your kid you can count on to be blunt. Your kid will make you change your outfit.

Plus she's doing all the driving. (Like me, she has an appreciation for the Silver Bullet, and she puts him through his paces.)                  

She does the navigating, the collecting of business cards when I forget, the ferreting out all the paperback copies of CROSS YOUR HEART AND HOPE TO DIE which seem to be stashed all over the stores. She lugs the gift bags and carries HAVE YOUR CAKE AND KILL HIM TOO so the cover faces oncoming pedestrians. She has good sense. Incredible computer skills. Impeccable manners. A sweet smile, but a ruthless soul when it comes to protecting her mom. (That's me!) Plus she's great company in the car. We've been laughing since we left the driveway. I should give up some control, because she deserves my respect now. Not all the control, of course, but I'm doing my best.

Book tour? Oh, yes, it's been great so far, too. We've hit lots of stores, and my books are front and center, believe it or not. It's all good. But the mother-daughter bonding is the best part of the trip.

See you on the flip side.


December 27, 2006

Male Romance Novels

This week, the Lipstick Chronicles will bring back a few of our our favorite blogs of 2006 -- the ones that made you laugh, cry and hurl epithets at your computer. Happy New Year, and may 2007 bring you everything you want -- but not everything you deserve. Elaine

By Elaine Viets

Let’s talk about male romance novels.

You’ve read them. You just didn’t realize it. That’s because the critics call these books "gritty realism," "hard-boiled," or "scathing social satire."

In these highly acclaimed mysteries, the hero is a broken-down forty-five-year-old man with no job and a drinking problem. A gorgeous twenty-five-year-old woman falls madly in love with him – and he doesn’t even have money.

Not in my book. There’s fiction, and then there’s fiction.

These are male romance novels. Most women are smart enough to know this doesn’t happen in real life. Too many men have this touchingly naive belief that beautiful young women will love them for their flabby bodies and fine minds. Even smart men fall for this fantasy. I was lunching with a reporter friend who’s hard-boiled as a four-minute egg. He saw an old gentleman escorting a young woman with man-made mammaries and three thousand bucks worth of Versace.

"What do you think she sees in him?" my friend said. He really was puzzled.

"He’s rich and she’s pretty," I said.

"How can you tell that?" he said, as we watched the flossy knockout settle into the old geezer’s Mercedes.

"Why else would a young woman date an old man?" I said. "She’s a material girl. She’s wearing more than you make in a week. Somebody has to buy it for her."

Why couldn’t he see the obvious? This man had a pile of high-powered journalism prizes, but he couldn’t figure that out. I’d worked a dress shop that catered to bimbos and learned that lesson in one week.

I think there’s a disconnect in the male psyche. When a younger man hits on me, my first reaction is: "What’s wrong with him? Does this guy have a mother complex?"

When a younger woman hits on the average male, his first thought is: "I am hot stuff."

But the love-struck bimbo is only one character in the male romance novels. There are at least two more:

(1) The sensitive stripper with the heart of gold.

In male romance novels, a sensitive stripper has been abandoned by a cruel husband. This sweet creature must support a child or an aging mother by working as an ecdysiast. Sometimes, she’s also working her way through school. She’s ashamed and hurting, but she has a family to support, and Mum needs an operation.

As a former reporter who actually knew strippers, I know this is pure male fantasy. Most strippers have boobs of silicone, not hearts of gold, and they’re supporting cocaine habits. The rest have figured out they can make more money taking off their clothes than keeping them on. Hard work is for the suckers stuffing twenties in their G-strings. Worse, from the male romance viewpoint, some of these women don’t like men at all. They prefer the love of a good woman.

(2) The psycho friend of the hero.

Another male romance favorite. In these novels, the hero is too noble to actually torture and kill anyone. Good thing he’s got a wacko best friend to do it for him. Then the hero can disapprove but still get the bad guys dead. The psycho friend has enough weaponry to invade Montana.

I really like it when a minivan dad and his psycho friend take on a couple of hired killers. In these novels, Minivan Dad’s wife and/or children are being threatened, and the police are useless to save them. In that case, a good man has to kill to protect his family. Minivan Dad, with a little help from his pet psycho, blows away the bad guys. In a pinch, he may even save the psycho from certain death with his newfound shooting skills.

I grew up in split-level land, surrounded by Minivan Dads. They were nice guys who made great fathers and loving husbands. But the only thing they ever killed was crabgrass. Real Minivan Dads love reading about Minivan Dad and his psycho friend. It gives them hope that under their dull suburban exterior lurks a cool killer.

There are lots of guns and gore in the male romance novels, but they’re as sentimental as a royal wedding. If men want to buy books that cater to that fantasy, fine. It’s harmless, no worse than the women who read romance novels where hunks carry them off to satin-draped beds.

But here’s what gets me: Female romances are derided as fluff. Male romances are treated with respect. Even critics buy into the male romance. I can understand men critics falling for this claptrap. They want it to be true. But what about women reviewers? What happened to your common sense? Didn’t your mamas teach you anything?

Please don’t tell me, "I never read cozies." Or, "I don’t like chicklit. I prefer serious mysteries" – then name one of the big male romance novelists.

I’ve got news for you. My Dead-End Job series is more realistic. It shows the drudgery of minimum wage work. It has bimbos who milk rich old men for money, which really happens. It also has a few laughs and pastel covers, but don’t let those scare you. It’s social commentary wrapped in pink ribbons.

Let me break it to you gently, gentlemen. There are no sensitive strippers, Minivan Dads with psycho pals, or sweet young things with designer duds and fake boobs who fall in love with much older men – not unless the gray guys can advance their careers or keep them in style.

Bite the bullet, boys. Be a man and admit that "Lord of the Rings" is gritty realism compared to your three favorite fantasies.

Should you read male romances? Of course. I do. I love them. I even take them to bed with me. I enjoy them all night long.

But I don’t respect them in the morning.

December 26, 2006

Happy, Oh, Happy Dec. 26th!!

By Sarah

ISleeping_babyn the words of Bob Cratchit, I apologize for being late, we were making rather merry last night. Translation: I slept in.

Granted, I slept in to only 7 a.m., but that's a far cry better than the 5:30 a.m. I've been waking to for the past week, not to mention the sleepless nights wondering how I was going to get off gifts to various members of my extended family in far-flung parts of the country or if my kids had been treated fairly by Santa.

The presents have been bought, wrapped and unwrapped. (Wish I could say they were paid for - but that's for another sleepless night and another blog.) The grocery shopping is done. The roast cooked and consumed, the cookies and Christmas bread baked and eaten (partially.) The house decorated. The tree trimmed. The relatives entertained and sent off sated. The three or so fresh new pounds added to my hips.

Yes, it's over. And now the real holiday can begin - December 26th. Get your bubble baths ready!Bubble_baths

Because as soon as this blog is done, that's where I'm headed - to the bubble bath, taking Philippa Gregory's The Boleyn Inheritance with me. After that, I might - though no promises - stagger downstairs to begin the big cleanup from last night. (My guests thoughtfully rinsed my china and then...fled!) But that's a day-long project and I have no intention of pulling a repeat performance of yesterday when I hopped off the couch, gathered up all the wrapping paper and began to organize madly, setting the table, whipping the cream, cutting the brussel sprouts and beans, peppering the roast. Nope. I'm done.

This is the beauty of December 26th, the unofficial holiday of mothers - or anyone who puts on the dog at Christmas. This is the day I hold out for as, nearly blind by weariness, I stick my finger on a bow and see that the clock is striking 1 a.m. and there is still a mound of presents to wrap.

This year, I had a double whammy - a book deadline and Christmas. My book, The Sleeping Beauty Proposal was due to my editor December15th but my agent, Heather, insisted on perfection. (How dare she!) Having read and loved the manuscript, she suggested that I not turn it in until it was polished to a T. This prompted me to have a tiny silent tantrum. My inner child stamped her foot and stuck out her lip. I had Christmas to put on - didn't Heather get it?

The thing is, Heather was right. (I hate when she's right - and she's ALWAYS right!) Which meant that I spent the week before Christmas, a time when for sure I thought I'd be happily baking and shopping, humming carols as I strolled down the street loaded with sugar plums, furiously rewriting. Or, rather, polishing. (It sounds so much more refined.) When I finally pressed the Send button (with the support of my blog sisters, the Tarts) it was December 20th and I'd purchased approximate five gifts total.

Which is why this will be an extra hot bath. Also, an extra long nap. I'll be taking one of those, too.

Last night, as my mother in law left, she reminisced how she and her good friend Nancy would end the night of December 25th sitting by the fire, an extra strong drink in their hands. Not because they were so filled with Christmas cheer but because my poor mother in law had four children, three of whom were born three under the age of three, and the annual insanity was finally over - until next year.

Which proves that I'm not the only one who looks forward to December 26th. Now, how about you?

Gotta go....my bath runneth over....


December 25, 2006

The First Annual Lipstick Chronicles World Christmas Tour

by Michele Martinez

I'm in Sin City as you read this, celebrating Christmas the old-fashioned way.  That's right -- I'm gonna party like it's 1999, because nothing feels more quaint or more necessary in these troubled times than a healthy dose of fun. 

Which is why I love The Lipstick Chronicles, and why I read it every day.  So, in thanks to all of you here at TLC who made my 2006 such a fiesta, here's something sparkly to put under your tree/menorah/kinara -- the First Annual Lipstick Chronicles World Christmas Tour.  Why get on a plane at peak travel season when you can sit back, relax, click on a link and be there in real time?   Try the great webcams below to visit some of my favorite holiday destinations.  Scout's honor, it'll feel like you're really there.  And if you have a favorite holiday destination you'd love to share, tell us all about it below.

THE TOUR 2006 --

       Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

  The view from the top of Mount Washington

http://www.sunofcancun.com/beaches-in-cancun-mexico.php  A fabulous beach in the Caribbean.

  Or South Beach, if you want the sun but must have the nightlife.

   Lest we forget, Ground Zero.

  And last but not least, the world's most disappointing webcam -- Vegas!  (Look closely and you might just see me waving!)

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good flight.

December 24, 2006

Christmas Link of the Week

For our friends who celebrate Christmas with Santa and all the trimming, here's our Link of the Week.   

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December 23, 2006

Eileen Dreyer Guestblogs

Eileen Dreyer may write heart-pounding suspense novels, but in real life, she's one of the funniest women around--and a friend of the Book Tarts.

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My father wants everyone to know that I'm not writing about my family. He worries about this, but I guess it's fair if you read my suspsenses. You see, my heroines tend to come from dysfunctional families. My heroine in SINNERS AND SAINTS, my newest from St. Martin's, comes from the Dysfunctional Hall of Fame. You can guess that when I tell you that the book opens when Chastity Byrnes is asked to look for her missing sister (in New Orleans as a Level 5 hurricane approaches---which I wrote two years ago. But that's another story.) She hasn't seen her sister in ten years, because when Chastity was sixteen, her mother and sister disappeared in the middle of the night, leaving her homeless and alone.

Which, as my father would like me to reiterate, is nothing like my family. My family does not make good drama. We're just not that interesting. There are seven siblings, now thirty-six of us in the extended family, and not one of us is in the twelve-step, rehab or parole. We have a couple of divorces, but that was the other spouse's fault (one we simply refer to as The Bitch. I'm not sure I could tell you her name if pressed).

In fact, we all still spend every holiday together (if somebody doesn't show up, the rest of us have license to talk about them for the rest of the year), and even vacation together in the same beach house my uncle has lent us in Michigan since we've been kids. Now every one of us crams in with about six bedrooms and two bathrooms. It's like Leave It to Beaver meets EST. We stay for one week until we reach critical mass of closeness and have to leave before we kill each other (and then talk about it for the rest of the year). It was up there a drunk woman on the beach labeled us "The Last Functional Family in America." It's on our family crest--along with a Guinness, a dead parrot, and a St. Louis Cardinal (preferably Scotty Rolen. Your crests should always look good)

So we are not anything resembling one of the families in my books. Now, if I wrote about tradition, we might come closer. We revere holiday tradition. Every St. Patrick's Day, my mother used to call the INS on the neighborhood English war bride to declare she was an illegal alien (to be fair, the bride had just called the police about the John McCormick records my mother played over a massive sound system in the front lawn).

Another tradition began one Christmas when we were serving dessert. My brother made some cutting remark about the relationship between a woman's place and the kitchen, and there I was, a big slice of lemon cream pie in my hand and a fierce urge for rebuttal in my heart.  I don't think I'll ever forget the look in his eyes with that cream pie dripping off his face.

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Pie throwing has become an accepted editorial statement and evening coda. We never go near good carpeting, and we always give a warning (if you are at any Helm function and somebody says to you, "Does this smell okay to you?"--usually with some kind of food product in hand--just run). And I haven't even begun to delve into the rotating presents or the ritual greeting of first boyfriends with shotguns and baseball bats. But we are not like any family in my books. My family is much more fun.  I had to say that, because if I don't, they'll talk about me at Christmas.

December 22, 2006

Margie's Holiday Gift-Buying Tips

Margie’s Holiday Gift-Buying Tips

By me, Margie, who knows

Well, it’s the Friday before Christmas, so it’s almost time for most men to do their shopping. Yeah, yeah, there are those thoughtful few who have already found the perfect gift, but don’t kid yourself – they’re in the minority and they don’t have breakfast at your house.

So here are some tips from me – because I get gifts all the time and I know the good ones from the bad ones. Why do I get gifts? Oh, honey, if you have to ask, you need my help more than you think, so pay attention. There are seven of them because seven is a lucky number, and I hope these tips help you get lucky too.

1. If it plugs in, it’s not a good gift (for exceptions, see #7). Sorry, bubba – you might think that nifty toaster with those special inserts with the happy face or the BVM will really heat things up, but you are wrong. Ditto for blenders, sewing machines and – god help us – vacuum cleaners. If you need one of those things at your house, get it, but don’t try passing it off as a gift. Want to put yourself in a ditch it’ll take you six months to get out of? Get her anything that resembles a power tool. Then use it to cut your brain out – you’re not using it anyway.

2. If it’s not her size, you are in for a truckload of hurt, boy. “But I don’t know her size!” you say. Tough shit, Sherlock – go look in her closet or dresser or someplace where she actually keeps the clothes she wears, and look at the size. But not if the store tag is still on it. Don’t ask. Just listen. Duh. And that move with trying to pick up someone at the store (“Excuse me, you look like you wear the same size as my girlfriend”) is totally lame and stop doing it. Double Duh.

3. Anything in the ‘health and beauty’ aisle is off limits. She can buy her own damn nail polish and Q-tips. Yes, that includes the commando patches. We all know they’re fabulous, and the fact that she needs them at all is totally smokin’ but she can get them herself, ok? And listen, ace, don’t go telling people about what your woman does or does not wear; that is not cool; she will find out; and someone else will be getting the great view when her commando patches are on the dresser.

4. Thongs – buy at your own peril. First off, see #2. Secondly, not everyone likes stuff up in there. Some people hate it. You are not fooling anyone with the subliminal message either. If she says she’s not doing it, no kind of underwear is going to change her mind. You are not going to be her Starship Enterprise, my man. Move on.

5. Victoria’s Secret, Dottie’s Dungeon, etc. Most women love sexy lingerie. Not all women want to look like Charlie Sheen’s last appointment, you get me? Just because you think it looks great on the model (yes, I know all about the men’s night at the stores – did you think it was a secret? Where do you think those models come from?) doesn’t mean your special someone will like it. Oh – and look, pally, buying yourself some moronic underwear with a cute saying or a picture of a giant anaconda on the fly does NOT count as a gift for her. Like so many things in that area, what worked like a charm at 18 is no longer even amusing. And while we’re on the subject, man up and put away the high school trophies while you’re at it. That is just sad.

6. The gag gifts. Not that kind of gag, you perv. But really, that is the perfect gift for any occasion, and all you have to do is relax. Yeah we were talking about the kind of gifts you can wrap – I mean the funny ones. Anything you can buy at Spencer Gifts would qualify. One of these can be a barrel of laughs if it’s a side gift. Not the main gift, Chuckles. You and your lughead friends might think all those bodily function gifts are just the funniest thing ever. Great. Have a little gift exchange among yourselves and laugh yourselves silly. But do not be surprised if you end up going home earlier than you planned if you give that crap to your girl, you hear me? And unless you’re Furries, I’m going to advise that you take a pass on the Reindeer Pornaments at Spencers. No one wants to see a naked reindeer – and that ain’t Rudolph’s nose, capisce?

7. Toys. You knew I’d get your back on this one, baby. I could do a whole blog on toys alone, and maybe around V-Day, I will. For now a few simple rules to follow: First - if it makes enough noise to wake the dog, don’t buy it. Not everyone wants the whole building to know what you are doing, okay Romeo? Here’s a good one - unless you’ve already established a safe word, don’t go trying to surprise her with the B&D stuff. You might find your own ass in a sling, and that expression didn’t just pop up out of nowhere, savvy? Next -if you are willing to use it, get it. If you are thinking it would be totally hot for her to use it, but you are not getting anywhere near that action, don’t buy it. I know this crap seems obvious, but you’d be surprised at the stories we girls hear after New Years. And believe me, once you get on the Bad Toy Gifter list, you don’t get off. Seriously. Last but not least, if it is substantial enough to use as a doorstop, don’t buy it. You might think bigger is always better. You are wrong.

Merry Christmas to all and to all – a good night.