Holiday Movies

I love holiday movies. They warm you up from the inside out, like a mug of hot chocolate. It’s like they plant a little smile in your heart, and that little smile grows and blooms as the movie goes on.

It is some truly feel-good shtuff.

At this time, I’d love to share with you all some of my favorite holiday-themed movies that I have watched. I know I’m missing some classics, but I haven’t seen them yet, I’m sorry! Maybe I’ll get to watch them this year.

Love Actually (2003)

Love ActuallyI actually just watched this for the first time a few weeks ago and I instantly loved it. I will admit that I have seen the other holiday-themed ensemble romantic comedies, and they simply were not as good. Maybe it’s because they’re named after their holiday? (Looking at you, Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve.) Maybe it’s because they weren’t British films, but I loved the humor, the storylines, the execution. Maybe it’s because it’s Christmas, my favorite holiday, and it just filled me with some holiday cheer.

I especially loved things like Hugh Grant playing the Prime Minister and Martin Freeman playing a sex scene body double.

(Love Actually is on Netflix right now if you have a subscription :D)

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)

File:Home Alone 2.jpgFirst of all, the Home Alone movies are pretty great. There’s a reason that MacCaulay Culkin was the highest-paid child actor at the peak of his fame. They were terrific, and I loved loved loved the second one because we got to also experience the magic of Manhattan during the holidays. It is one of the absolute best times to be in the city because it truly feels magical, and I think that this movie captures it pretty well. Plus, Kevin McCallister is not just defending himself but trying to help others in this movie.

The spirit of Christmas is strong in this movie, for sure. Who can forget that theme song?

Jingle All the Way (1996)

https://i0.wp.com/posterpress.us/uploads/j/jingle-all-the-way-2010.jpgThis is not a popular pick, and I don’t know how many people have actually seen it, but I’ve seen a LOT of Schwarzenegger films in my day (don’t ask why) (I have no idea) and this is maybe my favorite one. You’ve got Ahnold and Sinbad fighting to buy this mega-popular toy that has been selling out nationwide so that they can redeem themselves as fathers while also satirizing the crazy commercialization of the holidays. It’s one of Arnold’s family comedies and it’s pretty good for that. It’s just a light and fun movie. I wouldn’t call it a must-see, but it’s fun to watch.

(This is also on Netflix right now!)

The Polar Express (2004)

File:Polar express.jpgI fondly remember reading this book as a kid, although I remember being very surprised with the movie because the book is calm and idyllic and doesn’t have a catchy musical number about hot chocolate. But it’s a really nice film with a great message about believing in Santa and Christmas. You have some adventure, a Tom Hanks-voiced train conductor, and some pretty good CGI at times. (Although the scary-looking children can make you forget that. :P) Definitely recommend if you liked the book, even though, like many adaptations of children’s books, they take a lot of liberty with the story.

“Here we only got one rule, NEVER EVER let it cool!” (Guys, this song is persistently in my head every December.)

(This is also on Netflix right now!)

The Santa Clause (1994)

https://i0.wp.com/media1.swank.com/Assets/0000012007/OneSheet/en/0013226photo.jpg

I’m not as big a fan of the sequels, but I always like watching The Santa Clause, starring Tim Allen as the reluctant new Santa.You’ve got Christmas magic, Santa magic, elf magic, laughs, feels, it’s good stuff and you should watch it if you haven’t already!

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Movie (1998)

https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/1/12/Poster_of_the_movie_Rudolph_the_Red-Nosed_Reindeer.jpgI own this movie on VHS and I kind of love it. It’s not as popular as the other Rudolph movie, but this one is an animated musical. YES. Whoopi Goldberg voices the villain Stormella, and her musical number is, as many villain songs are, great. Watch it if you find it!

Honorable Mentions

    • Elf (2003)
      Elf
    • Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966 animated TV special)
    • Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)
      https://i0.wp.com/dadlovesmovies.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/mickeyschristmascarol.jpg
    • White Christmas (1954)
      https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/2/2a/White_Chrismas_film.JPG

Now don’t get mad. I know I’m missing classics that… I haven’t seen (!!!) (I know I know).

To see:

  • A Christmas Story (1983)
  • It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
  • Miracle a 34th Street (1947)
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) (aka The Island of Misfit Toys)
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) – I’m still unclear as to if this is a Halloween or Christmas movie but it looks a little too scary for me…

Wikipedia has an interesting list of Christmas “classics”. Not sure how a movie like Deck the Halls (2006) is a “contemporary classic”. (Not sure why I watched it, either…)

What are your favorite holiday movies?
Which ones did I miss that I absolutely MUST watch?

Stay tuned for my holiday playlist! I’m super excited to share that because I count down  from January 3rd to the moment I can play Christmas music without getting hatorade. I am ready. I am so ready.

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Magazines

I have been reading magazines for a very long time. Getting one in the mail is always so exciting to me. I would run to my room with a fresh magazine in hand, no crinkles or folds or anything, and read the entire thing cover to cover. Here’s a little timeline of my magazine history, ending with the magazines that I read today.

(Note: All magazine covers are of issues that I actually owned unless otherwise noted.)

Highlights for Children

I stopped getting Highlights over 13 years ago, so finding a cover photo has been too difficult. The covers look so different now. 😦

I was subscribed to Highlights for a few years and, man, how I loved it. Goofus and Gallant, those tricky Hidden Pictures, the adorable Timbertoe family. One of my goals was to have something of mine published in Highlights but I was never proud enough of anything to send in. (Or maybe I just was always too lazy to send something in?) And I loved the crafts even though I made maybe 3 in my entire life. I got those subscription cards from school and I bought into it for a few years before my parents decided I was maybe getting a little too old for it.

https://i0.wp.com/i17.photobucket.com/albums/b92/beyondbedlam/curlywurly/timbertoes.jpg

Not to worry, I found a new magazine to replace it in my life a little while later.

American Girl

I was subscribed to American Girl for a couple of years! This was back in the olden days, when a wee Victoria Justice was on a cover!

https://i2.wp.com/24.media.tumblr.com/52d65a3e3267f2e1e1a842f3efb59aed/tumblr_mjfdilTjro1rnllcuo1_500.jpgI loved AG, as we were told to call it. I aspired to be a cover girl for this magazine. I liked that this magazine was tailored for girls and had crafts, stories, advice, all kinds of great stuff. When they introduced the MINI version of the magazine to cut out and assemble, I was all sorts of giddy.Alas, I started getting older and the content started changing a little. I was aging out of AG and the content changes reflected that. It was time to move on to some tween-teen magazines.

YM (Your Magazine)

Oh Orlando Bloom. I think this was my first issue.

I don’t even know how I learned about YM… but I was subscribed until the magazine went under. 😦 This is where I started learning about celebrities, makeup, fashion… the stuff that fuels most of the female magazine industry. I didn’t apply any of it, really, but I have to say that I learned a LOT and I was actually really sad that the magazine tanked. This was also the first magazine for which I followed their website, but that soon folded as well.

Teen Vogue

https://i0.wp.com/www.harrymedia.com/data/media/414/cover.jpgSince my subscription hadn’t quite run its course, I received maybe 5 issues of Teen Vogue following the collapse of YM.

I did not like Teen Vogue. It was half advertisements, so finding any actual content was difficult. Then when I did find content, it was so much high fashion that I could not afford and didn’t care enough about anyway. I would dread reading these but still comb through in the hopes that maybe SOMETHING would be of value. I would enjoy maybe 1-2 items per issue. It was a dark time. I needed something to fill the hole that YM left.

CosmoGirl!

https://i0.wp.com/eil.com/images/main/Mariah+Carey+-+Cosmo+Girl+-+MAGAZINE-363475.jpgCosmoGirl! or CG, as I was told to call it, filled that void really well. I’m not sure why it took me so long to realize that it was the spin-off of the risqué Cosmopolitan magazine but I liked it a lot. It had everything I liked in YM, basically. This helped me learn what society wanted me to be as a tween girl. At one point, there was even a little CG manga story in there! I liked that a lot.

But I liked it. I learned different ways to make my hair nicer (it was very chemically damaged from perms and highlight jobs at the time) and my skin smoother (I had just realized that there was a name for the bumps on my face – keratosis pilaris). It was a good run, but that, too, had to end.

It would be a while before I would have my own magazine subscription again. High school was more or less magazine-less. But in college, I started reading a few that today I still keep up with on their websites and through my parents’ subscription.

Wired

I don’t like Sarah Silverman but I loved the “Why Things Suck” feature

My brother got a subscription to Wired most recently in our house, but we had a subscription a few years ago. I now follow Wired online only, primarily through their Facebook promotion of articles. I love reading their articles. It’s mostly tech-oriented, which is good for me to learn more about something I don’t really know a whole lot about, but there are lots of great articles about science, design, innovation, business. I love it.

Women’s Health

The last issue I received in the mail

I had started reading some other magazines that were less “women’s fluff” and more serious, primarily Time and Wired (see below), but I still wanted something that was going to make me physically feel like a better person. I like reading about keeping myself healthy – healthy food, healthy body, healthy face, healthy mind. I didn’t resubscribe but I still read WH online.

Time

https://i0.wp.com/img.timeinc.net/time/magazine/archive/covers/2013/1101131125_600.jpg
This week’s issue, which I recently finished reading

Ahhh, Time. This helps keep me in the loop with what’s going on in the world. I get to learn a lot about politics, news, designs. Time makes me feel connected to the world and to the people who live in this world. (Also, it’s nice that it makes me look smart while I’m commuting to work.) Of course, Time is also wonderful to read online.

I don’t think I forgot any. I have read a bunch of magazines in waiting rooms and the like, but these are the ones that I have been reading regularly.

[ EDIT ] I almost forgot!

Scientific American

Nerd cred? Yes. This is definitely a great read if you are a fan of science, as the articles are often written by the scientists who are conducting the research. Super informative and really great for keeping up with a lot of disciplines of science. I got a free subscription with an MCAT prep course I took and I like reading it when I see it.

Do you subscribe to any magazines? Have you ever?
Do you prefer reading physical magazines or do you follow your favorites online?

10 Lies Depression Tells You

Originally posted by Anne Thériault on Thought Catalog.

I felt this was so crucial to share. There are too many days that I spend thinking that most or all of these statements are true.

This is important. It is important that you, and I, and anyone we care about know: None of these are true.

1. You are a bad person who deserves bad things.

2. You are unhappy because you are lazy or lacking in willpower. Happiness is a choice, a choice that you have failed to make. Somehow, somewhere over the course of your lifetime, when faced with some metaphysical fork in the road, you chose the wrong path. You brought this curse down on yourself.

3. Your sadness is the baseline by which the rest of your life should be measured. This sadness is your norm, and any other emotions, especially positive ones, are exceptions to the rule. Yes of course there will be good times, of course there will be flashes of joy; you will certainly, on occasion, experience the pleasure of a good book or a ripe juicy peach, However, those experiences will be few and far between. Your bad days will always outnumber the good.

4. Your family and friends do not love you. Your family are people who feel obligated to spend time with you because as luck would have it you share a similar genetic makeup. Your friends are people that you somehow tricked into thinking that you, as a person, have some kind of value, and now they don’t know how to extricate themselves from your pathetic, needy grasp. No one spends time with you because they enjoy it; they do it out of a sense of duty, a feeling of pity. Whenever you leave a room everyone breathes a sigh of relief.

5. Your family and friends do not want to hear about how sad you are. No matter how sympathetic they may seem, no matter how sincerely they might ask how you are feeling, remember that it’s all an act. The more that you open yourself up to them, the more you pour your heart out, the more resentful of you they become. Do not fall into the trap of sharing your feelings; do not give into the temptation to draw back the curtain and, like a tawdry magician, reveal your grotesque sadness. Your sadness is a choice, remember? This burden is yours to bear alone.

6. Your friends and family deserve better than you. Everyone deserves better than you.

7. In order to make up for your unhappiness, it is your responsibility to make sure that everyone around you is happy. If you can manage to maintain a near-constant veneer of kindness, helpfulness and sincere interest in others, then that will make your presence more tolerable. Your amiability, though entirely inadequate, is the best apology that you can make for your existence.

8. Everything is your fault.

If you plan a picnic and it rains, it’s your fault. You should have been more thorough when you checked the weather. You should have learned to be an amateur meteorologist so that you could better read the clouds. You should have packed a canopy. If you go out for dinner, for your once-in-a-blue-moon, hire-a-babysitter-and-wear-a-nice-dress date and the food or service or conversation is anything less than exceptional, it’s your fault. You should have read more restaurant reviews, should have asked friends for more recommendations, should have prepared cue cards with talking points. If someone is unkind to you, it’s your fault. You should have smiled more, been more gracious, tried harder to be whatever it was that they needed in that moment.

Everything is your fault.

9. There is no cure for your sadness, no effective treatment, no way of managing your symptoms. There are, of course, doctors and pills and various therapies that help other people, but you’ve tried all these things and they don’t work for you. Nothing will ever work for you.

10. You will feel this way forever.

If you are depressed, experiencing suicidal thoughts or otherwise need someone to talk to, please call 1-800-273-8255.

Soondubu Jjigae (순두부 찌개) [recipe only]

(The other post got wordy. Here is a clean version of the recipe that may actually be useful for cooking.)

Soondubu Jjigae (순두부 찌개)

Thanks to Maangchi (excellent Korean recipe site that also goes in depth on the specific ingredients) and EatYourKimchi (Canadian expat who makes fun videos about living in Korea) for their recipes, which I adapted and Frankenstein-cobbled together to make something that worked for me.

Ingredients

Note: Asian cuisine is about adjusting things to how you like it, so you are free to use more or less of things, as this is not a precise recipe and all quantities are simply what I used; I will likely never use these exact quantities in this exact combination ever again, and all measurements listed are approximations. Feel free to substitute

Stock (멸치육수) (you can also use pre-made seafood stock or beef, chicken, vegetable, etc.)

    • 12 dried anchovies (myulchi, 마른멸치)
    • 8-inch strip of kelp (dashima,다시마)
    • 1 medium onion (sliced/diced if you’d like)
    • 5 cloves of garlic
    • 6 dried shiitake mushrooms

Jjigae (stew)

  • 1 oz. fatty pork
  • 1-5 tbsp of hot pepper flakes (gochugaru, 고추가루)
  • 1 oz. kimchi + some kimchi juice
  • 1 cup of mixed seafood
  • Silken/soft tofu aka soondubu
  • Green onions aka scallions for garnishing
  • Sesame oil for serving
  • 1 egg for serving

Optional

  • Ddukbaegi (뚝배기) – black earthenware pot traditionally used for cooking and serving
  • Onion (sliced) for the stew
  • Zucchini (sliced) for the stew
  • Other seafood (clams, mussels, shrimp)
  • Soy sauce for flavor
  • Fish sauce for flavor
  • It’s a stew, add whatever you want, really.

Instructions

  1. Clean your anchovies by removing the intestines.
  2. Soak anchovies + kelp in water for about 20 minutes in ~2 cups of water
  3. While you are soaking your dry ocean ingredients, place your stock onion, whole garlic cloves, and dried mushrooms into a pot of ~4 cups of water.
  4. Boil, covered, for ~15 minutes
  5. Remove cover and reduce heat to allow the stock to reduce
  6. Add anchovy+kelp water to the pot of stock
  7. Boil, uncovered, until you’re happy with the stock (~10 minutes, do not overcook).
  8. Skim off icky foam
  9. Strain out the liquid for the stock to use in your stew.
    1. Optional: Remove (and slice) mushrooms and/or onion to use in stew
  10. Heat your pot that you will be using for your jjigae
    1. Optional: Add vegetable oil to aid with sautéing
  11. Brown your pork
  12. Add your vegetables to soften (onion, zucchini, more garlic if you love garlic like me)
  13. Add kimchi + hot pepper flakes (gochugaru)
  14. Fry until you can smell the kimchi + gochugaru in the air
    1. Optional: Drool over the smell
  15. Pour in stock until your bowl is about 3/4 full (it should sizzle when you do)
  16. Add seafood mix and let the stew come up to a boil
  17. Add tofu and break it up in the pot
  18. Reduce to a stew consistency (this is not a soup so let it get nice and thick)
  19. Adjust flavor with gochugaru, soy sauce, fish sauce, etc. if needed
  20. Take off heat
  21. Drizzle sesame oil
  22. Garnish with chopped scallions
  23. Crack the egg into the stew
    1. Either scramble it in or cover the pot and let it poach whole

Serve while still bubbling with a bowl of steamed rice and your choice of banchan (반찬) or side dishes.

img_01441

Enjoy!

Soondubu Jjigae (순두부 찌개)

(For a clear, actually usable recipe, please click here.) (Because the recipe included in this blog post is, much like the cook, chaotic.)

I live in a town with an extremely prominent Korean community. This is a bit of a change from where I lived previously, which had the largest Indian demographic of any town in the US along with a sizable Chinese and Jewish community. Whereas I used to have 3 Chinese supermarkets within a 10-minute radius of my house previously, I now have 3 Korean supermarkets within that 10-minute radius.

So, 7 years of living here have resulted me not being able to speak very much Korean. BUT I am a stickler for pronunciation, so the little bit I know is pretty convincing, according to some sources. (Source: Very kind friends.)

I had my very first taste of soondubu jjigae (순두부 찌개), otherwise known as Korean soft tofu stew  and a variety of other romanizations (soondooboo, sundubu, soondoobu, etc.) just a few weeks ago. The weather on the Eastern seaboard had gotten quite noticeably colder and I decided to try it. This bubbling pot of spicy tofu stew with an egg and seafood sounded really promising.

A bowl of soondubu jjigae, rice, banchan
My first soondubu jjigae ever! (Actually, it was my brother’s and I pilfered some.)
From: Manna Korean

Obviously, I never looked back since. I’ve had 3 soondubu jjigaes in the past month. That’s 3 more than I’ve ever had in my whole life previously.

My second soondubu jjigae (which was all mine!)
From: Gah Rahm Restaurant
My third soondubu jjigae, from a restaurant that specializes in soondubu jjigae!
From: Lighthouse Tofu

I was really determined to learn how to make this. This resulted in me going to a Korean supermarket on Saturday to buy the following things that I didn’t have in my house:

  • Ddukbaegi (뚝배기) aka “Dad I need to get one of those cool Korean black pots”
  • Myulchi (마른멸치) aka dried anchovies for an authentic-tasting stock
  • Dashima (다시마) aka kelp for an authentic-tasting stock
  • Gochugaru (고추가루) aka hot pepper flakes for spiciness (I later found out my dad had a secret store of this already what)

I used a few cheats and not-quite-right-but-it’ll-do substitutions to make do with what I had at home and not buy literally every ingredient from Lotte. Many thanks to Maangchi (excellent Korean recipe site that also goes in depth on the specific ingredients) and EatYourKimchi (Canadian expat who makes fun videos about living in Korea) for their recipes, which I adapted and Frankenstein-cobbled together to make something that worked for me.

Watch me struggle!

Here is a video I recorded while I was cooking to document the process. I edited out a lot of my struggle…

Without further ado…

Soondubu Jjigae (순두부 찌개)

Ingredients

(Note: Asian cuisine is about adjusting things to how you like it, so you are free to use more or less of things, as this is not a precise recipe and all quantities are simply what I used) (I will likely never use these exact quantities in this exact combination ever again)
(Because if you see “cups” or “tsps” or “oz” it’s seriously a complete guess I measured out nothing XD)

Stock (멸치육수) (it’s best to make the stock for the specific flavor, but you can also use pre-made seafood stock or beef, chicken, vegetable, etc.)

    • 12 dried anchovies (myulchi, 마른멸치)
      • Be sure to clean these by removing the intestines, or your broth will have a bitter flavor D:
    • 8-inch strip of kelp (dashima,다시마)
      • I think you’re supposed to use dried squares of these, but I used non-dried strips so… ??? I’d say maybe like 6 square inches?
    • 1/2 to 1 medium onion (sliced/diced if you’d like)
      • I sliced mine and used about 75% for the stock and reserved the other 25% for use in the stew
    • 5 cloves of garlic
    • 6 dried mushrooms
      • Officially, these should be dried shiitake, but I used something else oh well

Jjigae (stew)

  • 1 oz. pork (or protein of choice)
    • Fatty pork would be best here, e.g. samgyupsul, 삼겹살, but I only had lean pork so I may or may not have used a bit of bacon fat because it made sense in my head at the time…
  • 1-5 tbsp of hot pepper flakes (gochugaru, 고추가루)
    • This is one of the most easily adjustable parts of the recipe, as you are determining the spice level. It’s always best to start with less so you can add more later. I used one heaping Asian soup-spoonful (probably close to 2 tbsp)
  • 1 oz. kimchi + some kimchi juice
  • 1 cup of mixed seafood
    • You can buy cheap bags of frozen seafood mixes filled with things like mussels (out of shell), shrimp (peeled and deveined), calamari rings, etc. and thaw them while prepping your stock
  • Silken tofu aka soondubu
    • Since you add this towards the end, you’ll have to use your judgment for how much will even fit in your pot. Korean brands come in nice tubes, sometimes, but I used about 1/4 of a full square tub because I ran out room in my pot oops
  • Green onions aka scallions for garnishing
  • Sesame oil for serving
  • 1 egg for serving

Optional

  • Ddukbaegi (뚝배기) makes you feel cooler but is not necessary
  • Onion (sliced) for the stew
  • Zucchini (sliced) for the stew
  • Other seafood (clams, mussels, shrimp)
  • Soy sauce for flavor
  • Fish sauce for flavor
  • It’s a stew, add whatever you want, really.

Wow. Sorry about that… um… ANYWAY LET’S GET TO IT.

Instructions

These will be more straightforward since the ingredients list was such a mess.

  1. Clean your anchovies and get out the amount of kelp you want for the stock.
  2. Soak anchovies + kelp in water for about 20 minutes in ~2 cups of water
  3. While you are soaking your dry ocean ingredients, place your stock onion, whole garlic cloves, and dried mushrooms into a pot of ~4 cups of water.
  4. Boil, covered, for ~15 minutes
  5. Remove cover and reduce heat to allow the stock to reduce
  6. Add anchovy+kelp water to the pot of stock
  7. Boil, uncovered, until you’re happy with the stock (~10 minutes, do not overcook)
    1. Taste a little as you’re cooking to make sure you have maximum flavor without overcooking the anchovies into a yucky mess
  8. Skim off icky foam
  9. Strain out the liquid for the stock to use in your stew.
    1. Optional: Remove (and slice) mushrooms and/or onion to use in stew
  10. Heat your pot that you will be using for your jjigae
    1. Optional: With vegetable oil if your pork isn’t fatty enough
    2. Super optional: Bacon fat is what I used but… probably not the best XD
  11. Brown your pork
  12. Add your vegetables to soften (onion, zucchini, more garlic if you love garlic like me)
  13. Add kimchi + hot pepper flakes (gochugaru)
  14. Fry until you can smell the kimchi + gochugaru in the air
    1. Optional: Drool over the smell
  15. Pour in stock until your bowl is about 3/4 full
    1. Note: It will SIZZLE and that’s perfect! Don’t be scared 😀
  16. Add seafood mix and let the stew come up to a boil
  17. Add tofu and break it up in the pot
  18. Reduce to a stew consistency (this is not a soup so let it get nice and thick)
    1. At this point, you can adjust the flavor with more gochugaru, soy sauce, or fish sauce, or add more water/stock if the flavor is too strong
  19. Take off heat
  20. Drizzle sesame oil
  21. Garnish with chopped scallions
  22. Crack the egg into the stew
    1. Either scramble it in or cover the pot and let it poach whole

Serve while still bubbling with a bowl of steamed rice and your choice of banchan (반찬) or side dishes. I had some konjaban (콩자반) that I really wanted to dig into.

Enjoy! 😀