Cheer Du Jour

A little cheer to forget your troubles, and better yet, to toast with a glass of bubbles!

80′s Bullies Reunited – It Doesn’t Get Better

Pull out your hankies – the poor, misguided bullies of the 80′s get together to share their remorse (well, mostly)….

via Yahoo! Screen

Classic bullies – Scut Farkus from “A Christmas Story,” John Kreese from “The Karate Kid,” Big John from “Can’t Buy Me Love,” Donkeylips from “Salute Your Shorts” and Freddy Krueger – remind us that it doesn’t get better for tormenters in this PSA honoring the It Gets Better campaign.

via 80s 4ever! | 1980’s Awesomeness Served Daily.

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Winter Solstice 2012: Shortest Day Of The Year

Sunrise between the stones at Stonehenge on th...

Winter Solstice 2012: Shortest Day Of The Year Marked By Pagan Celebrations (PHOTOS)

The Huffington Post | By Jahnabi Barooah Posted: 12/20/2012 3:10 pm EST | Updated: 12/21/2012 8:16 am EST

Green Faith, Winter Solstice, Paganism, Slideadbigshot, Solstice 2012, What Time Is Winter Solstice, When Is Winter Solstice 2012, Winter Solstice 2012, Winter Solstice 2012 Est, Winter Solstice Pagan Celebrations, Winter-Solstice-Celebrations, Religion News

Click through to see photos of Winter Solstice celebrations:

In 2012, the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere will occur on Dec. 21, 2012 at 6:12 a.m. EST. To calculate the turning point in your time zone, click here. Officially the first day of winter, the winter solstice occurs when the North Pole is tilted 23.5 degrees away from the sun. This is the longest night of the year, meaning that despite the cold winter, the days get progressively longer after the winter solstice until the summer solstice in 2013.

The winter solstice is celebrated by many people around the world as the beginning of the return of the sun, and darkness turning into light. The Talmud recognizes the winter solstice as “Tekufat Tevet.” In China, the “Dongzhi” Festival is celebrated on the Winter Solstice by families getting together and eating special festive food.

Until the 16th century, the winter months were a time of famine in northern Europe. Most cattle were slaughtered so that they wouldn’t have to be fed during the winter, making the solstice a time when fresh meat was plentiful. Most celebrations of the winter solstice in Europe involved merriment and feasting. In pre-Christian Scandinavia, the Feast of Juul, or Yule, lasted for 12 days celebrating the rebirth of the sun god and giving rise to the custom of burning a Yule log.

In ancient Rome, the winter solstice was celebrated at the Feast of Saturnalia, to honor Saturn, the god of agricultural bounty. Lasting about a week, Saturnalia was characterized by feasting, debauchery and gift-giving. With Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity, many of these customs were later absorbed into Christmas celebrations.

One of the most famous celebrations of the winter solstice in the world today takes place in the ancient ruins of Stonehenge, England. Thousands of druids and pagans gather there to chant, dance and sing while waiting to see the spectacular sunrise.

via Winter Solstice 2012: Shortest Day Of The Year Marked By Pagan Celebrations (PHOTOS).

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Vintage Holiday Wham!

Watching Michael Buble’s holiday special (thanks to my antenna for finally cooperating tonight!), I was feeling nostalgic. I tried to imagine how many troughs of eggnog I would have to drink in the early 80’s to imagine Rod Stewart, Bing Crosby and Elmo (if we had Elmo then – so, substituting my favorite, Cookie Monster) together, let alone buying a Christmas cd by Billy Idol…fancy a festive sneer (see it here)! In any case, I remember I had a picture of an extended mix Last Christmas record (so glad to hear vinyl is making a comeback) I bought ages ago.

Wham!

George and Andrew, thanks for the cheery memory!

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A Free Trip to Paradise, without Leaving Chicago

Baby, it’s cold outside! We Chicagoans have to face the reality of December temperatures now that Jack Frost has taken up (belated) residence here. The leaves have fallen and the landscape is a study in muted blah colors. Still, tropical temperatures with vibrant blooms and intoxicating scents are just a short drive away.

On a whim, my husband and I decided to try something different, and visited the Chicago Botanic Garden in December. Check with your library to see if they offer a free Museum Adventure Pass, as ours does. As soon as we walked up to the entrance, we were greeted with a small forest of evergreen trees and boughs, all decorated with bright, twinkly lights and bursting with accents of ruby red. Inside, more natural red and green decor adorned walls, ceilings and pots aplenty. Merry MarkEven Mark, a friendly guide stationed next to the information desk, answered questions in his festive best.

We braved the cold (fortified with hot beverages from the cafe), but not for long. Our next destination was the Regenstein Center, which was chock-a-block full of festivity. The Wonderland Express exhibit is housed there (this requires an extra fee – half-priced on Tuesdays, I noticed). It was a bit too crowded for our liking, and the tropical-style Winter Wonderland that exploded throughout the open areas provided more than enough to see. If only I had any plant sense, I could tell you what type of sprouts and blooms we saw. I can tell you that there were many, many beautiful and unusual red, green, white and pink varieties. Palm trees, orchids, and cacti, oh my! Close your eyes in one of the hothouses, breathe in the sweet aromas that permeate the air, and you might just feel like you’re on an island in the South Pacific. Unfortunately, just about the time we felt thawed and renewed, the bah humbug of a never-ending holiday to-do list shocked us back to the real world.

Photo0187lit palm treesPhoto0202tropical holidayPhoto0204tropical treePhoto0184Photo0193Photo0191Photo0189Photo0194

As we ran across the bridge back to the warmth of the main building, we took a moment to look at the greens that bedecks the pergola sprawling above the half-frozen pond. Inside, we had one last respite. We enjoyed a delicious meal (since we had saved on the admission after all) of velvety carrot soup, customized pasta and a freshly made panini (ok, and a brownie for dessert – shared). The tables were decorated with candy-cane striped roses, and the center of the room featured confetti-sprinkled pointsettia surrounding a soaring evergreen. An electric train chugged along a large track suspended from the ceiling, encircling the room with cherished childhood memories.

holiday by the partly frozen lakePhoto0208pointsettia rowPhoto0173Roses

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A Sparkly Pink Santa Hat and Sprinkles of Holiday Magic

Sparkly Pink Santa Hat

My husband, sister-in-law and I gave ourselves an early gift yesterday. We went downtown with absolutely no agenda, except to enjoy the holiday decorations and have a completely relaxing day. Starting at the Anti-Cruelty Society, we shared some love with the dogs and cats waiting to find their new families (in case you’re looking for some cuddly company, there are many precious pets to visit). We then walked along State Street with cups of hot cocoa (loaded with marshmallows and calories), and drifted in and out of stores, gazing all the while like little kids at the shimmering lights and sparkling spheres that shone along every step. A chilly rain tried its best to dampen our spirits (no umbrella!), but I dashed into a store and picked up a pink Santa hat covered in pink sequins (who doesn’t need one of those?). It kept me warm and dry, and definitely added to the holiday fun…especially when having our obligatory glass of champagne.

Twice during our day of carefree merriment, we were gifted with heartwarming reminders to enjoy life, and to cherish family and friends. The first instance came in an unusual spot – a crowded cafeteria. Amid rows and rows of exhausted shoppers, over-stuffed shopping bags and lots of designer labels, a man sat alone. He had white hair, a white beard, and a hint of a twinkle in his eyes. You might be imagining the store Santa on his break, but you would be wrong. From the frayed fabric of his shirt, the soiled spot on his pant leg, and the well-worn shoes, it was clear this man was on hard times. Still, he sat with a smile, clearly savoring his trial-size cup of coffee and slice of pizza. While we girls slowly finished our beverages, my husband started talking with his neighbor. As we got up from the table and joined my husband, I heard the man say “keep positive and always remember that tomorrow is a new day.” We all shook his hand, feeling quite humble. Later, I learned that this gentleman had once led a “normal” life, working everyday and enjoying spending his off-hours with his wife in their home in a Chicago suburb. Then, his wife died. While he was at the funeral, his home was robbed. He lost his job, and things went down from there. While telling his tale, he didn’t complain once, and was grateful to have a warm spot to go every night. He asked my husband how he was doing, offering that sympathetic ear that instantly draws out your inner-most worries and somehow soothes them. That led to his words of comfort, and my joy at witnessing this gem of humanity.

The second helping of holiday spirit was delivered via a letter to Santa, that hadn’t quite yet made it to the official red postbox. The letter asked for some games, but ended by saying the author believed in Christmas, and it’s not about getting, it’s about giving love and happiness. Out of the mouths of babes! I posted the letter, so Santa will be sure to attend to the child’s modest request.

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