Three Holidays to Celebrate, Three Shows to Binge Watch

There are sparkly decorations everywhere, peppermint mochas are appearing at the coffee shop, and your mailbox is crammed with ads for door-buster sales. Yep, it’s the season for the gift-giving celebrations of Christmas and Hanukkah! But you don’t have to belong to any religion to have some fun this season. Here are a few cultural holidays that anyone can enjoy, along with television series to watch for hours on end while you’re off from work and school.

December 23

Festivus

Way back in December of 1997, millions of Seinfeld fans tuned in to watch the episode “The Strike” and were introduced to Festivus, a made-up holiday celebrated by Frank Costanza as a rebellion against the commercialism of Christmas. Fast forward to the present, and lots of people have taken to celebrating Festivus in their homes, dorms, and workplaces. The common rituals of Festivus are as follows:

1) Displaying the Festivus Pole – an unadorned aluminum pole. (You can actually buy these online!)
2) A celebratory Dinner – make anything you like, as long as it’s celebratory.
3) Airing of Grievances – this takes place immediately after dinner is served. Participants take turns complaining about how everyone has disappointed them in the past year.
4) Feats of Strength – after dinner, the head of the household selects a person to challenge to a wrestling match. Festivus officially ends when the head of the household is pinned.

Fun fact: Festivus actually goes back to 1966 when Seinfeld writer Dan O’Keefe’s father first instituted the tradition to celebrate an anniversary, and the family continued to celebrate it whenever Papa O’Keefe felt like it. Instead of an aluminum pole they had a clock in a bag, and they shared a Pepperidge Farm cake decorated with M&Ms

Binge Watch: Seinfeld. What else?

December 26

Boxing Day

Maybe you’ve seen Boxing Day on your wall calendar and had no idea what it was. Let’s Return Unwanted Gifts Day? A fisticuffs tournament over the last piece of pie? Nope! It’s a holiday in Great Britain and almost every place the British settled, except for the U.S. Nobody is sure where the name originated, though some believe it comes from the alms boxes set up in churches during the Advent season (which were then broken open and distributed on the 26th), or from the gift boxes presented to servants who had to work on Christmas but had the following day off.

Whatever purpose it once had, Boxing Day is now a relaxing day off to visit relatives, sit around and eat leftovers, and watch soccer. Among the wealthy, fox hunting used to be a popular Boxing Day activity before the practice was banned in 2004. Those with disposable income now hunt for bargains instead – it has become a huge shopping day, comparable to our Black Friday.

Binge Watch: If you’re not going to tune in to one of 10 Premier League games, pick up a Blu-Ray of The Paradise, a BBC series following a shop girl in Britain’s first department store.

December 26-January 1

Kwanzaa

Born out of the Black nationalist movement, Kwanzaa is a relatively young holiday, created in 1966 by Black Studies professor and activist Maulana Karenga as a way for African American to celebrate their heritage and connect to their community. It fuses elements from numerous African cultures – the term Kwanzaa derives from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya Kwanza” or “first fruits of the harvest,” and draws from the harvest celebrations of the Ashanti, Yoruba, Ibo, and other West African tribes (from which most African Americans have descended). There’s feasting and singing, of course, but the most important part of Kwanzaa is celebration of the seven principles – things like creativity and self-determination – that are represented by lighting one candle each night of the holiday.

Kwanzaa reached its height in the 1980s and 1990s, and about 2% of the U.S. population celebrates the holiday today. However, Americans of any heritage can set out a kinara on the mantle and celebrate our country’s diverse history.

Binge Watch: Roots, Alex Haley’s award-winning exploration of his family’s background.

 

Which holidays are you celebrating this year?

Sports Romance Books

sports heartSports romance books are becoming increasingly more and more popular.   These athletes are generally at the top of their game, rich, and famous.  They are confident, stubborn,  dedicated, focused, passionate, and have a soft side  – which makes them strong, interesting characters.  All of them eventually realize that the love of a woman is what they need to make their life complete.  These stories are not overloaded with sports scenes or terminology.  There is just enough to give you a realistic insight into the sport and the challenges these athletes and the women in their lives face.

(On a side note:  Model Jed Hill seems the most popular choice for the many “naked chest” covers of sport romance books.  See his “stats” here and his facebook page here.  Enjoy!)

With the  cold days and nights ahead, turn up the heat with a Sport Romance!  Here’s a sampling of some titles available at the Cheshire Library.  Some are series where the first title is listed to get you started, although you don’t need to read them in order.

Tracy Solheim’s  Out of Bounds footballseries.  Book one – Game On.  Book two – Foolish Games. The funny, sexy and heartwarming exploits of the Blaze football stars and the women in their lives.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips has a sports series centering around football called Chicago Stars.  The first title is It Had to be You. A sexy, outrageous New York woman inherits a football team.

Let’s Misbehave by Lisa Plumley is a football story centering around Quarterback Cash Connelly and his need to find a nanny.

Another football themed title is Sweet Spot (book two of the Bakery Sisters trilogy)by Susan Mallery.  A touching, heartwarming story of a youth football coach and a bakery owner going through hard times.

Rachel Gibson has a hockey series, Chinooks Hockey Team.  The first title is Simply Irresistible.  Realisticstory about a hockey jock tamed by an irresistible woman.

Deirdre Martin also has a hockey series, Blades with the first title being Body Check.  Fun, sexy, withwonderful characters and story line.

Just In Time (Alaskan Night series) by Addison Fox about an injured hockey star returning to Alaska to heal and try to make things right with the girl back home.

Molly O’Keefe – two of her best poignant and deeply sensual books are hockey stories – Crazy Thing Called Love and Can’t Buy Me Love.

Jill Shalvis offers two baseball theme books – Double Play and Slow Heat. Jill’s books are humorous,sexy and fast reads.

Stealing Home is part of Sherryl Woods’ series Sweet Magnolias.  It’s about a single mom and her son’s baseball coach.

Staying with baseball, Pitch Perfect (A Cricket Creek Novel) by LuAnn McLane.  A hard-swinging baseball team and three hometown heroes try to revitalize the community.

Let Me Be The One by Bella Andre.  Part of The Sullivans – focusing on baseball pitcher Ryan Sullivan.

Pamela Britton has an exciting NASCAR series.  The first title is Slow Burn.  An action packed, sexy read.

Also in the race car theme – Erin McCarthy’s series, Fast Track.  Try Slow Ride and Jacked UpFast paced, steamy with a touch of humor.

Some miscellaneous sports:

Fast & Loose by Elizabeth Bevarly and The Horsemaster’s Daughter by Susan Wiggs. – Equestrian

Table for Five by Susan Wiggs – Golf

On Thin Ice by Susan Andersen. – Ice Skating

Extreme Bachelor and Wedding Survivor by Julia London – Extreme Sports

Crash Into Me by Jill Sorenson – Professional Surfing

Freefall by Jill Sorenson – Rock Climbing/Kayaking

Match Me If You Can by Susan Elizabeth Phillips – Sports Agent

Causing Havoc by Lori Foster. Her series, SBC, is based on the Ultimate Championship fighting world of bad boys and the women they love.

Linda Reads: Foolish Games by Tracy Solheim

foolishFoolish Games  is a wonderfully written sports romance.  The author gives us great insight into the NFL with a believable storyline and a wonderful cast of characters.  This is actually book two in the Out of Bounds series.  Book one is Game On. 

Bridal gown designer Julianne Marchione has an uncharacteristic one night stand at a client’s wedding that results in a surprise pregnancy.  Julianne plans to raise her son, Owen, on her own, until he is born with a life-threatening blood disorder that requires a transfusion—and Julianne is not a match.

Will “William the Conqueror” Connelly is an NFL star that grew up a bastard child born on the wrong side of the tracks.  He is blindsided with the news that he has a son that needs a blood transfusion from him.  He quickly takes charge of the situation, insisting on a marriage of convenience so his son will not have to endure growing up a bastard.

Will has a lot of insecurities stemming from his childhood and he is also dealing with a scandal involving his college coach that could bring an end to Will’s NFL career.  Julianne has had to sell her bridal design company to pay Owen’s medical bills and has lost her ability to design.  She is also struggling with issues from her past.  With so much conflict going on in their lives, they almost miss the fact that they are falling in love with each other.

The book is multilayered with a wonderful cast of supporting characters.  There is a secondary romance between Will’s mom and his boss that intertwines beautifully with the main story.

A realistic storyline told with passion, humor and wit with wonderful interaction between characters and how they grew to be a true family.

10 Great Movies That Take Place in Autumn

Summer may be a time for huge blockbuster action flicks, but as the kids settle back into school, autumn is a time for more peaceful reflection.  Grab a cup of hot chocolate, some fresh-baked cookies, your favorite warm blanket, and curl up with one of these films that take place in the fall. You’ll be glad you did!

Dead Poet’s Society – Robin Williams as an inspiring teacher in a prep school. One of his best roles.

Rudy – Sean Astin in a true story about a boy who wanted to play football for Notre Dame.

On Golden Pond – Henry Fonda’s Oscar-winning role as a family tries to come back together before it’s too late.

     

 

The Four Seasons – an all-star cast leads this sweet Alan Alda film about a group of friends vacationing through a year.  Gorgeous autumn scenery set to a soundtrack of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

Hannah and her Sisters –  Woody Allen directs this film about a family, beginning and ending with Thanksgiving.

The Big Chill – A group of old friends gather together for the funeral of one of their own, accompanied by a fabulous soundtrack.

      

Sweet November – a sweet little love story starring Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron.

The Trouble with Harry – Alfred Hitchcock’s frightful comedy about a body that won’t stay buried.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles – a John Hughes comedy starring Steve Martin as a man trying to make it home for Thanksgiving, when the world seems out to get him.

Far From Heaven – Connecticut in the fall of 1957, and the prejudices that existed.