No Movie, No Chinese Food


No one was surprised as we when our Irvine cousins gave us all Disneyland annual passes! Before they could change their minds, we joined them yesterday at the happiest place on Earth.

If you think Disneyland is crowded on Christmas Day when the sun is shining and the temperature is in the low 80s (record high), you’re right. And when I say crowded, I mean Tokyo subway crowded. Sardine can crowded!

We dropped Doppler off at the sitter, left Roxie to her own devices (good doggie) and headed north to Anaheim. It’s under 25 minutes from here.

“This is where they want you to get off,” said Michael, as we passed the official Disney exit on the “5.” Local knowledge is good.

Garage, tram, in! That was easy. We took a curbside spot on Main Street for the afternoon Christmas parade.

Disneyland is nearly sixty years old, but everything is bright, shiny and incredibly well maintained. And, obviously, they’ve learned a lot about organization over that time.

The parade was colorful. Perfectly picturesque. The human participants even lip synced to the music through their permasmiles.

Unfortunately for Stef, the parade was reinforcement of her biggest Disney disappointment. Piglet, her favorite character, is an in-person persona non grata. When asked, no Disney castmember we asked had ever even seen Piglet.

Contract dispute? Payback for some perceived slight? We’ll never know.

We stayed a full day, but only rode four rides. Wait times were nuts.

It’s A Small World (which I originally saw at the New York World’s Fair in 1964) had been closed in preparation for its Christmas changeover. It was worth it. The ride, which was feeling old and faded, has been refreshed. The Haunted Mansion has also been overhauled for the holidays, though not as thoroughly. Paul Frees iconic voice no longer does the narration. That’s the kind of thing I notice.

We also hit a Winnie the Pooh ride and Cars Land in Radiator Springs. We entered the ‘singles’ line for that one, meaning we were used as extras to fill rows, cutting the advertised wait by more than half.

We’ve got passes. We’ll be back. And it’s oh so close.

Christmas In California

christmas-in-californiaWe received some great gifts when we got married thirty years ago. Most are long gone. Some were quickly spent. At least one gift lives on.

Bob and Terry were our friends from Buffalo. They gave us the artwork that hangs today over the Christmas tree. It’s called “Christmas in California.”

In Hamden it hung prominently above the fireplace. Here in SoCal it’s in the loft, our family meeting space.

It represented a goal… or maybe a fantasy. This year it’s come true. We spend our first Christmas in California tomorrow.

I miss wearing my red hat and tracking Santa on TV. I miss working so others could have this holiday at home with their families. I don’t miss winter.

Christmas in California is just as the picture shows.

We’ll be spending this evening with our cousins, then living the tradition of a movie and Chinese food tomorrow.

Have a great holiday. I hope you get everything you want.

No Place Like Home


Stef and Roxie just arrived. Our little family is together in the OC for a few days.

Even if you didn’t know Stef was expected, you’d know something was up based on the state of the kitchen this afternoon. Every pot was out. The sink was full. The aroma of fresh food was everywhere.

Homemade soup tonight. Pasta with a homemade sauce too. This is the good life.

We brought homemade cookies to our neighbors yesterday. Today they reciprocated. No wonder people complain about Christmas weight gain.

I was skinny when Helaine and I first met. Consider me living proof of her expertise in the kitchen.

Last year was tumultuous for us, culminating in a 2600+ mile move. Things have started to calm down. Home cooking and baking are signs of stability.

Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade

There’s a hundred plus year old tradition at Newport Beach. Every year around Christmastime, dozens of brightly decorated boats cruise through Newport Harbor. Some are over-the-top!

Because Max is in the Sea Scouts, we joined our cousins at the Newport Beach Sea Base. They have a great location, on an inlet with Lido Island across the way.

There was lots of pre-parade traffic on the roads and inlet. PCH was jammed. On the water, lots of people were out for dinner and a cruise on huge multi-decked boats that could almost be called ships. Smaller boats darted back and forth.

Yes, we wore coats and gloves! Doppler came in her pink hooded sweater. My cousins supplied blankets. I had ear muffs, but they stayed pocketed.

I’ve never seen anything quite like it. There might not be anything quite like it! Dozens of boats, some very large, passing through the channel. All were lit up like (and decorated with) Christmas trees.

If you’re planning on being in SoCal, it runs Saturday and Sunday evening. It’s very cool.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Darlene Love Alert

Late Show with David Letterman Guests   CBS.comThis Friday marks David Letterman’s annual Christmas show, always featuring Darlene Love singing “Christmas, Baby Please Come Home.” I wait for this performance every year. Last year, as the grateful guest of Matt Scott, I watched Darlene perform it live!

There is a formula followed year-after-year, which is why I’m currently worried.

First there’s Jay Thomas. He tells the story of the Lone Ranger at a car dealership. Then a guest with something to promote comes on. Last year the beautiful, but cold as a fish, Naomi Watts. Then (after an interminable production stop while the studio gets reconfigured) Darlene, full orchestra with strings and a choir.

I checked this year’s lineup. John McEnroe, Kristen Wiig, Darlene. No Jay Thomas!

Uh, oh. This isn’t good. I’ll keep my ear to the tracks to find out what’s happened, kimosabee.

Note: See the comments for more on Jay’s absence.

We’ve Got The Lede: It’s Raining

IMG_0700 rain on the roof

The TV was on in the family room as the noon news began. The lead story&#185:


How much?

Will it be gone by Christmas?

To an outsider this might seem a little overboard… maybe to insiders too. My suspicion is it’s a much more valid lead than first meets the eye.

Let me dismiss the hyperbole first. It’s the 19th. This storm will be a faint memory by Christmas. Has California ever even seen a storm lasting six days over one spot?

Rain does have an impact here. Because it rains so infrequently, roads often have a light surface coating of oil and grease. Roads get slippery in a hurry. Freeway traffic which normally buzzes by in the 70s has to slow down.

During our last ‘storm’ the embankment adjacent to a freeway in the San Fernando Valley gave way, flooding the road and blocking traffic for most of the day.

When it comes to rain, Southlanders (is that an actual word?) are fragile flowers. Rain storms do impact them.

Anywhere else this rain wouldn’t be a concern. But this isn’t anywhere else. In SoCal we’re just not used to weather!

&#185 – Yeah, I know. This entry’s title says “lede”, but this sentence says “lead.” There’s no explanation. It just is!

The Movie We Didn’t See Tonight

IMAG0327-w1400-h1400This story needs a setup. It is tradition with the Foxes and many other Jewish families, Christmas Day is spent at the movies followed by Chinese food. Go back in the blog to any December 25th entry and you’ll read about a movie and a meal!

This year, since we’re close to Stef, it’s likely she’ll join us. Neither Helaine, Stef nor I agree on which movie we should see.

OK. You’re caught up. The story continues…

Stef called this afternoon. Did I still want to see “Saving Mr. Banks,” with Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson?

I knew I wanted to see this movie as soon as I watched the trailer. Hanks. Disney. Nostalgia. Hooked!

Stef wanted Helaine and me go. Goodness of her heart? Not tonight. Going removes one choice for Christmas.

“Mr. Banks” opens ‘wide’ next week, but Orange, CA (not far) is among the “selected cities” showing it now. Normally a 25 minute trip, Google suggested a back way which would take 28 minutes. The usual route, 45!

Christmas shopping I suppose. That and Kanye West playing at the Honda Center in Anaheim, under a mile from the theater.

We occupied Doppler with a treat and snuck out through the garage. By the time we were on our way, Google had changed its preferred route. We were still skipping the major roads. Still saving time.

The parking lot was jammed. I dropped Helaine at the box office and looked for an open space.

She was first in line when I caught up with her, but the news wasn’t good. “It’s not playing here,” she said.

Stef and then her father had searched correctly for the movie, but didn’t look closely enough at the result. When the movie wasn’t available tonight, Fandango just offered up the next showtime: December 20! The date was on the page, but I was expecting tonight’s movies, Fandango.

We ended up at Costco.

The Christmas Tree

IMG_0283We have a Christmas tree. Just saying that sounds weird.

My sister disapproved.

My parents will disapprove when they read this.

I’m Jewish. We’re Jewish. Christmas isn’t our holiday. And yet, over the course of the year, there’s no more good spirited time than Christmas.

IMAG0302-w1400-h1400Christmas is unavoidable. And who wouldn’t want to embrace its warm, family oriented feel? So, after a quarter century of kvetching from my wife and daughter, I acquiesced.

Stef has given me permission to make her the heavy here.

“Write you did it because of me,” she said.

I did it because of Stef.

IMAG0304-w1400-h1400We drove to Johnson Brothers Christmas Tree Lot on Jeffrey Road. We were foreigners in a foreign land.

“We’ve never had a tree before,” Helaine told the guy helping us. “We’re Jewish,” she added&#185.

I don’t think he had a snappy retort for that.

Helaine and Stef figured a five footer would be enough. One called out to me. It was five foot six. A noble fir.

“Too wide,” Stef said, but it was too late. Decision of the father is final. And, as it turned out, it fits just fine upstairs in the loft.

There’s an ornament for each of us and some small, white lights. We’re not going nuts.

To my Christian friends, thanks for letting us participate.

To my Jewish friends, cut us some slack.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

&#185 – We had a coupon. We didn’t pay retail. Some things are sacred.

As The Models Turn

What was the phrase yesterday? Carved in chocolate pudding? That’s how these winter storms are always modeled. I recognize the Christmas Eve system from yesterday, but it’s not quite the same.

The 00z NAM is in. The 00z GFS is dribbling out, one three hour step at a time.

The NAM looks perfect if you’re dreaming of a… Just enough snow for Christmas morning without being a major pain!

Alas, I never depend on the NAM.

The 00z GFS is a little warmer. The 850mb 0&#176c line is right on the Connecticut shore. The NAM places it south of Long Island.

85mb 0&#176c (around 5,000 feet) is a good benchmark for the rain/snow line. That’s why it’s looked at

The Euro won’t be in for a while, but looking back at the 12z run it’s cold enough for snow, but there’s not enough to register on the maps I’m using which have an inch per three hour threshold.

So, where does this leave us? No forecast is ever 100%, but I’ll stick with yesterday’s call with some minor tweaks.

The precipitation arrives late Christmas Eve. It should be all snow inland with a few mixed periods on the shoreline.

Don’t expect much, maybe a few inches!

Don’t expect a long duration. The snow ends Christmas morning.

Oh… and that storm later in the week now looks like rain.

That’s the forecast from a guy in pajamas.

Thanks For Christmas

You probably don’t know what it’s like to watch Christmas from the outside. It was tough growing up.

The Fox Family enjoys Christmas though it’s not our holiday.

Jews may have elevated Channukah to fill the gap, but it’s not the same. Christmas is “the” holiday bar none!

You probably don’t know what it’s like to watch Christmas from the outside. It was tough growing up. All the imagery depicts Christmas. It’s on every commercial, every show, every website.

Over the years we’ve come to embrace it. There’s a good feeling this time-of-year. Thanks for letting us enjoy it with you.

People claim there’s a “War on Christmas.” Seriously?

We have no tree. I could never take that step. We have stockings. Don’t ask.

SoCal Stefanie is coming home early Thursday after an overnight in-the-air. We’ve been out there, but it’s nearly two years since she was last in Connecticut.

Stef, it’s all where you left it.

Helaine and I went out a few nights ago looking at Christmas lights. Nice. Nothing too much. Nothing over-the-top.

There were some homes with minimal outdoor lighting but beautiful holiday decorating inside. Very nice.

Helaine is done with illuminated reindeer. For me it’s faux icicles.

When we first moved here there was a man in the southern end of Cheshire who had a huge yard full of lights and displays at Christmas. It was crazy! The traffic was crazy! I’m sure the neighbors tired quickly. No more.

I will be working Christmas Eve. That’s the right thing to do.

I’m going to track Santa. At one point I was worried I wouldn’t have the chance.

I’m looking forward to Christmas.

Harold Fox: Wisdom On Holidays

When I was a kid stores were mainly closed Sunday and holidays. I remember family panic one year when my father forgot to fill the tank before heading out on Christmas. Quaint.

Walmart isn’t waiting for Black Friday. They’ll be open Thanksgiving night at 10:00 PM. That change of business hours is national news.

Helaine saw a billboard proclaiming one of the I-95 outlets will also be open Thanksgiving night. It’s officially a trend.

Maybe I’m the wrong guy to write this. I’ve never gotten up in the middle of the night to get a Black Friday deal (and stomp over my fellow shoppers). I’ve usually worked on Thanksgiving myself.

It’s still troubling.

When I was a kid stores were mainly closed Sunday and holidays. I remember family panic one year when my father forgot to fill the tank before heading out on Christmas. Quaint.

My father worked in retail back then. He sold appliances. The stores he worked in were closed Sundays and holidays, but he saw the trend.

“If you don’t want to work Sundays,” he once said, “don’t shop Sundays!”

Do you want to work on Thanksgiving?

Secrets Of The Jews

Ann suggested I call my folks. They are, after all, members of the Yiddish Club at the condo.

Did you see any of Elena Kagan’s confirmation hearing? Senator Lindsey Graham asked Kagan where she was on Christmas to which she replied:

You know, like all Jews, I was probably at a Chinese restaurant.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only Jewish father to forward that video to his child. She’ll still probably never forgive me for not having a Christmas Tree while she was growing up.

If Senator Graham read this blog more frequently… OK, at all. If he read it at all he would have already known where Elena Kagan was!

Meanwhile there must be something in the air because Ann Nyberg (it’s Swedish, not Jewish) came to dinner with her own Jewish question.

“What does “kina hurra” mean?”

Kina hurra is a Yiddish expression I’ve heard and used all my life. I knew how to use it functionally, but didn’t know the exact dictionary definition. Like so many idiomatic phrases its meaning isn’t the sum of its component words.

You might say, “What a beautiful baby, kina hurra.” Or, if your team was winning big you wouldn’t say they’ve got the game in the bag because, “That might give them a kina hurra.”

Ann suggested I call my folks. They are, after all, members of the Yiddish Club at the condo.

The conversation wasn’t very satisfying because they too didn’t know the meaning either, but they’d check. Five minutes later they were back on the line!

Here’s their explanation as recorded live at the dinner table.

Fairytale Brownies Lives Up To Its Name. Dream Comes True!

This is a Christmas story with a happy ending

fairytale_brownies.gif.pngThis blog is often the best place to give a kiss on the cheek to a business which has gone above and beyond the call. That’s especially true of David Kravetz at Fairytale Brownies who came through and saved the day in the midst of their/our Christmas rush.

Founded in 1992, Fairytale Brownies began in a friend’s catering kitchen using David’s Mom’s 50-year-old secret family brownie recipe. Those days are gone as the duo now oversees their direct-mail gourmet brownie business in a facility where they bake over 2.5 million brownies annually.

Fairytale is a Phoenix based business. This is not a case of someone being nice because they’ve watched me on TV for the last 25 years (not that I don’t appreciate that–I do a lot).

Helaine sent a gift to a friend. The package tracking info said it would be there on the 21st. When Helaine hadn’t heard from the friend by the 23rd she called.

No delivery!

Except that’s not what the tracking data said. UPS said the package had been delivered to her apartment building.

Helaine called Fairytale and spoke to David. Whether he always answers the phones or was drawn in for Christmas isn’t clear.

He saw we’d been good customers over time. He didn’t need to see any more.

David said he’d make it right even even though Fairytale could have defensibly claimed it was a UPS problem. As someone with a stake in the business he knew this was where long term relationships are made and lost. If Helaine would provide a daytime address he’d send it overnight at his expense.

This is a Christmas story with a happy ending. The brownies arrived the next day.

Thanks David. I know you didn’t expect this story to go any farther than my wife. The Foxes of Connecticut really appreciate your kindness and wanted everyone to know.

Oh–and the brownies are really yummy!

Christmas At The Movies: It’s Complicated

Trust me, the Chinese restaurant might as well have hung a sign on the door saying “Se Habla Yiddish.”

its_complicated_poster.jpgThe Fox Family is living an ethnic stereotype, right? It’s Christmas so we went to the movies then ate Chinese food before I went off to work. Trust me, the Chinese restaurant might as well have hung a sign on the door saying “Se Habla Yiddish.”

I wanted to see the George Clooney movie. Stef and Helaine wanted Meryl Streep’s “It’s Complicated.” Two against one. Outvoted again.

They made a great choice.

This was not a complex story in spite of the movie’s name.

Meryl Streep is divorced from Alec Baldwin, but with three children, a college graduation and wedding-to-be it’s tough for him to be out of her life. Baldwin’s character realizes he wants to get back with Meryl just as she meets Steve Martin–the architect supervising an addition to her home.

Hit pause a second. We’ve got to talk.

I haven’t seen this much effortless affluence in a movie since Doris Day swooned over Rock Hudson. Streep lives on a multi-acre estate overlooking the Pacific in Santa Barbara. Her sole source of income seems to be an upscale bakery/coffee shop. Unless she’s baking up twenties there’s no way this could happen!

I know, it’s a movie. Buy the premise, buy the bit. Fine. We move on.

The story is sweet, clever and mainly well acted. It was edited with a meat cleaver.

Who gets the blame: cinematographer or editor? There were cutaway shots behind a person speaking… but his jaw isn’t moving (the shot’s from behind so you don’t see his lips). Maybe I’m too critical, but that injures a movie and reduces my enjoyment.

Good grief Meryl Streep is good. She is incredibly comfortable in her own skin. That serve her well. It just doesn’t seem like she’s acting! That’s how it’s supposed to be.

“She makes the people she works with better,” added Helaine as we did a postmortem on the way out of the theater.

Alec Baldwin, as the ex-husband, is a guy who seldom looks past his own needs. It’s not like he’s trying to hide that. To meet him is to know the only way he can be is needy.

I was a little disappointed by Steve Martin in a role in which he seemed self restrained. He is a favorite of mine, so this is not idle criticism. I’ve just seen him bring a lot more to a role.

There were no surprises, no out-of-the-blue plot twists, no unexpected drama. That’s part of the reason this movie works so well. It is clever without being gimmicky.

The three of us really enjoyed it.

The Chinese food? Well that goes without saying. The movie may change from year-to-year, but the restaurant is always Dynasty in North Haven. As always it was delicious.

Santa–Only His Hat Remains!

All that’s left is his hat.

roxie-eats-santa-claus.jpgRoxie is what’s considered an aggressive chewer! We didn’t always know there was this classification, but we did know Roxie had jaws of steel–even as a newborn. Few dog toys designed for anything smaller than a doberman stay intact long.

This morning… Christmas morning… Roxie was presented with a Santa toy. It was cute, sweet and appropriate for this day. It is no longer! All that’s left is his hat.