Monday, December 31, 2007

What happens when I get a new toy...

I still haven't worked out all the kinks in this new-fangled video web cam, and I'm not even sure I like it. (For instance, my lips are not actually green and I can't seem to make the color appear lifelike.)

Eh, whatever! It's a small price to pay to show off some crazy snaps I just took.

Happy new year to everyone who visited in 2007!
I can't wait to share stories, ideas, woes,
laughter, inspiration and successes
with you all in 2008!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Geek Chic

It's coming... 2007 is winding down, which can only mean...

[insert drum rolls]

The SciFi Channel's day-long Twilight Zone marathon New Year's Eve into New Year's Day!


Of course, I'll be glued to the tube and will probably watch more TV than I normally do in a season, but it's so worth it. I mean, every ounce of my nerdism twitches when I hear the theme song!

My favorite Twilight Zone?

Though it's tough to say (I love so many of the episodes), I do have a special place for the one where Art Carney plays a drunk playing Santa... and of course, the one where Robert Redford plays Death is terrific, too... and we cannot forget about "Talking Tina", a disturbing tale indeed!

Oh, such delight!

I love being a geek!

So... what's your fave Twilight Zone episode? Or are you more of a Trekker?

(Better go polish my pocket protector and tape my broken inch-thick glasses...)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Aw, Fudge

As someone who has a competitive nature, I hate to run into road blocks... especially when they come courtesy of my own mind.

I've been working on some projects and there's one that has come together, but in a thoroughly disappointing way. I mean, it's just not good. Really not good.

It's a type of writing I don't typically do... and I've never marketed my services for it, but a long-time client requested something a little different. And so I delivered. Sorta.

The problem isn't the money issue. (Can you say "Freebie?") I don't give a doggone flibbity flubber about lucre in this instance.

It's the fact that I hit a wall so high and so wide... and I can't find the freakin' door or even a small crack in the foundation through which I can slip. That's driving me nuts.

It makes me want to shout naughty words out my window:

"Cruddly pinking sheers!"

(I don't swear much anymore... can you tell I'm out of practice?)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Looking for yet another title

You have to love kids.

(Okay, you don't have to. In fact, I hated them until I had our son who is the light of my universe. But I digress...)

I adore the pic I've posted here (look to your right) and I'm seeking the perfect caption. The one I have now is kind of blase. (Okay, it's boring as hell.)

So come on. Surprise me again. You guys are awesome title-maker-uppers!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

[As Yet Unititled]

Like all writers, I have my strengths and weaknesses. And I work on honing the former and minimizing the latter.

One of my strongest abilities is in formulating good lead-ins. I feel fortunate to be able to design paragraphs that draw the reader in and keep his/her interest. I think that's been a large part of my success thus far.

However, I stink at titles. Really, really stink. The stench is palpable and has probably felled a dozen or so cattle in the last year alone.

It's something that doesn't make sense. I'm a creative individual, and I have a decent command of my native tongue; yet I cannot seem to put together titles that sing. (Usually, they just cough and sputter.)

With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to play a little writing exercise just to work on developing our imagination and innovation.

I came up with the following five titles (all appropriately bizarre), and I'm inviting you to engage with me in a simple game. We'll try to come up with a description of the stories, plays, poems, et cetera that could "match" the titles.

For instance, if the title were "Knockers on Fourth Street", I would suggest that the corresponding work could be a compilation of photographs (coffee table book style) of door knockers in the historic district of a town. Alternatively, the title could be for a children's book about a family whose last name was "Knockers" and who lived on Fourth Street.

Okay, so onto the titles so you can play, too!

Just be inventive and crazy -- the wilder, the better. I don't have any prizes, but you'll win oohs and ahhhs from your peers! And who knows? You might find inspiration from the experience.

Title #1. "Porcelain Mummy"

Title #2. "Chocolate Shadow"

Title #3. "A Penny's Worth of Night Owls"

Title #4. "Tulip Treasures"

Title #5. "Snippets of Satin"

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Purr, purr...

(FYI... I turned thirty-six on Friday. No biggie, though I did feel a twinge of sadness to say goodbye to thirty-five, which was a pretty decent year, all things considered!)

Anywho... I received two unexpected "birthday gifts" last week from fellow writers Jason Evans and Hoodie: The opportunity to call myself a lioness!

Yippee! Meoooooow!

Here's the deal (as I understand it.) Seamus started a Shameless Lions Writing Circle and encouraged bloggers to "tag" other bloggers to receive the honor of "A Roar for Powerful Words".

As Seamus explains:

"How does it work?

Below are copies of the award that we can each distribute to those people who have blogs we love, can't live without, where we think the writing is good and powerful.

I thought interested members could kick things off by publishing the award on their own blog, naming five people they would like to give it to (members or non-members), and accompany the image with three things they believe are necessary to make writing good and powerful. The recipients then do the same, passing it on to five other people, and so on."

Suffice it to say that I feel quite surprised by this delightful gift!

Of course, the rules state that I have to name three things I believe make for good writing, so here goes:

#1. Objectivity - I heard recently that Ayn Rand (whose work I adore) wouldn't allow any edits of Atlas Shrugged, comparing her literary child to The Holy Bible. Though I do appreciate Rand's fiction and vision, I can't help but wonder how much better her work might have become if she didn't treat it like a "baby". I know that it's tough to step away from your words, but editors are in place for a reason. Without them, writing wouldn't be the same.

#2. Humor - There's a romanticized notion that every author broods in a garret, locked away from the rest of humanity. S/he is usually angry, cynical and humorless, determined to capture images and stories before being called upon by the Grim Reaper. For me, that kind of attitude wouldn't do. I like being able to laugh at myself. (And believe me, I do it every morning when I check out my growing fanny in the mirror. Ugh. Did I mention I'm a year older?)

#3. Persistence - Obviously, the best writers are damn persistent. They have to be. The competition is fiercer than ever, and if you don't keep throwing your hat in the ring, you'll be lost. I'm fortunate to have a sales background which helps me tremendously in this area; even though there are days that stink out loud, I keep coming back like a jonesin' junkie.

Okay... now the really fun part! Naming some other bloggers for the award!

My first nominee is...

Jennifer Chait, from Offbeat Homes, 7 Babes a Blogging, and Balance! She's such a friendly writer that you really feel like you're invited to share her life. I never get the sense that she's being anything other than herself; it's that kind of attitude that keeps me coming back!

My second nominee is...

Mary Whitsell, from ResidentAlien. Mary's posts are incredibly thoughtful and persuasive. She's obviously an introspective person and I adore her musings. (In fact, one of them was the inspiration for the contest that just wrapped up here at Recess for Writers!)

My third (and final) nominee is...

Beth, from The Perfect Neurotic. This gal has a wonderful sense of humor as well as the ability to generate tons of commentary. She's also just someone you want to know better.

Congratulations to the nominees! You're all PURRRRFECT!

Collect your awards at

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The results are... IN!

Our three “celebrity” guest judges (Aluminum Chef Sadie, Easy-Bake Ophelia and Louise la gourmande) have been working overtime, scoring each of the five recipes entered by contestants Carolie, Saskia and Mary.

After tallying all the results, I am happy to announce that Carolie has won “The First Ever Recess for Writers… er… Cooks Contest” with her recipe entitled “Southern Spring Brunch”!

Because there were five entries, I will be donating $10 to the charity of her choice. (Carolie, let me know what it is at your convenience!)

Of course, all the entries were fabulous in their own ways; consequently, I thought you might like to hear what the judges had to say about each one:

Entry #1: Carolie’s “Southern Spring Brunch”

Easy-Bake Ophelia: “Is it a soup can … or a cookie cutter .. or a summer pudding mold … you decide! Loved that Carolie actually completed the task of naming her dishes.”
Aluminum Chef Sadie: “A lovely suggestion for a bridal shower, provided the guest of honor is already ‘in bloom’ and craving pickles with every meal.”
Louise la gourmande: “Extra credit for excellence in writing and elegant use of cooking terms.”

Entry #2: Carolie’s “Heart of the Snow Tiger”

Easy-Bake Ophelia: “Minus the fine china, isn’t this dish served at the hospital?”
Louise la gourmande: “French title – Coeur de tigre de neige.”
Aluminum Chef Sadie: “Will appeal to the hopelessly self-important who must be told what to eat… I have to get my appetite back after reading ‘grey, quivering matter’.”

Entry #3: Mary’s “Lazy Woman’s Option”

Louise la gourmande: “Extra credit for yard-work tip.”
Aluminum Chef Sadie: “The title is eye-catching and quite appealing, yes, and anything fried in butter can’t be all bad. Way to incorporate lawn care into your recipe, though surely a lazy woman would find someone else to do that for her, no?”
Easy-Bake Ophelia: “Loved that Mary pointed out to us all that something you ingest can also be used as a weed-killer! Mmmmm…. I hear murder-mystery contest next …”

Entry #4: Carolie’s Third

Louise la gourmande: “My, she’s [Carolie] prolific.”
Easy-Bake Ophelia: “This recipe sounds yummy, and I liked the creativity of the rolls!”
Aluminum Chef Sadie: “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but that ungodly pickle/radish mousse sounds kind of good! Or perhaps it’s the lesser of all the evils? I wonder if it could be used as a spackle for sidewalks, working hand in hand with Mary Witzl’s weed killer? Ladies, you might be on to something here.”

Entry #5: Saskia’s Entry

Aluminum Chef Sadie: “Gluten appetit! That’s a lot of buttermilk to consider, even for this dairy loving gal. The French toast sounds great, though I could do without the pickle garnish - unless I were “in bloom” and craving that unholy combination.”
Louise la gourmande: “Rembrandt’s favorite meal, perhaps?”
Easy-Bake Ophelia: “Of all the recipes, this one sounded the most edible… Loved that the strawberries were turned into syrup for the buttermilk French toast.”



Carolie’s “Southern Spring Brunch”


2 cups of strawberries7 kosher dill pickles (you may use the pickle brine for extra points)4 cups of buttermilk3 radishes5 slices of wheat bread1 stick of butter2 eggs


1. Preheat oven to 400F. Thinly slice strawberries, macerate in 2 cups buttermilk.
2. Thinly slice radishes and three of the dill pickles horizontally into coins, marinate in bowl with dill pickle brine to cover.
3. Arrange two clean tin (steel) cans with both tops and bottoms cut off onto a baking sheet. Use one tin can to cut two circles from each of three slices of whole wheat bread. Butter each circle of bread on both sides.
4. Place a single circle of bread in each tin can, spoon 1/3 strawberries with buttermilk onto bread. Add another circle of bread, then another third of strawberries. Add third circle, and all of remaining strawberry/buttermilk mixture. Cover entirely with a layer of bread scraps, leftover from cutting circles.
5. Place a circle of parchment paper, cut to fit, on top of bread scraps. Place a slightly smaller can (an UNOPENED can of sliced olives perhaps?) on top for pressure, add yet another can (Beans? Tomatoes? Soup? Or a clean brick!), and refrigerate.
6. Whirl one of remaining slices of bread in a processor to create fine crumbs.
7. Slice two of the remaining pickles lengthwise into four long planks each, and blot as dry as possible with paper towels.
8. Beat one egg and half a cup of buttermilk in a small bowl until foamy.
9. Dip pickle planks into beaten egg/buttermilk mixture, then into breadcrumbs, and set on a rack to dry for five minutes. Repeat egg and breadcrumb dip on each plank, and fry each in remaining butter (reserving two teaspoons of butter for later use) briefly until golden. Drain on a rack set over paper towels.
10. Soak final piece of bread in remaining buttermilk until extremely soft.
11. Whip bread/buttermilk mixture until smooth, add remaining egg and all of remaining egg/buttermilk dip mixture from pickle process, beat until frothy.
12. Coat two oven-safe ramekins with 2 teaspoons reserved butter. Divide bread/buttermilk/egg mixture between ramekins.
13. Bake in oven until slightly puffed and mostly set.
14. Turn strawberry bread puddings upside down onto pretty dessert plates (leaving behind pressed out buttermilk and strawberry juice), using can of sliced olives to hold down puddings as cans are removed.
15. Cut final dill pickle in half. Slice thinly, but NOT all the way through each half. Fan slices out and tuck ends into base to create curled pickle fans. Use fans to garnish souffles.


* Radish & cucumber salad in dill and garlic dressing
* Crispy butter-fried dill pickle planks
* Buttermilk souffles with dill pickle fans
* Strawberry-buttermilk summer puddings

Contest Results Coming Soon...

I'm not dead... really... or at least I think I'm still alive... whatever...

Anyway, I will be announcing the contest winner very soon!

I've asked three "celebrity" judges (a.k.a., a trio of offline friends who are witty beyond belief) to rate all the recipes based on creativity, edibility factor, use of ingredients (extra point for the pickle brine) and presentation.

Their responses are so hilarious and wonderful that I think I'll just be listing everything here, hopefully later today! So stay tuned...

Oh, and for your pleasure, check out this YouTube video about the WGA strike:

I just keep watching it for kicks. It's totally inspired and I'd love to meet and talk with the writer(s) and actors.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Update on This Here Contest I'm A-Sponsorin'!

First of all, special thanks to Mary and Carolie for their uber-inspirational dishes in response to my contest announcement! (I especially laughed at Carolie's second one... see the following post's comments and you'll immediately understand.)

And for other visitors, please contribute to the First Ever Recess for Writers... er... Cooks Contest. Even if you're not an Iron Chef (thanks, Ello), you can still try your luck! Of course, if you're not interested, that's a-okay, but do pass along the contest's link to friends who might want to try their hands at the challenge!


I've decided that in the spirit of the holiday season, my prize will be to make a donation to the winner's favorite charity (as long as the charity doesn't support murder, child porn, weird guys who enjoy flashing people in train stations, et cetera... I reserve the right to object if I find the charity to be offensive.) I prefer donating online, so make sure your non-profit of choice has that option if at all possible. (Many offer PayPal buttons on their websites.)

There will be only one winner, and the donation amount will depend upon how many entry submissions I receive by the deadline*:

-> 1-5 contest entries - $10 USD donated
-> 6-10 contest entries - $15 USD donated
-> 11-15 contest entries - $20 USD donated
-> 16+ contest entries - $25 USD donated

(Incidentally, an official "entry" has to be serious... and at least somewhat edible. You can definitely enter more than once, but if it's a "joke" entry, it won't count toward the final number of submissions. I might giggle, though, so don't hold back if an amusing idea comes to you!)

* FINALLY, I'm extending the deadline for one day to give everyone time to spread the word and jump into the fray. This means all entries will be due no later than Tuesday, December 11, 2007, noon (E.S.T.)

I'm planning to post the winner by Wednesday, December 12, 2007 in the afternoon. (Pennsylvania time.)


Friday, December 7, 2007

Unexpected inspiration

Though I'm suspended in a migraine haze today, I had a blast of much-needed inspiration, thanks to Mary's latest post at ( about the creative cooking abilities of a friend.

In honor of her fabulous story (check it out then come back here, I beg of you), I am hosting

The First Ever
Recess for Writers Contest!

Ironically, the contest has nothing to do with writing. But it definitely requires some serious innovation.

The rules are pretty darn simple.

Entrants have until Monday, December 10th at noon E.S.T. to send me their most imaginative (and edible) dishes using the following seven ingredients ONLY. Any cookware may be used (such as the type that is nonstick), but no other food products can be thrown into the mix.

The most original recipe will be highlighted in a special blog post here on Tuesday, December 11th.

I'll probably hand out some sort of prize, too, but I have no clue what it will be as of right now. So let's just call it "a surprise" and leave it at that! (I'm open to ideas. Perhaps a special little icon you can put at your website? The Recess for Writers... er... Cooks Award?)

In any case, here are your seven ingredients. As Tim Gunn coolly announces on Project Runway: "Make it work."

1. 2 cups of strawberries
2. 7 kosher dill pickles (you may use the pickle brine for extra points)
3. 4 cups of buttermilk
4. 3 radishes
5. 5 slices of wheat bread
6. 1 stick of butter
7. 2 eggs

Happy inventing!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Short of repeatedly hitting my temple with a hammer...

... does anyone have a natural migraine remedy that actually works? I'm battling a toughy today and it's really getting in the way of enjoying the "little" things in life like... oh, ummm, let me see... writing and eating.

Thanks in advance for any advice.

Now, I must sit in a darkened room and visualize calm blue waters or some such nonsense. Wish me luck.

Let's try something new...

Up until now, I haven't ever tried including any writing job advertisements in this blog, but I was intrigued by these two enough to pass them along.

They are from Craigslist and both are (probably) low-paying, but if you have a relevant finished or half-finished story sitting around collecting dust, it might be worth a query or submission.

And please, please, please don't get discouraged if you hear nothing or get rejected after contacting these folks (or any others). It's just part of the game.

And that's really what every business is, after all. One wild game with rules that change at a moment's notice.

Unlike a lot of working writers, I won't lie and say it isn't personal when you get negative responses, because sometimes they are personal.

But don't take them to heart.

Flip your computer the bird and move on. Or blog about the bastards who said you weren't good enough. Screw 'em. (And I say that in the spirit of the holiday season.)

Good luck!

Writers & Editors Needed for New Magazine

Reply to:
Date: 2007-12-05, 2:01PM EST

Artist's Soul Magazine is a brand new publication aimed at the art community, attracting artists of all stripes and colors.

We are anticipating the premiere issue to be released in late spring / early summer. Our magazine will include something that will interest people from a variety of artistic backgrounds including the fine arts, digital arts, photography, performing arts, independent film enthusiasts, the literary arts, and the list can just keep breaking down from there.

We provide relevant information, intriguing articles, useful tips/tutorials, product reviews, and superb design. We are in need of the following individuals to join our team: - writers - editors We welcome any and all skill levels: students, professionals, self-taught individuals.

If you are a student, this might be the perfect opportunity to gain widespread recognition and exposure within your respective field. Please email your resume and three (3) samples of your work

Compensation: negotiable


Women Writers

Reply to: see below
Date: 2007-12-01, 7:29PM EST

We are an ezine that promotes communication between women writers, authors, editors, agents, publishers and readers.

We are currently seeking freelance writers for our upcoming editorial schedule and themes. Please visit: to get the flavor of our columns and features.

Writing Schedule and Themes for WOW! Women On Writing:

Jan. 2008 - Focus on Readers: book reviews, author interviews, how to make a freelance living at writing book reviews, book clubs, literary guilds, author interviews

Feb. 2008 - The Romance issue: Writing for romance markets, how to craft romantic scenes, book reviews, author interviews.

Mar. 2008 - Small Presses: Focus on how small presses create buzz, small press profiles, author stories about their experience with small presses.

Apr. 2008 - Big Publishing Houses: focus on traditional publishing, editor interviews, crafting a query letter or book proposal, trends in publishing.

May 2008 - Freelance Union: how to make a living as a freelance writer, copywriters, technical writers, book doctors, legal writing.

Our Columns pay a flat rate of $50-$75. Feature articles pay a flat rate of $150. Feature interviews pay a flat rate of $75.

Please visit our Contact Page for complete writer's guidelines and contact email addresses for the editorial department. We urge you to visit WOW! Women On Writing and view our previously published material.

NOTES: Get your submissions in as soon as possible. Spaces fill up fast. We also appreciate photographs to illustrate the article, or at least the writer's portrait. We are a highly visual online magazine.

Thank you for your consideration, and we look forward to hearing from you.

Warmest regards, Editors: WOW! Women On Writing and our entire staff

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Have YOU Got "Rhythms"?

I'm fascinated by the notion of biorhythms, though I don't necessarily believe in the principle behind them.

In case you're not familiar with what biorhythms supposedly are, here's a brief explanation in my own words (which are not flowing like they should since I've only drunk half of my morning coffee allotment):

There is a belief that, depending upon the date you were born, your emotional, intellectual, and physical "cycles" will peak at predictable intervals. However, all three will only occasionally be at similar levels; thus, on a given day you might be able to easily understand complex calculations related to the time-space continuum but still struggle to get your ass out of your chair.

How's that for an answer? (Need.More.Java.)

Anyway, just for fun, I periodically like to get a free biorhythm reading over at Though I'm not entirely "sold" on the notion of biorhythms, it's an enjoyable diversion. And today I was in for a treat...

According to their computations, December 5th is a strong day for me not only for my primary biorhythms (the three mentioned above), but also for my secondary biorhythms (mastery, passion, and wisdom).


So why the hell am I sitting here feeling like a big old moose chewed me up, spat me out, shat upon me, then repeatedly kicked me for half an hour?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Changing perspectives

Before I say anything, take a gander at this incredible photo of Sophia Loren.

What's the first thing you notice?

If you're an American, I'm sure it will be that she has tufts of underarm hair.
That was my initial thought, too.

But she's gorgeous. Even with those well-coiffed armpits.

When I first saw this image of Ms. Loren, it was hanging in a frame in a restaurant. I couldn't take my eyes off it. I mean, I'm so heterosexual it hurts, but it still took my breath away despite the dark fluff peeking out from under her shoulders.

This photograph honestly made me change the way I thought about mainstream attractiveness. Not that I'm going to stop shaving any time soon, but I recognize that beauty sometimes shows itself in unexpected ways.

So... what did you learn today that changed your perspective? (Aside from the fact that I am indeed a very disturbed, sick human being who desperately needs to be placed in an asylum for overworked, exhausted, punchy writers.)

Keeping promises

Well, I didn't get to become the seventh babe of "7 Babes a-Bloggin'", but that's okay. I appreciate all your support and it was fun to see how close I could get to the top spot.

(Okay, truth be told I really wanted to win and have been crying for days now, unable to console myself. In fact, I'm thinking of throwing my worthless wreck of a body under a bus.. oh! The cruelty of politics!)

In any case, I didn't forget my promise to all of you. I said I'd post a pic of me at the height of my adolescent awkwardness. And so I shall.

May I present to you the 1983 "me"? Try not to stare too long. Your eyes will fall out. (Oh, and close your mouths. Flies will congregate in there.)

Please take special note of the ill-fitting, too-skimpy shorts; the horizontal stripes (ah, nothing says flabby like white stripes across a lumpy belly); and the I-don't-care-hair. And that IS a legitimate Barbie doll I'm holding.

(P.S. The other person in the picture is and was my best friend, Sarah. But I wouldn't be so cruel as to include her photo on this site.)

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Give it up ~

Oh gawd. It's December.

I know, I know... you're well aware of that fact. After all, the date is right at the top of this post. Pretty hard to miss.

While I've always liked this month (happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me...), I dread the impending holidays just like scores of other Americans.

Buying. Spending. Gluttony.


It's so excessive and disgusting. All I want in my stocking is a gift consisting of two uninterrupted hours at the gym followed by time at my laptop and/or on the stage and I'll be a perky turkey. (This has yet to be given to me as a present, by the way. But I'll continue to ask for it year after year.)

So all my Grinchy pessimism got me a'thinkin' (which is always a recipe for trouble). Out of all the things related to the holiday season, what one aspect would I choose to keep? (And I only allowed myself to pick one, though I do enjoy a couple others, like certain holiday television classics.)

It took some deliberation.

Would I choose to keep the Christmas tree? Nah, I could easily screw the whole "bring a too-big balsam into the living room and let it shed its needles on the floor while I get scratches on my arms trying to give the poor dying thing water" experience.

How about gifts? Yeah, right. See my post from November 23rd and you'll know where I stand on the whole "buy this, buy that" expectation. Ho, ho, no.

Baking? While I do love my sweets (though I haven't eaten chocolate in almost 12 years, which might make for an interesting blog topic), I could do without having fourteen million gingerbread men going stale (or, worse yet, rotting) on the kitchen counter.

Holiday tunes? I don't think so. You try listening to Miss Piggy warbling out a Christmas chant or Britney Spears butchering a tune that's already been slaughtered by a dozen other "artists". (And don't get me started on Madonna's "Santa Baby". *puke*)

I could honestly live without experiencing anything I've mentioned above.

But what wouldn't I want to live without at this time of year?

As weird as it may sound, my answer would be the way December 25th feels when my immediate family members sit down for a leisurely, lovingly-prepared meal. Really, that's what it's all about for me (sitting at home with a frozen TV dinner just wouldn't be the same.) Of course, I'm not talking stuff-your-face-until-you-pray-for-death gorging, but the simple bliss that comes from knowing your only goal is to eat, chat and reminisce.

(I know, I know. Pass the pancakes. That's so syrupy it makes me gag. In fact, if you're diabetic, you may need an insulin shot after reading the preceding paragraph. My sincere apologies.)

So... what would you never give up about this spirited time of year? (Or, in other words, what aspect of the holiday season doesn't make you want to crawl into a hole until January 1st?)