From Sprigs to Colossal Displays

I wonder if the Pagans from hundreds of years ago could have ever anticipated the extreme lengths to which people in the future would go to celebrate the Winter Solstice, now incorporated into the massive holiday we now know as Christmas.

Certainly there would have been feasting and music, which are more than prevalent today. I personally have an extensive Christmas music collection and I have asked for a multitude of new albums this year. (Julie Andrews singing Christmas carols? Yes, please.)

This is sprigs + lights. And it’s stunning!

Since I am not even going into the consumerism aspect of Christmas (i.e., gift giving and shopping), I’m mainly focusing on the lights and decorations aspect.

Obviously there are people for whom Christmas is just another day (I do not refer to the religions that do not celebrate Christmas) and they could care less about decorations or being jolly or any kind of “spirit” associated with the season, unless of course they prefer the alcoholic kind. (And many do.)

But for some decorating is a custom, nay a compulsion, that must be carried out each year and it must beat out last year’s effort. Remember all the episodes of Home Improvement where Tim had to outdo his neighbor for the holiday lights/display contest? (Remember how torn up Charlie Brown is about Snoopy going for the lights and display contest? Ha, managed to get in a Peanuts reference.)

Take this guy, for example (this is in Boston):

Clark Griswold, do you see this?

I have no idea how this guy’s neighbors sleep. It sure is pretty, though.

Then there’s the unveiling of the tree at Rockefeller Center. It’s a huge event that draws the millions in NYC plus the tourists who are there to see….an enormous tree strewn with lights. The concept seems simple but what it all boils down to is that we’re all attracted to pretty, shiny, sparkly things like moths to a flame.

Having grown up in St. Louis, I was fortunate to experience the Winter Wonderland display at Tilles Park. Since words can not accurately describe how elaborate this scene is, I’m going to link you to the video they have about what it takes to put this show together. This year is the 25th anniversary of young and old alike flocking to stare at the pretty lights in celebration of our nation’s biggest holiday.

Do you decorate for the holidays? Have you put up your tree yet? (We have…) What are your annual holiday traditions that you can’t live without?

The Season of Coco/a

This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for both Coco and cocoa; one being a person, although not Chanel. Side note: don’t Google Image “Coco” if you’re trying to find Conan O’Brien. Learned that the hard way.

As I was saying, I am a huge fan of the brilliant Conan O’Brien. The other is actual cocoa, but more specifically, hot chocolate.

First things first.

I can’t state enough how happy I am to see the return of Conan to television, where he belongs. When he left NBC, there was this vacuous feeling from his absence. He did me a real solid by returning to television as soon as he could. Thanks, man.

As most people in the given universe are aware of by now, he earned the nickname “Coco,” bestowed upon him by Tom Hanks – and it stuck but good. He probably hates it but it made him even more recognizable, if that is at all possible.

His humor is a breath of fresh air to what I consider the stale, flaccid format of late-night television. He’s a big goofball but he makes it sharp and witty. Plus, the guy’s got heart.

He’s not on nearly as late as he used to be but if I were still living in New York, even his coming on at 11pm is earlier than when he was broadcasting after most people were asleep. I don’t have to worry about staying up, though, since I can DVR the comedy and watch it the next morning or after work.

His incessant mocking of TBS is hysterical. One long-running joke is this whole bit about the Conan Blimp. I also adore that Andy is back and in my opinion, better than ever. There seems to be a more relaxed format to the show now, where Conan and Andy can take more liberties with improv and Conan can do what he does best, which is take a joke, make fun of it, then drag it out (à la Family Guy). Love! Andy even acknowledges this point in this article, stating, “You know what, let’s just have some fun. Let’s just do a show now that we’re not replacing anybody. We’re not replacing David Letterman. We’re not replacing Jay Leno. We’re just startin’ up a show from scratch, which we’ve never gotten to do before. There’s no precedent. There’s no shoes to fill. We just get to do what we want.”

Amen. I have no doubt that Conan will succeed, even if we have trouble finding the actual channel on which it resides.

What’s just as good, if not better, than Coco? Cocoa. Especially hot cocoa, as seen by this delectable cup. Or watching Coco whilst drinking hot cocoa. Mmmmmm. There’s a thought. (Yep, that’s my idea of a good fantasy right there. Conan would do a great job of making fun of that.)

I personally make kickass hot chocolate and in college, we would put Bailey’s in it, dubbing it “adult hot chocolate.” There’s one recipe there, should you care to be adventurous.

However, THE BEST hot chocolate I’ve ever had in my life was at Angelina in Paris. Yes, you’d have to go to Paris to drink it but it is hands down the best stuff you will ever drink. It’s served with ice water to help you counteract its richness and costs over 6 Euros per person (at least it did in 2004). It is a creamier version of a melted chocolate bar in a cup, topped with homemade chantilly (a.k.a, whipped cream) and makes you full for hours. Delectable.

If I could have that while watching Conan, I’d have the best of both worlds. Coco/a bliss.

Now that I’m making myself salivate…I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving, with or without coco/a. Preferably with.

❤ ❤ ❤

2015 Update: I ended up going to Paris during my honeymoon and we definitely hit up Angelina! Below are some photos. Just as blissfully divine as I remembered it.

Angelina 3_Zoe Says Angelina 2_Zoe Says Angelina 1_Zoe Says

Onions? Or…B.O.?

I really wanted to do this post because of the title alone. Here is the conversation I had online with a girlfriend, which inspired the title:

Her: I just got a whiff of B.O. but nobody walked by, so now I’m paranoid that it’s me.
Her: I smelled all around myself and I don’t smell anything. But then, you smell people on the subway, like some guy who sits down next to you, and he seems to have absolutely zero idea that he smells as badly as he does. And you think, “How can someone be so oblivious of his own smell?”
Me: Yeah, I definitely know when it’s me.


Me: I love how onions are reminiscent of B.O.
Her: Right? It’s such a weird smell, to have a food smell like body odor.
Me: I guess it’s all about man blending with nature. “Onions? Or…B.O.?” Ha! Great title for a post.

So I created this draft with the title with nothing in the body but a note that said, “Can this really be a post?”

Upon getting my Google on, I discovered this awesome article about body odor, men and women. So it really is women who smell like onions when they’re super funky, as opposed to cheese in men. I’m sorry but I think cheese is the more offensive character here. I don’t want to smell a man who reeks of onions, either. Or garlic. Or cumin.

Incidentally, my friend and I had proceeded to have a conversation about men’s underarm smell and how it can actually be quite sexy. Along those same lines, each of our boyfriends thinks it’s strange or gross that we think this. Apparently we’re just fitting right on in with God’s Great Plan, though, because it’s totally a pheromone thing designed to keep the genetics mixed up. Nice work, God.

When I showed my same friend the article, she had this to say: “Who would have thought that me connecting the onions in my garbage to the smell of B.O. that kept coming in waves while sitting at my desk was actually based in fact? Even though it was a fact I didn’t know existed?”

Deep stuff, right?

Author’s note: I have tried Crystal Deodorant and it actually really does work to neutralize one’s natural smell, i.e. onions and cheese. But since it is not an antiperspirant you still sweat like the devil. Unless you plan on wearing dark shirts all the time in the summer or don’t care about pit stains, it’s a try-it-at-your-own-risk product.

Baker’s Dozen: We Know It’s the Holiday Season Because…

1. The day after Halloween, instead of everything being about Thanksgiving, every store went right to Christmas. November is now officially Christmas Part I. Or, Christmas: The Prequel.

2. Despite the warm spell hitting the middle of America currently, Christmas tree lots are sprouting up in a Store Parking Lot Near You.

3. Radio stations have already dedicated certain hours to solely playing Christmas/holiday music.

a) Stores start playing Christmas Muzak exclusively. I have it from a very good source that stores like Sephora were playing Christmas music even before Halloween and that she saw her first holiday ad on October 31.

4. The sheer bulk of our mail has tripled, with stores now advertising TWO Black Fridays or two days equivalent to Black Friday. Plasma TVs for $.49 and other nonsense.

5. Houses and small local businesses start decking out their exteriors with Christmas lights by November 2. These are the same people/establishments who will not take these down until March 3 or Easter.

a) You see ornaments for outrageous prices. I love Hallmark, being the card obsessed woman I am, but their Keepsake Ornament prices simply stagger me.

6. Large department stores put giant bows and wreaths on the outside of their buildings, making them look like it’s one giant gift box.

7. Every major website is adorned with the same type of advertising and promotions as physical stores. Sites like eBay have a counter that tells you how many shopping days are left, giving you that nice pre-holiday ulcer.

a) If you are an email subscriber to anything, you will be receiving early yuletide “secret sale” emails. “HURRY!” they shout.

b) Shipping prices have been slashed to either one dollar, one cent, or free.

8. Folks at work begin surreptitiously using all their free time to shop online. Postal workers, UPS men and the FedEx guy all start looking stressed when they enter places of business. The front area of every office looks like this:

These were all just for me today. Seriously.

9. Food, if it’s not already a constant in your workplace, begins multiplying as if we’re all going to hibernate the day after Christmas. (If only.) Bowls of chocolate, tins of popcorn, plates of cookies, pie, and any other type of holiday confection are all available 10 hours a day, five days a week. Add to this that emails begin circulating about holiday food gatherings.

10. Every single eatery, without exception, releases their holiday packaging. McDonald’s bags are decorated with golden snowflakes, Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts will have their new festive holiday cups which contain their Christmas/holiday/yuletide coffee potions drenched in syrups, sprinkles, whipped cream and gooey toppings. Even gas stations have holiday packaging. You can buy a person a gift card to a gas station.

11. Your local and national news coverage, both on television and online, will dedicate (exponentially) segments/articles each week to saving money on travel, avoiding spending pitfalls, losing that holiday weight before it happens, circumventing travel nightmares, and promoting any human interest story that will get a tear or a dollar out of you. It’s already happening. (If you click on that travel link, you’ll see that the date of that article is September 20.)

12. Speaking of dollars…Salvation Army bell ringers line the street corners, clanging their bells incessantly while you try to maneuver the mobs and throngs of people all trying to get into the same stores as you are (mostly to escape the clanging bells).

13. All of the major networks come out with promos that are embedded with jingle bells, singing, etc. Channels like Hallmark, Lifetime and WE advertise their annual holiday made-for-television movie involving people being separated for Christmas and a person or animal joins them together, showing them the true meaning of the holiday spirit. While the movies tell you not to place such high importance on ribbons, tags, boxes or bags, the advertisements tell you that the ONLY things you should be worried about are when you buy your gifts and their accompanying, ribbons, tags, boxes and bags. HURRY UP, ALREADY!

a) Holiday specials now air in November. Check it.

These are only the thirteen that I could come up with and it’s November 15. If you buy into all the hype, you’re rushing off to start making those lists and checking them twice!

Author’s Note: Me, I love Christmas. Love, love, love it. I started listening to my Christmas music over the weekend. It was inspired by the fact that according to the stores and Everywhere in the United States, I should be fully immersed in the Christmas season already. So I thought, screw it, and the lilting voices of Bing and Nat and Perry and Johnny and all the rest of them filled my living room.

The USPS Gets Nostalgic

Happy Saturday, everyone!

Be ye from the States or from across the globe, there is a good chance you are familiar with Charles M. Schulz and his adorable Peanuts characters.

Like my post about the Ctrl z cards, I am going to keep this as brief as possible, since I merely want to announce the arrival of adorable Charlie Brown envelopes and boxes at the United States Post Office.

Did you hear that? Charlie Brown/Peanuts envelopes. At your local post office. Get yours before they sell the hell out!

Anyhow, because my boyfriend and I are such enormous fans, I picked up an empty envelope the other day when I was mailing something else, just to take it home with me. I am sure the woman behind the counter thought I was a curious person.

Yet, whoever is the recipient of this small mailing envelope (and they come in a large size and also hard boxes that you put together in the post office!) is a special person indeed, since I wouldn’t grace just anybody’s household with it.

Clearly the USPS likes promoting adorable, witty characters, and so they have graced us with Peanuts mailing supplies this holiday season. I can’t say I blame ’em.

For you to marvel at, and then go buy some of your very own:

Does it get better than this?

180 degrees of animation!


Update as of 2019: I finally used this envelope nine years later. It was in pristine condition but I saved it for that long for the perfect gift to come along.

Poor Man’s Lancôme Mascara

Foreword: I minored in French and it never ceases to frustrate me that I can’t get the proper accents on French words – at least easily. I went out of my way to get the one for Lancôme, but not the rest of the words listed. My apologies to anyone who cringes at this, as I do.

Most of you know what a devout fan I am of Lancôme. See “Bottom line, these are awesome.” In that particular post, I laud the traits of Lancôme’s L’Extreme mascara.

Their Definicils is one of their best-selling, and it is also very good. This post refers to their Hypnose Drama mascara. For some reason, I can’t get on board with the regular Hypnose, but I tried a tube of Hypnose Drama and I’m hooked. I love having mascaras that produce different effects and this one definitely gives you that lash ‘wow’ factor. It’s very black and gives the lashes lots of volume and oomph, if you will. I go between it and the L’Extreme, depending on my mood.

The illustrious tube of Hypnose Drama

However!  I have found myself unable to splurge on Lancôme before, seeing as each tube of mascara is at least $24. Desperate times call for desperate measures and so I found myself staring at all the mascaras in my local drugstore not too long ago. I knew that there were certain brands that had good reputations and I had also remembered seeing an ad for a relatively new mascara from Maybelline….So for less than half the price of a tube of Hypnose Drama (about $11.50), I went ahead and purchased Maybelline’s Lash Stiletto mascara in black. Tada!

Lash Stiletto

And the results are in. This is HONESTLY the most similar mascara you will find to Lancôme. It even has the same chemical in it because it has the same funny smell. (I never thought mascara smelled before but whatever product they’re using in these two is distinct. L’Extreme doesn’t have it, nor does Definicils.) Your lashes don’t dry like twigs, it’s a very black, glossy mascara when you put it on, and your lashes look absolutely gorgeous. I’m going to post a photo below of me just wearing the mascara below. The quality isn’t amazing (it’s a tad orange) but it’s not terrible. You can definitely see my eyelashes standing out.

So this is definitely on the list of Zoe Recommends. You save money and you look fabulous. Way to go, Maybelline. My hat is off to you. This is not to say that you should cut Lancôme out of your life or anything – that’d be plain ridiculous – but as a short-term alternative to the best mascara in the world, this one will do very nicely.

Anybody else tried it and loved it? Leave me feedback!