5 Christmas Presents I’d Ask For If It Was Still 1985

The holidays always make me feel nostalgic for the days of yore, when things felt simpler and Fisher Price reigned supreme as the creator of all of my favorite things. As Christmas and New Year’s roll around, I find myself taking stock in the things I’ve done and the things I would like to do in the coming year. I also find myself buying myself Christmas presents when really, I should be buying presents for other people. I don’t consider myself to be a good gift giver, I prefer to give non-tangible items such as laughter and joy. When it comes to receiving gifts, I’ve always subscribed to the “it’s the thought that counts” mentality. This year, instead of making a Christmas wish list and distributing it to all interested parties, I’ve decided instead to make a list of Christmas presents I’d ask for if it was still 1985 because 1980s nostalgia is the gift that keeps on giving. Here are 5 Christmas presents I’d ask for if it were 1985:

1) Fisher Price Roller Skates

These things were amazing because you didn’t even have to take off your shoes in order to enjoy the benefits of roller skating. Already wearing shoes? Just tighten the Velcro and you are all set to go skating around town. Or at the roller rink. Perfect for someone who doesn’t like to waste her time on mundane tasks such as taking off her shoes or tying shoelaces. Plus, they come with Velcro.

2) Jem & The Holograms Cassette Tape

Jem & The Holograms personified what it meant to be 80’s girl rockers. Their music, their makeup, Jem’s earrings that transformed her from a normal person into a superstar rocker; perfection. I want[ed] to be Jem. I would also love a pair of those earrings.

3) Fisher Price Walkie-Talkies

These should really replace cell phones. They are just as convenient, as long as your friend has one too. You don’t even have to communicate with real words, morse code will take care of that for you. Don’t know morse code? No problem, it’s printed on the front of your walkie-talkie. Roger that. Ten four.

4) Teddy Ruxpin

A talking bear. Is having a companion stuffed animal that talks too much to ask for? I didn’t think so.

5) This Volvo.

I’m about to get my driver’s license and this is the car I want. A 1985 Volvo 740 Turbo. I have so many fond memories from my family’s 1980 Volvo sitting in the backseat squished between my two siblings while swinging along the open road on various road trips, most memorably through the Smoky Mountains.

Though I won’t hold my breath for any of these items to appear under the Christmas tree or in my stocking, it was nice to take a little trip down memory lane. And that is a gift in and of itself.


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The Key to a Woman’s Heart is Through Her Library

There is nothing more wonderful than receiving a book as a gift, especially if the gift giver is someone with whom you are romantically involved (or wish you were). Romance aside, I absolutely love it when someone, anyone, gives me a book. It doesn’t even have to be for a special occasion.

A book gift is very personal. It means that someone has taken the time to think about you and to find a book that will speak to you specifically. Someone wants you to have an enjoyable experience so much that they bought something that will aid in the process. I also love it when someone listens to you rant and rave about a book you’ve always wanted to read and then a few days later, that book magically appears on your front door step.

My aunt was a book editor for a newspaper for many, many years and each Christmas, she always sent everyone in our extended family a book. Each book was tailored to our own preferences and the types of works that we most enjoyed reading. Each Christmas, I could look forward to a delicious new work of fiction, often with a literary tie as my aunt knew my love of writing. These were the types of books that were pager-rippers–so engaging, that I practically tore the pages from the spine.

Another fond memory I have of getting a book as a gift came at the end of my senior year of college. It was Valentine’s Day weekend and I was competing in my final swim meet of my 14 year swimming career. My mom and dad drove all the way to watch me swim as they so often did throughout my life as a swimmer. At the end of the meet, after my final race, my mom and dad gave me a rose, a card, and a copy a childhood favorite, Goodnight Moon. On this milestone of getting older, receiving Goodnight Moon was a nod to my younger days. The book still sits on my bookshelf.

There is something so special about being given a book.  Here are five books that I would be delirious with delight if someone gave to me as a gift:

  1. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. You can never have too many copies of your favorite book!
  2. Nothing’s Fair in Fifth Grade by Barthe DeClements. I received this as a gift from a cool baby-sitter in first grade, when I was sick. I read this book so many times that the cover fell off. I loved reading about the drama of fifth grade girls who were forced to get along with a new girl that they didn’t like.
  3. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (an older edition). Another one of my all-time favorite books, it would be cool to have an older edition of this book for my collection.
  4. Any collection of Yeats’ poems. Who doesn’t love to receive poetry as a gift, especially when its written by your favorite poet?Bonus if “He Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven” is included in said collection.
  5. The Best Loved Doll by Rebecca Caudill. My grandmother, who also happened to collect dolls, had given this book to my sister and me. We loved this book because we loved to play with dolls and we could relate to the main character and her “best-loved” doll.
So gentlemen, if you’re puzzled on how to win over your lady-love interest, the answer is simple. Buy her a book! 

The Night of Seven Fishes and Other Christmas Traditions

I do not come from an Italian family, but every Christmas Eve, we partake in a great Italian tradition: The Night of Seven Fishes.  We began this tradition a few years ago on Christmas Eve, when my immediate family gathers to eat, open presents, and play board games.  I could not be happier about the adoption of The Night of Seven Fishes because it is one of the most glorious eating experiences of all time.  I’m not quite sure about the exact rules of The Night of Seven Fishes, but I do know that in my family it means cooking seven fish dishes and then eating them all in a row. It is a feat of much physical strength and it is delicious.

My mom's cookbook collection.

I love the cooking that goes on around Christmas time because it involves looking at and using old cookbooks and partaking in cooking traditions that have been passed down from the generations.  It also involves taking culinary risks and learning new dishes to add to the repertoire.  These dishes aren’t just ordinary dishes, they are dishes that have been passed through the generations.  Like I mentioned in my Mother’s Day post, I feel like the spirits of my grandma and great-grandmother are with my mom and me in the kitchen as my mom prepares the traditional Swedish dishes that she is entrusting unto me so that I may pass them to my children who will in turn pass them down to their children.  Cooking on Christmas is an homage to our past and a salute to the future, while eating like queens in the present.

Now that my brother has married into a Russian family, we have combined the dishes from both cultures into one, large, delicious smorgasbord of Russian and Swedish goodness.  New traditions are learned, new dishes have been added, and cognac is involved. And even more kinds of fish.  At the end of the Christmas holiday, and after much calculation, I figured that I ate 10 different kinds of fish:  herring (prepared the Swedish way and the Russian way), shrimp, baked oysters, lox, smoked sea bass, smoked trout, mussels in white wine sauce, seared tuna, caviar, and now the tenth one is escaping me…

The "new" Betty Crocker cookbook. First edition, copyright 1961.

This year, I was in charge of making the mussells, the baked oysters (New Orleans style), tomates provencales, and I watched and learned as my mom made the famous Swedish bread that we eat on Christmas morning. Another highlight was making Jansson’s Temptation, the best potato dish ever.  A Swedish dish popularized in the 1930s, Jansson’s Temptation features layers of potatoes, onions, anchovies, and heavy cream, topped off by bread crumbs. After baking in the oven, the anchovies dissolve leaving a delicious, creamy, warm potato dish.  It is very tempting to eat the entire dish in one sitting.

One of the joys of the holiday is enjoying a wide variety of dishes that we don’t always make during the rest of the year.  I do make a lot of fish during the year, but never seven different fish dishes in one meal!

What are some of your family’s Christmas cooking traditions?