If you're looking to pick up some Penguin books or schwag ("Future reader" bib, anyone?), either as holiday gifts for others or as post-holiday survival incentives for yourself, apparently the publisher is offering its Friends and Family discount to the general public through till January 2, 2006.
Visit the Penguin Group to order. When checking out, enter the promotional code "friend3" to receive 15% off your total. (I'm not sure if this offer extends outside the U.S. Does anyone know?)
Thanks to the anonymous poster who brought this to my attention!
I kind of feel like I have to mention that, long posts about holiday shopping aside, I'm really not the grabby shopaholic I sometimes make myself sound like. Don't get me wrong: I love nice things, but I can usually content myself with window shopping or looking at catalogues or pictures on the internet.
I'm trying to become a minimalist, but Rusty doesn't feel comfortable unless there are piles of crap everywhere, so we compromise in that he lets me busy myself by making his piles of crap look tidy and presentable. I do have a penchant for buying shelves, baskets, and hooks for the storage and presentation of said piles of crap. After books, this is probably my greatest shopping weakness. (Ah, if only the Container Store would come to Canada.)
Where Rusty and I do agree is that, for us, the holidays are not about gifts. Oh, we love to give gifts, yes. We're not Grinchy that way. We have a long list of family members and other loved ones for whom we love to pick out things that we hope they adore. It's just a way of saying, "Hey, we took the time to think of just you for a bit, because we think you're pretty awesome." But we're not big on giving each other piles of gifts. It's just not how we roll.
We tend to view things like books and music and clothes as necessities, so we get those for ourselves all year round. So they're out as gifts. And what's left after you've ruled out books and music and clothes? Not much. At least not for us. We are a simple people.
For us, the holidays are about the tree, the food, and the people. Each year, we pick out the biggest tree that will fit in our house, and we mack it out with our rather impressive collection of ornaments. We stuff the fridge with so much food you'd think there's no way we could get through it all. (We do.) There's candy and chocolate spilling from every cupboard. We book off the week between Christmas and New Year's, and we announce to all and sundry that we're having the longest open-house drop-in party ever. Rusty makes his famous mulled cider. I make real hot chocolate... and oh, look! There's the Bailey's Irish Cream! Don't mind if I do.
Really, we're a lot like the Whos down in Whoville. And if you don't think those little buggers were drunk most of the time, you haven't paid enough attention to that cartoon.
Rusty cooks up a Christmas feast the likes of which you've rarely seen, with the centrepiece being a turkey of cartoonlike proportions. Stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, brussels sprouts (I know, but it's a tradition), biscuits... Rusty brings it all together with masterfully precise timing. I make the cranberry sauce.
For days after Christmas, the leftovers are slowly consumed in the form of turkey sandwiches, Rusty's magnificent turkey soup, and the piece de resistence, a decadent casserole Rusty calls "Christmas in a Pan".
Surprisingly often, it snows here in Vancouver during Christmas week. Fuelled by turkey sandwiches and booze-infused chocolate drinks, we go on middle-of-the-night walks with Dobbs. He loves the snow, even though the unusual quality of his coat causes snow to cling to his leg hair in increasingly larger snowballs until it looks like someone has glue-gunned dozens of white pompoms to his legs. We run into other late-night snowy-walk-lovers and we always stop and chat. (Vancouverites, a naturally gregarious lot, get even more gregarious any time the weather surprises us by doing something other than rain.) Passersby admire Dobbs's pompoms.
These are the traditions we want to share with young Master Sam. So this year he'll be hanging up his stocking on the mantle alongside ours and waiting to see what little treats Mister Claus brings him. And he'll be getting lovely hardcover editions of East of Eden and To Kill a Mockingbird -- the novels that contain his namesakes -- inscribed with much love from his mom and dad on his first Christmas. And that's all he'll be getting. Other than our absolute fawning love and adoration. And really, that's no more than he deserves.
This is what revives us when we're feeling tired and sodden, what restores our souls when it's been grey and drizzling outside for 23 straight days, what keeps us chugging along somewhat happily and sanely when the daylight disappears at 3:30 pm. My wish for everyone is that, no matter what holiday they celebrate, they find a formula that does the same for them.