NYE on TV: How our Favorite Shows Ring in the New Year

Well, folks, 2017 is finally about to draw to a close. As we prepare for what lies ahead in 2018, we first must celebrate New Year’s Eve. For some, it’s a time to kiss someone special at the stroke of midnight with blissful hope for the future. For others, it’s a time to turn in early and remind oneself that “well, there’s always next year.”

Regardless of how you’ll be ringing in 2018, take a moment with us to look back at some of our favorite New Year’s moments from TV, like we have done for Thanksgiving and Christmas. So let’s get started!

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Friends: The One With the Routine (1999: Season 6, Episode 10)

No NYE celebration is complete without “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.” In this classic Friends episode, Ross and Monica go all out to ensure that they’ll be featured on the big broadcast, bringing back…“the routine,” a dance they did in school.

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Holiday Albums You Love—And Others You Should

Now that it’s December, it’s time to dust off those records that live in the back of your collection, the ones that only get played one month out of the year: Christmas albums. In this post, I’m taking a look at some of the albums on Billboard’s list of the ten top-selling holiday albums of all time. Chances are you own some of them, and maybe you can’t imagine Christmas without them. But the thing about traditions is, you have to add new ones from time to time. In that spirit, I’m offering some alternative holiday albums that might be less familiar and a little fresher to your ears.

Gigantic Bestseller:
ElvisElvis’ Christmas Album – Elvis Presley
Released in 1957, Presley’s first Christmas album—the top-selling record on Billboard’s list— features secular tunes on side one and sacred fare on side two, including a few non-Christmas gospel songs that had been previously released. The King is solemn on the religious tunes but loosens up for the secular stuff, including originals like “Santa Claus is Back in Town” and “Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me).” Personally, I can’t stand Elvis’ version of “Blue Christmas,” but it’s here, too.

Alternate Choice:
James Brown’s Funky Christmas – James Brown
Let the King rest in heavenly peace this year and invite the Godfather of Soul over for Christmas instead. This compilation features tracks from the three holiday albums Brown recorded at the height of his funky powers between 1966 and 1970, including “Go Power at Christmas Time,” “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto” and “Soulful Christmas.” Brown shows his socially-conscious side on tracks like “Let’s Unite the World at Christmas.”

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Holiday Reads for the Not-So-Holiday Minded

Every Christmas, there are certain books that my family pulls off the bookshelf. They are absolute must-reads for Christmastime, like Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol or Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas. However, occasionally between stealing the last can of Who Hash and God blessing everyone, I need to read something that will take me out of the holiday while still capturing the holiday spirit, if only for a moment. Here is a list of classic novels that includes the holidays, but are about so much more.

Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
This classic novel begins with a heartwarming Christmas scene, but it takes you through several seasons in the March girls’ lives as they face each blessing and trial together. The love and support the March girls give each other through the years illustrates the importance of family.
little women

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New Reads with a Holiday Twist

When you think of holiday stories,certain must-read classics come to mind, such as Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas and more recently Chris Van Allsburg’s The Polar Express. These are stories that make their way off my shelf and into my hands every holiday season.  However, sometimes I crave a new holiday story and go looking for touching, romantic or even mysterious holiday books to devour.  If you are looking for something new this holiday, here are a few suggestions of holiday-themed stories that have been published in the past few years.

whatlight-coverWhat Light, by Jay Asher—Released in 2016, this moving Young Adult novel follows the story of Sierra and Caleb. Sierra’s family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon and every year she has to pack up and move to California to sell trees in their Christmas tree lot. This Christmas she meets Caleb, a boy with a troubled past. This story is about finding forgiveness, redemption and love, and it just may break your heart.  This book is featured in our Holiday Gift Guide.

a-baxter-family-christmas-9781471143311_hrA Baxter Family Christmas, by Karen Kingsbury—Released in 2016, Kingsbury brought back the Baxter family for an all-new holiday story, as John Baxter invites the transplant recipient who now has his deceased daughter’s heart to share Christmas Eve dinner with the family, a dinner that just might change all of them. Continue reading

50 Facts About How The Grinch Stole Christmas and The People Who Made It

It can’t be denied that the mid-1960s was the golden age of the animated TV Christmas special. You could deny it, but you’d be wrong. The stop-motion Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer premiered in 1964, and A Charlie Brown Christmas debuted twelve months later. The next year, in 1966, How the Grinch Stole Christmas aired for the first time.

grinch_in_chimney1

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the animated Grinch, here are 50 facts about the classic TV special and the people who made it.

1. The Dr. Seuss book on which the special is based was published by Random House in 1957. It also appeared in an issue of Redbook magazine at the same time.

2. Dr. Seuss was the pen name of Theodor Geisel. His dozens of children’s books have spawned 11 TV specials, four feature films, four TV series and a stage musical. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1984.

3. While attending Dartmouth College, Geisel got caught drinking gin with friends in his dorm room. As punishment, he was forced to stop all extracurricular activities, including writing for the school’s humor magazine. To surreptitiously keep writing for it, he began using the pen name Seuss. (Dartmouth gave him an honorary doctorate in 1956.)

4. His first book, And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street, was rejected by anywhere from 20 to 43 publishers, depending on which time he told the story.

5. An early version of the Grinch character appeared in 1955 in a Seuss story called “The Hoobub and the Grinch.” Continue reading

Stuff Your Stockings like Ol’ St. Nick

Could you imagine if your entire Christmas bounty fit into a wooden shoe? Americans tend to view stockings as a fun appetizer to the feast of Christmas presents that follow. But in some countries, the Christmas stocking or clog itself is the main event, staying true to the tradition’s origin.

This ritual is believed to trace back to the German legend of a rich man named Nicholas and a poor widower who couldn’t afford dowries for his three unwed daughters. Wanting to help, Nicholas tossed three bags of gold through an open window at night, which landed in the stockings drying on the fireplace. As the story spread, children began putting out their own stockings or clogs, filled with carrots and hay for Nicholas’ reindeer, waiting for him to replace their bribes with small gifts. Today in America, stockings have become bigger and the contents vary by family tradition — some stuffing them with whimsical toys, while others prefer practical gifts like tube socks.

This year my family will celebrate the season with our first-ever fireplace. And our new mantel is just begging for a row of cheerfully-knit stockings. So naturally, I’m on the prowl for excellent stocking stuffer gift ideas. If you’re on the hunt like me, you’ll appreciate this round up of pocket-sized gift ideas, perfectly suited for stockings for all ages. Best of all, you can find them all at Half Price Books and it won’t break the bank since there are countless gifts under $10. From always-in-style traditional gifts like journals, planners and stationery, to pop-culture hits like comic book figures, keychains, magnets and collectibles.

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What will you fill your stockings with this year?

Holiday Cookie Swap

Stock-up on butter because it’s baking season! Here are a handful of our favorite sweet treats to share with your friends and family during the holiday season.

1 holiday confetti cake batter cookies / 2 ginger snap cookies with lemon cream cheese frosting
 3 chocolate mint oreo cookies / 4 thumbprint cream cheese cookies
5 chocolate gingerbread men / 6 sugar and spice snowflakes

 

Let’s put the “swap” in cookie swap – tweet or tag us on Instagram with pictures and recipes of your favorite holiday cookies. Also, make sure to check out these books for more cookie creations. — Stephanie

Stephanie is Art Director at Half Price Books Corporate
You can follow her on Twitter at @saltpepperpress

Holiday Entertaining Recipes & Cookbook Giveaway

Throw open your doors to family and friends for gatherings and feasts filled with holiday cheer. To help inspire you, here are some sweet and savory recipes for your holiday entertaining. Find these featured cookbooks in your neighborhood HPB store or online at HPB Marketplace. Be sure to read through to the end for details how you can win a cookbook!

As my family gathers around at grandmother’s house on Christmas morning, the first thing to disappear are the Piglets in Blankets. Here’s how to make them. Unroll an 8 oz package of crescent roll dough. Cut into four strips about 1/8 inch wide. Wrap one strip of dough tightly around each mini sausage. You can also cut the dough into triangles and roll them croissant-style, if you wish. Place wrapped piggies on baking sheet or pan, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 8 hours. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Just before baking, whisk 1 large egg with 2 tsp water. Brush the dough with egg wash. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown. Serve hot out of the oven.  Makes about 4 dozen.

– Recipe from Parties and Projects for the Holidays by Martha Stewart

Whip up a batch of crisp and flaky Rugelach cookies for your Chanukkah party. Start by mixing in a bowl 4 oz unsalted butter and 4 oz white cheese (none of that low-fat business, full-fat farmer’s cheese). Beat in 1 tbsp sugar, 1 egg, and 1/2 tsp salt. Fold 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour into the creamy mixture until the dough can be worked with the hands. Knead and shape the dough into a ball, then cover and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Divide dough into 6 equal pieces. On a floured surface, roll out each piece until the dough is about 1/2 inch thick. Then brush with a little melted butter. Sprinkle golden raisins and chopped walnuts (or substitute raisins for chocolate chips, if you prefer). Sprinkle dough with a touch of sugar and cinnamon. Cut the rounds into 8 to 10 wedges. Roll the triangle from the large end towards the tip (resembling a croissant). Place on baking sheet. Brush the tops with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 15 to 30 minutes until lightly browned. Let cool before serving. Makes 48 to 60 cookies.

– Recipe from Jewish Food for Festivals and Special Occasions by Marlena Spieler

After an evening out singing Christmas carols, warm up with this treat – Spiced Hot Chocolate. Mix together in a saucepan 3-3/4 cups of mil, 7 oz of dark chocolate (at least 70% solid cocoa) broken into pieces, 2 tsp sugar, and 1 tsp allspice. On medium heat, whisk until it’s simmering. Remove from heat and pour into heatproof glasses or mugs. Garnish with a whole cinnamon stick and a dollop of whipped cream. Serves 3 to 4.

For a beverage suitable for your holiday cocktail party or for ringing in the new year, try a Gumdrop Martini. First, rub the rim of a chilled martini glass with the wedge of a lemon, then dip the glass edge in a saucer of superfine sugar. Shake over ice cubes 2 measures of lemon rum, 1 measure of vodka, 1/2 measure of Southern Comfort whiskey, 1/2 measure of lemon juice and 1/2 tsp dry vermouth. Strain into prepared glass and serve with a toast!
– Drink recipes from The Bartender’s Guide by Parragon Books

In the family-tradition of Half Price Books, we love have a good time — especially so around the holiday season. In the words of founder Ken Gjemre: “We’re going to eat and drink some. We’re going to party more. We’re going to shop more. We’re going to remember friends, family and children. And we’re going to be nice to one another. Now what’s wrong with that?”

Tell us about your favorite holiday tradition or family recipe! Enter yours in a comment below and you’ll be automatically entered to win a FREE cookbook. Three lucky winners will receive a selected cookbook from Half Price Books. Winners will be randomly selected at 3pm CST on Friday, December 9. Don’t forget to share this with your friends so they can enter to win a free cookbook too!

Eat, drink and be merry.

— Meredith

 

UPDATE: Congratulations to our winners – Laura Olson who shared her “Holly” cornflakes recipie; Daria Schaffnit who told us about grandma’s cookie factory; and Megan Miller who shared about her tradition to make gingerbread men. You’ve each won a free cookbook! To claim your prize, drop us a note at besocial@hpb.com with “Cookbook Giveaway” in the subject and include your mailing address in the body. This giveaway is now closed. Thanks to everyone who participated.

5 Holiday Movies to Rev Up Your Holiday Cheer

Thanksgiving is only days away and that means the start of the holiday season– and with that, holiday movies! This is a great time for movies; some of the big Oscar contenders will be hitting the theaters and there are always a list of holiday favorites that just need to be watched. Without fail, each year, we break out a stack of holiday DVDs to get in the spirit. Here are my house’s Top 5 Holiday Movies:

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

How can this not be at the top of everyone’s list? Frank Capra has created a timeless holiday classic starring James Stewart, Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore. This classic takes a look at a business man who, while contemplating suicide, is visited by an angel who shows him what a difference he has made for his family and those around him. A very heart warming holiday classic! And if you don’t own it on DVD, you can count on NBC to air it on TV after the Thanksgiving Day parade.

Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)

It’s good to have a little off-beat fun for the holidays. Bridget Jones’s Diary is very funny with a well written script that will have you laughing the entire time. Renee Zellwegger plays Bridget Jones, who has started keeping a diary and promised herself to always tell the complete truth. Things get interesting when she starts dating her disreputable boss, played by Hugh Grant. Enter Academy Award winner Colin Firth as the mild mannered, engaged-to-be-married Mark Darcy, who starts falling for one time neighbor Ms. Jones. If you have never seen this laugh-a-minute movie, I suggest you put it on your holiday movie list.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

Holiday movies include Thanksgiving, and this is THE Thanksgiving movie. Family man Neal Page, played by Steve Martin,  just wants to get home for Thanksgiving. After his flight is canceled, he meets Del Griffith, played by John Candy. Going the same direction, they decide to take the trek together to get home for Thanksgiving by what ever means necessary. Of course they are polar opposites, as Del is never short on conversation and bad jokes– so you can imagine the hilarity that ensues between these two great comedians! A must see classic for turkey day!

Home Alone (1990)

This is the film that made kid star Macauley Culkin. Kevin has been accidentally left at home while his family is off to spend the holidays in France. He milks having the house to himself for all it’s worth, ordering pizza, jumping on the bed . . . every kid’s dream. Discovering that there are two burglars trying to rob the supposedly empty home, he rigs the house with makeshift booby-traps to fend them off. This  fun holiday movie was directed by Chris Columbus (Mrs Doudtfire, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) and written by legend John Hughes (The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.) Note: This 90s classic is now available on Blu-Ray.

A Christmas Story (1983)

Ok, this one is worth watching, even if you are tired of the 24 hour Christmas Story marathons on Christmas Day. This is a fun story about Ralphie, who wants  only one thing for Christmas: an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle! There is something everyone can relate to in this film, whether it is awkward gifts, bullies at school, Christmas dinner or using profanity for the first time. This is a great holiday movie for the entire family!

What is your family’s holiday movie tradition? Your favorite holiday flick?

— Jim

On the Menu: Summer Recipies for Your July 4th Cookout

What’s cooking, America?! It’s 4th of July weekend and time to bust out the charcoal for a cookout! Whether you’re hosting an Independence Day backyard bash or an indoor dinner party, here’s a menu to inspire you and get your taste buds salivating.

4th of July Party Menu

  • Crunchy Lemon Pepper Wings
  • Smoked Deviled Eggs
  • Fresh Watermelon Lemonade
  • BLT Burger with Asparagus
  • Potatoes in the Embers
  • Cob Roasted in the Husks
  • Homemade Rocky Road

Start with some finger-food appetizers like Crunchy Lemon Pepper Wings. They have lots of zesty flavor without being spicy (for hot wing wimps like me). Deviled eggs are always a crowd pleaser but when you smoke them, it adds a detail that will make your guests rave about your skills in the kitchen. Slice up a watermelon and serve up a juicy wedge on the side of a glass of lemonade or your favorite cocktail. I suggest Watermelon Margaritas on the rocks with sugar-rimmed glasses. After all, we’re celebrating our nation’s independence! 😉

 
Next, fire up the grill for BLT Burgers with Asparagus, served with lettuce, tomato and other fixings. It’s a hearty and flavorful entree with the chopped canadian bacon mixed and cooked into the hamburger patty. Take a break from the traditional potato salad and try out a recipe for Potatoes in the Embers with some woody flavor, perfect for a cookout. Add a side of fresh corn on the cob roasted in the husks, which is especially mouth-watering if you season them with fresh ground black pepper, garlic and rosemary.

And last but not least, finish off your feast before the fireworks with Homemade Rocky Road, a classic American ice cream. Plenty sweet and extra nutty with macadamia nuts, hazelnuts and almonds in the mix. Now, go eat, drink and be merry. Happy 4th of July! Enjoy!

Where to find these tasty recipies:

Appetizers: Wings: More Than 50 High-Flying Recipes for America’s Favorite Snack by Debbie Moose (p 36) and The Kansas City Barbecue Society Cookbook by Ardie A Davis, Check Paul Kirk and Carolyn Wells (p 28).
Entree: Best Ever Barbecue: A Collection of Over 100 Essential Recipes by Love Food (p 14).
Sides: Beer-Can Chicken and 74 Other Offbeat Recipes for the Grill by Steven Raichlen (p 242, 255).
Dessert: Ice Cream: Amazing Ices, Sherbets, Sorbets, Bomes and Iced Desserts by Joanna Farrow and Sara Lewis (p 75).

Check your local HPB for these cookbooks or shop hpb.com to shop our online HPB Marketplace.