Browsing Tag:



Holiday Season Bucket List

December 4, 2021
holiday season bucket list christmas

It’s 60 degrees outside, but it’s also December, which means my holiday lights are up, there’s a little silver tinsel tree set up in my room, and I have sparkling snowflakes and gingerbread on the brain. In other words, it’s time to kick off my holiday season bucket list. If there’s not a winter wonderland outside, I’ll manifest one—or at least surround myself with glitzy decor, festive tunes, and holiday sweets. Whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the beauty and festivity of the season. (I’ll be celebrating a season of coziness, glitter, excessive sugar, and goofy nostalgia.)

Go to a holiday market

Twinkling lights, stalls bustling with excited shoppers, the scent of hot chocolate and roasting nuts—nothing says seasonal cheer like a classic holiday market. The Germans and Swiss really know how to do holiday festivity, if you ask me. With snowy forests and mountains and quaint villages, a winter wonderland is practically a given. Yes, this is a bit of a stereotype, but the lovely holiday tradition of open-air winter street markets does come from Germany. A true German Christmas market is on my bucket list, but cities around the world have picked up the tradition, and you really don’t have to celebrate Christmas to enjoy one (just winter festivity and shopping). They’re also great sources for unique gifts—which reminds me that it’s about time to start my usual manic rush of holiday shopping.

christmas market holidays shopping

Illustration by Tatiana Davidova

Watch classic holiday movies

Perhaps a controversial topic to mention at holiday get-togethers. Is Love Actually the best Christmas movie? (Please don’t hate me: I’m rather tired of it.) Is It’s a Wonderful Life too long and depressing? (Just bring the Kleenex.) I don’t pretend to be an expert, so I wouldn’t dare to suggest a be-all-end-all list of the best holiday movies. However, my holiday season isn’t complete without watching the classic Rankin/Bass animated specials from the ’60s and ’70s (especially Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Frosty the Snowman, but there are several other delightfully weird slash slightly dubious ones). Also on my must-watch list: A Charlie Brown Christmas (obviously), The Bishop’s Wife (because: Cary Grant), Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the 1966 one—don’t even talk to me about the new versions), The Polar Express (pure nostalgia), and White Christmas. Yes, I like the oldies.

Here’s my full watchlist for the season:

  • Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (1970)
  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
  • Frosty the Snowman (1969)
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
  • The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
  • The Polar Express (2004)
  • White Christmas (1954)
  • The Holiday (2006)
  • Prancer (1989)
  • A Christmas Story (1983)

See the holiday lights

What’s the holiday season without a little sparkle? While I shudder to think what the electric bills are for houses that go all out with holiday lights, I love to search out the best displays. From the lovably tacky (I’m looking at you, blow-up Frosty) to the picture-perfect gingerbread to the … extravagant (hello, coordinated light show), there’s a little bit of everything, and it’s always fun to see what people come up with. The Country Club Plaza lights are always a classic in the KC area, but I’m also planning to do a little sleuthing to find the top twinkle showings around KC, so stay tuned.

Bake holiday sweets

The holiday season is a playground for those of us with a sweet tooth. Or perhaps the Land of Sweets. But I love making holiday treats almost as much as eating them, so I usually make little gift bags for people—mostly as an excuse to do a lot of holiday baking. It’s the perfect reason to turn the TV to a beloved holiday special, break out the apron and cookie cutters (or at least a lot of sugar), and send the scent of spices and baking cookies wafting throughout the house. I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to holiday yummies (that sent me down a mouth-watering rabbit hole); I just have to choose which recipes to make. How many cookies is too many cookies? (And don’t forget to set some out for Santa!)

baking holidays

Illustration by Natalia Hubbert

Send out holiday cards

As convenient as email and texting are, I miss snail mail sometimes (plus, I love pretty stationery). While I don’t quite have the time or patience to make cards by hand like I did as a kid, I try to send out holiday cards to friends and relatives every year. I have the excuse to visit a stationery shop, and it’s a fun way to spread the seasonal spirit. After all, who doesn’t like getting (non-bill) mail?

Watch The Nutcracker ballet

This has become a holiday tradition for me and my mom, and I look forward to it every year despite the fact that I’ve seen it a billion times by now (that’s an exact number). If you’re in the Kansas City area, the KC Ballet does a wonderful performance of The Nutcracker. I realize going to the ballet isn’t necessarily accessible to everyone, but if you can swing it, it’s a delightfully festive holiday event. Based on a story by E.T.A. Hoffmann, this whimsical fantasy has all the holiday vibes. Cozy German Christmas scenes, candy palaces, glittering costumes, giant rat kings (no?)—what’s not to love? As German literature typically is, it’s both bizarre and charming. And really, what’s Christmas without the sugarplum fairy?

Make a gingerbread house

My friends and I had a gingerbread house making competition once (circa seventh grade), and well, let’s just say our team’s creation was dubbed the “Katrina” gingerbread house (yes, the joy of thirteen-year-olds’ tasteful jokes). Turns out frosting doesn’t always make the best construction material? Anyway, I’ve since discovered the beauty of gingerbread house kits. Anyone who says that’s cheating has clearly never tried to make gingerbread from scratch. I always like the Trader Joe’s kits, which are cheap and easy, though most grocery stores carry kits of some kind. Target also has some fun and inventive options, and of course, there’s always Amazon). If you’re feeling ambitious—or masochistic—here are instructions for making everything from scratch.

gingerbread house christmas

Illustration by Zenina

Go ice skating (outside)

Skating on a picturesque pond, à la Charlie Brown, isn’t quite as charming as it appears in the movies. However, there’s an undeniable magic to bundling up (or not—thank you, global warming) and gliding around an outdoor ice rink with other merry souls. I personally like city rinks with eclectic people-watching and festive tunes playing, even if they do tend to get a bit crowded. So I’ll be waiting for a day when I can actually wear a cozy scarf and then hitting the ice to see if I can still skate without crashing.

Drink homemade hot chocolate

On a cold, blustery winter day, nothing tastes better than a steaming mug of hot chocolate. While I’m more of a coffee person myself, there’s no denying that hot chocolate is a perfect way to get into the holiday spirit (besides: chocolate. Duh). Granted, it’s still 60 degrees outside around here, but I’ll pretend it feels like a winter wonderland. I’m usually lazy and use a premade mix, but this year I think I’ll try a homemade version, or maybe even a dairy-free option. Sip away!

cozy hot cocoa

Illustration by katarinochka


7 Spooky Podcasts to Chill Your Blood

October 19, 2021
spooky podcasts scary halloween ghost stories

Gather around the fire, fetch a cup of something steaming to sip, and steel yourself for a fright—it’s time for ghost stories. Of course, these days you only need a pair of headphones and a phone or computer, but…let’s keep the mood, right? If you fancy sending a delicious chill up your spine and have made it through your scary movies watchlist, these spooky podcasts have you covered.


spooky gals podcasts scary ghost stories haunted

Spooky Gals

If you’re into gathering with friends to tell ghostly tales, Spooky Gals is for you. A bit goofy and a bit spine-tingling, this podcast from two British girls covers all things paranormal and generally creepy, from haunted locations to legends, curses, and folklore. There’s a great dynamic between the two hosts: one tells a haunting story in a suitably mystic, eerie voice (she has a perfect ghost story voice)—which her co-host frequently interrupts with irreverent comments that send them onto hilarious tangents. It’s a charming mix of well-researched haunted info, atmospheric chill, comedy, and a convivial mood that makes you feel like you’re cozied up with friends.

black tapes podcast scary ghost stories

The Black Tapes

I listened to this one while walking alone at night—which let me tell you, was a mistake. On the surface, it doesn’t seem like this show would be all that scary; the premise is journalist/host Alex Reagan launching a podcast about interesting jobs. The first subject: paranormal investigators. Then things get increasingly unsettling. Tumbling down a rabbit hole—and straight into a mystery—Alex launches into an investigation with enigmatic paranormal debunker Richard Strand into a series of chilling encounters. But it turns out Strand has a few secrets of his own. This docudrama from Pacific Northwest Stories and Minnow Beats Whale reads enough like a true documentary that you’ll be sucked into its world—and its alluring terror.

haunted places podcast ghost stories spooky

Haunted Places

Part haunted history, part ghost story, Haunted Places from the Parcast network tells the tales of real-life spooky places and legends. Each story is dramatized with imagined accounts of people and events linked to haunted places, so that you feel like you’re in the middle of the fright fest, and then the histories and facts (such as they are) are recounted. The result is both informative and enthralling—and quite chilling. (As a note: the sound effects in these stories are spot-on, but the descriptions and effects can get a bit graphic—it certainly sets the mood, but if you’re squeamish, you might want to be aware.)

scare you to sleep podcast ghost stories haunted

Scare You To Sleep

You might not expect spooky podcasts to be soothing, but that’s exactly the point of Scare You To Sleep. The episodes are eerie and unsettling, of course, but it’s impossible not to be lulled into a dreamy mood by host Shelby Scott’s smooth, dulcet voice. She covers a mix of all things spooky, from classic ghost tales to listener-submitted fiction, true horror and haunting accounts, “guided nightmares,” and even a bit of ASMR. Think of it as akin to the pleasantly cozy chill you get from curling up with a blanket on a blustery, rainy night to read ghostly tales and mysteries.

haunted places ghost stories podcast spooky

Haunted Places: Ghost Stories

For the ghost story purists out there, Haunted Places: Ghost Stories evokes the sense of sitting by a flickering fireplace for a little spooky storytelling with an old friend or relative. Simple, but haunting. The show covers eerie tales from around the world by terror icons such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker, and Algernon Blackwood as well as more obscure stories and legends woven over time. Many are from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, conjuring that Victorian spiritualism mood, though there’s quite a variety of other options to explore also. And let’s be realistic—ghost stories always sound better with a British accent.

haunted road podcast spooky scary ghost stories

Haunted Road

Ghost stories are perfect for sending a delicious tingle up your spine or cozying up on a chilly night. But they’re just stories…right? If you want to dig a little deeper than tales and legends, Haunted Road presents a mix of haunted history and paranormal investigation. Hosted by Kindred Spirits and Ghost Hunters star Amy Bruni, this spooky podcast investigates the backstories and legends of haunted locales, then speaks to people who have spent time there themselves. I’ve never been a watcher of paranormal shows, but the glimpse into the processes and experiences of these investigators was unexpectedly fascinating. Even if you don’t believe in the paranormal aspect, the extensive knowledge of haunted places and insightful interviews will keep you hooked. Though she clearly believes in ghosts, Bruni doesn’t try to make up your mind for you—she just presents the facts as she’s found them and leaves it up to you to decide if you believe.

light house podcast haunted ghost stories

Light House

There are things that lurk in the darkness, and woe betide anyone who disturbs their slumber. When eleven-year-old Tara Hollis and her family move into their recently inherited ancestral home in 1963, it seems like their fortunes are looking up. But Tara and her little sister soon start to sense a sinister presence in the house, watching them. Something is waiting, and it isn’t waiting to welcome them…This nine-part serialized drama jumps around in time, delving into the dark history of Light House from 1938 to 2001. As the story progresses, a creeping sense of dreads builds as you wait to find out what exactly prowls the dark corners of Light House—and whether anyone will make it out alive.

Kansas City/ Wanderings

5 Things To Do in KC When It’s Freezing

February 14, 2020
kansas city to do winter cold

We’re getting to that point of the year when the snow and chilliness has ceased being charming and magical and started to be … well, just cold. Or is that just me? After single-digit temps and negative wind chills this week, I’m officially ready for spring. But in true Kansas City fashion, the weather will probably flip-flop between balmy and frigid until May, so I’m gearing up for weathering more wintery days. Luckily, Kansas City has some excellent foul-weather friends — I rounded up my top five picks for passing the chilly days. Bring on the winter weather (I’m kidding, please give us spring).

Wander the Nelson-Atkins Museum

You’ve probably gotten the memo by now that I’m a tad bit obsessed with the Nelson. But hey, it’s justified. And when you’re itching to get out of the house but it’s frigid outside, wandering the grand halls of the museum is a perfect option. Whether you’re into Asian artifacts, classic medieval paintings, or a slice of ancient Greek life, there’s a little something here for everyone. And when you’ve exhausted your wandering, there’s the lovely Rozzelle Court restaurant or cozy Quay Coffee for an extra bit of yummy fuel.

Visit the Kansas City Aquarium

If you can’t actually take a trip to the beach, why not at least pretend you’re somewhere exotic? With everything from vibrant tropical fish to sharks to a starfish petting tank, the Kansas City aquarium is a great way to transport yourself to the sea (even better when it’s decidedly less than tropical outside). And trust me, it’s not just for the kids. The aquarium is surprisingly impressive and entertaining for ocean-lovers of all ages. Wander through and pretend you’re on a snorkeling expedition — you may not get a fruity cocktail in a coconut at the end, but I promise you’ll have a good time anyway.

Enjoy a Cozy Brunch

I’m not sure if the brunch craze has quite hit KC the way it has NYC and Philly, but it’s getting there. In any case, what could be better on a bone-chilling winter day than a cozy cup of coffee and fluffy pancakes (or whatever yummy treat floats your boat)? Plenty of restaurants in KC could satisfy this craving, but I highly recommend Blue Bird Bistro or Our Daily Nada (or both — go wild). It might be due to a snow day mother-daughter brunch in high school, but I’ll always associate Blue Bird with snowy days. The Westside eatery is part rustic, part hip and thoroughly charming, with scrumptious organic, locally sourced food. If you’re a bookworm, Our Daily Nada serves up homemade bites and creative drinks to enjoy as you peruse a carefully curated selection of books in a warm brick-walled River Market spot. The best part of winter is cozying up inside, right?

Explore Crown Center, Union Station, and the Link

When it’s freezing out, you want to minimize your outside time. Luckily, with the Link — a glass walkway — you can walk all the way from Union Station to Crown Center without ever setting foot outside. On top of that, Union Station and Crown Center are both definitely worth visiting in their own right (and offer plenty of warm inside fun). Built in 1914, Union Station is worth visiting simply for the Art Deco grandeur of the old train station, but it also offers Science City (again, not just for the kids!), a planetarium, a movie theatre, restaurants, and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (enough said). Then make your way over to Crown Center for shopping, theatres, and more yummy eateries (did I mention there are multiple candy shops there also?). You can have a full day of wandering without risking frostbite.

Go Ice Skating at the Crown Center Ice Terrace

Ok, so this one doesn’t exactly keep you out of the cold. It’s undeniably festive, though, and a not-to-be-missed winter activity. When you’re finished perusing Crown Center, stop by the ice rink out front, rent a pair of skates, and spend a while gliding away. There’s always music playing, and when it starts to get too chilly, you can grab a cup of hot chocolate at the snack bar to warm up.