BC-schmich 12/18 TMS Original

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Columbus CEO

MARY SCHMICH For release 12/18/13

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I'm making a list and checking it twice this holiday season

By Mary Schmich

Tribune Content Agency

Every now and then, I make a list of things, not all of them tangible, that I've liked lately. Here's one for the holiday season.

1. The season

It can be frantic. It can be too commercial. It can be fraught with memories, expectations and arguments over what to call it. But the season from now through the end of the year is a great time if you let it be. It provides opportunities to connect with people you care about, to decorate in exciting ways that otherwise would be totally tacky and to sing. My seasonal mantra: The holidays are as happy as you make them.

2. Fake candles

An existential question: Is a candle a candle if there's no flame? I resisted fake candles for a long time on the grounds that they were, well, fake. Then I bought a battery-powered wax candle at Pottery Barn. It makes light like a real candle. It flickers like a real candle. From a distance, you wouldn't know the difference. And it won't burn down the house.

3. Cotes du Rhone

If wines were seasons, this French red wine would be this season of dwindling light. There are probably better Cotes du Rhones than the one I've been enjoying, but for the price -- around $11 -- the Famille Perrin Reserve 2010, medium-bodied with a slight earthy zing, is a good deal. I Googled some reviews and found corroboration. A Washington Post reviewer said, "Wow."

4. Go Fund Me

A friend's dog died recently and she had accrued some steep vet bills. So a friend of hers set up an account on the crowdfunding site Go Fund Me, asking for contributions. It's an efficient way to raise money fast. Her bills were covered, and folks who wanted to help but didn't know how found an easy way. For more information, check the website,

5. Holiday music

You hate holiday music? You're listening to the wrong stuff. Two holiday recordings that are worth listening to at any time of year are "Go Tell It on the Mountain" by the gospel group The Blind Boys of Alabama and "A Dave Brubeck Christmas" by the great, late jazz pianist Dave Brubeck. For those who hate holiday music on the grounds that it's sentimental, there's always Robert Earl Keen's classic countryish song, "Merry Christmas from the Family," from the album "The Party Never Ends." It begins with the line: "Mom got drunk and Dad got drunk at our Christmas party."

6. Beurrage

"Where do you get this great bread?" I asked the guy who runs a little cafe where I hang out. The answer was Beurrage, a bakery in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood that makes hearty but subtle breads, good pastries and croissants the way croissants should be, meaning not limp. The bakery supplies a few cafes around town. The website is

7. Tablets on the plane

You know those people who sneak-read their Kindles and iPads even after the flight attendant's stern warning? Maybe you're one? Now it's legal to keep your devices on, which relieves the panic that afflicts those of us who have already read the SkyMall magazine cover to cover. But a strange thing. I recently took my first trip on such a flight. Now that I could read on my Kindle from gate to gate, I didn't feel the urge to. It's a principle of life: The things we want most are the things we can't have.

8. Raw honey from Growing Home

On Saturdays in cold weather, Growing Home, the local urban farm operation that trains the unemployed for jobs, runs a stand at the Green City Market in Chicago's Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. In addition to produce, they sell little jars of honey. I bought some because I liked the idea of Chicago bees; it turned out to be good honey. Even if you're not looking for honey, the market is a great Saturday excursion, a carnival of fresh food.

9. Bare trees

Someone asked me a few days ago how I measure the passage of time. I gave him an answer and later realized that if I were to pick a second answer, it would be "trees." I watch the trees, especially the ones out my front window. They lose their leaves, grow new leaves, lose their leaves again. To play off a famous line from a Leonard Cohen song: The trees, the trees, they lose their leaves. That's how the light gets in.

(Mary Schmich is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Contact her at You can follow her on or contact her on