Welcoming the holiday season at the Dallas Galleria's ice-skating rink has become a tradition for my best friend and me. It's not the fabulous shopping or the allure of the nation's tallest indoor Christmas tree. It's not the manufactured snow descending gently like so many credit card receipts. It's not even the appearance of Missile Toes, a jet-propelled Santa Claus who somehow flips, dances and shoots fireworks from his skates without causing a Christmas pyrotechnic inferno. The main attraction for us schadenfraus is laughing at the inevitable misfortune of kiddy ice-skaters and their holiday-crazed parents. Some people will do anything to create the perfect seasonal photo op, even if it means peeling Junior off the sidelines and launching him toward the tree, tearstains and all. "Smile and say ice burn!" It looks like a smile, but it's raw terror on razor blades. And it wouldn't be Christmas without it. The holiday spectacle kicks off with appearances by Missile Toes on November 28 and November 29. Christmas tree illuminations and snowfalls are scheduled at various times from November 28 through January 4 at the Galleria, 13340 Dallas Parkway. Call 972-702-7100. --Stephanie Durham
Nutty as a...
Ahh, the holiday icons. Wrapped gifts, peppermint sticks, mistletoe and, of course, fruitcake. That latter one comes in all shapes, and when served slightly warm, it is moist and...simply awful. At least, no offense to Mamaw, that is exactly the sentiment when taking that obligatory bite of our great-grandmother's version. There's just something inherently creepy about fruitcake. Maybe it's the citron, that waxy and unidentifiable fruit that showed up in the family recipe. Maybe it's the smell--not quite sweet and a little like an over-ripe apricot. Whatever it is, we're pretty hell-bent on staying away from the stuff. Central Market Dallas, 5750 E. Lovers Lane at Greenville Avenue, however, urges us to give it another shot. Or four, rather. The Sunday class at 2 p.m. promises "four delicious versions" of the holiday staple. The instructors might be onto something exciting here as we know three people total who have ever liked the dense dessert. After learning to make golden fruitcake, fig & almond cake, classic (that one scares us) and Sally G.'s fruitcake, students get to take home a loaf of each. The cooking staff, fully aware of fruitcake's negative reputation, assures us that after taking it home, we're free to enjoy it, give it away or "use as a doorstop." Now there's just something cool about honoring tradition with a little sense of humor. The cost is $50. Call 214-234-7000. --Merritt Martin
Want to get the kids into the "let's make something" holiday spirit? Take those 8- to 12-year-olds to Central Market at Lovers Lane and Greenville Avenue on November 28 to decorate their own gingerbread house. Between 10 a.m. and noon, Roland Lanz--the "Gingerbread House Man"--will help, providing the icing and tons of candies. When the masterpiece is completed, they'll box it up for you. Then, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., the adults get their chance. Also, on Saturday, the 4- to 7-year-olds are invited between 10 a.m. and noon. All for $50. Call 214-361-5754. --Carlton Stowers
As a source of respite for beleaguered suburban moms who are tired of serving blue-box macaroni and overcooked asparagus for dinner, Sur La Table (4527 Travis St., Suite A) announces "Obento Boxes," a sushi cooking--er, preparing--class, as part of its culinary program. Instructor Hiroko Shimbo Beithman will teach how to create such Far East delights as broiled eel-stuffed Japanese omelette, tuna and yellowtail sashimi and stuffed beef roll and creamy sesame sauce at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. Entry is $50 per person. Call 214-219-4404. --Mary Monigold
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A Lakeside Yuletide
The Arboretum decks its halls and garden trails
There will be no dashing through the snow on our block. There will be no walking in a winter wonderland in our ZIP code. But we can still see some beautiful sights and be happy tonight without driving north of the Red River. Just take Garland Road south to the Dallas Arboretum for Holiday at the Arboretum 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily from November 28 through December 31. The park features the gardens blooming with wintertime flowering plants such as poinsettias and pansies, plus a historic European doll collection on display through February 29 in the DeGolyer House, which is also decked out in Christmas gear. Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. are "Family Fun" days with special activities such as live reindeer for petting, rides on horse-drawn carriages, live music by local groups and visits with Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Photos with Santa will also be available from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays. In addition, three-course formal teas will be offered Sundays through Thursdays at 1 p.m. and Fridays at 11 a.m. in the spruced-up Camp House. There will also be special workshops featuring herbs as decorations and crafts for the season on December 1, December 6 and December 13. The Dallas Arboretum is located on White Rock Lake at 8525 Garland Road. Admission is $4 for kids 3 to 12, $6 for seniors 65 and over and $7 for adults. Kids 2 and under are admitted for free. Photos and carriage rides cost an additional fee. Parking is $4. Call 214-327-4901. --Shannon Sutlief