Relax with laid-back festivities
It's that time again; time for Amazon wish lists, drunken professional functions, gift card cop-outs and uncomfortable family dinners. Happy holidays, Dallas. Sure, yuletide festivities may be all Nat King Cole and Chuck Dickens for those with an adorable nostalgia bug, but it's extended events like Holiday at the Arboretum that could realistically melt away the stress of choosing little Billy's first MP3 player. Beginning 10 a.m. Friday and running through New Year's Eve, the Dallas Arboretum presents a celebration that's a who's who of year-end activities--the centerpiece of which is the John and Kim Semyan Christmas Collection (hundreds of seasonal figures and items displayed throughout the DeGolyer Estate). If figurines and doodads aren't your thing, stroll on over to the Christmas Tree Maze (which we're hoping is a crafty tribute to The Shining) or check out Family Fun Weekends--with Santa photo ops and carriage rides over the dry Texas grass. And if that's not enough old-fashioned merriment, try Holiday Tea Mondays through Wednesdays. Seriously, if you can't pretend to be happier than you really are at this place, then you're truly a holiday hater. The Dallas Arboretum is located at 8525 Garland Road. Call 214-515-6500. --Matt Hursh
Nothing exposes your inadequacies like part-time holiday jobs. My first was as a photo elf for Santa at the Galleria, making kids smile--or at least stop crying in terror--long enough to get a picture with the bearded giant. Think of David Sedaris' sardonic SantaLand Diaries, and you'll understand my sense of accomplishment there. The next year I helped Williams-Sonoma meet the demands of novice chefs searching for the perfect roasted turkey with cranberry glaze. That's when I discovered Christopher Kimball's long-running Cook's Illustrated magazine series and its accompanying cable show America's Test Kitchen, which together are responsible for revealing the secrets of "complicated" cooking to millions. This gastronomic Sherlock Holmes is in town to sign his latest compilation of experience, America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, and discuss his years wielding culinary "test tubes." The 800 plus-page cookbook includes more than 1,200 recipes that vary in skill, but all carry his signature illustrated tutorials and analyses--guaranteed to ensure ease of preparation and successful execution. Spice up ordinary family favorites like nachos or tackle pan-seared lamb chops through Kimball's unorthodox approaches and passionate creativity. Then, you can tell him how good it all tasted 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Barnes & Noble Lincoln Park, 7700 W. Northwest Highway. Call 214-739-1124. --Danna Berger
We love the Midnight Madness movie series at the Inwood. There's nothing like viewing a slightly scratchy print of a classic film on the big screen no matter how high-tech your home system may be. But when programming this festival there is one important rule that needs to be followed: keep it short or else nobody will be awake by the end of the movie. (The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the most successful midnight movie ever, clocks in at just over an hour and a half.) This week's feature is a prime offender. The Godfather, Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 classic, is easily one of the greatest films of all time. Brando, Pacino, the horse head in the bed--any halfwit who knows anything about movies can quote the film backward and forward while doing a semi-decent Brando impression. But don't start the movie at midnight because it's three hours long, and Luca Brasi won't be the only one sleeping with the fishes when the lights come back up. Brando's hard enough to understand without some guy sawing logs two rows behind you. (If the Inwood really wants to do The Godfather justice, how about a marathon of all three films starting at noon?) But if you're determined to make it through The Godfather this weekend, we suggest slamming down a few Irish coffees in the Inwood Lounge before the show--they let you take drinks into the theater these days, so order a couple to go. Michael, Sonny and Tom hit the screen Friday and Saturday at midnight at the Inwood Theatre, 5458 W. Lovers Lane. Tickets are $8. Call 214-764-9106 or visit www.landmarktheatres.com. --Jay Webb
When I'm doing it, I don't like to splurge. I hate waking up the morning after and realizing I can't pay for a greasy hangover breakfast. Plus, there are all the risks that come with doing it: spilling stuff, leaving things in too long, everybody coming at once. But catering pro Denise Vivaldo has tips on how to do it--whip up treats for your holiday party, that is--on the cheap. Learn how to throw a "Do It For Less" party by attending her $60 class Wednesday from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Central Market, Lovers Lane at Greenville Avenue. Call 214-361-5754. --Andrea Grimes
It's the time of year to give thanks--especially for our four-legged friends. So keep Buddy healthy and take him to The Humane Society of the United States' Spay/Neuter Clinic and Wellness Center, 4830 Village Fair Drive, for Feast and Treats Friday. Sponsored by the SPCA of Texas, the City of Dallas, the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers and the HSUS, the event offers a smorgasbord of free services such as vaccinations, spay/neuter surgery, heartworm testing and grooming, as well as free pet food and treats courtesy of Canine Commissary. For qualification requirements and appointments, call Shana at the Humane Society at 214-372-9999. --Amanda Bigbee
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