This is the time of year when gatherings of every ilk take place. A lot of nattering is bound to happen – friendly, informal conversation. A key challenge of these annual endurance tests is to engage in harmless natter while maintaining a modicum of sanity. Having topics at the ready will afford you maximum natterfication. 


Everyone likes candy, so knowing every state's most popular Christmas candy is a good conversation starter. just released its findings this week. Michigan's favorites are peppermint bark, reindeer corn and Reese's cup minis. A nifty interactive map is at:


There are also some interesting facts about candy cane consumption during the holidays. Seventy-two percent  of people eat a candy cane starting on the straight end, the rest start on the curved end. The largest candy cane in the world was made in Switzerland. It was fifty-one feet long. December 26th is National Candy Cane Day.


If candy is a bit too tame for your party, perhaps something more out of the ordinary might be in order. Guests could try figgy pudding-flavored Spam. This is described by the company as “flavor, spice, and everything nice.” 


Accompany that with a beverage -- Mountain Dew’s Fruit Quake. The flavor is “fruity, spiced, and fruitcake reimagined.” (


Still in the food realm, ask those in the throng how to make the perfect butter board for the holidays. They might ask a question. What the heck is a butter board? “The simple answer is that it is butter that is spread on a board.” 


Ah, but then you add toppings. “Think about using vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, seasoning, olives, cheese, peppers, dried fruit, coconut flakes, or chocolate.” 


Once the butter board is complete, you need some scoopers. Pita chips, naan dippers, crackers, pretzels, and taco chips will fit the task. Sound yummy? You dip first. I'll hold your beer. (


While partying is popular during the holidays, the spirit of giving also comes to the forefront. To help donors to maximize their gifts, WalletHub has determined “Best Charities for 2023.”


Americans are a generous lot. “Charitable giving increased by four percent in 2021 compared to 2020. Americans gave a staggering $484.85 billion total, two-thirds of which was from individual donors.  A significant portion of all charitable donations are usually made in the month of December. WalletHub compared more than two-hundred of the most prominent U.S. charities based on their financial performance, transparency and popularity.”


The list is extensive, but only one charity scored a perfect one-hundred percent – The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International. Many other charities scored in the high nineties. (


While the party is going on indoors, there is something also happening outdoors. “Michiganders with backyard bird feeders may want to keep an eye out for some unexpected visitors in the weeks to come. A phenomenon known as an irruption is currently underway sending flocks of finches and other birds outside of their normal ranges and into the upper Great Lakes in search of food.”


This happening is a bit random. “Irruptions are sporadic and never a given from year to year. Irruptions also can vary widely in scale, frequency, and even in the birds’ behavior — sometimes a flock will stick around a location for weeks, other times just for a day — which is what makes the phenomenon so exciting for birdwatchers.” (


Injecting some humor into the discourse can be enjoyable. Hey, did you hear about the smartphones that erroneously make 911 calls? “As reported by The Wall Street Journal, several users of smartphones at amusement parks across the United States have reported emergency services and contacts being alerted that they've been involved in a car crash as they've ridden roller coasters.” (


Kidlings on your nerves? Send them outside to attempt to break a world record. “Idaho men tossed a baseball fifty-five times in sixty seconds. The official attempt ended with fifty-five catches in one minute, beating the record of fifty-three, which was set by Japanese baseball players in December 2021.” (


If the weather outside is frightful and not exactly baseball conducive, sitting inside and chasing storms can be fun. Check out Severe Studios. This service feeds real-time information to the likes of: “ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, The Weather Channel, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News Channel, Discovery, as well as local broadcast stations.” Now everyone can get in on the action. 


“Watch live as storm chasers stream extreme weather featuring tornadoes, hail, supercells, lightning and more. Live storm chasing from dashboards in the field to your device. Using technology and processes perfected by Severe Studios, storm chasers are able to stream live video. These Live Chase Cam streams can then be viewed by our website visitors.” (


Finally, don't forget the Neff Zone Holidays page at: A good group activity is the Christmas Quiz trivia game. There is also a Charlie Brown Christmas Quiz. Check on Santa's reindeer every day on the live reindeer cam. 



Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at and