Holidays

UNFASHIONABLY DRESSED FOR KICKING BUCKETS

Kick the Bucket?

Whose bucket? Not my bucket. Because I don’t have a bucket. I also don’t have a “never” list because most of my life seems to have been made up of things I was never going to do, buying things I never thought I’d need. Going places I would never go. Working at jobs I never knew existed. Learning things I though too unimportant to bother with.

Most of my “Nevers” turned out to be edible words which aren’t tasty. As I have aged and a modicum of commonsense has taken charge of my mouth, I’ve learned to never say “never.” If you say “I will never do (fill in the blank),” you are guaranteeing you will do it. Those luscious words ere spoke are noticeably less yummy when you have to choke them back down.

Marilyn Herself 9

We are going to a party today. Before exiting the bedroom, I made a rare side trip and took a look at the “good clothes” part of my closet. I discovered all of my dress clothing is black. Not most of it. ALL of it. No matter how I configure it. The dresses are black, the pants are black. The sweaters, tunics and jackets are black.

Finally, after all these years, I know why everything is black. Yes, world, there are actual reasons and here are mine:

  1. Black makes you look thinner, usually.
  2. Black doesn’t show where you dribbled pasta sauce down your front.
  3. Jewelry looks great against black.

I am also set for any funeral I might have to attend on the fly.

Fashion issues don’t arise until I get all the way down to my feet. High (or even medium to low) heels and I parted ways years ago. I am too wobbly nowadays and I won’t risk my ankles. Also, the air gets thin when I have to walk around on my toes. Not to mention the pain.

None of my dressy clothing looks good with clogs. It looks even dopier with Uggs.

When (if) we talk about fashion, I am not even a tangential part of the conversation. Do we talk about fashion? Other than to make snarky comments about how hideous some celebrity looks? Do I even know “what’s in” for the adult set? I can tell you what teenagers are wearing. I have a granddaughter and she’s quite the little fashion plate … but grownups?

What are the over-40 set wearing? Just wondering. Because today, I have to go to a party and have no idea what to wear.

Oh, I just got a flash! New black yoga pants. Black sweater. Lots of silver and turquoise jewelry. Something on my feet. Everyone will notice the jewelry; no one will notice my clothing.

It’s a plan!

CHRISTMAS SONGS TO RETIRE

Strike them from the playlist, PLEASE! by Rich Paschall

There are plenty of “Novelty” Christmas songs. As a matter of fact there are far too many. Some are amusing to the point of being endearing. Some are a bit weird or odd sounding. Some are just obnoxious and need to be removed from the Christmas playlist, permanently.

Endearing novelty songs might include “The Chipmunks Song.” It certainly was a favorite when I was a kid. Alvin was my favorite chipmunk and it seemed perfectly OK to play the 45 (look it up) over and over, much to my mother’s chagrin. In later years, “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer,” struck me as quite amusing. I guess it is funnier after a few spiked eggnog. “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” may have many good versions, but the original recorded from 1952 should remain locked in the vault. Also, radio stations will bring out the irritating “I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas,” and the overplayed “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth” recorded originally by Spike Jones and His City Slickers, a novelty act if there ever was one.

The all-time most obnoxious novelty song that ought to be put away forever is definitely “Dominick the Donkey.” What record executive thought that an Italian Christmas Donkey was amusing? To top it off the 1960 recording by Lou Monte sets new standards in irritating. The song could have died a well deserved death, but the geniuses at Amazon decided in 2011 it should be rereleased, starting another round of annoyance:

Hey! Chingedy ching,
(hee-haw, hee-haw)
It’s Dominick the donkey.
Chingedy ching,
(hee-haw, hee-haw)
The Italian Christmas donkey.

Some songs are just long and repetitious. Chief among these is “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” After a while the litany of gifts is just too much. All versions of this song should be put away except, perhaps, the version by The Muppets. At least the popular Sesame Street characters get the joke and can carry it out to its funniest. That is much better than the many serious versions of the song that hit the airwaves at this time of year. The Muppets might even teach young ones the exceptional skill of counting backwards from twelve, something that is sure to be useful in their chosen professions later in life.

A song that is a classic but has clearly received too many variations is White Christmas. “The Drifters” version has been heard once too often on my radio. The 1954 recording was big for the Rhythm and Blues group, and it was the first of their songs to crack the Billboard 100 singles chart on mainstream radio stations. It would have thankfully been retired had it not been resurrected by holiday movies, including Home Alone starring Macaulay Culkin in his greatest role. I can pass this one up:

Ooh, doop doop, doop doo doop
Ooh, doop doop, doop doo doop

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know
Where those treetops glisten and children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow, the snow

Then I, I, I am dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write
May your days, may your days, may your days be merry and bright
(Read more here: The Drifters – White Christmas Lyrics | MetroLyrics )

Actually, every version besides the Bing Crosby version should be put away. Admit it, whenever you hear “White Christmas” you think of Bing Crosby. Every version is automatically compared to the iconic version that has been washed into our brain cells from infancy, unless you were born before 1941. You can not help it, the sounds of Bing Crosby whistling his way to another season of white is all you can hear. Everyone will come up short by comparison, no matter how good they are.

Recently, we gave a bit of the history of the song here. The song was a hit since Crosby introduced it on his Christmas radio broadcast.  The movie Holiday Inn helped to make it even more popular. When Crosby entertained the troops during World War II, it became a bit of nostalgic relief when soldiers where thinking of their lives back home. Bing thought the song might be making the boys sad, and he felt he did not go to entertain the troops only to bring them down. He tried eliminating the song from his show, only to have the soldiers call out for it anyway.

The original master recording of “White Christmas” wore out from all the “pressings,” the process by which vinyl recordings were made. So in 1947 Crosby recorded the song again with the original orchestra, trying to duplicate the original sound. It is the 1947 version you hear today. The recordings of the songs for the movie “White Christmas” would likely have been remastered into a Christmas Album had they not been destroyed by fire. Crosby performed the iconic Christmas song in 3 movies and countless radio and television broadcasts. There just is not another version.


Bing sang this song right to the end, after actually. In this montage of footage from some of his Christmas specials, the final lines are from 1977. It was his last Christmas special. He died after it was taped and before it was aired.

OUR TOP 5 HOLIDAY MOVIES

I was looking for a movie to watch and suddenly, I realized our shelves are full of Christmas movies.  It’s already December, so if we don’t watch them now, we probably won’t watch them this year, at all.

ChristmasStory_158Pyxurz

A Christmas Story (1983)

So. I diligently went from shelf to shelf, extracting our holiday-themed movies. They are all favorites or we wouldn’t own them. And yes, we still buy DVDs because it’s really empowering to have movies to watch when the cable and WiFi decide to take a vacation.

its-a-wonderful-life

It’s A Wonderful Life

This time of year, it’s not unusual for heavy snow or rain or wind to leave us without a connection … and that’s when — assuming we have electricity — we go to the big DVD shelf in the hallway. Where our movie collection lives.

Home_For_the_Holidays

The decorations will up this afternoon. Extracting them from the attic has become somewhat of a challenge. Our bodies and the folding ladder to the attic have aged and make loud, scary, creaking noises. Nonetheless, decorations will make their annual appearance today by hook or crook. Probably hook. I’ve bought wrapping paper, bows and tags and our little trees are in place and glow gently throughout the evening. Almost all the shopping is finished.

Alastair sim Chrismas carol

The weather is gray and cold, so what could be better than a cup of cocoa and a warm movie?

Here’s our holiday list. It’s a short list, a very personal list. It isn’t a “best of list,” just movies we like.

  1. It’s a Wonderful Life (Directed by Frank Capra, starring James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, 1946)
  2. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
  3. Christmas Carol (Starring Alastair Sim, 1951)
  4. Home for the Holidays (Starring Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr., Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning, 1995)
  5. A Christmas Story (Narrated by and based on a story by Jean Shepherd, 1983)

There are more. We have “White Christmas” and “Holiday Inn.” At least two other versions of “A Christmas Carol” and a newer remake of “Miracle on 34th Street.” And then there are a bunch of Disney movies that could be considered Christmas movies … like “Lady and the Tramp.” We don’t have enough time to watch them all, so we selected our favorites. If we find ourselves with a little spare time, we’ll add others.

Miracle-on-34th-St

Let me briefly address the issue of “happy holiday” versus “merry Christmas.” If you celebrate Christmas and wish me the same, I’ll smile and wish you one in return. If you celebrate Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, or nothing … that’s okay too. Remember — not everyone is Christian. Even among those who are, not everyone celebrates Christmas, for whatever reason. People are entitled to be different. It isn’t (yet) a crime.

Take a lesson from the spirit the holidays supposedly represent. Happy holiday is not an insult. It is a non-denominational way to wish you well in a month full of holidays.

Enjoy your celebrations, whatever they are. I will happily accept any well-meant greeting in the spirit it was offered. Don’t use the holidays an excuse to spread ill-will.

Have yourself some great holidays. Be of good cheer, whatever you celebrate. And happy New Year to one and all!

SEASON OF LIGHTS

They have an annual “lighting up” night at the Heritage Museum on Cape Cod. I was lucky to be there for this particularly beautiful (and very cold!) evening.

The lights were everywhere. Each tree was wrapped in light, every building outlined by lights. It was an evening of twinkling and shining!

Week Photo Challenge: TWINKLE

RUDOLPH AND OTHER STORIES OF CHRISTMAS SONGS

Some of the stories behind our favorite Christmas songs, by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

I did not know Dasher, Dancer and the gang until I learned the song. Of course, I learned it rather young, so perhaps no one had a chance to tell me. Besides, why would I want to get to know them since “they never let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games?” But then one foggy something eve, I guess it was, I learned more about him.

rudolph-the-red-nosed-reindeer-the-movie-1998b

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was a celebrity in this part of the country long before he became an international hit. Chicago-based department stores and mail order giant Montgomery Ward had been giving out their own coloring books at Christmas time for years. Robert L. May, an advertising copywriter, was assigned to come up with a Christmas story in 1939 — and Rudolph was the result.

When his wife passed away, the retailer offered to take May off the project, but he went on to complete it. The resulting book was distributed, but World War II stopped its publication due to restrictions on paper use. Rudolph made a grand reappearance in 1946.

Rudolph might have faded into a mere footnote of Christmas lore had it not been for May’s brother-in-law, songwriter Johnny Marks. He turned the story into a song. Which made Rudolph famous throughout the country.

The song led to sequels by May, eventually to television and movie specials.  Rudolph really did “go down in history.”

2014 is the 50th anniversary of the animated Christmas special children and adults still watch today.

The song was recorded by cowboy star Gene Autry. Legend has it, he was not fond of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, but his wife, liked the song. Autry’s 1949 recording became number 1 on the charts. It was the first number 1 song of the 1950s and became the second biggest-selling song of all time, until the 1980s.  Another Christmas classic was already number one.

The Christmas Song is commonly called “Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire” and also has a Chicago connection.

Musician, singer, actor, composer Mel Tormé, a Chicago native and performer about town before hitting the big time, wrote the classic in 40 minutes one sweltering July day in California in 1944.

Mel spotted a few of the opening lines in a notebook by Bob Wells, a frequent collaborator, and went on to finish them and add music. Wells had just been writing down a few cold weather ideas to help him deal with the sweltering summer weather.

The song was subsequently recorded by Nat “King” Cole and his trio in June 1946, but Cole convinced the record label to re-record the song with strings. It is the second version, recorded in August 1946, that became a hit. Cole went on to record it again in 1953 and 1961. The 1961 version is the one you hear continuously throughout the season. The vocal performance of the last version is considered the best of Cole’s recordings.

Tormé recorded the song too. Years later he added a verse and a “coda,” which came from “Here We Come A-Wassailing.” In 1992, the composer of one of the best know Christmas songs of all time finally recorded an album of Christmas songs. Legend has it that The Christmas Song was not one of Tormé’s favorites, but he was grateful for the royalties.

The all time best-selling song was written for a movie, but not for the movie of the same name. White Christmas was one of twelve songs written by Irving Berlin that were included in his 1942 movie Holiday Inn.

The romantic comedy musical starred Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire in a boy-wins-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-wins-girl story. Crosby leaves a musical act to run an Inn that is only open on holidays. Astaire comes to the Inn after his dance partner leaves him, giving us the opportunity to hear a variety of holiday songs by legendary song writer, Irving Berlin.

In the movie White Christmas is a duet when we first hear it, and when it reappears late in the story, the female character Lila, played by Marjorie Reynolds, sings it.  The song picked up the Oscar for best song of 1942.  The recording by Bing Crosby the same year has gone on to sell over 50 million copies and holds the top spot by far. It too is part of our non stop Christmas soundtrack.

It is the overwhelming popularity of the song that led to a movie entitled White Christmas. Of course, Bing Crosby is back in another role, this time teamed up with Danny Kaye. Fred Astaire turned down the project.

White Christmas, like Holiday Inn, achieved great success, but its soundtrack never got a remix into stereo for release as an album. The master recordings were destroyed in a fire.

AFTER THE TURKEY

72-Thanksgiving-Table_23

I’ve learned a lot over the years. By my calculation, this is my 49th year of making Thanksgiving, not counting a few years when I was a guest at someone else’s table.

I remember when the torch passed and my parents no longer wanted the job. Suddenly, they were just as happy to eat my food. I knew at the time this was a significant change in our relationship, that something important had changed.

72-Thanksgiving-Food_33

Since then — 40 years later — I’ve been making holidays. Although my son does the cooking, or most of it anyhow, he still doesn’t know how to make the holiday. How to set a table, figure out which dishes to use. Which flatware. Whether or not to put out the “good” glassware (but unlike me, he knows on which side the forks go versus the knives).

And despite them being among the easiest recipes in the world, no one but me can make the cranberry sauces.

72-Thanksgiving-Table_25

Things I’ve learned after 49 years of family dinners:

  1. Don’t get a big centerpiece. It takes up too much room and will be in the way when people are trying to converse.
  2. Not only do place settings not have to match, making each setting different is a very cool “look” (though I didn’t do it this year).
  3. No matter how many people you have coming to dinner, there will be much more food than even the hungriest crowd can possibly consume.
  4. Don’t save the mashed potatoes. No one is going to eat them.
  5. The turkey will be fully cooked at least an hour before your calculations say it will.
  6. If you cook the turkey to an internal temperature of 180 degrees, it will taste like sawdust and no amount of gravy will make a difference.
  7. Buy a fresh turkey, not a frozen one. It’s worth it. Fresh turkey tastes so much better!
  8. Put a clear plastic cover over your good tablecloth. Your guests won’t mind and gravy does not come out completely, no matter what formula you use to treat the stains.

When I’m feeling ambitious, I get more creative with table settings. I have a lot of “fiesta ware,” bright, solid-color dishes that mix and match with other pottery. I’ve given away my 16-place-setting porcelain. Storing it took up more space than I was willing to devote to something I used maximum twice a year.

I don’t buy expensive stemware. It’s not that kind of crowd.

72-Thanksgiving-Food_35

I don’t bother to point out no one is going to eat that much food. Don’t mention that nine pies for seven guests is a bit much. My daughter-in-law is Italian. I’m Jewish. My husband is Black. Excessive food is a cultural and genetic mandate. Please eat. Please overeat. If you don’t leave the table feeling slightly ill from over-consumption, I haven’t done my job.

The good news? I can put together a nice looking holiday table in under 20 minutes. Add on another half hour because I have to wash everything. I haven’t used it since last Christmas and dust will have its way. Still, that’s pretty good.

72-Thanksgiving-First Snow_26

Gone are the big floral displays, the fragile serving dishes. The stemware broke and was never replaced. Ditto the serving dishes. A nice table is welcoming. A super fancy, overwhelmingly elegant table is less so and can be off-putting.

Less fuss means I don’t end the holiday exhausted and cranky. I might just survive through Christmas. Imagine that!

FIFTY THINGS – A WORLD FROM WHICH TO CHOOSE

Share Your World – 2014 Week 47

Since this is Thanksgiving in the USA this week, I thought I would celebrate all week.  There is only one question this week and here it is.  I haven’t made a list like this in a long time.  I used to do it fairly frequently.  I hope you want to play along!

List at least 50 Things You Enjoy.  Here are some categories to inspire your thinking.

  • Activities
  • Restaurants
  • People
  • Foods
  • Games
  • Drinks/Beverages
  • Desserts
  • Paintings
  • Web Sites
  • Writers
  • Famous lines from books/movies.

I have too many things to list individually and too many categories. Or not enough. Sometimes there is a thin line between the two.

life-thanksgiving-ye-glutton

I’ve had to give some thought to this to see if I could stay focused on important stuff and not end up with a list full of trivia.

Stuff I Do

  1. Laughing with people I love (You know who you are and I couldn’t live, wouldn’t want to live, without you.)
  2. Reading
  3. Listening to audiobooks
  4. Writing
  5. Taking pictures
  6. Hanging out with dogs
  7. Movies and television and anything Star Trek, or with horses.

Eating Out

  1. Japanese food and Wanakura
  2. Chinese food

Favoritest Authors

  1. Gretchen Archer
  2. James Lee Burke
  3. Kim Harrison
  4. Jim Butcher
  5. Jasper Fforde
  6. Douglas Adams
  7. And many others, too numerous to name!

Let Music Fill the Air!

  1. Folk music
  2. Country music
  3. Classical music, especially orchestral and piano
  4. The Beatles
  5. Tom Paxton
  6. Judy Collins
  7. Credence Clearwater Revival
  8. Really, that’s just the tip of a huge iceberg of music.

Munching

  1. Crystallized ginger
  2. Cheese
  3. Mango
  4. Kiwi
  5. Pears
  6. Peaches
  7. Grapefruit
  8. Salty, crunchy things
  9. Spicy things
  10. Hot pepper jelly
  11. English muffins
  12. And more and more and more!

Furry Creatures

  1. Dogs
  2. Cats
  3. Horses
  4. Pretty much anything with fur or feathers!

Literature

  1. Science fiction
  2. Fantasy
  3. Urban fantasy
  4. Anything that makes me laugh
  5. History
  6. Police procedurals
  7. Mystery
  8. Time travel
  9. Audiobooks
  10. BOOKS!!!

Oops, out of room. You see what I mean? But it could also be just a few things … because I like reading and that covers all the genres, authors, audiobooks, and everything else. There are so many way to do this.

Rather than saying I love books or reading, I could say I love that little crackle a brand new books makes when you first open in and that whiff of printer’s ink.

Thanksgiving005

I should mention that not only do I love taking pictures, but I love cameras. And autumn, because that’s my favorite time to take pictures.

I could start naming all the people I love, one at a time and probably run out of room before I got to anything else. Or start listing favorite movies and TV shows. I never even got to them and I have a whole bunch of movies and shows I love.

There is a lot to love in this world of ours, in this period of time we call life. I’m glad to still be here, on this earth, in this world, with all of you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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