MOPING AROUND THE CHRISTMAS TREE

MOPE | THE DAILY POST

The little tree is still standing, but it’s no longer the center of the room or of upcoming festivities. Now, it’s the tree of Christmas past and waiting only to go back into storage until next year. Poor little tree. It has such a brief moment of glory. Who can blame it for moping this time of year when it can feel deep in its polyvinyl core, that the end is near. So let us give one last, final cheer for a doughty little tree whose  life is darkness for 11 months and glory for but one!

SEASONALLY FESTIVE

Festive?

The house looks festive. Lights are lit. The sun is shining on the sleeping dogs and there are Christmas cards spread across the coffee table. It definitely looks like Christmas.

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After wrangling the lamb roast from another dimension and the rest of dinner for five yesterday — including two contiguous days of grocery shopping — by the end of the evening, I was beyond dead on my feet. I had moved into that Neverland of “everything … absolutely everything … hurts.” No drugs I have would touch it. There are entire classes of drugs (say NSAID twice, quickly) I can’t take.

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They are the ones that help, but they turn my stomach to rubbish and are on my “never allowed to take” list. I cheat occasionally, when I feel bad enough. One prescription-size ibuprofen makes a difference. It’s ironic that narcotics help a lot less than aspirin, but I can’t take aspirin. In this I am far from alone since many people can’t handle aspirin or any of the NSAIDs, but it makes dealing with pain incredibly complicated. And annoying. Because this particular issue always pops up at exactly the time when I most want to be functional and active.

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It’s the morning after the night before. The night before was tame by anyone’s standards, even mine. If I was previously unaware how my life has changed, mornings like this remind me. We had plans for today, but I woke up coughing, too.

That did it. I threw in the towel. I had been wondering how I was going to get through the day before the coughing started, but that was the straw that did me in. I call, apologized, and cancelled. I don’t even think I’d make it to the car today. I’m still trying to figure out how I’m going to cook later. Are you surprised we have leftover lamb? No? Bet you’re not! I wish I had kept some of the gravy, but that horse has left the barn.

It was a great Christmas Eve, but this day is recovery, recuperation, and trying to breathe. In a seasonally festive way, of course.

FESTIVE | DAILY POST

CHRISTMAS YET TO COME

My Top Ten Christmas Songs, Young Artists Edition, By Rich Paschall

From the time your Halloween pumpkin turned to mush on your front porch until now, you have been hearing Christmas music in the stores, on the radio and television and perhaps on your computer and mobile devices as well.  As we have noted on past Top Ten lists, the airwaves have been filled with familiar voices singing the same holiday hits to us that they have been singing for decades.  Of course, it is not Christmastime if we do not hear Bing, Perry, Andy and Nat crooning to us, but perhaps there are some newer artists who will earn a spot on the radio station playlist some day soon.

It is in this spirit that I come to you with another holiday playlist in hand.  I can see by the tired look on your faces, that you are ready for something fresh.  For this edition we have an eclectic assortment of original songs and holiday covers.  Before we get too carried away with Aunt Maude’s apple cider or Uncle Harvey’s Gluhwein, I have an honorable mention from talented producer, video editor, musician and performer Kurt Hugo Schneider (age 28).  Performing this “mash-up” of holidays tunes with him is actor, dancer, singer Max Schneider (24, and no relation) and Victoria Justice (23).  I will leave it to you to figure out how KHS pulls this off.  He really does not explain it at the end.

Now the weather outside might be frightful, but the following is so delightful, and since you’ve no place to go (because most stores really are closed), enjoy these tunes from the 30 and under crowd.

10. Christmas Must Be Something More, Taylor Swift (26) Released in 2007, this tune has not gotten the airplay of her rather uninspiring covers of “Last Christmas” and “Santa Baby.”

9.  A Wonderful Christmas Time, Demi Lovato (24)  The former Disney princess covers the Paul McCartney hit in a Disney Parade.  I guess that means Ryan Seacrest needs to make the introduction.

8.  Santa Tell Me, Ariana Grande (23) The former Nickelodeon star has made it big in television and film, as well as recording pop songs.  The Christmas video comes with a series of “outtakes” at the end.

7.  Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Sam Smith (24)  The typical presentation of this Grammy winning artist is perfect for this melancholy version of the bittersweet tune.

6.  Let It Snow – Baby It’s Cold Outside, Robby Word (19) and Alex G. (24).  It’s another holiday mash-up from Kurt Hugo Schneider, a master at the one-take video.  You can also wonder how they pulled off this one.

5.  Winter Wonderland, Alexander Rybak (30) The 2009 winner of the Eurovision song contest released an album of holiday tunes in English in 2012, Christmas Tales.  Not only did Rybak arrange and sing the songs, he is the entire string section on the recording.  The multi-talented artist was born in Belarus and lives in Norway.

4.  I’ll Be Home For Christmas, Sam Tsui (27)  Sam writes, arranges and sings on a large number of You Tube videos.  On this selection, he goes a cappella with a crew of Sams singing along.  Tsui has a Christmas EP so you can hear other familiar Christmas tunes as well.

3.  All I Want For Christmas Is You, Steve Grand (26)  This will be our non-traditional entry on the list.  Grand plays the piano as well as sings the familiar tune.  He is the featured character in the story being told, but how does it end?  You can find a link to another video on how they made this one on You Tube.  We have previously featured Steve as the “All-American Boy“.

2.  Mistletoe, Justin Bieber (22)  The Biebs scored a big hit with all the Beliebers in 2011 with this snappy tune.  The video has picked up over a quarter billion views and still going strong.  The radio airplay may have died down, but this song really deserves a place on the list.

1.  Pat-A-Pan, David Archuleta (25)  There were a lot of Christmas songs to choose from by the popular recording artist.  He has a full length album of Christmas songs.  He has performed on multiple Christmas television programs.  In fact, he was the featured performer on a Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas program on PBS.  That show received more ticket requests than any of their previous annual shows.  Find a half hour of highlights here.  I chose Pat-A-Pan from a different show not just because he sings to us in French and English, but also because it shows off the strength and clarity of his voice.

Entire You Tube Playlist:
Christmas Yet To Come
Christmas Present
Christmas Past

A CHRISTMAS SONG, PLEASE

After the Top Ten Lists of favorite Christmas Songs past and present, I was thinking I could use a hit too.  Just one!  The following is reblogged from the Sunday Night Blog.

A Hit For Christmas

Where's Christmas?

Where’s Christmas?

I need a hit for Christmas
To turn the season green.
A snappy little holiday tune
Is really what I mean.
If I could just find somewhere
In my memory tonight
A verse, a phrase, some words of joy
To the world I would write.

“What is my theme?” I wonder
As I wander here and there.
Christmas songs make lots of cash
And why should I not share
In monies green and silver
But oh what shall I say?
After all I’m thinking now,
“What’s not been said of Christmas Day?”

I’ll write a Christmas Jingle.
Bells of joy will sound –
A song about Kris Kringle
Or snow upon the ground.
I’ll make a little silver.
Bells of joys will play –
A check, a smile, a royalty
With every Christmas Day.

As each and every memory
Was sailing past tonight,
I had to grab the good ones
And to add the music right.
I’m dreaming of best sellers
That every year will rock
Around the Christmas tree
And down every single block.

We then need the musicians
For piano and for bass.
We’ll add a little drummer.
Boy, we’ll really rock the place.
The perfect words and music?
I ask what do you hear.
What I hear are record deals
If we can sound sincere.

I’ll write a Christmas Jingle.
Bells play all the way.
A tune that you will download –
On CD’s that you will play.
I’ll have a greener season
And know just what to say –
“A check, a smile, a royalty
With every Christmas Day.”

Copyright Richard Paschall

THE CHRISTMAS LEG

I was planning to make chili. In fact, we had just come back from the supermarket and I had brought it all home with me. The fresh meat, the chili beans. Big sweet onions. Diced tomatoes. We had not finished unpacking when the phone rang.

“My boss just gave me a 13 pound leg of lamb for Christmas,” he said. “We’ve got a great roast.”

“Thirteen pounds? I’ve never seen a leg of lamb that big.”

“It’s huge,” he said. “I’m sending Sandy over with it. She’ll be there in a few minutes.”

Indeed she was. By the time she brought it upstairs, she could hardly breathe and all I could say was “Are we sure that’s lamb? It’s gigantic.”

“Yes,” she said, leaning on the fridge and trying to breathe.

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I cleared out the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. By angling it slightly, we got the door closed, but it wasn’t easy. Sandy went home.

Garry and I ate dinner. No big surprise that I was thinking about lamb. I went online to see the latest greatest advice on cooking bone-in leg of lamb. I was pleased to see we have gone back to the “torch it for 15 minutes, then cook the rest slowly” which is how I learned to do it rather than the “medium heat and cook it until it is gray, tough, and flavorless.” The newer information suggests serving it medium rare, at about 135 degrees on the thermometer. The previous generation of lamb recipes says 160 to 170 degrees. Which is desiccated and, in my opinion, inedible.

Some sites are recommending using an oven roasting bag. What struck me was that there was no information on roasts larger than 10 pounds … and most seemed to believe that a leg of lamb will never exceed seven pounds including the bone. I knew I did not have a pan big enough to cook that piece of meat.

I confided my concern to Garry who suggested we weigh and measure it. He brought the scale to the kitchen and set on the stove. We hauled the huge roast out of the fridge and weighed it. The scale said eleven pounds, but I’m positive this scale always leaves off a couple of pounds, so I was forced to believe that my son had it right. Thirteen pounds. This would later be confirmed when we unwrapped it and there was a tag that announced it was a “restaurant cut full leg 13.13 lbs.”

Moreover, it measured 22 inches long. The biggest roasting pan I could find in any store was 17-1/2 inches. I wasn’t sure it would fit in the oven, much less the pan. Garry thought maybe the butcher at Hannaford might be willing to cut off the shank for us.

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We had to go buy a few things anyhow, so nothing ventured, nothing gained. I needed a gigantic roasting pan. Extra extra-large turkey roasting bags. Fresh rosemary and maybe a few other fresh herbs. Heavy duty aluminum foil in the extended play version. A veggie to go with dinner. I had been planning to bake corn bread, but the change in menu suggested hot buttered rolls and something green. Which turned out to be spinach because we like it, it’s quick to prepare, and they still had some. Yesterday, the grocery shelves were over-flowing. Today, half the shelves were empty. Denuded. Locusts? No, just Christmas.

While we were at it, I bought little red roasting potatoes and a pound of bacon because we might as well all finish off the evening with a trip to the hospital to deal with pancreatitis, the result of massive over-indulgence in rich food. Sandy and Kaity are doing the dessert specialties and I had a mince-pie which I had promised Garry I would bake. (I did.)

Hannaford said “no way, absolutely not.” If you didn’t buy it there, they won’t touch it. Time for plan B. I called my son.

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“It’s beautiful. It’s huge. It’s too big for the biggest turkey roasting pan. Do you have anything you could use to hack off a piece? I can deal with everything else, but it has to fit in the pan.”

“I have a Sawzall,” he said, uncertainly. “Not terribly sanitary, but it’ll cut through stainless steel, so I suppose it’ll cut a leg of lamb.”

“That leg will be roasted for hours after we cut it. That should sterilize it. I don’t think we have any other choice. Maybe a restaurant would have the right size pans and ovens, but we don’t.”

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And so it went. Owen bought a new Sawzall blade, wrapped the rest of the saw in plastic. Then he and Garry wrestled the roast into submission and removed the top of it, which turned out to be a good size crown roast. I wrapped it up and stowed it in the freezer. Another dinner awaits.

I don’t know exactly how the day will shake out, but I’m sure it’ll be fine. Not sure if I’ll cook it in the bag or do the broil-then-slow-roast. I didn’t expect those herbs to be so chopping-knife resistant, but I realized I have a food processor. I don’t have to do it by hand.

There will be dinner. I will not be beaten by a leg of a lamb. I shall prevail!

A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE | HOLIDAY TRADITIONS