Sunday, December 31, 2006

Quote du jour/Gladys Taber

My New Year's resolutions are simple. I resolve to be more patient, less selfish, cherish my friends, and in my small way help whoever needs help. I cannot conceivably influence the world's destiny, but I can make my own life more worthwhile. I can give some help to some people; that is not vital to all the world's problems and yet, I think if everyone did just that, we might see quite a world in our time!
Gladys Taber
Stillmeadow Sampler, 1959

Today's cd/On and On

Jack Johnson/On and On/2003

When I'm feeling rattled, or the world seems a little noisy or worrisome, I put one of my Jack Johnson cds on the player, and I feel the tension going away. His voice and music are like a mantra; listening to him is like a meditation. He calms me down. His words aren't all cheery, but there is an optimism, a sense of hope and peace that his music promotes.

As I take down Christmas decorations on the last day of 2006, this cd is the perfect musical companion.

The song playing is the first track on the cd.

"in times like these
in times like those
what will be will be
and so it goes"

"and there's always been laughing, crying, birth, and dying
boys and girls with hearts that take and give and break
and heal and grow and recreate and raise and nurture"

The world is a better place because we have Jack Johnson's music.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Today's cd/Hang On Little Tomato

Pink Martini/Hang On Little Tomato/2004

How could I not buy this cd? The band name and title are irresistible, as is the album cover. And the music is just as delightful and fun as the names suggest. If they are new to you, you may read more here.

I was so surprised to find them at radioblogclub.

The song playing is the title track.

"So I hold on to this advice
When change is hard and not so nice
If you listen to your heart the whole night through
Your sunny someday will come one day soon to you"

Friday, December 29, 2006

Quote du jour/Nell Newman

Every little thing you do makes a difference.
Nell Newman

Baking-Powder Biscuits

I was given a delightful cookbook for Christmas by a wonderful friend. In addition to terrific "receipts", Tasha Tudor offers family stories and her famous illustrations. One of my favorites is this one:

I love the homey feel it evokes with the happy children and food in the old fashioned "butt'ry".

Yesterday afternoon I wanted to make something my husband and I have always called "warm and buttery", so I looked through my new cookbook and found these biscuits. I have tried many, many biscuit recipes and these are the best I've ever tasted.

I'm going to include the author's words about the biscuits.

Baking Powder Biscuits

I serve these hot from the oven with fresh creamery butter and homemade raspberry preserves that I have bottled myself from my own raspberry patch. Occasionally, I like to add a grated sharp cheese, such as Vermont cheddar, to the dough as I mix it together.

1 farm-fresh egg, at room temperature
1/2 to 3/4 cup milk
2 cups unbleached flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup shortening

Preheat the oven to 475º F. and grease a cookie sheet.

Crack the egg into a 1-cup glass measure.
Mix well with a fork.
Add milk to the 3/4-cup mark and mix well again.

In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt.
Lightly mix in the shortening with your fingers.
Stir in the milk mixture, taking care not to overwork the dough.
On a lightly floured surface, roll or pat the dough to 1/2 inch thickness and cut with
2 1/4-inch floured biscuit cutter.
Place the rounds 1 inch apart on the baking sheet.

Bake the biscuits in the pre-heated oven for 10-12 minutes, until nicely browned.

My notes:
I used butter (I ALWAYS use butter).
The flour was half white and half whole wheat pastry.
I mixed in the butter with two knives.
I don't know what size my cutters are but the recipe made 14 biscuits.
And I didn't dare to put the oven at 475º so I baked them at 450º and they were done in a bit over five minutes. I would say to keep a close eye on them to be sure they don't burn.
We did indeed eat them hot from the oven with butter and jam.
Delicious with a cold glass of milk.

Today's cd/Chocolat soundtrack

Rachel Portman/Chocolat/2000

Something very rare happened with Chocolat - the book by Joanne Harris, the movie, and the soundtrack are all excellent.

The music on this cd was written by Rachel Portman, except for Minor Swing by Django Reinhardt/Stephane Grappelli, and Caravan by Duke Ellington and Juan Tizol. It is perfectly suited to the film, and is lovely to listen to completely separate from the movie. Great music.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Thursday Thirteen/Resolutions

For my Thursday Thirteen in between Christmas Day and New Year's Day, I thought I'd post my resolutions for 2007. They aren't in any particular order, and are just some things to work on in the coming year.

1. Get outdoors every day, even if only for a little while.
2. Spend more time reading.
3. Spend more of this reading time on my own books, and borrow fewer from the library.
4. Exercise every day.
5. Visit elderly friends more often.
6. Write more letters.
7. Spend less time on the computer.
8. Go to more movies at the movie theatre.
9. Lose about five pounds.
10. Call friends more often.
11. Clear out the cellar.
12. Clear out the barn loft.
13. Try to live by this wonderful Swedish proverb:
Fear less, hope more;
Eat less, chew more;
Whine less, breathe more;
Talk less, say more;
Love more, and all good things will be yours.

Today's cd/Nocturne

Charlie Haden/Nocturne/2001

There are five instrumental jazz albums which I play most often, and this is one of them. The others are James Carter's The Real Quietstorm, and Chasin' The Gypsy, Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, and the Zoot Sims Quartet's That Old Feeling.

Each time I hear Nocturne, I am amazed at the beauty of the music. I love every song. You may listen to (and buy) the cd here.

Leonardo Acosta writes in the liner notes:

...we should go back to the definition that Bird one day gave to bop, and it was no simple joke: he called it a "search for the pretty notes." In this new introspective voyage through time and the musical space of the Americas, which Charlie Haden undertakes in very healthy company, we can be certain at every instant that we are meeting beauty, elegance, and the peace that has always defined this great artist with so much constancy.

On this quiet, snowy and sometimes sunny day, we plan to do some reading, and Nocturne is the perfect musical companion.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Quote du jour/Kenneth Grahame

It's never the wrong time to call on Toad. Early or late he's always the same fellow. Always good-tempered, always glad to see you, always sorry when you go!

Rat, in The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Book of the month

A Three Dog Life a memoir by Abigail Thomas/2006

The author quotes Wikipedia for the phrase, Three Dog Night.
Australian Aborigines slept with their dogs for warmth on cold nights, the coldest being a "three dog night."

Sometimes when a book is over, I sigh; sometimes I smile. When I finished this book, I said, "wow" right out loud. That doesn't happen very often, if indeed it has ever happened.

This is a book of essays written by a woman whose husband has been hit by a car, and suffered extensive brain damage. He can still talk. He still knows her. But he lives right now. There is no past, there is no future.

We envisioned an old age on a front porch somewhere, each other's comfort, companions for life. But life takes twists and turns. There is good luck and bad.

"Good things happen slowly," said a doctor in the ICU months ago, "and bad things happen fast."

Her husband, Rich, says truly amazing things. It makes one marvel at the brain, and all we don't understand. He misses out on the "normal" world, but has a knowledge that is unavailable to us. He has a way of phrasing his thoughts that is remarkable.

One day he doesn't smile when she comes to see him. She asks what is wrong:

"We're divorced," he said, as if I were an imbecile. "We're married, Rich," I told him. "We've been married fourteen years. You're my husband," I said, touching his arm, "I'm your wife." He looked at me coldly. "Transparent windowlike words." He doesn't believe in his brain injury, so he has come up with an explanation for my absence: I have left him. "I'm alone," he says, waving his arm down the hall. "Hundreds of single beds," he says, "hundreds of single beds with old men lying in them with their boots on."

"You squeezed all those colors from fruit," Rich observed the other day. I was knitting a scarf out of red and purple wool.

She writes of her dogs:

But my dogs make me laugh, and they comfort me, and I'm never bored with them. When Rosie's head lies on my shoulder, Harry crams himself into my left side, and Carolina curls up like something folded by a Chinese laundry, impossibly small and neat, I am perfectly happy. We are the peaceable kingdom on a double bed. This is what it must have been like before the apple, when everything had a name but there wasn't so much discussion. I once asked my eldest daughter, Sarah, the mother of five, what it was about dogs that made loving them so easy. "They don't talk," she said.

The author devotes an essay to a kind of psychic quality to her husband's life now. There's the story about her friend who gets a Doberman puppy and brings it over to her place where all the dogs run around together.

I remember thinking how Rich would have hated the chaos. The phone rang. It was a nurse from the facility where Rich was living telling me my husband wouldn't come out of his room. He was certain Dobermans were outside his door, waiting to attack him.

Her husband knew nothing of the puppy in their apartment.

Another time, she and a friend were in Mexico. She called her husband, hollering into the receiver, intent on making him hear me, willing him not to let the phone slide away from his ear. I was staring at a tile on the counter as I shouted, "Rich? Rich? Can you hear me?"
"Hello," he said, somewhat cautiously.
"How are you?" I shouted, my eyes still drilling into the terra-cotta square.
"Fine," he answered.
"What have you been doing?" I shouted. There was a pause.
"We made some tiles today," he said.
When I got back I checked. I even talked to the person in charge of art and recreation. Nobody had made tiles, not that week, not ever

Another example of the wonder of his words:

Rich and I don't make conversation; we exchange tidbits, how well we've slept, what was for breakfast. We are stripped down to our most basic selves, no static, no irony, no nuance. Once in a while Rich says something that takes my breath away: "I feel like a tent that wants to be a kite, tugging at my stakes."

Abigail Thomas shares a truth that is so hard for all of us to grasp.

The future was also the place where the bad stuff waited in ambush. My children were embarking on their futures in fragile vessels, and I trembled. I wanted to remove obstacles, smooth their way, I wanted to change their childhoods. I needed to be right all the time, I wanted them to listen to me, learn from my mistakes, and save themselves a lot of grief. Well, now I know I can control my tongue, my temper, and my appetites, but that's it. I have no effect on weather, traffic, or luck. I can't make good things happen. I can't keep everybody safe. I can't influence the future and I can't fix up the past.

What a relief.

And I say, "what a book!"

Today's cd/An Other Cup

Yusuf/An Other Cup/2006

"I have dreamt of an open world, borderless and wide
Where the people move from place to place
and nobody's taking sides."
Maybe There's A World

A beautiful, heartfelt, hopeful, peaceful cd.

You may see a short video of Yusuf Islam here.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Quote du jour/Dylan Thomas

Looking through my bedroom window, out into
the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow,
I could see the lights in the windows
of all the other houses on our hill and hear
the music rising from them up the long, steadily
falling night. I turned the gas down, I got
into bed. I said some words to the close and
holy darkness, and then I slept.
A Child's Christmas In Wales, Dylan Thomas

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Quote du jour/Bess Streeter Aldrich

Christmas Eve was a night of song that wrapped itself about you like a shawl. But it warmed more than your body. It warmed your heart...filled it, too, with melody that would last forever.
Bess Streeter Aldrich

The fourth Sunday in Advent

Today's Christmas cd/An Oscar Peterson Christmas

An Oscar Peterson Christmas/1995

Tom's Christmas Eve choice is just perfect; exactly the right sound for the last day of Advent, the day before Christmas. All the cards are written, the presents are wrapped and under the tree, the stockings are hung awaiting Santa's visit. And the beautiful piano of Oscar Peterson is the mellow, relaxing music to go along with this feeling of calm which comes upon the heart and home.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Today's Christmas cd/Midwinter Night's Dream

Boys of the Lough/Midwinter Night's Dream/1996

Tom's choice today, and what a wonderful one it is! We saw this group a few years ago, and they were just terrific. Two of the members on this cd are still with the band today. There's a very good website. If you would like to hear some of this cd, you may get a flavor of the music here:

Sometimes I put A Midwinter Waltz on repeat and listen over and over to one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard.

A unique feature of the Boys of the Lough is that they are from England, Ireland, and Scotland, and each member brings his own country's traditions and music to the group.

The cover photo is of the Ring of Brodgar, Orkney Islands, Scotland.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Still reading

It may seem that I'm just listening to music, and doing Christmas things, but I am reading a few books, though slowly.

Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders by John Mortimer/2004 is the book where we finally get to know about that early case of Horace Rumpole's of which he is so proud. I love it as I do all the Rumpole books. I told my husband that I could probably spend my reading life with Mortimer and P.G. Wodehouse and be perfectly happy.

A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas/2006 is a non-fiction account of a woman's life after her husband is hit by a car, and suffers alterations to his brain and his personality. Her great comfort comes from her dogs. She is very open and honest about her feelings, and is such a good writer.

One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes/1946 details everyday life in an English household and village just after WW II. I heard about this one from another blogger, and I am enjoying it very much.

Happy Winter

On this first full day of winter, I have a rhyme going through my head.

Happy Winter, rise and shine,
I love the early morning time,

It comes from a book we got for our daughter on her first Christmas 24 years ago.

This is a little gem done completely in poetry, all about a mom and her two daughters as they live the winter days. The pictures in the house are wonderful, and so evocative of a happy, real life. Note the laundry basket on the kitchen floor while the mom is cooking breakfast.

We see views of outdoor life as well.

Outside - It's cold! Wind stings my nose!
Happy Winter, shout and laugh!
I'll be the first to stomp a path.

On another day, it's:

Happy Winter, time to bake
Some really yummy kind of cake,
So Mama flips through recipes
Just like she does for company
And reads them all - her favorite ones
Are Sunshine, Marble, Angel, Crumb,
But we pick Fudge, and no nuts, please -
Now tie on aprons, roll up sleeves.

Then, as in most children's picture books, there is the bedtime ritual.

Happy Winter, evening time
I like how little star-specks shine
Or blink and sparkle cheerfully-
They almost seem to wink at me.

And now switch on the bedside light
To shoo away the dark of night
We read until we yawn, and then

I so loved reading books to my children about contented, happy lives; stories that mirrored their own daily routines and joys.

Today's Christmas cd/Making Spirits Bright

Dean Martin/Making Spirits Bright/1998 (this compilation)

The liner notes say, "this is the ultimate Dino Christmas compilation with the best of his Capitol and Reprise recordings, more than half of which have never been available on CD until now."

And what a cd it is! Perfection. I love every song, especially A Winter Romance and A Marshmallow World. I love the way he sings. And I love it that he lived so long even though you always saw him with a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other. :<)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Quote du jour/P.G. Wodehouse

If there's one thing I like it's a quiet life. I'm not one of those fellows who get all restless and depressed if things aren't happening to them all the time. You can't make it too placid for me. Give me regular meals, a good show with decent music every now and then, and one or two pals to tot around with, and I ask no more.
Bertie Wooster in The Inimitable Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

Thursday Thirteen/Newer Christmas Songs

As I listen to my Christmas cds every December, I am struck by how wonderful some of the newer, not-yet-traditional Christmas songs are. Titles are followed by the songwriters. I so love each of these songs.

1. Happy Christmas (War is Over) - John Lennon/Yoko Ono

2. Do They Know It's Christmas - Bob Geldof/Midge Ure

3. Hands - Jewel (perhaps not "just" a Christmas song, but it is on her Joy: A Holiday Collection, and the words certainly convey the message of the season; "Only kindness matters.")

4. Grown-Up Christmas List - David Foster/Linda Thompson

5. Christmas Mem'ries - Alan & Marilyn Bergman and Don Costa

Listen here:

6. 2000 Miles - Chrissie Hynde

Listen here:

7. Father Christmas - Ray Davies

8. It Must Have Been The Mistletoe - Douglas Konecky & Justin Wilde

Listen here:

9. Merry Christmas, Alabama (Never Far From Home) - Jimmy Buffett

Listen here:

10. Don't Save It All For Christmas Day - Peter Zizzo, Ric Wake, Celine Dion

Listen here:

11. Another Year Has Gone By - Bryan Adams and Eliot Kennedy

12. Maybe This Christmas - Ron Sexsmith

13. Christmas Stays The Same - Frank Wildhorn and Jack Murphy

Listen here:

Today's Christmas cd/Christmas Songs

Christmas Songs/2000

This is a very special, very wonderful collection of Christmas songs. Listening to it clears the head of holiday inner chatter. There are familiar songs, done in unfamiliar ways; and there are songs you may never have heard before. It is interesting and stimulating and relaxing all at the same time.

You may hear more, or buy it here.

But I haven't yet mentioned the very best feature of this cd - Stuart McLean's Polly Anderson's Christmas Party. This is, hands down, the funniest piece I've ever heard. I listen to it over and over and laugh every time. It is a bit like the old I Love Lucy shows in that we know what is going to happen yet we still laugh with delight when it does. McLean's "characters" are Dave and Morley and their kids, Stephanie and Sam. If you listen to Canadian radio, you know these folks. If not, you may go here.

The gist of the story is that Dave is asked to fill the adult and the children's punch bowls at a party. You can imagine what happens. "Come and get me, copper".

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A basket of friendship

That little Christmas-y basket next to the kitchen chair is just full of joy and friendship. This is where the Christmas cards go when they arrive in our house. Over the years, I have hung them across rooms on ribbon, taped them up on the above counter cupboards (before we took them down), and put them on all the door and window casements, but I think I like the basket the best. Whoever comes into the house, settles right down in the chair in front of the woodstove and looks through all the beautiful cards and delightful photographs. The familiar handwriting on the cards, the each-year-older children's faces in the pictures all welcome us to sit a spell and visit with old and new friends. It is one of the most satisfying pleasures of the season.

Quote du jour/E.B. White

Just to live in the country is a full-time job. You don't have to do anything. The idle pursuit of making a living is pushed to one side, where it belongs, in favor of living itself, a task of such immediacy, variety, beauty, and excitement that one is powerless to resist its wild embrace.
E. B. White

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Quote du jour/A. Edward Newton

The one best and sufficient reason for a man to buy a book is because he thinks he will be happier with it than without it.
A. Edward Newton

Today's Christmas cd/A Victorian Christmas

Robin Petrie/A Victorian Christmas/1991

This is one of my old Christmas standbys. I play it every year and never tire of its gentle beauty. The liner notes offer a fascinating history of carols in general, and the cd's carols in particular. There is also information about the hammered dulcimer, which was known as the piano harp in Victorian times. You may hear clips here.

There is some info on Robin Petrie here and here.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care...

Quote du jour/Mary Ellen Chase

Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind.
Mary Ellen Chase

Today's Christmas cd/December

Chris Botti/December/2002

Beautiful, mellow trumpet jazz for the holiday season. You may hear all the cuts from this cd.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The third Sunday in Advent

Quote du jour/Dodie Smith

I shouldn't think even millionaires could eat anything nicer than new bread, and real butter, and honey for tea.
Cassandra in I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith

Cranberry Cornbread

After a nice Sunday afternoon walk in the north pasture with two of the dogs, I came in wanting something "warm from the oven," and this cookbook was the perfect choice! Eileen Goudge is a writer who often mentions food in her books. She recently published what has become one of my favorite baking cookbooks. She offers nice family reminiscences and well-written recipes with great ingredients.

Cranberry Cornbread

1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 cup flour (I use 1/2 ww pastry and 1/2 white)
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1 egg
2 Tablespoons melted butter

1. Preheat oven to 400º F.

2. Put cranberries through a food processor until coarsely chopped
Toss with the confectioners sugar

Mix together the flour, cornmeal, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the cranberry mixture.

3. Whisk together the milk, egg, and melted butter. Stir into dry mixture, but don't overmix. Pour into greased 8x8 pan, and bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool slightly before cutting. Serve with butter, and a glass of milk. :<) So, so delicious. This is our favorite cornbread recipe.

Today's Christmas cd/A Charlie Brown Christmas

Vince Guaraldi Trio/A Charlie Brown Christmas/1988 (original recording,1965)

This was Tom's Sunday Christmas cd selection.

If I were pressed to choose only one album for the entire month of December, it would be this one. When it begins to play, I feel a sense of calm coming over me. I am filled with a warm nostalgia for past Christmases and a joy for the present one. If a person is feeling a little mid-December letdown from bustling around, this is the perfect antidote. It stops the listener in his tracks and reminds us of Charlie Brown's "true meaning of Christmas." The music is lovely beyond description.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Quote du jour/Julia Child

Small portions
No seconds
No snacking
A little of everything.
Julia Child

Today's Christmas cd/Barenaked for the Holidays

Barenaked for the Holidays/Barenaked Ladies/2004

This one is almost fifty minutes of holiday delight, with humorous offerings, along with the heartfelt, as fans of the Ladies might expect. Sarah McLachlan joins them on God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings. The latter is a song from childhood Christmases which is a rare selection now. Michael Bublé is on a song called Elf's Lament; "I make toys, but I've got aspirations".

They do very nice versions of three Hanukkah songs, one in Yiddish. And who else but the Ladies would give us a little instrumental of Paul McCartney's Wonderful Christmastime, and then sing Happy Birthday to Jesus?!

It's available for listening and buying here.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Magic Cookie Bars

Doesn't chocolate go just perfectly with pizza? This recipe originally came from a friend of my daughter's when she was in elementary school. I think it has a lot of different names, but I'm quite fond of this one. They are "magically" delicious, and so easy to make.

Magic Cookie Bars

Turn oven on to 325º-350º. Put a stick of butter in a 9x13 pan, and put the pan in the oven. While it is melting, crush one of the inner packs in a box of graham crackers. Take out the pan, and sprinkle the crumbs over the butter. Then pour on a can of sweetened condensed milk. Mix together 1 cup coconut, 1 cup chopped walnuts, and 12 oz package of chocolate chips. Spread this mixture on top, and press down a bit. Bake 25-30 minutes or until lightly brown. Cool before cutting.

Homemade Pizza

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, even at suppertime. Tonight's pizza features onions, and red and green sweet peppers.

You may cut this in half. This is my original recipe, but I've found that halving it makes plenty for two, and has a thinner crust. Try it both ways and see which suits you best.

2 T. yeast and 1 t. sugar dissolved in 1/2 c. warm water. Let rise.

In the meantime, mix together the following. I use my KitchenAid mixer.

4 cups flour (I use 1/2 ww pastry and 1/2 white)
2 t. salt
2 T. olive oil
1/2 c. milk
1 egg (you may leave this out if you wish)
garlic put through the garlic press
chopped rosemary, thyme, basil, parsley- whatever herbs you want or no herbs at all

When yeast has risen, add to mixer and mix till smooth. Add more water if necessary.

Let rise for a while, maybe an hour.

Spray pizza pan with cooking spray, and spread mixture on pan. Let rise a little more.


I use my homemade sauce. Everyone makes different tomato sauce. Mine is based on either my stewed and strained tomatoes, or two 28 oz. cans of organic (crushed is my favorite) tomatoes. Then I add 2 or 3 jars of tomato paste, salt, basil, and then sautéed onions and garlic in 1/4 c. olive oil.

Pour sauce on crust.

I sauté some vegetables in olive oil, usually onions, garlic, zucchini, peppers. I put them on my side of the pizza on top of the sauce. I don't like cheese, so we have a his and hers side. :<)

I used to put on the cheese and then the vegetables on top, but my husband heard from another teacher at school that in Canada they put on the veggies and top with cheese, so that's the way he's trying it tonight.

Bake at 400º until crust is done, about 30 minutes.

Thursday Thirteen/Shoulds

Thirteen things I should be doing instead of making this list, in no particular order.

1. Writing Christmas cards
2. Getting out the tree decorations
3. Decorating the house
4. Vacuuming the house
5. Walking with my dogs
6. Doing laundry
7. Christmas shopping
8. Doing yoga
9. Wrapping Christmas presents
10. Reading
11. Getting supper started
12. Grocery shopping
13. Reading other blogs

Quote du jour/Gladys Taber

Dark comes down early, and in the country we eat supper by the time the night settles in, which means we are through early and have some time to read. The books we never got around to in the summer come into their own.
Gladys Taber

Today's Christmas cd/White Christmas

Rosemary Clooney/White Christmas/1996

I can hardly believe this album is ten years old and that Rosemary Clooney has been gone for four years. I loved her from the time I first saw White Christmas at the theatre with my parents. The song, Count Your Blessings made such an impression on me as a little girl, and I still believe the lyrics are words to live by. This cd offers a full range of holiday music from the light and breezy Santa Claus is Coming to Town to all the songs that bring a lump to my throat; the aforementioned Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep), Christmas Time is Here, The Spirit of Christmas, and my very, very most favorite, Christmas Mem'ries.

Christmas Mem'ries
Written by Alan & Marilyn Bergman and Don Costa

Singing carols
Stringing popcorn
Making footprints in the snow
Christmas Mem'ries
They're the sweetest ones I know

Cookies baking
in the kitchen
Cards and ribbons
Frosty Christmas Mem'ries
Float like snowflakes in the air

And oh the joy of waking Christmas morning
The fam'ly round the tree
We had a way of making Christmas morning
as merry as can be
I close my eyes and see
shiny faces
of all the children
who now have children of their own
Funny, but comes December and
I remember every Christmas I've known

I close my eyes and see
shiny faces
of all the children who now have children
of their own
Funny, but comes December
and I remember
Every Christmas I've known
Shiny faces of all the children
from all the Christmases I've ever known

Thankfully, this album is still available, and I hope it always will be.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Quote du Jour/The Talmud

A quotation at the right moment is like bread to the famished.
The Talmud

I'm going to start posting a little entry as often as possible called quote du jour (of the day). This is something my husband does in his classroom, and I think it is a neat idea. I love quotes, and find many of them very meaningful.

Tools of the trade/Christmas cards

On the beautiful oak desk some friends gave us years ago, you can see my old, worn Susan Branch address book, the winter-y return address labels, the religious and secular stamps, the paper for including notes in the cards, the envelopes, and my cards, themselves. Every year we have a photo card. I often look at the beautiful boxed cards in the stores with appreciation, but when it comes down to it, we send a photo. This year, for the first time, the picture was taken by our son. For twenty years, the pictures were of the kids, and then last year we sent one of our four sleeping dogs. This year the sheep are the stars of the Christmas card show.

Today's Christmas cd/The John Rutter Christmas Album

The Cambridge Singers/The John Rutter Christmas Album/2002 (this compilation)

This is a cd of choral music. You may read more about it and hear some samples here. And it is available at Amazon. I read that "It has been said of John Rutter that he has become the musical equivalent of Dickens, synonymous with the season." I so agree. The voices are achingly beautiful, and his music is cheerful, hopeful, uplifting.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Today's Christmas cd/Jazz for the Holidays

Jazz for the Holidays/2005

This is a great jazz collection from Martha Stewart Living Music. It includes older jazz like Winter Weather by Peggy Lee with Benny Goodman and Santa Baby by Eartha Kitt; and newer music like Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! by Chris Botti and I'll Be Home For Christmas by Steve Tyrell. I love collections of music for the variety of songs and also because so often they lead me to new artists. I ended up buying Botti's cd after hearing him on this one.

You may hear the music here.

Monday, December 11, 2006

They made it!

These are the deer I mentioned in my first blog entry. They survived hunting season! I'll try and get a closer photo another time when they visit.

Photo of my tbr challenge books

My first blogger book challenge

And now for my list in alphabetical order by author:

Girl Singer an autobiography by Rosemary Clooney with Joan Barthel

The Provincial Lady in Wartime by E.M. Delafield

Dandelions in a Jelly Jar by Traci DePree

The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby

Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee

The Child That Books Built A Life in Reading by Francis Spufford

A Right To Die by Rex Stout

The last three choices are in an omnibus called Life at Blandings by P.G. Wodehouse

The titles of the individual books are:

Something Fresh
Summer Lightening
Heavy Weather

Today's Christmas cd/Holly Eve

Linn Barnes-Allison Hampton/Holly Eve/2006

This is the newest cd by the people who did Yule which I spotlighted:

Today, as a light snow falls outside my window, I'm going to start my Christmas cards, with this music as the perfect accompaniment.

You may listen to In The Bleak Midwinter:

Friday, December 8, 2006

December 8

I didn't hear about it on the day itself. It was on the morning of December 9, 1980, as I was walking downstairs to the kitchen, that the lovely, familiar voice of Boston's public radio program, Morning Pro Musica, Robert J. Lurtsema told the listening world that John Lennon had been killed the night before. I sat right down on the stair, unable to proceed, sobbing. Wasn't it just a short time before I had to pull my car over and park so I could hear this wonderful new song John and Yoko were singing called (Just Like) Starting Over? How could this be real? I wanted to be with all those people in NYC. I couldn't believe how the world around me hadn't stopped; that there were actually many people living their lives as if nothing had happened, and weren't even talking about him. I wanted to be with others who understood the importance of this man in our lives.

As I tried to find the song to post here, I came upon a very moving tribute to him. A little piece of art at youtube.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Does the world need more chocolate chip cookie recipes? Well, it would seem so. I made these for the first time today, and they just may be the very best I've ever tasted. The recipe is from Alton Brown on the Food Network.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 cups flour; I used a mix of whole wheat and white
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of baking powder
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup softened butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips; I used Ghiradelli bittersweet

Preheat oven to 350º-375º depending on your oven. He called for 375, but that seemed a bit too hot for my oven.

Sift together the flour, salt, soda, and powder.

In a separate bowl, combine the egg, milk, and vanilla and bring to room temperature.

Cream the butter (I used my KitchenAid), and add sugar. Then add egg mixture.

Slowly add flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Then add chocolate chips.

He suggests using parchment paper on the cookie sheets. I did, but I think you could make fine cookies without it.

Bake 13-15 minutes, checking after 5 minutes. Rotate cookie sheet for more even browning.

Cool on cooling racks.

The amount of cookies depends on the size you make them. I had a little over four dozen. Boy, are these ever good!

Thursday Thirteen/Christmas movies

I've enjoyed reading the "thursday thirteen" entries that many bloggers post, and so now that I have my own blog, and because I love making lists, I thought I might join in the fun. Here are my thirteen favorite Christmas movies, in no particular order:

1. A Child's Christmas in Wales

2. Holiday

3. Holiday Inn

4. Grumpy Old Men

5. A Christmas Story

6. Trapped In Paradise

7. The Homecoming

8. Love Actually

9. A Charlie Brown Christmas

10. It's A Wonderful Life

11. Christmas In Connecticut

12. Miracle on 34th Street

13. The Bishop's Wife

Today's Christmas cd/Christmas Songs

Diana Krall/Christmas Songs/2005

It's time to add a little jazz to the Christmas season. This is a terrific cd with all the songs I love, such as The Christmas Song, I'll Be Home For Christmas, Christmas Time is Here. Radio Blog Club doesn't offer any selections, but you may hear it at her website:

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

"Holiday" movies

All good things come to those who wait! I've been waiting impatiently for both these movies to come out on dvd, and now they have. I've just ordered them and am so excited to watch them this Christmas season. They are my two favorite old movies. Holiday Inn is, of course, pure entertainment. Lots of singing by Bing, and dancing by Fred. The Inn is so beautiful, just like all those interiors of houses in such films as Christmas in Connecticut and Bringing Up Baby. Because we have seen it so often, we can quote passages and sing many of the songs. Holiday is a quite different kind of movie. Serious issues are broached, and as in real life, they aren't fully resolved. You know that the Lew Ayres character will never break away and will not stop drinking. I don't think Katharine Hepburn has ever been better, or Cary Grant more appealing. And the movie features my favorite on-screen married couple ever; Edward Everett Horton and Jean Dixon as the Potters are just wonderful. And I love their little apartment which suits them so well. Both these movies I can watch over and over again, and never, ever tire of them.

Today's Christmas cd/On Christmas Night

Cherish The Ladies/On Christmas Night/2004

I've seen this group three times, and simply love them. This cd is the best yet. If there are angels, then I would expect their voices to sound like Heidi Talbot's. You may visit their website here:

There you may find their touring schedule, and if you live near any of the cities, I would recommend you get tickets! Wonderful, wonderful music, with many stories and much humor.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas

My favorite parts of Madeleine L'Engle's books have always been the house and land descriptions; those vast kitchens with fireplaces, the stone walls, the bedrooms. Once the children were off having adventures, I found my interest waning. What makes this book such a favorite of mine is that just about the whole story takes place at home. I love such sentences as:

"Our kitchen is a big wandery room that turns corners and has unexpected nooks and crannies. In the dining room section in the winter the fire crackles merrily."

"At night the spruce shone so brightly that it could be seen all the way from the main road at the bottom of the hill."

"Over the kitchen counter is a cubby hole with two shelves."

The main character in the book is a girl of seven, who is to be an angel in the Christmas pageant. She feels that she is the "ugly duckling", skinny with legs so long she keeps falling. She overhears the [mean!] pageant director speak of her as "awkward and ungraceful". When she tells her parents, they come up with a solution, rather than just saying that isn't true and she is really fine. They have her practice, in the age-old way, walking with a book on her head. It of course works to add grace and composure to her role as an angel.

This is such a wonderful story of a close and loving family; very soothing and reassuring for little ones, hopefully snuggled with their own parents, listening to these lovely words.

Today's Christmas cd/Yule

Linn Barnes and Allison Hampton/Yule/1995

I awoke this morning wanting to hear quiet, soothing Christmas music, and so chose this one. Barnes plays guitars and lute, and Hampton plays the Celtic harp. There are 19 songs which run about an hour. The listener can feel a wave of calm wash over as the cd begins. It is deeply lovely.

They have a nice website where you can see all their available music. I've ordered Holly Eve to add to our Christmas music.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Today's Christmas cd/Home For The Holidays

Stephanie Davis/Home For The Holidays/2005

I'm listening to this for the first time today. It is one of my new Christmas cds. I bought it at iTunes, so the photo actually comes from the cover on her website. I very recently discovered this artist while listening to A Prairie Home Companion one evening. She did a song on the show that captured my heart, called Goodnight Little Cowpup. I went right over to iTunes and bought her Crocus in the Snow cd. When I saw on her website:

that there was a Christmas cd, I knew I had to get it. The music is wonderful; some of the classics I love like Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm; some wonderful Western swing songs; All I Want For Christmas is You sung with the almost 80 year old, great Ray Price; and a song she wrote, which Garth Brooks sang called The Gift. I've become a big Stephanie Davis fan. You may hear her at this site:

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Advent Wreath

Tonight, this first Sunday of Advent, I lit a candle on the Advent wreath. It was made by a local florist, and I think it is so beautiful. I believe this is only the second time we've had an Advent wreath. The first one we made with the kids when they were little. The following information I got online from fact monster.

Advent is the period preceding the Christmas season. It begins on the Sunday nearest November 30, the feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle, and covers four Sundays. Because the day it begins changes from year to year, so does the length of each Advent season. In 2006, Advent begins on December 3.

The word advent, from Latin, means “the coming.” For centuries, Advent has been a time of spiritual reflection as well as cheer and anticipation. Even as the Christmas season has become more secular-with advertisers urging holiday gift-givers to buy and buy some more-Advent still brings joy and the observance of ancient customs. Christian families find quiet moments lighting candles in the Advent wreath, and children use Advent calendars to count the days until Christmas.

Advent Wreaths

Advent wreaths have their origins in the folk traditions of northern Europe, where in the deep of winter people lit candles on wheel-shaped bundles of evergreen. Both the evergreen and the circular shape symbolized ongoing life. The candlelight gave comfort at this darkest time of the year as people looked forward to the longer days of spring. Later, Eastern European Christians adopted this practice. By the sixteenth century, they were making Advent wreaths much as we know them today. An advent wreath traditionally contains four candles-three purple and one rose. Purple dyes were one so rare and costly that they were associated with royalty; the Roman Catholic Church has long used this color around Christmas and Easter to honor Jesus. The three purple candles in the Advent wreath symbolize hope, peace, and love. These candles are lit on the first, second, and fourth Sundays of Advent. The rose candle, which symbolizes joy, is usually lit on the third Sunday.

Sometimes a fifth candle is placed inside the Advent wreath. This candle is lit on Christmas Day. It is white, the color associated with angels and the birth of Jesus.

Because Advent wreaths are an informal celebration, not all are the same. Instead of purple candles, some people use blue, which recalls the color of the night sky before daylight returns. Others use all white candles.