31 October 2005

Stories for the Day

"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"

Visit the real Sleepy Hollow.

"Rip Van Winkle"

"The Monkey's Paw"

"An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"

"The Interlopers"

"A Spectral Collie" (not a great, but everyone knows I'm a Lassie fan...)

This is really suspense, not spooky, but it's my favorite short story along with "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty": "The Most Dangerous Game"

Incidentally, the site all these stories are on, Classic Reader.com, has a super selection of older short stories and books, including more stories by H.H. Munro ("Saki"), whom I love.

Padding in On Little Cat Feet

It was a perfect fall morning: actually some daylight out there now that Daylight Freakin' Savings Time is over. There was a light mist in low areas and as you approached the river, a great bank of mist overlaid its length with a ragged edge at the top as it interfaced with the air. As you approach it, it is white, but as you get closer and then go through, it turns a wispy grey and the air is definitely more chilled.

Wore my cat mask and white gloves into the building hoping to get a laugh out of the usual security guard, but she wasn't there. Last year half of everyone was in costume and now I'm the lone holdout here (and I don't usually get into this stuff). The folks in Facilities and Construction were more fun.

Oh, well, if I get sick of it, I can take the cat mask off and still be in costume: Famous Movie Title with the "N" Missing.

You know: Me in Black. :-)

Fun special on HGTV last night called Extreme Halloween about how people decorate their homes. One couple has a big old house with a permanent horror museum set up and then on Halloween they dress up and decorate the rooms differently and have a haunted house. Another lady does a display aimed at children from two through five: spooky but not scary. My favorite was the couple who carve a giant pumpkin into a Halloween display. It was pretty cool.

"An’ the Gobble-uns’ll Git You..."

Little Orphant Annie by James Whitcomb Riley.

Who was Little Orphant Annie? From Indiana University's James Whitcomb Riley site:
The poem we familiarly call "Little Orphant Annie" was first printed in the Indianapolis Journal on November 15, 1885 as "The Elf Child." It appeared under that title in Character Sketches The Boss Girl, a Christmas Story and other Sketches published by the Bowen-Merrill Company in 1886. Orphaned during the American Civil War, Annie, whose name was actually Mary Alice "Allie" Smith, came to stay with the Riley family in Greenfield during the winter of 1862. She performed household chores in exchange for her room and board. Allie enchanted the Riley children with tales, warning of the goblins below the stairs. When next published Riley altered the title to "Little Orphant Allie," but a typesetting error turned Allie into Annie. Riley contacted his publisher about a correction, but upon being informed that the edition was selling extremely well, he decided to leave the error intact. Allie grew up, married a fellow named Grey, and moved to the Indiana town of Philadelphia. When she was 74 she visited the Greenfield home. It was not until she was in her 70's that she knew that she was the heroine of Riley's poem.

30 October 2005

The Turnip King?

When you're watching your jack o'lantern glow on the porch or table this year, you might remember that the original "jack" was actually a turnip! The legend of the jack o'lantern comes from an old Irish story in which a man named Jack thrice tricked the Devil who had come to claim his soul. When Jack finally died the Devil got his due and sentenced Jack to wander the earth forever with a lantern made from a turnip. This is supposedly why you would often see eerie green light on a moon-dark night flickering in a swamp (it was actually caused by fungi which glow in the dark).

When the Irish came to America, the light in the jack o'lantern was transferred to the pumpkin. But in Great Britain turnips are still used and the classic scarecrow, like Worzel Gummidge of book and television fame, still has a head made from a large turnip.

28 October 2005

Christmas Music Year Round!

Ever just need some Christmas music? ("We need a little Christmas, right this very minute...")

Live365 Internet Radio - Thousands of Free Online Radio Stations

Plays on Real Player and, I suspect, Windows Media Player.

Just some of the stations:

Christmas Broadband

Christmas Notes

Christmas Radio.com

A Shiny New Christmas

Christmas at Planet Mike

Old-Time Radio Christmas (with Fibber McGee and Molly, My Favorite Husband, The Jack Benny Show, etc.)

Beautiful Christmas (Remember "beautiful music" stations with "the 36 Hours of Christmas?—this is supposed to duplicate it)

WinterScapes (emphasizes Celtic and New Age)

And since you might want music a little closer to the season we're in now <g>

Halloween Radio

27 October 2005

Stories, Music and More

This is a site I just found, SantaSearch. There's a big collection of Christmas stories under "Santa's Library."

22 October 2005

We Saw Our First Christmas Lights Tonight!

No, I'm not kidding, although I think it might be a case of they never took their Christmas lights down. But we did pass a house that had white lights and blinking colored lights on their bushes outside—and they weren't Hallowe'en lights, either.

We tried to go to M.C. Twinklins, a Christmas store, but the silly place closed at six. It didn't look very big, anyway, and I think we found, totally by accident, a new Christmas tree last night. It was at B.J.'s and made just the same way as "Sara," our present tree, except it's seven feet tall.

A Christmas newsgroup I'm on talks about a place called Bronners, but it's in Michigan. Now there's a Christmas store!

21 October 2005

Friday Five

Don't Fall For It

1. What do you like or dislike about autumn?

I love autumn. It's my favorite season. It's when the weather gets cool, but not cold, and I love the colors of the turning leaves. I love the scent of burning leaves as long as they're not too close. I love the beautiful blue skies and the wispy white cirrus clouds. I love the fall foods: gingerbread and hot chocolate and pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread. I love the fall holidays, even Hallowe'en, which has never been my favorite, but it's a fun dress-up day. I love honoring the brave men and women who have given of their lives to serve their country on Veterans Day. I love the reunion and cameraderie (and the turkey and butternut squash!) of Thanksgiving, I love reading about the customs of St. Nicholas Day and St. Lucy's Day even if we here don't observe them.

2. Have you raked leaves into a pile just to jump in them?

No. We never had enough leaves at our house to do that and I wouldn't jump in a pile of leaves from our yard; it probably has cat poop and mosquitoes in it.

3. Have you ever carved a pumpkin and how did it turn out?

No. My mom didn't make pumpkin pie and wouldn't have wanted to waste the innards of the pie. Besides, if you put a pumpkin out in our neighborhood, the stupid jerk kids would have it spattered all over the sidewalk in a couple of days.

4. Have you ever eaten anything made from pumpkins other than pie?

Yes, pumpkin bread and pumpkin muffins. The pumpkin bread at Bob Evans restaurant (they sell it in loaves, too) is superb!

5. Where is a good spot to see the leaves change color where you live?

Not around here, maybe, except in the park nearby. It's lovely up in Chattanooga and up at Helen in the North Georgia mountains, too; I hear it's nice at Brasstown Bald and in Blairsville, too.

20 October 2005

That Plastic World We [Have to] Live In

While searching for places that sell artificial Christmas trees in the area, I found a link to this story, "Real" Christmas Trees a Falling Trend , about Christmas tree growers' scorn for artificial ones and their purchasers.

I love real trees. I used to even love the wonderfully lopsided trees we got in the later 50's and early 60's, before they started to routinely "shave" firs and spruces to get them into that perfect cone shape. It was always a challenge to fit the worst bare spot up against the wall or in front of the window where it would be noticed less and artfully drape lesser bare spots with extra ornaments and a large quantity of silver icicles (forever known, as in many other homes, as "tinsel").

My folks quit getting a real tree when I was about eight or nine, citing the exorbitant prices of fresh ones at that time. What they didn't tell me was that it was also because of my allergy.

I realized this the one year we had a real tree, provided by some friends after we had a run of bad luck. It was a beautiful frasier fir and when James walked into the house he took a deep breath and sighed, "Now that smells like Christmas."

Three hours after the tree entered our apartment, my nose swelled up and remained that way for the next two and a half weeks. Eventually I started coughing and ended up with bronchitis.

So when the tree growers complain that artificial trees are "sucking the spirit out of Christmas" and dismiss all buyers of such with distaste, they ought to remember that it's better to have a fake tree than sit wheezing in the doctor's office waiting to be prescribed $$$ worth of medicine.

19 October 2005

Small Wishes

It's still been pretty warm; in fact they think we might break the record today and it could be 87°F. At least it's been pretty cool at night, although it was only in the high fifties last night as opposed to in the forties Sunday and Monday night. They're saying the real chill will come for the weekend.

I hope it gets cold again for Halloween. I really would like to wear my cat costume, but it has long sleeves and is too hot for a warm day.

18 October 2005

Well, That's Stating It a Bit Depressingly

You Are Changing Leaves

Pretty, but soon dead.

How about "You dress the tree with a blaze of color before it sleeps to awaken refreshed the next spring?"

Ho Ho Whole?

More interesting-looking Christmas books:

This one you apparently either love or you hate, as the author traces pagan practices that added to the legend of Santa Claus:

Santa Claus: Last of the Wild Men

Don't know the contents of this volume, but everyone seems to love it:

The Story of Santa Claus


Saint Nicholas

The Real St. Nicholas

Plus Jeff Guinn has done a sequel to his charming Autobiography of Santa Claus, starring Layla (Mrs. Claus) in Mrs. Claus Saves Christmas.

And I still heartily recommend Britney Ryan's wonderful modern-yet-old-fashioned The Legend of Holly Claus, which reads like an old Frank Stockton or L. Frank Baum story and is accompanied by the most beautiful pen-and-ink illustrations.

14 October 2005

A Long Time Coming

Looks like summer is holding on with her clenched teeth everywhere: I was skimming the fall foliage boards yesterday and it turns out the leaves haven’t yet peaked up in mid-Vermont and New Hampshire and the temps are still too warm. (At the moment they’re being drenched.) Most new Englanders and eastern New Yorkers take advantage of the Columbus Day long weekend to go up there for some “leaf peeping,” since this is when the color ordinarily peaks in that area. One person talked about going up Mount Washington—where the winter winds blow with blizzard force almost constantly and it’s been known to get to -60°F—looking forward to some really cool temperatures and it was 62°F . He was pretty hacked!

The weather report this morning talked about how unseasonable our weather here has been; that the temperature has barely dipped under 60°F and then only twice where the average for this time of year is 53°F. We still have our air conditioning on, which is unheard of and annoying, since the bill will drop to a quarter of what it is now when we finally shut down for the season.

Of course there’ll be no respite once the heat has to go on: they’re talking about a 50 percent rise in natural gas prices this year. Thank God it isn’t electric heat!

It was, at least, chilly this morning. I’m dying for some nice crisp fall air, the kind that makes you feel alive and puts the heart back into you.

12 October 2005

Upcoming Christmas Books That Sound Great

Given that I love history, One Christmas in Washington sounds excellent. I've never read any of Bercuson's other work, however. Maybe this will be at Sam's.

Now, Christmas on Television sounds right up my alley. I wonder if she will just cover modern shows or all of them, like Lassie and specials like Amahl and the Night Visitors? Diane Werts did some great articles about Remember WENN during the series' run. But, yow, look at the price!

And there's American Christmases as well.

10 October 2005

Fall Lanterns

I have been in love with Chinese lanterns since I was a small girl and could only refer to them as "those cute orange flowers that look like baby pumpkins." This is why I was so delighted when we went into the Michael's store in Warwick, RI, and found not only cattails but the beautiful orangy lanterns as well. I had never seen them in either Michael's or JoAnn in Georgia. We packed some other fall flowers that we bought, but carefully brought the cattails and Chinese lanterns home on the shelf at the back of the car. I finally found a lovely terra cotta vase for them a few weeks back, but the grouping still looked a bit empty.

While I was looking around JoAnn today, I came upon a floral stem that someone had left in the scrapbooking supplies: Chinese lanterns! Sure enough, this year they had a few scant stems. Theirs were colored a bit like a candle flame, reddish at the bottom shading to yellow at the tip, but still acceptable.

By the way, I never knew until a few years ago that cattails were Biblical. Those "bulrushes" that Moses was left in were cattails.

Here's more about Chinese lanterns—I didn't know they were perennials.

09 October 2005

"His Nose Blinks Like a Blinkin' Beacon..."

Here's something cool linked on the Rankin-Bass site: CBS's page for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It's from last year, but it has some cool stuff for fans and children, including a screensaver and wallpaper, plus some pages to color.

Ornament Sighted, Grabbed Same

The Hallmark store called with news that they had an Enterprise ornament, so when we finished errands we went up to Town Center to pick it up. We walked about a bit to get exercise and also stopped at Social Expressions, which sells American Greetings cards and Carlton stuff, including the Carlton ornaments. Most of them aren't quite as...finished looking as the Hallmark versions. They tend to be a bit more garishly colored in general (but not always) and a bit more cutesy-poo in some cases. But I was surprised to see they had some really cute ornaments this year (although unfortunately they're not doing the Lassie ornaments anymore). They have a Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer ornament as well (boy, Rankin-Bass must have made a good marketing deal!). This version is Santa with baby Rudolph, and when you press the button Stan Francis sings "Jingle Jingle." They also have a Schoolhouse Rock ornament: yes, it's "Conjunction Junction, what's your function"! And a Rocky and Bullwinkle ornament, and one of Alvin and the Chipmunks (which sings "Christmas, Don't Be Late").

Oh, and to the person we know who likes those old monster movies: there's a Godzilla that lights up and roars. Thought you might be interested! (Hope your mom is better.)

By the way, Hallmark has one of the cleverest ornaments I've ever seen. It looks like a 1950s record player and even closes up with the classic little latches. It comes with three plastic "records." You put any one of them on the spindle and then move the tone arm to "play" the record. And when you do it plays the tune on the record! Too cool.

Notice that the trees are starting to turn bit by bit, although we saw a pretty little maple tree about half turned yellow this afternoon and some others in a nursery that were starting to glow red. Temps still are 60 or above at night, which means we can't shut off the air conditioner yet; it will be too warm to sleep upstairs. Sigh.

08 October 2005

Summer Loosens Her Grip

...but will she do it before I lose mine?

She's not letting go easily. It's still going to be in the 80s for a few more days, but it has definitely become cooler. It was cloudy most of the morning and we drove around with the truck windows open and were not hot. In fact, when we were out early this morning and later tonight, the breeze coming in the window actually chilled me a little. (With the hot flashes these days, being cold is a good thing.) One could almost, almost feel that little bit of chill, the sharp scent in the air that tells you it's gingerbread and hot chocolate weather. It's hard to believe it's Columbus Day weekend again and this blog is two years old.

We went to Hobby Lobby and wound reveling in their autumn decor area: lengths and lengths of autumn leaf garlands in brilliant saffrons, pumpkins, scarlet, gold, and russet, and autumn and Halloween and Thanksgiving bric-a-brac. We emerged at the Christmas trees; as I mentioned last year, we are going to need a new tree—poor "Serendipity" is developing loose branches and is shedding needles like a real tree. I've looked at artificial Christmas trees in several places and the prices are appalling. You almost cannot find a non pre-lighted tree any longer, many of them have long needles, which neither of us like, and there doesn't seem to be any such thing as a "middle-sized" tree any longer. There are 4 1/2 foot trees and then there are seven foot trees, and nothing in between. I had been wanting a six foot tree and haven't seen one yet this year and saw very few last year.

We also checked out the new Hallmark ornaments. There were very few either of us wanted last year, except for getting the new airplane (full size and mini). This year...oh, dear. There is a Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer mini, and a Lady and the Tramp ornament, and the "Puppy Love" ornament is a West Highland White terrier...

James was excited because there is an Enterprise A this year; we've missed most of the classic Star Trek starships because we went to look at them too late (we did get NX from Enterprise). Well, they have the display copy, but we couldn't find any more on the rack. The clerk said they had a bunch of ornaments they had not yet unpacked and took James' name. Cross fingers.

04 October 2005

Happy Rosh Hashanah!

The year 5766, by reckoning of the Jewish calendar.

I feel the urge to go watch some Brooklyn Bridge episodes...