30 November 2012

Postponed Joy

Well, snellfrocky. Today is usually the morning I go to the Apple Annie Craft Show, but I had our extra phone batteries/chargers scheduled to come today by FedEx and a signature was necessary. I knew FedEx Guy would not be early!

First thing I did was sleep in...until 8:40! What a luxury! I'd woken up cold last night and so snuggling was so very cozy. Then I got up and had breakfast and put Christmas carols on the television. I finished my book reviews for November (surreptitiously sneaking into the bathroom to finish up Quirky QWERTY, which I started last night—it wasn't a long book). Cleaned off the front of my desk. Went downstairs and shelved all the books that have been piling up down there since before September. Have filled a box with books. James and I figure that perhaps we can just keep the books—donating them is giving us no especially bargains at tax time—and then every so often take a ride up to McKay's to trade them in. God knows there were more books I could have bought yesterday.

Once that was done, I vacuumed the stairs and then finished indexing our vacation photos, and did a backup of the entire hard drive. By this time it was nearly 1:30...and the doorbell rang! It was FedEx! I decanted the batteries posthaste, stuck them in to charge, and dressed quickly to head out to Apple Annie, stopping at Publix on the way there to get money and paper towels.

I had a nice stroll amongst the craft booths. Some really pretty stained glass in one booth! Many things I couldn't afford, but loved, like the small themed Christmas trees and the beautiful Christmas quilts (a small foot-throw was $90, but I know all the work that goes into them). The papyrus lady recognized me. I bought a pretty print of The Seasons and a gift (plus a small extra gift). The prim lady was there for the last time; she is retiring. Even though she's having a going-out-of-business sale next week, I did buy a few things, including a cute gift. I was attracted by a blue, Nordic-design winter hat made by one of the mission countries (St. Ann's is a LaSalette church), so I bought one.

My favorite part of Apple Annie day is going in the Garden of Reconciliation. At this season it is somber, with brown leaves scattering the walks. There is a small statue of St. Francis at one end and one of the Virgin at the other, plus a cross. In the middle of the area is a small waterfall with a weeping figure beside the pond, and overhanging that area is a scarlet maple. The top of the tree was "blown," but the bottom was still a brilliant red, painting a lovely picture. I stayed for a while, and then was able to walk into the sanctuary of the church. It was dark and quiet, and I said some prayers and felt so peaceful.

Came home just before James did, so decided to take the fall/Thanksgiving items off the porch. Right now I can only replace it with the Christmas wreath and the St. Nicholas banner, but it's a start. :-)

27 November 2012

Spotlight on Holiday Classics: "Merry Gentlemen"

Year: 1978
Network: BBC
Stars: Christopher Timothy, Robert Hardy, Peter Davison, Carol Drinkwater

The BBC's well-loved adaptation of James Herriot's hit bestseller about his 1930s veterinary days, All Creatures Great and Small, was into its second season when this warm and loving little Christmas story was presented. Each episode usually presented at least three of Herriot's literary stories combined in a cohesive tale—and not necessarily taking place when Herriot set them. The three stories used in this episode, for instance, did not take place at Christmas (and a later episode featured a story that was set at Christmas in print, but not on television) and were slightly changed to fit the Christmas theme. In the first subplot, the vets try to save a donkey foal, the pet of a little gypsy girl, that has caught tetanus, and in the second, the pampered Pekinese dog "Tricki Woo" has come down with jaundice due to an inappropriate diet supplied by his doting owner, Mrs. Pumphrey.

Two humorous tales intertwining with the two animal dramas are Siegfried's tasting of Mrs. Hewison's Christmas cake and his efforts to keep brother Tristan from finding out what is kept in the long-locked dining room at Skeldale House, all connected by their efforts to have a "real Yorkshire Christmas with all the trimmings."

This episode just reeks nostalgia, from the Skeldale house set with its "homely" wallpapers and shabby furniture that so reminded me of some of my older relatives' homes, and an atmospheric scene with James and Tristan in the kitchen where the wind "wuthers" around the house along with an opening scene with carolers. Later the men of the household go out to the woods to gather holly and cut down a Christmas tree—not the shaved perfect trees of today, but a natural fir eventually decorated with the old-style Christmas bulbs, baubles, and tinsel. Robert Hardy is especially effective as the often manic Siegfried and James and Helen's romance always seems fresh and appealing. Donkeys, dogs, secret rooms and Christmas cake combine for a lovely Yuletide bauble of its own.

Spotlight on Holiday Classics: "Silly, But It's Fun"

Year: 1977
Network: BBC
Stars: Richard Briers, Felicity Kendal, Penelope Keith, Paul Eddington

In this Christmas edition of one of Britain's best-known comedy series, The Good Life, shown here "across the pond" as Good Neighbors, Tom and Barbara Good, who several years before scandalized their conformist suburban neighborhood—especially their social-climbing next door neighbor Margo Leadbetter and her executive husband Jerry (the Goods' best friends)—when Tom chucked his job and the two began to practice self-sufficiency in their sizable back garden, complete with a goat, pigs and chickens along with their vegetables. Plots revolved around the Goods' efforts to survive, whether growing veg for their larder or bartering for goods.

By the time this Christmas special aired, the Goods were well involved in their lifestyle, making simple holiday preparations like newspaper paper chains, a "bonsai Christmas tree" made of a discarded top of a larger tree, a Yule log centerpiece, and Tom's home-made Christmas crackers, wrought with newspaper and a framework of toilet paper rolls. Meanwhile, Margo gets in "high dudgeon" when the Christmas tree she orders is six and one-quarter inches too short and therefore sends back the van with her entire supply of festive supplies: tree, decorations, food and all. When the company won't deliver the correct order on Christmas Day, Margo and Jerry face a bleak day—until the Goods arrive.

Especially if you have seen the series and are invested in the characters, this is a funny and charming story of the two mismatched couples and their holiday preparations and celebration. There's a hilarious exchange with a deliveryman, the dispatching of Jerry's "political chickenpox," the party games (Felicity Kendal and Paul Eddington play so well off each other, as do Richard Briers and Penelope Keith), and the final scene is the perfect capper. The Goods illustrate handily what Christmas should be, not expensive doo-dads and perfunctory parties, but the sharing of good fellowship. A warm and cozy story wrapped up in homemade holiday glow.

Lift a glass of "peapod burgundy" and enjoy!

25 November 2012

"Stir Up" Your Sunday

With nothing to do with horses and stirrups!

In Great Britain, the final Sunday of the Liturgical year, the Sunday before Advent begins, is "Stir-Up Sunday," taken from the Collect for the day from the Book of Common Prayer:

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Since a good Christmas "pud" needs to rest for some weeks before Christmas, it was traditional to bake the pudding on Stir-Up Sunday and then put it in a cool dry place until the holiday.


Stir Up Sunday and Christmas Pudding Traditions

Stir-Up Sunday and Christmas Pudding

John Lewis: Stir-Up Sunday

23 November 2012

Over the River And Through the Woods (and the Stores)

It's been an eventful two days!

We usually spend Thanksgiving with our "friends who have become family," but this year my mother-in-law and sister-in-law invited us to have Thanksgiving dinner with them. Accordingly, we were up at eight o'clock to get dressed and walk and feed Willow. I shouldn't have done it, but I gave Schuyler a break on her medicine this morning. I figured she needed something to be thankful for, too. We left the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade on for her and commenced to traveling.

Before leaving, we stopped at the new Race Trac gas station on Spring Road. This is a huge gas station that has just been opened for a few months. It's not quite as big as the "travel stations" on the freeway and  has no showers, but it's got a huge selection of food. I was Bad with a Capital B: got a pack of Hostess chocolate cupcakes for breakfast. I haven't had them in, literally, years! Also got a big container of sliced Granny Smith apples to share with James, and both papers, the Atlanta and the Marietta, and perused the sales ads for tomorrow for about half the ride down to Warner Robins, when I took over driving.

We hit town about 11:30. Wow, the city limit is almost to the freeway now. The city already had their Christmas decorations up, and when we drove past the stores at the edge of town, we saw people camping out for Black Friday (and "Grey Thursday," as they are calling the Thanksgiving night openings) in front of Best Buy even there!

Finally got to bring Mom her birthday and Mother's Day gift, as we hadn't been there since last Christmas: James was either working over the weekend or something else came up or we were away or they were busy. I made this with grapevine wreath with yellow forsythia wound in it with a hint of purple flowers, with a purple ribbon and some purple butterflies for trim.

We had a nice relaxing afternoon. The end of the parade was just scrolling by and we watched the National Dog Show and then football. We had dinner about 2:30 or so. Sadly, Sabra and her fiance were unable to join us as she wasn't feeling well. And, like my dad before me, I dozed off on the sofa. :-) Later we had dessert, but my stupid digestion picked that time to be a brat, even though I ate only a very small portion of turkey breast, James' biscuit stuffing, and some more olives along with some milk. I could barely eat a sliver of pumpkin pie and apple pie.

With a beautiful sunset on the horizon, we left for home. Neither of us slept well, and James was getting so fatigued on the way up that I took over driving at Locust Grove. I had sorted out the sale papers when we got to the house, and now I cut out the things I wanted to look into today and placed the name of the store and the opening hour on them. I cut a couple of Wally World and Best Buy items, even though both stores were opening tonight and I didn't expect to find the items left over.

James was off today and when I first asked him if he wanted to go with me he demurred in favor of sleeping late; however, he was awake when my alarm rang and was close after me. I gulped down some yogurt as James walked the dog and then I grabbed two Atkins bars, one for each of us.

I was headed for Sam's Club, which had Brave on Blu-Ray for $10. (Almost thirty regular price!) We were early, so we stopped at Walmart, which also was selling the same Blu-Ray. We couldn't find it, but we did find Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows. It wasn't on sale anymore, though, but it was still pretty cheap for a Blu-Ray, so I bought it. It was a fortuitous stop, because James' One-Touch diabetes testing gadget was throwing error messages, and Walmart had one for $10.

BTW, this Walmart was nearly empty! Opening last night sure cut down on the crowd this morning. I don't think there were a dozen cars there.

So we got in line at Sam's, where people were turning back in droves because they were out of cell phones and large-screen televisions. We did get Brave and I picked up something else that I can't mention because it will hint at another gift. I also picked up James' Christmas gift.

Just for the heck of it, we did go down to Best Buy, and, again, because it opened last night, there was hardly anyone there at 7:30. To our surprise, they had season five of The Big Bang Theory still in stock, only for $9 (they wanted $30 at Sam's and $35 full price at Best Buy!), and I found Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows on Blu-Ray in a bargain bin for $4! So I bought it anyway and later took the Walmart copy back.

Meanwhile, we went across the street to Office Depot. James was looking into getting a new laser printer. His printer, the color one, messed up some time ago when he was trying to print out some decals. They stuck to the roller and made a god-awful stink and it hasn't printed well since, plus ink doesn't stick to labels (yes, laser labels!). I've dreamed of printing Christmas labels on it, but it just flakes off them. Then we discovered that by the time he bought color cartridges for it, he would have spent enough to buy a new printer. So he found a nice Brother, but it wasn't in stock; we're having it shipped to the store.

I got another gift, a spare wireless mouse, some Christmas labels, and a desk blotter for work.

By this time, we were ravenous and went to the IHOP for breakfast (another place that wasn't crowded). James can now eat off the senior menu, too, so he had the sampler and I had the senior French toast. The drinks (his cola, my milk, and the two orange juices) nearly cost as much as the meals! Played on the wifi while there.

Then we headed for Cost Plus World Market. This year they are giving away Life of Pi tiger ornaments—and more free movie tickets! Also got something to finish up a gift basket.

By now it was going on time to head for the hobby shop. Today and tomorrow are the last two days they will be open (ironically they're going out of business on Small Business Saturday). (On the way we stopped at MicroCenter and I was able to pick up another gift.) The shop was very crowded (gee, if the crowd had been this big when they were doing regular business, they wouldn't be going out of business) and I sat and read as always as James made his last purchases.

If you thought it was time to head for home, well, not quite yet. We went back to Sam's to check on something, and while we were there I got more Chex and James some chips for his lunchbox, and James got me a copy of Call the Midwife for Christmas, then we bought gasoline for the car, and returned the DVD to Walmart. On the way home we stopped at Publix to get some lunch and picked up some turkey wings for dinner (that's all they had in dark meat). Even after all that turkey yesterday, we were still in the mood for more today!

James wondered if I felt like going out again. You see, we've both been having problems with our cell phones. Mine has had trouble getting a GPS signal and the speakerphone is not working properly on James'. He had an interview a month or so ago that I think was negatively impacted by the fact that the speakerphone did not work properly. So we went to the Verizon store, casting covetous eyes on the new Galaxy S III. But those were $200 each, so we went instead with the Galaxy Nexus instead, which had a complete price rebate. Of course we had to give up our unlimited data plan to get new phones, but we rarely go much over 2GB a month, so we could get a very small plan. It took a while because their (Windows) computers were working improperly, but everything was eventually transferred over and we could come home.

So now it's just a matter of re-downloading everything.and setting things up. Fortunately, these units also come with changeable batteries! I was hoping not to have to get a phone without that feature, remembering all the people at DragonCon scurrying to plug their iPhones in at every meeting room I was in! And the 4G is mighty quick; in fact, it's faster than the T1 line at work!

Exhausted when we got home, but did cook up the turkey wings—really the "drumettes" from two turkey wings—which we had with gravy and James' leftover stuffing, and a thin slice of Entemann's chocolate loaf cake each for dessert. Watched the news and Jeopardy and the repeat of the dog show, and I finally put on a couple of Lassie Christmas episodes to relax to.

22 November 2012

21 November 2012

Spotlight on Holiday Classics: The Thanksgiving Treasure

Year: 1973
Network: CBS
Stars: Lisa Lucas, Jason Robards, Mildred Natwick, Barnard Hughes, Franny Michel

This was the first of three sequels to the Emmy Award winning The House Without a Christmas Tree, which first aired in 1972. The story is set in the fall of 1947 where young Addie Mills, now eleven years old, is "horse crazy," initially in ecstasy over an autographed photograph of Roy Rogers and Trigger ("Smartest horse in the movies!" declares the photo) she brings home from the post office. She hitches a ride with her dad when he embarks on errands and meets crabby Walter Rhenquist, a reclusive farmer who, in the past, asked her father to dig a pond on his property. When the pond didn't hold water, Rhenquist didn't finish paying James Mills, and the two men have been feuding ever since.

Addie cannot help but remember Rhenquist when her class has a lesson about Thanksgiving and making strangers into friends, so, when she can't talk her friend Cora Sue into inviting Rhenquist to her aunt's home for dinner, she devises a way to secrete food away and bring the old codger a Thanksgiving dinner. From this small beginning a friendship is born, set alight by a pinto horse named Treasure.

This is a "slice of life" nostalgic story on the level of Capote's A Christmas Memory. Filmed cheaply on videotape like other specials of the era, it nevertheless evokes strong memories of the past, from the radio play the schoolchildren put on to the traditional Thanksgiving mural at the back of the classroom, the old-fashioned Thanksgiving meal side dishes one rarely sees today (creamed onions, chestnut-flavored dressing) to the vintage clothing, and even the grimy, tattered interior of Rhenquist's house, which reflects his depression since the death of his wife, and the rural Canadian countryside that stands in for 1940s Nebraska so perfectly that you feel you are back in the postwar era. Indeed, one of these scenes features Addie and Cora Sue trading corny old riddles during a bike ride as real 1940s kids might have done.

The key word is "real." The nice thing about the protagonists is they do not dissolve into sloppy platitudes, even at the end of the story: Addie's gruff father shows his "softer side" only in tentative bits, a thawing Rhenquist fights his growing affection for Addie, Addie herself is neither a "girly girl" who overdoses on pink or a brainless idiot; a fine scholar, she's also an often prickly heroine who is bossy and who criticizes her best friend with words like "dodo." The one sweet character, Grandma Mills, still has the backbone to take the brunt of her son's exasperation with his daughter and is not a person who allows herself to be bullied. She is also tender but honest: in a moving scene, she talks to Addie about her husband's death and how she nearly gave in to despair, until someone read her the following passage: "When people leave on a boat, everybody says 'There they go,' but on the other side of the horizon, they're saying 'Here they come.'" She concludes, "I thought it must be something like that, and then I could let your grandpa go." Cora Sue is more shy and introverted than Addie, a perfect Diana Barry to Addie's Anne Shirley.

Only The House Without A Christmas Tree is available on DVD, but you can find this special on VHS tape under the title The Holiday Treasure (so that CBS could sell it with the Christmas videos). Both are well worth your time if you like thoughtful drama.

18 November 2012

Thanksgiving Video

•  Bewitched: "Samantha's Thanksgiving to Remember"

•  The Burns and Allen Show: "Thanksgiving" (from 1951)

•  A rarity: Calvin and the Colonel: "Thanksgiving" (this is an animated television series from 1962 that was created by Freeman Godsen and Charles Correll, the same folks that gave the radio and later the television world the famous but controversial Amos and Andy; this time the leads are a scheming fox and a dimwitted bear)

•  A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (this is considered a classic, but, personally, it aggravates me—Peppermint Patty is such a bully in this; Charlie Brown shows a real spirit of Thanksgiving for putting up with her, and his grandmother is very gracious!)

•  The History Channel's The Real Story of Thanksgiving

•  "The Pilgrims," a 1955 Educational Film

•  Hanna-Barbera'sThe Thanksgiving That Almost Wasn't

11 November 2012


November 11 is also the feast day of St. Martin of Tours. A soldier in the Roman army, Martin is most famous for his act of kindness to a half-clad beggar during a snowstorm. Despite the jeers from his fellow soldiers, Martin took his sword and cut his huge cloak into two pieces so that the man might have half. Later it was revealed that the beggar was Jesus Christ in disguise.

Martin took holy vows soon after, and became so well known for his piety that he was sought out to be a bishop. He did not want the honor and intended to hide from those seeking him. He finally hid himself inside a pen with a flock of geese. However, the geese made such noises of alarm at the human hiding in their pen that the men seeking to make Martin a bishop found him easily. Goose is a traditional dish for St. Martin's Day.

"According to old Czech weather lore, it is the first day on which we can expect snowfall because Martin may arrive on a white horse." In some Northern climes St. Martin's Day was considered the first day of winter.

Back when Advent was forty days in length, like Lent, four days after St. Martin's Day would be the beginning of Advent.

Celebrating St. Martin's Day in Germany

St. Martin's Day


05 November 2012

By the Light of the Bonfire

The folks in Great Britain now celebrate Hallowe'en in the manner of the United States, with costumes and trick-or-treating children. However, the older autumn celebration for the British has been Guy Fawkes Day. Fawkes, a member of a group which wished to restore a Catholic king to the throne of England by means of violence, was captured and convicted of treason. November 5, Guy Fawkes Day, commemmorates this thwarting of "The Gunpowder Plot."

The classic rhyme which accompanies this holiday is as follows:

Remember, remember!
The fifth of November, 
The Gunpowder treason and plot; 
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason 
Should ever be forgot! 
Guy Fawkes and his companions 
Did the scheme contrive,
To blow the King and Parliament
All up alive. 
Threescore barrels, laid below,
To prove old England's overthrow. 
But, by God's providence, him they catch, 
With a dark lantern, lighting a match! 
A stick and a stake 
For King James's sake!
If you won't give me one, 
I'll take two, 
The better for me, 
And the worse for you. 
A rope, a rope, to hang the Pope, 
A penn'orth of cheese to choke him, 
A pint of beer to wash it down, 
And a jolly good fire to burn him. 
Holloa, boys! holloa, boys! make the bells ring! 
Holloa, boys! holloa boys! God save the King! 
Hip, hip, hooor-r-r-ray!

A Brief History of Guy Fawkes Day

Guy Fawkes: A Biography

Those who read about the history of Christmas in the United States will know that Guy Fawkes Day was also celebrated in the British colonies, where it was known as Popes Day. As in England, effigies were paraded in the street, but these were effigies of the Pope, not of Guy Fawkes.

Today the British still celebrate "Bonfire Night" with fireworks and bonfires.