Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Year's End

Year's End is a poem by Richard Wilbur. You can read it here. It begins
Now winter downs the dying of the year,
And night is all a settlement of snow;

We've had unusually warm weather lately -our high Christmas Day was 69F- and I won't be surprised if we never see snow again. I miss the snow we got in the days gone by, but I can still enjoy the happy memories sparked by photos and paintings of snowscapes.


Please join us at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering. Share a post with a drink in it. Lift a glass with me, and let's toast the old year out and the new year in.

Let us treasure the fond memories and allow ourselves to let go of regret and mistakes from the past. Let us commit to hope in the coming year. May it bring you blessings.

Here's my Raspberry Bellini recipe:

  • 1 Tbsp raspberry jam
  • 4 oz champagne or sparkling white wine
  • 1 fresh raspberry for garnish

Monday, December 30, 2019

The Five Major World Religions

The Five Major World Religions:

is a 10-minute TED Talk. "Explore the intertwined histories and cultures of the major religions: Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam."

As we approach a new year, I hope we can approach each other with peace and an attempt at understanding.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Wounded Knee

Today is the anniversary of the Wounded Knee massacre in 1890. I remember reading Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown and being shocked and horrified. It's not that I hadn't learned of the massacre in school, but I must say I hadn't learned much in the way of details about it. I'd encourage you to find and read that book. There are several options at Amazon, including free e-book and audio editions with their Audible and Kindle trials. Or I'll bet your library has it.

History sites such as these have information:

There've been video explorations of the tragedy, including this 10-minute video focusing on the Ghost Dance:

Here's the story of the one child who survived the slaughter:

Take a moment during these 12 days of Christmas to reflect on the evil in our history.  Reflecting on our present political state in light of these past horrors, I wonder if we've learned anything.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Down Pens

Down Pens is a short story by Saki. You can read it online here. It begins,
"Have you written to thank the Froplinsons for what they sent us?" asked Egbert.

"No," said Janetta, with a note of tired defiance in her voice; "I've written eleven letters to-day expressing surprise and gratitude for sundry unmerited gifts, but I haven't written to the Froplinsons."

"Some one will have to write to them," said Egbert.

"I don't dispute the necessity, but I don't think the some one should be me," said Janetta. "I wouldn't mind writing a letter of angry recrimination or heartless satire to some suitable recipient; in fact, I should rather enjoy it, but I've come to the end of my capacity for expressing servile amiability. Eleven letters to-day and nine yesterday, all couched in the same strain of ecstatic thankfulness: really, you can't expect me to sit down to another. There is such a thing as writing oneself out."

"I've written nearly as many," said Egbert, "and I've had my usual business correspondence to get through, too. Besides, I don't know what it was that the Froplinsons sent us."

"A William the Conqueror calendar," said Janetta, "with a quotation of one of his great thoughts for every day in the year."

"Impossible," said Egbert; "he didn't have three hundred and sixty-five thoughts in the whole of his life, or, if he did, he kept them to himself. He was a man of action, not of introspection."

"Well, it was William Wordsworth, then," said Janetta; "I know William came into it somewhere."

Friday, December 27, 2019

Never Mess with Mistletoe

image from Amazon.com

Never Mess with Mistletoe is a 2016 mystery novel, 10th in the Leigh Koslow series, by Edie Claire. You can read it online here at Google Play. I've never read any of this series and only read this one because it was free. I liked it. The set-up is interesting, and the festive seasonal setting is fun.

Here's the plot description from Fantastic Fiction:
Frances Koslow was ecstatic to have her humble abode chosen as stop #3 on the Holiday House Tour. Then everyone drank the cider.

When Leigh's parents' house becomes a last-minute substitution on the regional garden club's famous Holiday House Tour, Frances Koslow is thrilled. But the tour is tomorrow, there's work to be done, and Frances's dwindling and aging "Floribunda" chapter is in dire need of reinforcements. Worried about her mother's blood pressure, particularly as sisterly tensions rise over Leigh's Aunt Lydie's upcoming Christmas Eve wedding, Leigh steps in to make sure the tour runs smoothly.

But perhaps Leigh isn't the ideal choice for the task. Not when a fortune cookie has just portended the return of her infamous "bad karma." Not when everyone knows the real reason the Floribundas have declined is because every remaining member is a whackadoodle. And not when someone's idea of Christmas spirit is to add a little something extra to the sweet cider punch.

One dead Floribunda later, Leigh struggles to keep her family calm in the midst of swirling suspicions, flying accusations, and dubious warnings of biological warfare. But when someone threatens to silence her own all-too-curious daughter, mother-rage kicks in. Nobody is ruining Leigh's family's Merry Christmas. Not even her family.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

A Silent Panic

A Silent Panic is a half-hour episode of the television series The DuPont Show with June Allyson. It stars Harpo Marx in a dramatic role, his first. The story takes place during the Christmas season.

from the IMDb: "A deaf-mute witnesses a murder but is unable to tell the police what he knows. Meanwhile the killer and his accomplice seek to find the deaf-mute in order to eliminate him."

You can see it at this link or below:

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas!

Please join me in listening to some Christmas music

If you haven't signed up for free Spotify (why not?) there's Christmas music on Youtube. Here's instrumental music with a fireplace video:

Here's 8 hours of Christmas music against the background of a view of snow falling:

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Tailor by the Hearth

The Tailor by the Hearth (1902):

is an illustration from Beatrix Potter's book The Tailor of Gloucester, which takes place in the days leading up to Christmas morning. There is a museum. Potter died on December 22, 1943, of complications from pneumonia and heart disease at the age of 77.

Just look at that cozy scene. That kettle will stay hot, I'm sure, in its place there, and we'll have a cuppa together. Please share your own drink-related post and join the weekly T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering hosted by Bleubeard and Elizabeth.

You can read the book here or here. It begins,
In the time of swords and periwigs and full-skirted coats with flowered lappets—when gentlemen wore ruffles, and gold-laced waistcoats of paduasoy and taffeta—there lived a tailor in Gloucester.

He sat in the window of a little shop in Westgate Street, cross-legged on a table from morning till dark.

All day long while the light lasted he sewed and snippetted, piecing out his satin, and pompadour, and lutestring; stuffs had strange names, and were very expensive in the days of the Tailor of Gloucester.

But although he sewed fine silk for his neighbours, he himself was very, very poor—a little old man in spectacles, with a pinched face, old crooked fingers, and a suit of threadbare clothes.

He cut his coats without waste; according to his embroidered cloth, they were very small ends and snippets that lay about upon the table—"Too narrow breadths for nought—except waistcoats for mice," said the tailor.

One bitter cold day near Christmas-time the tailor began to make a coat (a coat of cherry-coloured corded silk embroidered with pansies and roses) and a cream-coloured satin waistcoat (trimmed with gauze and green worsted chenille) for the Mayor of Gloucester.
The story has been adapted several times, including a 1999 live-action adaptation starring Ian Holm, Thora Hird, and Jude Law:

and an animated version from 1993:

Monday, December 23, 2019

Larceny, Inc.

Larceny, Inc. is a 1942 comedy gangster film starring Edward G Robinson, Jane Wyman, Broderick Crawford, and Anthony Quinn. This is one of Jackie Gleason's earliest film roles. The film is based on the play The Night Before Christmas by Laura Perelman and S.J. Perelman. It takes place during the Christmas season with the finale occurring on Christmas Eve. This is another of those old light-hearted seasonal movies that will refresh your palate after the diet of sticky sweetness I see available on television. The cast is priceless. I watched it here.


Sunday, December 22, 2019

Christmas Story (2008)

Christmas Story is the story of how a young orphan boy named Nikolas grew up to be Santa. I watched it on Amazon Prime dubbed in English. Told by the man the boy grew up to be, it's a touching story.


via Daily Motion with English subtitles:

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Remember the Night (1940)

Remember the Night is a 1940 romantic comedy that takes place during the Christmas season. It stars Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray.

The NYT says, "It is a memorable film, in title and in quality, blessed with an honest script, good direction and sound performance. Perhaps this is a bit too early in the season to be talking of the best pictures of 1940; it is not too early to say that Paramount's nomination is worth considering." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics consensus rating of 100%.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Bobby Darin

Bobby Darin died on this date in 1973 at the age of 37 after a lifetime of failing health from heart problems due to rheumatic fever in childhood. It's sad to think of a life cut short, but he left us with many happy memories.

Silent Night:

Christmas Auld Lang Syne:

O Come, All Ye Faithful:

Go Tell It on the Mountain:

He is better known for his pop hit songs like Mack the Knife, sung here in the year he died:

and Dream Lover:

Thursday, December 19, 2019

The Star

The Star is a 1955 short story by Arthur C. Clarke. I remember how I felt the first time I read this. You can read it online here. It begins,
It is three thousand light years to the Vatican. Once, I believed that space could have no power over faith, just as I believed that the heavens declared the glory of God's handiwork. Now I have seen that handiwork, and my faith is sorely troubled. I stare at the crucifix that hangs on the cabin wall above the Mark VI Computer, and for the first time in my life I wonder if it is no more than an empty symbol.

I have told no one yet, but the truth cannot be concealed. The facts are there for all to read, recorded on the countless miles of magnetic tape and the thousands of photographs we are carrying back to Earth. Other scientists can interpret them as easily as I can, and I am not one who would condone that tampering with the truth which often gave my order a bad name in the olden days.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Snickerdoodle Coffee

I had a mind to make a snickerdoodle-flavored coffee, and I found this recipe to try. Making it according to the recipe was a total failure, as the mix clogged up the filter and the coffee wouldn't drip into the cup. I tried using the same measurements but substituting instant coffee for the coffee grounds and pouring boiling water over the instant mix, but that was undrinkable: too bitter and the cocoa made the coffee too thick. At this point I gave up. I'd love suggestions on how to make this into a drinkable beverage.

I moved on to trying a snickerdoodle creamer recipe. Now, I always take my coffee black, but I like having a few things around that are different. And I had snickerdoodle on the brain. As I googled my little heart out, I found many recipes that used canned evaporated milk and/or sweetened condensed milk, but I wanted a dry mix that would store easily in my counter-top basket. This one looked like a good start.

I ended up using 1/2 cup coffee creamer, 1/2 cup white sugar, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and 1/2 tsp allspice to make the jar in the photo above. I put 2 rounded spoonfuls in a cup of French press coffee. I tried it again adding vanilla extract, and I tried it with different amounts of the spices, but I didn't like that as much.

I enjoyed my snickerdoodle experiment, even if it's not something I'll use much. I'd love to find a coffee recipe that would work, as I'd drink it much more often than I'll use this creamer.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Holiday Affair (1949)

Holiday Affair is a 1949 romantic comedy starring Robert Mitchum (one of my favorites) and Janet Leigh. It takes place during the Christmas season. Delightful! This is perfect if the Hallmark movies make you gag but you're still wanting a sweet movie for the season. I watched it here.


The NYT calls it "an amiable little romance". Emanuel Levy concludes, "Holiday Affair is a suitable fare for all members of the family, and a capsule of what American value system in the 1940s."

Please have a Christmas cuppa with me:

and join the T Stands for Tuesday party hosted by Bleubeard and Elizabeth.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Christmas Trees

We've recently changed from having a tall tree to decorating a table-top tree, and I'm quite happy with this choice.

I dread the un-decorating more than I enjoy the decorating, and a small tree just feels more manageable. What I've lost in height I've made up for in numbers as I add to my gradually increasing little tree accumulation.

All of those are at the front of the house. My new pride and joy is this little pink wonder:

bought already festooned with silver at a local antique mall. For $4. I'm not kidding. $4. It begged me to bring it home, and how could I refuse? It's on the kitchen counter where it's in my line of sight as I look out onto the patio.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Holiday (1930)

Holiday is a 1930 pre-code romantic comedy starring Ann Harding, Mary Astor, Hedda Hopper, and Edward Everett Horton. A young man is torn between his free-thinking lifestyle and the wealthy father of the socialite he wants to marry, and hilarity predictably ensues. Oddly enough, this happy-go-lucky free-thinker is a lawyer with a New York firm and is a successful businessman so not exactly the questionable bohemian that description might lead you to believe, but he didn't come from money and isn't a member of the top 1%.

This is a fun romantic comedy, and I enjoyed watching it even though rom-coms aren't my favorite genre.

Rotten Tomatoes has an audience score of 96%.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Instant Cinnamon and Spice Coffee

I take my coffee strong and black, but every once in a while I like to shake it up a bit and try something new. Here's my latest:

Cinnamon and Spice Coffee

  • Instant coffee 1/3 cup
  • White sugar   2/3 cup
  • Nutmeg          1/4 tsp
  • Cinnamon      1/4 tsp
  • Allspice          1/4 tsp
Mix thoroughly

Spoon as desired for strength and size of cup, pour boiling water over mix, and stir.

It's quite sweet as you can tell from the amount of sugar in the recipe, but it makes a nice treat for variety during this season.

Friday, December 13, 2019

A Message from Mars

A Message from Mars is a 1913 British science fiction film with a plot similar to Dickens' Christmas Carol story. It's only an hour long.

A Cinema History has information.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

A House to Let

A House to Let is an 1858 short story by Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Elizabeth Gaskell and Adelaide Anne Procter, their first collaboration on a Christmas story. You can read it online here and here. It begins,
I had been living at Tunbridge Wells and nowhere else, going on for ten years, when my medical man—very clever in his profession, and the prettiest player I ever saw in my life of a hand at Long Whist, which was a noble and a princely game before Short was heard of—said to me, one day, as he sat feeling my pulse on the actual sofa which my poor dear sister Jane worked before her spine came on, and laid her on a board for fifteen months at a stretch—the most upright woman that ever lived—said to me, “What we want, ma’am, is a fillip.”

“Good gracious, goodness gracious, Doctor Towers!” says I, quite startled at the man, for he was so christened himself: “don’t talk as if you were alluding to people’s names; but say what you mean.”

“I mean, my dear ma’am, that we want a little change of air and scene.”

“Bless the man!” said I; “does he mean we or me!”

“I mean you, ma’am.”

“Then Lard forgive you, Doctor Towers,” I said; “why don’t you get into a habit of expressing yourself in a straightforward manner, like a loyal subject of our gracious Queen Victoria, and a member of the Church of England?”

Towers laughed, as he generally does when he has fidgetted me into any of my impatient ways—one of my states, as I call them—and then he began,—

“Tone, ma’am, Tone, is all you require!” He appealed to Trottle, who just then came in with the coal-scuttle, looking, in his nice black suit, like an amiable man putting on coals from motives of benevolence.

Trottle (whom I always call my right hand) has been in my service two-and-thirty years. He entered my service, far away from England. He is the best of creatures, and the most respectable of men; but, opinionated.

“What you want, ma’am,” says Trottle, making up the fire in his quiet and skilful way, “is Tone.”

“Lard forgive you both!” says I, bursting out a-laughing; “I see you are in a conspiracy against me, so I suppose you must do what you like with me, and take me to London for a change.”

For some weeks Towers had hinted at London, and consequently I was prepared for him. When we had got to this point, we got on so expeditiously, that Trottle was packed off to London next day but one, to find some sort of place for me to lay my troublesome old head in.

Trottle came back to me at the Wells after two days’ absence, with accounts of a charming place that could be taken for six months certain, with liberty to renew on the same terms for another six, and which really did afford every accommodation that I wanted.

“Could you really find no fault at all in the rooms, Trottle?” I asked him.

“Not a single one, ma’am. They are exactly suitable to you. There is not a fault in them. There is but one fault outside of them.”

“And what’s that?”

“They are opposite a House to Let.”
Listen to it read to you via Librivox:

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence is a 1983 British-Japanese WW2 film about life in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. I don't care for war movies, and I don't care for this. I know I should broaden my horizons -and I try, really, I do try- but this didn't convert me.


You can watch it online here.

The New York Times begins its review with praise of David Bowie's performance:
DAVID BOWIE plays a born leader in Nagisa Oshima's ''Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence,'' and he plays him like a born film star. Mr. Bowie's screen presence here is mercurial and arresting, and he seems to arrive at this effortlessly, though he manages to do something slyly different in every scene. The demands of his role may sometimes be improbable and elaborate, but Mr. Bowie fills them in a remarkably plain and direct way. Little else in the film is so unaffected or clear.
Slant Magazine gives it 4 1/2 out of 5 stars and begins its review with this:
A prisoner-of-war drama as fever dream, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence fascinates mostly for the hit-and-miss alchemy of its discordant elements: in performance, pop-star charisma versus British actorliness; in narrative style, genre expectations coming up against modernist psychosexual undercurrents.
Roger Ebert gives it a mixed review and says, "This is interesting material, especially since Oshima plunges a little more deeply into the psychology of his characters than your average prisoner-of-war movie is likely to." Empire Online has a mixed review and says, "This goes interesting places most POW dramas won't dare". 80% of Rotten Tomatoes critic reviews are positive.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Reginald on Christmas Presents

Reginald on Christmas Presents is a short story by Saki. You can read it online here. It begins,
I wish it to be distinctly understood (said Reginald) that I don't want a "George, Prince of Wales" Prayer-book as a Christmas present. The fact cannot be too widely known.

There ought (he continued) to be technical education classes on the science of present-giving. No one seems to have the faintest notion of what anyone else wants, and the prevalent ideas on the subject are not creditable to a civilised community.
Please join me in a seasonal beverage (I'm having orange coffee, recipe here):

Link your own drink-related post at the weekly T Stands for Tuesday blogger party.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Sunday, December 08, 2019

The Beggar Boy at Christ's Christmas Tree

The Beggar Boy at Christ's Christmas Tree is an 1876 short story by Fyodor Dostoevsky. It reminds me of The Little Match Girl, so if you want to pass on this sad tale and find something more cheerful to read I understand completely.

You can read this story online here. It begins,
I am a novelist, and I suppose I have made up this story. I write “I suppose,” though I know for a fact that I have made it up, but yet I keep fancying that it must have happened on Christmas Eve in some great town in a time of terrible frost.

I have a vision of a boy, a little boy, six years old or even younger. This boy woke up that morning in a cold damp cellar. He was dressed in a sort of little dressing-gown and was shivering with cold. There was a cloud of white steam from his breath, and sitting on a box in the corner, he blew the steam out of his mouth and amused himself in his dullness watching it float away. But he was terribly hungry. Several times that morning he went up to the plank bed where his sick mother was lying on a mattress as thin as a pancake, with some sort of bundle under her head for a pillow. How had she come here? She must have come with her boy from some other town and suddenly fallen ill.
You can listen to it:

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Three Wishes for Cinderella

Three Wishes for Cinderella, a holiday classic in parts of Europe, is a 1973 re-telling of the Cinderella story. Absolutely delightful!

Friday, December 06, 2019

Cranberry Dream Pie

I've lowered the number of carbs I eat each day, but there's still room for the occasional splurge. When I saw this recipe I knew I wanted to give it a shot for Thanksgiving. I mixed the ingredients by hand at each stage. If I make this again, I'll use a hand mixer. I used a bought graham cracker crust.

Cranberry Dream Pie

8 oz cream cheese
1/2 c heavy cream
3/4 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
16 oz can whole berry cranberry sauce

Beat the cream cheese in a mixing bowl until fluffy. Beat in heavy cream and sugar. Blend in vanilla. Stir in the cranberry sauce. Pour into graham cracker crust pie shell and freeze.


It was tasty, different from what we usually have, and it kept well.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Amahl and the Night Visitors

Amahl and the Night Visitors
is an opera in one act by Gian Carlo Menotti with an original English libretto by the composer. It was commissioned by NBC and first performed by the NBC Opera Theatre on December 24, 1951, in New York City at NBC studio 8H in Rockefeller Center, where it was broadcast live on television from that venue as the debut production of the Hallmark Hall of Fame. It was the first opera specifically composed for television in America.
It begins:
Amahl, a disabled boy who can walk only with a crutch, has a problem with telling tall tales. He is sitting outside playing his shepherd's pipe when his mother calls for him ("Amahl! Amahl!"). After much persuasion, he enters the house but his mother does not believe him when he tells her there is an amazing star "as big as a window" outside over their roof ("O Mother You Should Go Out and See"; "Stop Bothering Me!").

Later that night, Amahl's mother weeps, praying that Amahl not become a beggar ("Don't Cry Mother Dear"). After bedtime ("From Far Away We Come"), there is a knock at the door and the mother tells Amahl to go see who it is ("Amahl ... Yes Mother!"). He is amazed when he sees three splendidly dressed kings (the Magi). At first the mother does not believe Amahl, but when she goes to the door to see for herself, she is stunned.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Cassandra Wilson

Happy Birthday to Cassandra Wilson, jazz musician from Jackson, Mississippi, on her 64th birthday.




Here's a playlist from Spotify:

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Glass of Water and a Coffee Pot

Glass of Water and a Coffee Pot:

by Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin, who died on December 6, 1779, at 80 years of age.

I have an early Christmas present to share today:

I had always heard that one of these stove-top "espresso" pots wouldn't work on my glass top stove, but I was wrong. This makes a fun cuppa, and a little variety truly is the spice of life.

Please join me at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's weekly T party. Share a post with a drink reference. You'll receive a warm welcome.

Monday, December 02, 2019

‘Tis the Season

‘Tis the Season is a 2010 holiday story by China MiĆ©ville. You can read it online here. It begins,
Call me childish, but I love all the nonsense - the snow, the trees, the tinsel, the turkey. I love presents. I love carols and cheesy songs. I just love Christmas™.

That's why I was so excited. And not just for me, but for Annie. Aylsa, her mum, said she didn't see the big deal and why was I a sentimentalist, but I knew Annie couldn't wait. She might have been 14, but when it came to this I was sure she was still a little girl, dreaming of stockings by the chimney. Whenever it's my turn to take Annie - me and Aylsa have alternated since the divorce - I do my best on the 25th.

I admit Aylsa made me feel bad. I was dreading Annie's disappointment. So I can hardly tell you how delighted I was when I found out that for the first time ever I was going to be able to make a proper celebration of it.

Don't get me wrong. I haven't got shares in YuleCo, and I can't afford a one-day end-user licence, so I couldn't have a legal party.
I have blog posts on these books by this author:
The City and the City (2009)
Embassytown (2011)
Railsea (2012)
I've read the Bas-Lag series but don't have blog posts on those.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Christmas Movies

One of the pleasures of the holiday season is watching seasonal movies. I have a list here at this link, and I'd like you to check it out and see if you find anything you might want to watch. They range from 1898 to 2014 and include dramas and comedies. Some are animated. Some are shorts and some are full-length feature films. There's quite a variety, and some are available to watch online. I've included some television episodes, but I don't watch much network TV any more and am not familiar with what's currently available.