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31 posts from November 2008

November 30, 2008

Crafting a Creative Christmas

Crafting a Creative Christmas

by Holly Gault (aka hollygee to our faithful TLC backbloggers) who really knows how to show her crafty side to create a recession-proof Christmas.

I'm a craft-maniac. I used to buy the holiday magazines to see all the holiday crafts, but since the internet has come to town, I can download many, many, many ideas for what looks to be a very lean holiday season. I thought I would share my favorites.

Places where I found most of my ideas:
http://allsorts.typepad.com/allsorts/
http://blog.craftzine.com/
http://www.instructables.com/

House gifts

A very practical start might be to make Draft dodger out of pretty fabrics – beginning machine sewing skills required. A fun way to make colorful fridge magnets, but I might fill them with packing peanuts or even popcorn so they will hold their shape a little longer. Two other ideas that requires beginning machine sewing skills, Bean Bag Chair [PDF pattern] and Rice (or flaxseed) heat therapy bag.

I saw a tangerine & pepper scented linen spray in a catalog and thought, "I can make that." And a little Google-time showed me that I could, although I will have to play some to get the scent right.  If you Google around, you can find recipes for making your own soap, solid perfume, bath salts, and bath bombs.

I saw this idea for test tube, compact spice collection and I'm putting this to work for me! I got a good deal on test tubes and cork stoppers. If I were buying for a gift, I would get spices from the bulk section of my natural foods store and even cheaper at a Mexican market.

Do you have any photos that you would like to give? Cheap photo frames from CD jewel cases -- and you could add magnets to the back to stick on the fridge. Works great for kids art work too.

Personal Gifts

Two things for the TLC crowd that I thought would be particularly appropriate: Easy origami bookmarks and, burn a CD of your (or Margie’s) favorite music, then make a custom CD envelope (I’m thinking a vintage Playboy or Playgirl for Margie’s music label).

Holiday Wrapping
Downloadable printable gift tags. Many others are available by Googling. For gift wrapping, try environmentally kind Furoshiki (Japanese fabric wraps). Your wrapping can be part of the gift: dish towels, baby blankets, tablecloths, scarves.

Holiday Décor
easy instructions
Paper favor packages that would look cute hanging on the tree or to use in the stocking:
Gift envelopes/Advent or Chanuka calendar
Garland ideas. I thought that this example needed some help:
    1. You can use those gold and silver gummed round stickers (the kind from the stationery store that             would be on a certificate) on a piece of red crochet thread.
    2. Cut out circles from old Holiday cards – either all the same size or of varying sizes. Just pair them             up with another of the same size for the back.
    3. Family photos to go on the tree.
    4. Have Fun with Fonts and print out large letters on pretty paper – nice because you can print your             circle pattern also for a border.
Pompom garland
Photo ornaments (you could cut up old National Geographics or Sierra Club calendars, too)
Christmas paper chain – no glue, tape, or staples needed, just scissor skills -- here is instructions:

Christmas chain

requiring some craftiness
Another Advent or Chanuka calendar. For knitters, here are some adorable little Tiny Sock ornaments and  Mitten ornaments. These lovely water balloon Luminarias would look great [on fire-proof dishes] on the deck or porch. I'm particularly interested in trying these beautiful Japanese folded flower bouquets – they do require a bit of precision. Here is a Chanuka (or Christmas or Kwanzaa) Oil Lamp – the presentation is ugly, but the physics work. Some ideas with no patterns, but fun for ideas: Gnomes and a Button Wreath.

Holiday Food

This Yule log refrigerator cake looks like it would be easier to construct than the rolled variety. And then the truly sinful and always popular Truffles.
All purpose pantry items that you can grab to make quick additions to your menu:
• Ajvar – a Bulgarian pepper-eggplant spread that can be used as a dip, pasta sauce, soup base, filling. http://www.eurofoodmart.net/Gradina_Hot_Ajavar_Vegetable_Spread_p/az0000197.htm
• Trader Joe’s Marinated Sun Dried Tomatoes – when I get a jar, I immediately but it in the food processor and grind it up into a granular paste. Then I use it as a flavor enhancer for any dish that I think needs a boost.

This is often what Santa's Workshop is like around my house. What crafty/penny-pinching tricks will you be using these holidays?

Check out Holly's webpage and her blog for further insights!

November 29, 2008

I've Been Cheating: Confessions of a Mystery Author

I've Been Cheating: Confessions of a Mystery Author

by guest blogger and TLC favorite Karen Olson

I've been cheating.

Not on my husband. But on my hairdresser

I've had the same hairdresser now for about five years. Sarah's a nice young woman with her own funky hairstyle and fashion sense. I'm old enough to be her mother. Last year, she became a mother herself. She doesn't have a husband. Or a boyfriend. But she's got a family that seems fairly supportive and helpful.

I say all this because I like her and I commiserated when she told me how difficult it is to be a single mom. I have ignored the bags under her eyes and the new stoop in her posture. But when she put the chocolate brown streaks in my hair, when I have never had chocolate brown before--my hair is on the blonde side--I had a hard time forgiving her. This after the last couple of cuts when I had to go home and do a little trim of my own after looking in the mirror.

So I canceled my next appointment. I didn't make a new one. Instead, I boldly went to another salon near my office and made an appointment with a total stranger.

When I arrived, I was giddy with excitement. I didn't know whether Jamie was a man or a woman. I didn't know what my hair would look like when I left. But I was willing to risk it.

The salon is small and cozy, as opposed to my "regular" one, which is large and open and always a little drafty. I like the new one. I like the newness of it. I like that I don't know everyone's names. That the chairs are different, the shampoo smells different. Jamie looks sort of like Howard Stern. He's older than I am. He even gave me a head massage before starting.

I was happy when I left. My hair looked great, and I like that I didn't have to drive half an hour to get home. I could just take my regular bus. I felt a little guilty, but not enough to not make another appointment with Jamie. I haven't called Sarah yet to tell her why I've canceled on her. I don't know if I will. It's easier the longer I stay away.

What about you? Have you ever cheated on your hairdresser?

A former reporter and now a part-time editor of a medical journal, Karen Olson writes the Annie Seymour mysteries, set in New Haven with a tough-talking reporter who covers the crime beat.

November 28, 2008

Ginger

Ginger


By Kathy Sweeney

For those of you hoping for the traditional Ginger v. Mary Ann blog, my apologies. This is about the kind you eat.  

Blog ginger-root-bsp This time of year, I bake bread.  I make other things too, but breads and cranberry sauces are my specialties.  Hence, this time of year, you'll find ginger in my kitchen. Normally, the only time I see ginger is when we eat sushi.  Most places serve sushi with sliced ginger - usually pickled (the pink stuff).  

Fresh ginger looks weird.  That's because it's a root.  Fresh ginger is best, but if you can't find it at your store, you can use the chunks or the ground ginger.  Or my favorite for baking and sauces - candied ginger - which is also called crystallized ginger.  Yum.  It looks wonderful, smells wonderful, and it really kicks up recipes. Want it in liquid form?  Ginger beer has the real taste of ginger.  Ginger beer is a non-alcoholic beverage that's a cross between root beer (also made with ginger) and ginger ale - but with a lot more punch.  It's used to make my favorite summer drink, the Moscow Mule.  Named for the vodka and the kick - they go down fast, so watch it.

Blog candied_ginger And here is the good news -- it's good for you!  This came as quite a shock to me, because let's face it, most of the food I love is bad.  In fact - and I've been saying this for years - the food police are looking at chocolate.  One already has to be very careful with chocolate - they are starting to mix that reduced fat crap in with the regular chocolate.  I had some by accident.  When I say accident, I mean it. The rest of the day was all about avoiding them, and that's all I'm going to say about it. Forewarned is forearmed and so forth.

Ginger is good for digestion, and a bunch of other things.  I read in a couple of different places that it helps lower cholesterol, but those are the magic words of food marketing these days, so I'm skeptical. Regardless, this is one food you can enjoy with no guilt.

It does have a bite to it.  The first time I saw that sparkling candied ginger, I had to have some.  Oops.  I don't eat spicy foods, so it actually burned.  If you're not used to eating it, start slowly.  I know, moderation is good any way, and the older I get, the more my body demands it.  Frankly, it sucks.

People grate or smoosh it and put it in everything from tea to smoothies to hot chocolate.  Check out the Food Network - all the kids are using it.

Next up is a new recipe from the Barefoot Contessa - real gingerbread with fresh, rummed whipped cream. Sounds like breakfast.

What's your current favorite ingredient?  Have you discovered a new taste or flavor lately?  If you're around on this Thanksgiving Friday, let us know.

November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks

Giving Thanks

by Nancy     Go to fullsize image

I spotted my prize in Chicago last weekend while on a girlfriend getaway: a Marc Jacobs white quilted handbag.  Retail $1400. On sale for $400. 

Was I tempted? Well, not really, because I'm not an idiot who spends $400 on a handbag--one that's white, for crying out loud. (Black?  Okay, very tempting....) Plus it's in bad taste to buy luxury goods now. Did you know that? It seems everyone--even those who don't blink at spending $1600 on a bag--are feeling the pinch of the economy. Or they don't feel it's a good idea to flaunt their spending.

It's tacky, say the elite, to buy a new Mercedes with your year-end bonus from the brokerage house this year if your next door neighbor is losing his job. Even the Times says so.

You also may have noticed that your supermarket is displaying comfort foods. (How many jars of Prego are in your pantry?) Stores at the mall are showing sweaters that resemble comfy horse blankets.Northwoods plaid swing jacket

 And everybody's giving away coupons.

I went to Chicago last weekend with my book club. The trip seemed like a good idea last June when Madame President came up with it, and we bought cheap tickets on Southwest back when the prices were great. Barbara works for a hotel conglomerate, and she got us the "friends and family" rate, which was $49 a night. Which means I paid a bargain basement price for a suite in a luxury hotel (the white robe, the chocolates, the sensuous shower, the maid who unpacks your suitcase and arranges your cosmetics in the bathroom, the lotions, the fresh popcorn--the works!) overlooking Grant Park and Lake Michigan. The room was almost as stunning as the view. Because business is so bad in the hotel trade, we were practically the only guests, and the staff treated us like queens. We tipped like crazy, but they gave us all kinds of perks that have spoiled me completely. The restaurant, in fact, treated us to THEIR ENTIRE MENU.  I'm not kidding. It was a feast for . . . well, queens.

We went to the art museum, had lunch at the old Marshall Field department store, gawked at the Christmas decorations, strolled through Escada just for fun and basically enjoyed a fabulous city for a couple of days. It was a real girl getaway. (There was even a handsome sports celebrity on our airplane. We got close enough to know how delicious he smells.  We might have gotten closer, but he was with his lovely wife. And she looks like a potentially fabulous girlfriend, so we didn't want to stir up anything that might prevent girlfriendliness.)

And we laughed. We had a hilarious time. Except for an hour we spent consoling one of our members who just lost her job and the ten seconds when Molly decided to turn around on the escalator and try to come back up, nearly catching her long coat on the mechanism.  We were horrified, and then--when she was okay--we howled.

So . . . despite the fact that I don't own a Marc Jacobs handbag, here's what I'm thankful for this year: 

My girlfriends.

Not just my book club pals, but the Tarts, the TLC community (even the guys count as girlfriends around here, and don't be offended, please) plus my Trusted Friend, my email pals, my neighbors, my college sorority sisters, my fellow writers, my former roommate, my Sisters in Crime, The Six (you know who you are!) and my mother, my aunt and my daughters. My girl friends.

Author Lynn Smith-Lovin says friendships are on the wane. All of us are more isolated than ever, working harder, staying at home during our leisure hours because of the economy--all the things that cause friends to drift apart. Not my friends, though.  In case you haven't gotten the memo, ladies, we're making a pact. Best Friends Forever means starting now, making the effort, staying in touch, forgiving, enjoying, reaching out, sharing a laugh, lasting until they screw down the coffin lid.

Who needs another handbag when you have good girlfriends?

Thanks, girls.

Oh, wait.  Here's one more thing I'm grateful for.  My grandson Bobby! Three months old this week.


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  And best of luck tomorrow on Black Friday.  (I'm staying home.  How about you?)

November 26, 2008

Roast Beast on a Mattress of Fries

Roast Beast on a Mattress of Fries

By Elaine Viets

"I’ll have the bison," the man at the next table said.

Two tables away, I heard the same cry. Soon four men were demanding bison. The dining room seemed to glow with ancient camp fires. The air was thick with pounding drums and meat lust.

Before that night, I’d never heard one man order bison, much less four. The men called for their meat in loud, proud voices, as if they expected the chef to lug the beast into The Grill at Canyon Ranch Miami Beach.

Yep, Canyon Ranch, whose outlets in Arizona, Massachusetts, on the Queen Mary 2, and now in Miami Beach, sell healthy living. I went there last week after a tough signing trip and grueling deadlines, and fell in with the bison-eaters.

Did these men know bison was good for them? I wondered that as I nibbled cherrywood-smoked halibut with yellow pepper puree, snow peas and sun chokes.

I read the menu again. It said, "Bison short ribs: red-miso braised short ribs pulled from the bone, with cepes and white sweet potato."

Pulled from the bone? That meat was so tender, those tough guys could have gummed the bison.

The word "short," as in short ribs, never crossed their manly lips. Neither did "red miso," a trendy Asian ingredient. There was no mention of "cepes," a wild mushroom also known as porcini.

Did the Miami Beach cavemen talk about them? Heck no. They were too busy demanding their bison. The name had them buffaloed.

I almost giggled. I wanted to ask the bison lovers, "Did you know that bison is known as nature’s most perfect health food? The FDA allows it to be labeled ‘extra lean,’ ‘low-saturated fat’ and – gasp! – ‘healthy’? "

But I couldn’t do it. They were enjoying their caveman fantasies. It would be cruel to hit them with a plateful of reality. So I never said bison was low-cal or lower in fat than beef, chicken, turkey and swordfish.

That would have spoiled their dinner.

Canyon Ranch had dainty dishes fit for dieting females and foodies: "cauliflower textures roasted with puttanesca sauce, ‘couscous’ style with curry, pureed with chives," "rolled spinach and Napa cabbage" and "lavender-stuffed quail." The quail sounded like it belonged in a linen closet instead of a plate, but people ordered it.

But Canyon Ranch cleverly served food that any man worth his salt could order in front of his poker buddies. At dinner, it was bison and "devils on horseback." The dangerous-sounding devils were really "Turkish dates stuffed with Berkshire bleu cheese, wrapped in veal bacon, served on endive." Healthy delights with a mere 250 calories.

While many women will virtuously order grilled fish served on a bed of seaweed, your average man prefers roast beast on a mattress of fries. Note I said "average." The men of TLC are not average. They are creatures of strong but delicate sensibility who are not frightened by a fern. I also know plenty of women who would kill for a butter-sauteed steak.

But Canyon Ranch has the difficult task of making healthy food sound destructive. Lunch offered a burger and fries, along with the good-for-you seared salmon loin and braised greens. The fine print declared the burger was grass-fed beef and the fries were baked artichokes, but that was easily overlooked.

For breakfast, you could wimp it with a ratatouille frittata. Didn’t the rat in the Disney movie eat that? But fearless patriots could order the All American – "two eggs any style with fruit salad and breakfast potatoes." The New Yorker – "smoked salmon, cream cheese, onion, capers, sprouted grain bagel"– boasted only 370 calories.

Dieting was never easier. Too bad my slender budget won’t let me live at Canyon Ranch year-round. But I have a sensible financial plan to remedy the situation.

I buy lottery tickets.

November 25, 2008

Another Marital Sex Blog

Another Marital Sex Blog

By Sarah

Six months ago, I wrote a blog in response to two books, one written by a Fundamentalist Christian couple - married, natch - about what happened when they committed themselves to sex for 100 days straight. In fact, for a while there, I kept a tally on the left-hand side just to keep y'all up to date on my attempt to do the same with Charlie, my husband of twenty years. I like to think it took blogging to a Sex whole new (meaning inappropriate) level, not to mention what it did to marriage. Eventually, I removed it after someone noted our seventeen year old daughter might read the post and be grossed out. As if she's not grossed out by us already.

Sex every night was a lot more fun than I expected and it had surprising results that included better sleep, fewer fights and improved skin tone. Did we make it for 100 nights straight? No. And for that I blame, ironically, The Romance Writers of America who apparently were unaware of my vow and had the nerve to schedule a conference fifty days into our campaign. Some romance lovers they are.

I'd say we made it a little over a month, which I think is excellent, especially in light of a recent development from the Rev. Ed Young, a pastor at an evangelical church in Texas who has presented his followers (since also has a TV show) to take the Seven-Day Sex Challenge, like that's a big deal.

Seven days? Mere foreplay!

Now, I have to admit to being slightly cynical about evangelical pastors exhorting their female congregants to put out in order to keep the focus off the bad economy. I imagine a more sinister purpose. Knock her up? Keep her from reading after the kids go to bed? Keep her from taking night-school classes? But let's give the Rev. Ed Young the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he's trying to save the institution of marriage and make lives happier for millions of children.

After all, Young says, there's nothing wrong with marital sex. God invented it.

Uh...me thinks God invented lots of other sex including "a-sex" which seems to serve the intestinal Asexual reproductionprotozoa quite well. But why get technical. Young's message is that after an entire adolescence being told sex is burn-in-hell-wrong, it's oookay once you say those two little words.

Unless you're gay and married. Then we're back to burn-in-hell-wrong.

Of course, regulating the sexual and procreative patterns of a people has always been the ultimate source of control. But that's me being cynical, again.

Episcopalian In this case, though, Young's right. It's easy to forget there's a benefit to marriage besides having someone else do the dishes for goddamn once. From a Christian perspective (and I happen to be one - Episcopalian - the polar opposite of randy Texan Christians, which might explain why we have 200, not 20,000 on Sunday), God created marriage for the mutual enjoyment and pleasure of two human beings*  so they don't have to deal with the trials of existence alone.

Lately, there's been an epidemic of divorce in our town. And while it's hard to figure out which came first in these situations, I know these people were not enjoying regular sex. Was that because they felt cold toward one another and, therefore, their sex life fell off? Or was it that their sex life fell off, so they started feeling cold toward one another?

Only they can answer.

I do agree that the key benefit of regular sex no matter what, is that it gives new meaning to the old AA adage, fake it to make it. (And I don't mean faking that if you can help it.) Just as smiling when you feel down can improve your mood or being charitable makes you feel less stingy, sex for sex's sake does help things along. 

And, frankly, the other thing I learned from sex every night? It's freaking weird how important sex is to men. Give them sex and you'll never have to cook another dinner or wash a sock. They will change your oil, rotate your tires, do the laundry and give back rubs. They will put the kids to bed, read them a story and sing Brahm's lullaby if they know there's a BJ in it later on. They will even change the litter box.

Just think...if women only knew, we could have already ruled the world. Maybe that's where Hillary went wrong.

If this blog's a rockin', do come a knockin'.

Sarah

*Offer not available to all human beings in California, Arizona and Florida.

November 24, 2008

Paging Robin Mattson

Paging Robin Mattson

by Harley

Last week I got the following phone message from my literary agent, Renée:

I was just contacted,” she said, “by Anastasia Potemkin [not her real name] from Russian's MTV. They want to do a show about you.”

My God! MTV? Me? Really? Could it be that in Russia, I am a rock star?

Actually, no. I’d heard wrong; it wasn’t MTV, but NTV. Still, as Renée reminded me, my books have been translated into Russian and Serbian. So I e-mailed Anastasia saying, delighted to be on your show, blah, blah, please call to discuss. 

Anastasia called instantly, from Moscow. “Miss Kozak, we are so excited!” 

They love me! They really love me! My books will become huge in eastern Europe! I will earn out my advance! My children will go to Ivy League colleges! 

“In fact,” Anastasia continues, “we are wondering, are you close with Robin Mattson?” 

Robin Mattson? To quote Obi-Wan Kenobi, “Now there's a name I've not heard in a long, long time.” 

“Yes, Robin and I were friends,” I said. “We worked together. On a soap called Santa Barbara.”

“We know. Gina Capwell and Mary, the nun. We wonder, do you have Robin Mattson’s phone number?”

“Uh--" 

“Because,” Anastasia says, “it will be amusing if you are to have a reunion with Robin and we will film this. In New York.”

The fog clears. This isn’t about my Big Literary Career. It’s about my Big 80’s Hair. These Russians are old soap fans. 

See, in America we view soaps as the video equivalent of STAR magazine, marginally more acceptable than a pornography habit. But in Europe, our soaps are repackaged, maybe years after they’re shot, sometimes aired once a week, at night, and sometimes big hits. This explains my fan letters from people with names like Malgorzata and Gerwazy, 22 years after Mary the Nun was crushed to death by the giant neon letter “C.”

And it’s not just soaps. I once did a primetime series that 43 people in America watched, that ended up the Number One show in Norway. Months after it was cancelled, I got a free trip to Oslo (in January; it was cold) with my sister, compliments of Norwegian TV Guide.

Anyhow, I told Anastasia that yes, Robin Mattson and I had once been close. We weren’t just friends, we shared an on-camera lover on Santa Barbara (my employer/her stepson) and an off-camera guy (her lover/my lawyer). We met for lunch several times after I died, but, as happens in life, we lost track of each other. I suggested that Anastasia contact Screen Actors Guild, but Anastasia already had. No luck.

I asked around. So did Renée, who discovered that Robin had once had an agent named Henry Something. I e-mailed Henry. And waited.

Meanwhile, Moscow kept calling. Could I fly to New York on Thursday? Or Friday? The sooner the better, Anastasia explained, “Because we have had already the others from Santa Barbara. Only Robin and you are left.”  

Great. I am the bottom of the soap barrel.

“But of course,” she said, “we must find Robin.”

Of course. No word from Henry, though, and Renée began to feel that my gumshoe abilities were better spent on my fiction (“can’t the KGB find Robin?”) whereas I, although I love New York, didn’t want to miss my 8-year old’s recitation of Turkey Poetry at the Lower School Thanksgiving Assembly. Friday came and went. No Robin. No NTV.

Robin? Robin? The Russians are coming. Are you out there? 

Please call. Our fans await us.

Harley 

p.s. I am forlorn because “True Blood” is over for this season.

November 23, 2008

Zen Hostess

This will surprise you, but the Tarts are big on nepotism.  Very big. So today's blog is by Catherine Christopher (who just happens to be the daughter of a Tart, not to mention the mother of a Tart grandson.)  Catherine is launching her own blog, and naturally she thought of turning to the TLC community for input.  Here's a taste of what she writes about:

 

Zen Hostess   Go to fullsize image

What could be more charming, more personal than opening your home to your friends? Little, at-home parties are a great way to break up the monotony of your week, spend quality time with your friend, enjoy some adult conversation--all while not breaking the bank. Many people are overwhelmed or intimidated by the idea of home entertaining, but a little get-together with friends can be wonderfully refreshing. Whether you invite two people or ten, you can have a delightful (and stress-free!) evening by following the Zen Hostess mantra: Prepare, then let go.

See, traditional Buddhist Zen is all about living in the now. Zen means letting go of your guilt about the past as well as your aspirations for the future. Hostessing Zen is also about living in the now, being able to enjoy your party as it is happening. Buddhist Zen is achieved through meditation and mental practice. Hostessing Zen is achieved through preparation and the letting-go attitude.

First, the preparation: Setting the scene and making the food ahead of time will allow you to start off your party stress-free. Pick simple food that you can assemble a day or two in advance. Run the vacuum, shove last week's mail into a drawer. Plug your iPod into some speakers or load a couple of CDs into the stereo. My favorite time-saver is setting the table hours before guests arrive. Like putting up the Christmas tree, setting the table makes for pleasant anticipation. It's important to be calm when your guests arrive, because the hostess sets the tone for the evening. If you answer the doorbell with soup splattered down your apron and your eyes rolling wildly in your head, your guests will be . . . put off. If, on the other hand, you've already set the table and sliced the garlic bread, you and your guests will relax right off the bat. (Party preparations need not be complicated! Visit www.zenhostess.com for simple menu ideas and other tips.)

Then, once the party is rolling, the letting-go attitude kicks in: You must let go of your anxiety that something will go wrong. A party is not about perfect food, perfect flowers or perfect music.--A party is about camaraderie. A physical mistake will not ruin a party, but the hostess having a meltdown will. If the roast burns, you can't lose your cool. After all, pizza or Chinese takeout are only 45 minutes away! Who cares whether you're eating homemade roast or pepperoni pizza? The point is that you're with your friends, having a good conversation with good company.

Got any hot tips for entertaining? What are your go-to party recipes? Thanksgiving is coming, and everyone loves a fresh idea!

Holiday Music - Part 2

Holiday Music - Part 2


As promised, here is my follow-up on holiday music from Friday's blog.  

Fans of holiday music know that there is just too much of it to lump together in one category.  I started with two basic segments:  holiday music (celebrating the Santa, snow and sleigh rides) and Christmas music (celebrating the birth of Christ).  Simple enough.

But then, like all good Type As (as opposed to people who are obsessive-compulsive, or perhaps have major control issues, not that we know anyone like that), I realized that there is much more to it.

I added two more categories: Peace and Winter.  Peace, because it's such a big issue, and Christmas generates strong calls for peace.  Winter, because there are great songs about the entire season that have nothing to do with the holidays.

Four categories.  Hmmm.  Not enough.  What about songs for kids?  What about the comedy bits?  And gospel?  I love gospel music.  This year, we have some new babies.  Are there enough songs to put together a First Christmas CD?  Damn straight.  Of course, there are rock songs too - maybe they need their own category.  And dance songs.  New Years, party songs, it goes on and on.  Last year's collection included Christmas, Holiday, Peace and Winter music.

This year, the collection is of songs I discovered in 2007 based on the following categories:  Christmas, Holiday, Peace, Rock and Gospel.  Plus, people with a new baby get a special one (don't tell them, it's surprise).  Not everyone likes all those kinds of music, so people can pick and choose.  I like choices, don't you?  

See what happens when one doesn't sleep?  

Best Holiday Music - 2007

Joy to the World/The Most Wonderful Time of the Year - Barry Manilow
Give Love on Christmas Day - Yolanda Adams
Merry Christmas, Here's to Many More - Relient K
Mistletoe - Colbie Caillet
Jingle Bells Jamboree - Keb' Mo'
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - Hem
Warm Lovin' Christmas - Carnie Wilson
Santa Claus is Near - John Pizzarelli & Ralph Burns
Love Came Down at Christmas Time - Jars of Clay
Coming Home for Christmas - Jim Brickman Featuring Richie McDonald
Carol of the Bells/Jingle Bells - Barry Manilow
I Believe in Santa Claus - Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton
Does It Feel Like Christmas - Christopher Cross
What A Wonderful Time - Yolanda Adams
Santa's on His Way - Asleep at the Wheel
Carol of the Bells - The Bird and the Bee
We Need A Little Christmas - Kimberley Locke
I Saw Three Ships - Rick Springfield
Party Christmas - Keith Sweat
Silent Night - Five for Fighting
When I Get Home for Christmas - Snow Patrol
All Year Long - Michael W. Smith

Best Christmas Music - 2007

Sing Noel, Sing Hallelujah - Michael W. Smith
Christ, the King - Dan Fogelberg
I Celebrate the Day - Relient K
Angels We Have Heard on High - Christina Aguilera
Christmas Angels - Michael W. Smith
Birthday of the King/Hark! The Herald Angels Sing - David Phelps
Joy, Joy - David Phelps
Bells Are Ringing - Mary Chapin Carpenter
Great Light of The World - Bebo Norman
The Star Still Shines - Diamond Rio
The First Noel - Josh Groban and Faith Hill
Tonight - Ernie Haase & Signature Sound
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear - Jaci Velasquez
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - Rascal Flatts
Follow the Shepherd Home - Mindy Smith
Light of the Stable - Emmylou Harris
Good Christian Men Rejoice - Bob Fitts
Offering (Christmas Version) - Paul Baloche
Alleluia - Hawk Nelson
O Come All Ye Faithful - Jeremy Camp

Best of Holiday Peace - 2007

A Dream of Peace at Christmastime - Christopher Cross
A Season of Love - Yolanda Adams
Silent Night - Josh Groban
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day - Jim Brickman
Peace Is Here - Jars of Clay
The Rebel Jesus - Bebo Norman
If Everyone Believed - David Phelps
Christmas Day - Michael W. Smith
All Is Well - Clay Aiken
All I Want for Christmas is Peace on Earth - Tim Noah
Night of Peace - Darlene Love
The Promise - Michael W. Smith
Peace For Christmas - Paulette Miechle
Peace on Christmas Night - Out of the East
Happy Xmas (War is Over) - Maroon 5
Let There Be Peace - The Imperials
Medley: I Heard the Bells/We Will Know Peace - Michael Kevin Chambliss

Christmas Rock 

Santa Claus is Comin' to Town - Bruce Springsteen
Jingle Bell Rock - Nelson
Run, Rudolph, Run - Chuck Berry
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - Lynyrd Skynyrd
Deck the Halls - Canned Heat
Back Door Santa - B.B. King & John Popper
All I Want for Christmas - Foghat
I Believe in Father Christmas - Emerson, Lake & Palmer
I Wish Every Day Could Be Like Christmas - Bon Jovi
Rock & Roll Christmas - George Throrogood & The Destroyers
Rocking 'Round the Christmas Tree - Bruce Kulik, Bob Kulik, Rudy Sarzo, Simon Wright & Joe Lynn Turner
Snoopy's Christmas - Smash Mouth
Sock it to Me, Santa
Winter Wonderland - The Fabulous Thunderbirds
Hey Santa! - Chris Isaak
Better Days - Goo Goo Dolls
12 Days of Christmas - Relient K
Rockin' on Top of the World - Steven Tyler
Christmas Rock - Toby Keith
Christmas All Over Again - Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
A Wild-Eyed Christmas Night - .38 Special

Gospel Christmas 

'Tis the Season - Mary Mary
His Name is Jesus - Fred Hammond
Joy to the World - Whitney Houston & The Georgia Mass Choir
The Singer (Let There Be Light) - David Phelps
Give Me A Star - BeBe & CeCe Winans
Silent Night - Kirk Franklin & The Family
Sing, Angels, Sing - Nicole Mullen
O Come Emmanuel - Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir
Go Tell It On the Mountain/Mary Had a Baby - Vanessa Williams 
In the First Light - Todd Agnew
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day - Casting Crowns
Children Go Where I Send Thee - Mandisa
Glory to God in the Highest - Ernie Haase & Signature Sound
The Night That Christ Was Born - Kirk Franklin & God's Property
Born to Die - Hezekiah Walker & The Love Fellowship Choir
Somebody Talkin' 'Bout Jesus - Chanticleer
The Hallelujah Chorus/Worthy Is the Lamb - Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

WHEW!

Now I need your help, to the extent you're still here - I'm putting together a comedy CD - you know, Bob Rivers, Elmo & Patsy, stuff like that.  Any suggestions?

November 21, 2008

Holiday Music!

Holiday Music!


This morning, if you check in early, you'll get to see this blog happen in real time.  Long story, but I ended up out of town yesterday - unexpectedly - and didn't get home until the middle of the night.  Totally spaced on the blog until about 7:20, when I dashed to the Mac and started typing.

Holiday Music - we love it!  It's not just me, either - several of our TLC friends do too, and I hope we'll hear from them, since I can't find their e-mails right now - sorry about that!

Before we cover Christmas music in all its varieties, a few words about Thanksgiving Music - yes, there is such a thing and who else would go to all the trouble to find it for you?  That's right, just me.

There are the standard favorites, like "Celebrate Me Home", "Count Your Blessings" and "Bless This House", and the favorite religious songs like "All Good Gifts" and "Now Thank We All Our God."  Any turkey can throw those on a CD.  But what if you want more - and you're not willing to settle for the instrumental Windham Hill CD (which is terrific)?  Fear not, young pilgrim, for you have arrived in the new world.  Try these:

Want something funny? Adam Sandler's "Thanksgiving Song" (some concepts objectionable) or Firesign Theater's "Thanksgiving, or Pass the Indian, Please", or choose the Loony Toon version of "Over the River"

Don't mind some Christmas mixed in?  "Christmas is Coming" - the goose is getting fat and so forth, or "December Makes Me Feel This Way".

The following artists all have Thanksgiving songs - the first is from a brand new CD:

Mary Chapin Carpenter, Beatroots, Chris Winters, Debbie Friedman, John McCutcheon, Shawna Carol, Teddy Goldstein, Deb Talan, Benjy Westmoreland, Bowman, Jay Unger & Molly Mason (a Thanksgiving Waltz that's wonderful), and Josh Groban (from last year's amazing CD).  

Okay, that's a lot of info, and I may have to go back and edit later.  But first, HOLIDAY MUSIC.

If you're not a true fan, we may lose you early.  Some people just stick with the old Time-Life Boxed Set and call it a party.  Tsk, tsk.  Over the years, I've broken down the music into segments - otherwise, there is just no way to narrow it down.  More on that in the next blog, because I can already tell this is going to be way too long.

This year's new Holiday CDs-

Still To Come: Aretha Franklin (her FIRST) - out December 2nd.

Already have the entire new CD (which tells you how much I love the artist, because otherwise, it's cherry-picking from iTunes):

Harry Connick, Jr. - "What A Night!" - this is his third holiday CD with NO duplicates.  I just love that.

Yo-Yo Ma & Friends - "Songs of Joy and Peace" - great collaborations with artists from Diana Krall to Alison Krauss.

Al Jarreau - "Christmas" his first Holiday CD and the guy can still bring it.

And the one I've been looking forward to since last year's "12 Days" video - Straight No Chaser's "Holiday Spirits"

My other selections are from Melissa Etheridge, Faith Hill, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Brian McKnight and Amy Grant.  And there is a new "Very Special Christmas" CD with a variety of great picks.  As always, proceeds benefit the Special Olympics.

Still reading?  Okay - my top picks from 2007, in no particular order - (pick your favorite tracks from iTunes or another service):

Josh Groban's "Noel" - just stunning
Carnie Wilson's "Christmas With Carnie" - lovely
Barry Manilow's "The Swing of Christmas" - a must for all Fanilows
Yolanda Adams "What a Wonderful Time"
Patti LaBelle's "Miss Patti's Christmas" - no surprises - you like her or you don't
Jim Brickman's "Homecoming" - great piano and some vocals too, including Richie McDonald
Diamond Rios' "The Star Still Shines"
Michael W. Smith's "It's A Wonderful Christmas"
John Pizzarelli's " Let's Share Christmas"
Relient K's "Let It Snow Baby, Let it Reindeer" (get it?  say it out loud)

For more religious Christmas music:

Bebo Norman's "Christmas from the Realms of Glory"
Jars of Clay "Christmas Songs"
David Phelps "One Wintry Night" - plus "Joy, Joy" - both are amazing
Ernie Hasse & Signature Sound "Christmas With"
"Gloria (Studio Version)" - a compilation CD
Chanticleer's "Let It Snow"

Yikes.  Not that I get carried away with this stuff or anything...

Okay, I need my Frapps.  Bad.  In the holiday spirit, please help me out here - what are your favorites?