Sunday, December 31, 2017

What's Been Happening

Thanks to everyone who wished us well on the very long-anticipated sale of our home on the Virginia Eastern Shore, The Frog & Penguinn

Here's an update. 

Unfortunately, we're still homeowners and while we were hoping to start the new year being "home-less" (in a good way) that's not going to be the case. 

We left NH at the end of November and were "on the road" for 3 weeks. Most of our time was spent in VA, but we also had overnight stops in NJ, a weekend and concert with friends in Washington, DC, and a 1st birthday celebration and visit with friends in PA.

While in VA as Grenville and a friend completed minor repairs resulting from the home inspection and appraisal reports. The original closing date was set for mid-December and as we would thought we'd be spending the last holiday in VA, we recycled and decorated a Christmas tree which we also enjoyed every night.  And, of course, a tree needs presents as mentioned in the I'll Be Home for Christmas standard.

We hoped the tree would welcome the  new owner in time for the holidays. She met us at the house and was excited about house and the tree (and we liked her as well). Since the transaction is still pending and this holiday season is nearly over, maybe she can celebrate Christmas in July.

Briefly, the delay is an extension requested by the mortgage company which should bring a closing sometime in January. While "Santa" didn't fulfill our 2017 Christmas wish, we remain optimistic and hopeful.

That said, we did get another Christmas wish fulfilled and celebrated Christmas at home for the first time in several years. For the past several years, we've been away at the holidays mostly due to family situations including a passing and a new arrival. This year, not only did we return home before the holiday (even if just a week before) but also set up two (little) trees, exterior and interior.  
We also went about making our apt as holiday festive as possible in a short time. The decorations included many a lot of snowmen from wall hangings to those on shelves.

Teddy bears and penguins shared some of the shelf and table space too.
Santas, reindeer and snowmen hung around on doorknobs and our stockings were "hung with care" even if we don't have a fireplace or chimney. 
We have angels in various sizes and a Nativity with special meaning. The pieces are from my late mother's set and had been displayed in my parent's home previously. 
I still mail holiday cards and those we received were opened on our return home and then displayed by the front door. It's something I enjoy doing to remind us of friends and family's well wishes all season long. How do you display holiday greetings? 
We don't know about Santa's other reindeer, but Rudolph appeared to be in good spirits.

Mother Nature and Father Christmas gave us the beautiful present of a White Christmas.

Thanks to all our blog friends for your visits and comments throughout this past year. 
We appreciated all of them. See you in 2018.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Friday Funnies

Did the holidays have you climbing a wall, maybe like these guys?

The wall climbers are on the side of The New England Pirate Museum in Salem, MA. 

Enjoy your weekend, Everyone. 
It's the final one of 2017 — Have a safe one & Happy New Year 🍾

🥂 Beatrice & Grenville

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Merry "After" Christmas

Many folks living in New England didn't dream of a White Christmas, they had one. Here in Nashua, NH, we had an 8-inch snowfall that started shortly after midnight on Christmas Eve and went until noon on Christmas Day. Overnight temperatures are expected to drop into the teens  this week, so the white stuff will be staying around for awhile.

How was your Christmas Day ❄️ or none?

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Pre-Christmas Celebration

One of the final destinations on our recent road trip was easily the most enjoyable as we attended a family celebration, which was also a milestone for one young lady.

Last December, we spent a couple of weeks before Christmas in Lancaster, PA, anticipating the arrival of the newest family member. This year, we were happy to return and reunite for her 1st birthday.

We visited with heron her actual mid-December birthday, a day ahead of the big celebration. Like any doting self-respecting grandparents, we brought gifts. But, like most young children she happily played with the wrapping paper and boxes first.

She happily greeted everyone and, while she's not yet mobile, she had lots of help from family and friends

Balloons and cake are "must-haves" at a birthday party.  At this one, there were two cakes: one for guests and a small one just for granddaugther who soon dug into her cake with much encouragement from the birthday guests, especially the younger ones. We were told this is called a "smash" cake and created especially for this purpose.

She may not actually have eaten much, she wore it quite well and all over too. This was a first for us. Did any of your family members celebrate with a first cake this way? Her face, hands, nose and even her chair didn't escape a coating of the pink and white  frosting.

After a clean-up and change of clothes, it was time for gift opening with lots of help from mom.
Grandpa Grenville modeled a Christmas gift from Lilliana who seemed to enjoy seeing it or maybe she was laughing at grandpa?
We're finally back home in NH as of this week and have spent the past few days putting up a small tree and other holiday decorations to celebrate at home for the first time in several years. There's a lot more catching up to do over the next few days. THANKS to everyone for your blog friendship (and comments).
Best Wishes to you & yours for a blessed and very Merry 🎄Christmas from us and our special friend. (We put in a lot of good words for all of you.)

Monday, December 18, 2017

Holiday (Earworm) Song Trivia

Have you been listening to Christmas songs in recent weeks, whether at home or in retail settings and have you tired of them with just a week to go until Christmas?

We've been listening a lot of them and, by now, are fairly certain that we've heard most performed not only by not only the original artist, but various others too.

That because at our VA house, there was no Internet access (bummer for sure) so we listened to a Ocean City, MD radio station that played continuous holiday tunes. This weekend, while in PA for our granddaughter's 1st birthday and at a hotel with Internet access, I found out a lot more about some of our favorite (and not so favorite) "holiday" songs. So, I'm sharing what I learned in this rather long post cause you never know when you might need a bit of holiday song trivia at holiday parties. 

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas was introduced by Judy Garland (written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane)  in 1944 film Meet Me In St Louis in a scene set at a Christmas Eve gathering, her character, Esther, sings the song to cheer up her young sister, Tootie, played by Margaret O’Brien. In the film, the family is upset by the father's plans to relocate them to NYC for a job promotion, leaving behind their beloved home in St. Louis, MO, just before the long-anticipated 1904 World’s Fair  begins.

After hearing the original lyrics, Garland and others termed the song depressing and asked Martin to change the lyrics. Martin later changed the lyrics to make it more upbeat. The original lyrics "It may be your last / Next year we may all be living in the past" became "Let your heart be light / Next year all our troubles will be out of sight." In 1959, Frank Sinatra asked Martin to again make a change and revise "Until then we'll have to muddle through somehow ” as his holiday album was A Jolly Christmas and Sinatra wanted the line "jollier." Martin's changed it to "Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.” (I still like Garland's version.)

The Christmas Song (commonly subtitled Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire was originally subtitled, Merry Christmas to You) is a classic Christmas song written in 1945 by Bob Wells and Mel Tormé who said it was written during a blistering hot summer in an effort to "stay cool by thinking cool.” 

This is one of the most popular Christmas songs as popularized by The Nat King Cole Trio early in 1946. At Cole's insistence and over objections of Capital Records, a second recording was made the same year adding a small string section. This version became a hit on the pop and R&B charts. In 1953, Cole recorded the song using the same arrangement with a full orchestra arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle, and again in 1961, in a stereophonic version with orchestra conducted by Ralph Carmichael. (Cole's version remains the most heartwarming in my opinion.)

Santa Baby, recorded in 1952 by sultry songstress Eartha Kitt, is considered one  of the first holiday novelty songs. Before then, Christmas songs tended to be nostalgic. This one was different with Kitt singing about how she's been "good all year." She tells Santa that she expects expensive gifts: a sable fur, ’54 convertible (light blue), yacht, deed to a platinum mine, duplex and checks, decorations from Tiffany, ring (not on the phone). It was co-written by Joan Javits (niece of Sen. Jacob Javits) and Phillip Springer. It’s one of the only holiday songs written by a woman. Kitt said that it was one of her favorite songs to record. 

She died in 2008 at age 81 on Christmas Day. (No one does it better than Etta did.)

White Christmas, written by Irving Berlin, is most associated with singer Bing Crosby, who sang it in the 1954 film White Christmas which was the highest grossing movie of that year. Produced and distributed by Paramount Pictures, it was the first to be released in the new widescreen process of VistaVision. 

The recording is noted for Crosby's whistling during the second chorus.  This was not the song's first performance; Crosby originally performed it in 1941 on his NBC radio show, The Kraft Music Hall, then sang it in the 1942 film, Holiday Inn. In that film, the song won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1942. 

Initially, the song performed poorly, but by the end of October 1942, White Christmas topped the Your Hit Parade chart staying there until the new year. It has been noted that the mix of melancholy, “just like the ones I used to know” with comforting images of home "where the treetops glisten” resonated strongly with listeners during WW II. A few weeks after the Dec 7, 1941 Pearl Harbor attacks Crosby introduced the song on a Christmas Day broadcast and The Armed Forces Network was overwhelmed with with requests. (It's not one of my favorite holiday tunes.)

Silver Bells was performed by Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell in the 1951 film, The Lemon Drop Kid, based on a Damon Runyon story of gangsters and dolls. It was composed by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, songwriters for Paramount whose contracts would lapse if they didn't produce a song. Studio bosses wanted a holiday song. The song's lyrics are unique in that rather than the nostalgic or rural settings in many holiday tunes, the lyrics describe a modern setting of busy sidewalks and street lights and "Christmas time in the city."

While we own and have watched many holiday films (which we re-watch every Christmas season), this was a new "Christmas" one for us. We watched it this weekend in our hotel room via YouTube. It's a typical Bob Hope comedy with lots of side comments. Be sure to catch the last one, a reference to his long-time "road pics" partner Bing Crosby.

The song was originally titled Tinkle Bells until the wife of one of the song’s composers explained that the word was a a child's term for urination; the title was changed. In 1950, the first recorded version of Silver Bells was done by Bing Crosby and Carol Richards. (My favorite version was done by Dean Martin and featured on his 1966 Christmas LP.)

All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth was performed by Spike Jones & His City Slickers in December 1947 with lead vocal by George Rock. This novelty song was written in 1944 by school music teacher Donald Yetter Gardner who taught at Smithtown, NY public schools. When he asked his second grade class what they wanted for Christmas, he noticed that almost all had at least one front tooth missing and answered in a lisp. Gardner wrote the song in 30 minute and it was published in 1948 after an employee of Witmark music company heard him sing it at a music teachers' conference. The song was later performed by The Satisfiers on Perry Como's 1948 radio show. (I'm not a fan of this one.)

Santa Claus is Coming to Town was co-written by Haven Gillespie and J. Fred Coots in 1932 and first sung on Eddie Cantor’s radio show in November 1934. 

The song became an quick hit hit and within 24 hours there were orders for 500,000 copies of sheet music and more than 30,000 records were sold. A 1951 version sung by Perry Como was the song's first measurable hit. Since then it's become a traditional holiday standard and has been covered by many recording artists

Perhaps one of the best-known versions is the 1975 live recording by rocker Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band at C.W. Post College in Brookville, NY.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day is a Christmas carol based on the poem Christmas Bells by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who wrote it on Christmas Day 1864 after personal tragedies had affected his family; the death of his wife and serious injury of his 17-year old son, a Union soldier. 

The poem wasn't written as a Christmas standard, but tells of the narrator's despair, upon hearing Christmas bells, that "hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men." It concludes with the bells carrying renewed hope for peace among men. Two stanzas of the poem describing the effects of the Civil War, and the sadness it caused never made it to the song. It was not until 1872 that the poem is known to have been set to musicAn updated arrangement was written in 1950 by Johnny Marks who also wrote Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer(This message is heartfelt no matter who does it.)

All I Want for Christmas is a Hippopotamus was performed by 10-year old Gayla Peevey from Oklahoma who recorded the song in 1953. That Christmas, the song sold a record half million copies and she performed it on the Ed Sullivan Show. 

The Oklahoma City Zoo capitalized on the success of its local celebrity by starting a campaign to buy Gayla a hippo for Christmas, but she had to donate it to the zoo. When Mathilda, a 2-year-old hippopotamus, arrived on Christmas Eve. Gayla greeted her at the airport, then turned her over to the zoo. On Christmas day, over 10,000 visitors came to see the zoo’s first hippo. Nearly 50 years later, the song is still a favorite. (But not of mine.)

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus was originally recorded by 13-year old Jimmy Boyd in July 1952 and went to No. 1 on the pop singles chart in December 1952. The song, written by British songwriter Tommie Connor, was commissioned by Saks Fifth Avenue in NYC to promote the store's Christmas card that year. 

In the tune lyrics, a child walks downstairs from his bedroom on Christmas Eve to see his mother kissing "Santa Claus" under the mistletoe. When first released, the record was condemned by the Roman Catholic Church in Boston on the grounds that it mixed kissing with Christmas. The ban was later lifted. (Shame on the church, this one is classic from my childhood.)

Nuttin for Christmas (also called Nothing for Christmas) was written by Sid Tepper and Roy Bennett. It was a hit novelty song during the 1955 holiday season and appeared on the Billboard charts performed by five different artists. 

The highest charting version which peaked at No. 6 and became a million seller was recorded by Art Mooney and his orchestra with vocals by 6-year old Barry Gordon. Another popular version was performed by Stan Freeberg. (I can skip all versions.)

Barry Gordon was  a character actor, voice actor, talk show host and also served as president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1988-1995. (I've never liked this song.)

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was popularized by the singing cowboy Gene Autry and written by Johnny Marks based on the 1939 story of the same name published by the Montgomery Ward Company. Autrey’s recording was No. 1 on the U.S. charts on Christmas week 1949. His version was also the only chart-topping hit to fall completely off the chart after reaching No. 1.

Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane) was written and sung by Autrey with music composed by Oakley Halderman. Autry's original version, which was a top 10 hit on the pop and country charts, has been done by various artists many times since then. He also performed the song in his 1949 movie, The Cowboy and the Indians.

Autry said he got the idea for the song while riding his horse in the 1946 Santa Claus Lane Parade in Los Angeles, California. During the parade he heard crowds shouting, “Here Comes Santa Claus.” In the song, Autrey pronounces Santa Claus as "Santy Claus.” (Both are perennial favorites from childhood.)

The Chipmunks Song (Christmas Don't Be Late) is a 1958 novelty song written by Ross Bagdasarian (a.k.a. David Seville). It was written and sung by Bagdasarian in the form of a high-pitched voice, but the singing credits are given to The Chipmunks, a fictitious singing trio comprised of Alvin, Simon and Theodore. 

The song proved very successful and reached No. 1 on the Pop singles chart. It was The Chipmunks' first (and only) single. (Thank goodness for small favors.)

Some popularly regarded "holiday" songs actually have nothing to do with the Christmas season, including these favorites.

(We're) Walking in a Winter Wonderland was written in 1934 by Felix Bernard (music) and Richard B. Smith (lyricist). Through the years it's been recorded by over 200 different artists. It's considered a holiday song even there is no mention of Christmas in the lyrics, perhaps it's because sleigh bells are mentioned in the tune several times. In the first bridge section of the song, the snowman's name is "Parson Brown." In the second bridge, the snowman is called a "circus clown." In some versions of the song, the snowman is both Parson Brown and the circus clown.

The original recording was in 1934 by Richard Himber and his Hotel Ritz-Carlton Orchestra on RCA Bluebird. The biggest chart hit at its debut was done by Guy Lombardo's and his orchestra. Singer-songwriter Johnny Mercer took the song to #4 in Billboard's chart in 1946. The same season, Perry Como hit the retail top ten and recorded a new version for a 1959 Christmas album. (This one was in my famly's holiday record collection and I've always liked it.)

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow was written by lyricist Sammy Cahn and composer Jule Styne in July 1945 in Hollywood, CA during a heat wave as they imagined cooler conditions. First recorded for RCA Victor in 1945 by Vaughn Monroe it became a popular hit and reached No. 1 on the Billboard chart in late January and through February, 1946.

Although the song's lyrics make no mention of Christmas, it's played regularly during the Christmas season and is often covered by various artists on Christmas-themed albums.
 of this tune in the past few weeks. (It's one of my favorites.)

Happy Holiday composed by Irving Berlin in 194 and introduced in 1942 film Holiday Inn by Bing Crosby and Majorie Reynolds (dubbed by Martha Mears). While commonly regarded as a Christmas song. It’s actually performed as a New Year’s Eve tune in the film and wishes everyone happy holidays throughout the year. 

The song was popularized by singer Andy Williams who used it as the opening to his holiday specials. (This was also a popular album in my family's holiday record collection. Andy owns the cover for me.)

Do you like (or intensely dislike) any of these tunes? 
Please share your own favorites or least favorites as well

AND, Many Thanks for all your comments on our (still) pending VA house sale. We (finally) will be back "home" in NH by late Monday and I will catch up on blog reading next week. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

Friday Funnies

This is really on the road dining — the table and chairs were set up in this truck's cab.

Enjoy your weekend, Everyone.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

USAF Holiday Concert

Thanks to everyone for your comments on several previous posts. Grenville and myself especially appreciated the kind words that many left about the recycled Christmas tree at our VA home. We've been enjoying it nightly and hopefully so will the new owner. (As of this writing, the buyer's mortgage commitment has not been finalized but, as this is the holiday season, hopefully it's only a matter of timing.) 

We're still on our road trip and unfortunately still on the VA eastern shore. From here it was a relatively short (3-1/2-hour) drive to Washington, DC this past weekend where we visited with longtime friends, Linda and John (not shown) to attend a holiday concert. 
Before leaving NH, we had obtained tickets online for the United States Air Force (USAF) Band's 2017 holiday concert, Spirit of the Season, at Washington's DAR Constitution Hall. As with all military concerts, the tickets were no charge.
The U.S. Air Force Band started in 1941 when the newly-formed U.S. Army Air Corps activated 59 bands into operation. Over the past 76 years, the band has expanded its size and mission to include six primary performing ensembles and a global mission.
Today, the USAF Band consists of six separate performing ensembles: Air Force Strings, Airmen of Note, Ceremonial Brass, Concert Band, Max Impact and Singing Sergeants. Each group supports several small ensembles. Collectively, the groups perform more than 1,600 events annually with concerts coast-to-coast through local performances and national concert tours. These musicians also entertain service members deployed overseas.

The concert featured several of the band's most popular groups, the U.S. Air Force Concert Band, Singing Sergeants and Airmen of Note. These versatile ensembles team up every December to treat Washington, D.C. area audiences with songs of holiday cheer. 

During the nearly 2-hour performance, these ensembles performed an assortment of seasonal classics that included a flash mob. The performance ended with an audience sing-along and all the youngsters in attendance were invited onstage.

This was a wonderful holiday concert that was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone, including ourselves. We really got in the holiday spirit within 3 days. Last Wednesday evening we attended a holiday concert by the U.S. Fleet Services (Navy) Band at a local high school in VA last Wed evening. 

Our DC weekend was capped off with a 2-inch snowfall as seen from our friends' backyard.

If you're interested in viewing holiday and other concert performances by U.S. military bands (USAF Band, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Marine Corps) check out YouTube videos. My personal favorite is the 2015 USAF Band holiday concert in Union Station in Washington, DC. It features band members wearing vintage U.S. Army Air Corps uniforms to celebrate the service of World War II veterans. (The swing music and flash mob are fun too.)

Monday, December 11, 2017

Holiday Decos X2

Before we left our NH apartment to start our 2 week road trip, the exterior decorations were set up. We needed a little Christmas ahead of time.

This small tree was formerly in Grenville's workshop and at holiday craft shows. A trip to the $ store and we redecorated it. Last year's holiday cards were recycled for wall decos.

Santa was donated last year by a former neighbor who was moving. The snowman came from a thrift store at the local senior center. Percy Penguin relocated from the front porch at the Frog & Penguinn in VA and, his companion, Ferd Frog relocated too. 
ince we would be spending part of December at the VA house, we decided to set up a final Christmas tree.
This tree was discarded by a neighbor as the lights no longer lit (he had no problem with our recycling it). After 3 hours of using wire cutters we cut them off and filled a large trash bag. After another trip to the discount and $ store, the tree was trimmed with lights, decos and a tree skirt. We lit the fireplace and had egg nog while decorating.

After all that "work" a selfie was in order. 

We're not keeping the tree, but leaving it for the new homeowner who had hoped to able to close on our VA home by mid-December. However due to delays, the closing may be closer to Christmas and a decorated tree is always welcoming.

My apologies for not commenting on your blog posts as we've had no internet access while in VA This post was done while at our friends' home in Washington, DC where we spent the weekend and attended the USAF band holiday concert at Constitution Hall. We're still traveling and won't be back in NH until a week before Christmas when I hope to catch up on what everyone's been doing.