Wednesday, December 30, 2020

And So It Came . . .

There was no White Christmas in Nashua, NH, instead it was a very warm and wet morning which did away with the 11-inch snowfall a week or so earlier. 

And, Christmas was not cancelled this year despite what some people said, including a prime
minister (who shall remain nameless).

To borrow some lines from How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Theodor Seuss (Dr. Seuss): It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags . . . Maybe Christmas (he thought) doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.

Despite not having large gatherings of family and friends, many of us had what we needed, each other. To quote Lou Lou Who, also from the Grinch tale: It isn't about the gifts . . . I don’t need anything more for Christmas than this right here. My family.

And, even though the Grinch told Cindy Lou Who, They'll be no sad faces at Christmas, there were many as we remembered family, friends and others we would not be seeing during the holidays.

But, thanks to modern technology, our family, like many others, was able to be together and connect, not in person, but online this year. We shared gift openings, meals, and just the joy of seeing one another at Christmas.  
The RI grandkids visited with Grandpa on Christmas Eve in a FaceTime chat.
Christmas Day
 started with an early a.m. FaceTime video to watch them open gifts we sent. Thankfully, deliveries made it on time and they waited until Christmas to open them.
After our video visit, Grenville made a delicious breakfast of baked French toast, which we enjoyed for more than one breakfast. This was a much easier recipe done in the oven and not stovetop with milk, eggs, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg , vanilla and topped with almonds and powdered sugar. (It was so good that we had it again this week for dinner.)

This was a Christmas to be remembered, but not because of unhappy times. We decorated, sent cards, baked cookies, and got together (at a distance) with family and friends — different of course, but still joyous and filled with memories.

We hope you shared some happy holiday time with family and friends.

Friday, December 25, 2020

It's Christmas 2020 !

Our Best Wishes to Everyone 

Celebrate & Enjoy the Holiday
We're doing the same together in NH.
(comments are off )

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Friday Funnies (Early)

Who said there's no holiday spirit this Christmas? 
We found plenty of spirit yesterday, plus many folks in the mood for spirits.

Where was it found? 
At the local NH Wine & Liquor Outlet store where we went to buy wine for Christmas dinner.
Register lines inside the store were longer than at the supermarket, our next stop. 
Everyone we spoke with was in very good spirits even before sampling their purchases.
Tis the Season for all sorts of spirits — magical, mystical and liquid 🍾

This pre-holiday Friday Funny comes with our Best Wishes to Enjoy your Weekend.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Holiday Movie Watching

Holiday 🎄movieshave you been watching them more this year? It's OK to 'fess up

The past few years, we never managed to watch all the holiday movies in our collection, which currently numbers just over 50, a bit more with a couple of compilation DVDs. 
But, this year, beginning in early November, we started going through the collection in alphabetical order and we each selected a film a night. We started with, Beyond Christmas, and recently ended with We're No Angels. Some of the films in our collection may be unfamiliar to many of you and a few will be described in this post; several are unusual, but worth a look.

Years ago, we would take turns and randomly choose a movie for the night's viewing. This meant we never watched every film, some would be skipped to pick favorites. of course, not traveling during either of the major holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas also helped increase this year's viewing
Our collection includes films with similar, but not identical titles or storylines: The Man Who Saved Christmas (the story of toymaker A.C. GIlbert) and The Man Who Invented Christmas (the story of how Charles Dickens penned A Christmas Carol). Several movies in our collection have the word, holiday, in the title: Holiday Inn (1942), Holiday Affair (1949) and The Holiday (2006).

We have many versions of A Christmas Carol: a 1938 film with Reginald Owen, 1984 version with George C. Scott, 1992 Muppets Christmas Carol, and the 2009 animated version with Jim Carrey. One day we'll add the 1951 version with Alastair Sim, which many consider the best one of the bunch. We also have Scrooged, a 1988 fantasy-comedy version starring Bill Murray and including all three of his brothers — John, Joel, and Brian Doyle-Murray. We've skipped most of these this year, opting to watch the Scott and Murray versions.
Dickens is said to have named the story, A Christmas Carol, as he expected it to be repeated and shared and to bring families together like the singing of carols that spread happiness each season in London.

We also watched movies newly-added to our collection and bought on eBay this year: Home Alone 2, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Trading Places, While You Were Sleeping, and 3 Godfathers. That last 1948 film is considered the only Christmas western, directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne. For the plot line, think of the story of the Three Wise Men only with cowboys. The film was based on a 1930 story of the same title. It wasn't one of our favorites and might not be to your liking, unless you're a big John Wayne fan.
One with a similar theme is the1940 movie, Beyond Tomorrow, one of our holiday favorites. It's also known as Beyond Christmas and So Goodbye. The movie is considered a fantasy film and includes early special effects. It was produced by noted cinematographer Lee Garmes. There are no famous stars in the film, but it featured a quartet of veteran character actors, all seven received a "Featuring" billing after the movie title. The plot takes place during the Christmas season, but the film is little-remembered. As the story begins, three rich, but lonely engineers invite a pair of strangers, a young couple, to share Christmas Eve in their mansion. The trio bonds with them, but there's an untimely plane crash and then. Sorry, but you will have to see the film to learn what happened. Hint: you can find it online.

An offbeat 1950 comedy film, Rupert the Great, also titled The Great Rupert stars Jimmy Durante as a down-and-out former vaudeville performer whose family falls on hard times at Christmas time. A furry friend becomes their guardian angel in the form of a squirrel named Rupert as money starts raining down from a hole in the ceiling. Admittedly, it's a totally absurd plot line. This low-budget film was reviewed in The New York Times which described it as wholly ingratiating adding that it had a happy cast of characters. While not a great film by any means, it's a fun one with a good message as Durante's character is shown helping his neighbors after his new-found wealth. Sorry no further plot details here, but you can also find this one online.

The cast includes actor Tom Drake, who plays a love interest in the film and six years earlier as John Truitt was the love interest of Judy Garland in the 1944 film, Meet Me in St Louis. That film  featured the now classic holiday tune, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.

Mixed Nuts is an American Christmas dark comedy, directed by Nora Ephron, which features a stellar comedic cast including Steve Martin, Madeline Kahn, Robert Klein, Adam Sandler, Rob Reiner, and Garry Shandling. The events focus around a crisis hotline in coastal CA on Christmas Eve. It was released in theaters on December 21, 1994 and while critically and commercially unsuccessful then, it's now a cult classic.

While also enjoy vintage B&W films including It's a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, Holiday Inn, The Bishop's Wife, It Happened in Connecticut. We have several contemporary favorites: Love Actually, a 2003 release, which features an ensemble cast of mostly British actors, many of whom had worked with director Richard Curtis on film and TV projects. Filmed in London, the screenplay delves into various aspects of love, shown in 10 separate stories involving people who are shown to be connected as the story progresses. It begins 5 weeks before Christmas and plays out until the holiday with an epilogue one month later. Released in the U.S. in November 2003, it got mixed reviews. One week later it opened in the UK to positive reviews. It was a box office hit, more popular with audiences than critics then, it's now a modern Christmas movie staple.
Three years later in 2006, The Holiday, premiered in NYC in November, a month before its December theatrical release in the US and UK. This romantic comedy featured Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz as two women from opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean who arrange a Christmas home exchange  to escape heartbreak in their respective countries. Written, produced and directed by Nancy Meyers the film was a financial success  and grossed over $200 million against a $85 million budget. It garnered mixed reviews with critics praising cast performances and the film's aesthetic appeal but with a predictable plot. Nevertheless, it remains a modern classic now.

We did a snowy day movie marathon of all three Tim Allen holiday films: 1994 The Santa Clause, 2002 Santa Clause 2 (The Mrs Clause) and 2006 Santa Clause 3 (the escape clause). 

We also watched The Polar Express, The Grinch That Stole Christmas, and A Charlie Brown Christmas. And, the 1989 film, Christmas Vacation is always on our holiday viewing list. Maybe some of these are on yours too?
Two Netflix original films, Christmas Chronicles and Christmas Chronicles2 with Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn will be added to our DVD collection within a few years. Right now, these films are too recent to be reasonably priced. All of the above-mentioned holiday films added to our collection this year were purchased online for $5 to $6 with free shipping. Buying several older films wasn't costly and definitely provided a lot of evening entertainment for us this year and in the future.

Now, I'll admit we haven't watched Hallmark holiday movies as we're not cable subscribers. Many of these can be seen on YouTube and so are next on our holiday watching list. After all, there's still time left before Christmas and we're not going anywhere then or afterwards.

Plus, there's no shame in being a Hallmark Christmas movie addict as lots of folks are now. My brother told me he's been watching them too.

Your turn, what holiday films, if any, have you been watching the past couple of months and what are some of your favorites? 

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Longest Day

Yesterday was the first day of winter and the longest night in the Northern Hemisphere. After an overcast day in Nashua, NH, skies cleared for this end of day reflection.

My longest day is today, which marks the 6th anniversary of my mother's passing. Remembering her, I am thankful for many things especially that her death was not related to the current pandemic and that she did not have to witness its impact. My mom would have been in the highest risk category because of age and prevailing health conditions. And, if she had been infected, most likely I would have been unable to visit her in NJ.

Today, my sadness is filled with remembrance and gratitude and love.  My mother enjoyed the Christmas holidays and always made them special. Those memories will always remain.

Comments are off. Thanks for understanding. 

Monday, December 21, 2020

Decking the Halls

Takes on a quite literal meaning in the the apartment building where we live in Nashua, NH. It was formerly home to The Nashua Manufacturing Company, a (very large) textile mill. 

This post is so titled as there are a lot of hallways in two very large mill buildings. The main hallway on the 3rd floor, which connects the two mill buildings, is a quarter of a mile long. Each building also has five floors which run the length of the individual buildings, but do not connect.

Many residents decorate apt interiors and others, like ourselves, also decorate their apt exteriors, just as we do, seen here. (Decorations are allowed, the only exceptions are non-decor items, like shoes and boots, which are strongly discouraged.)
Last weekend, I took an indoor walk and saw trees of various sizes, shapes and colors along the hallways as shown ↑ above. Unfortunately, as noted in a previous post, live trees are no allowed as of this year, due to fire and insurance regulations. (I always enjoyed the live trees of my childhood Christmases, but perhaps now it's best that trees remain in the environment, as a fellow blogger noted in his comment.) That said, I spotted some live evergreen wreaths on a few doors (not many) as currently there's no restrictions on those.
Santa Claus has already made an early appearance here. There was no shortage of Clauses displayed on exterior apartment shelves or the floor.
Snowmen are another seasonal favorite and many were spotted in various displays, either alone or with a companion. Some of these may stay around all winter season.
Santas and snowmen aside, there was an assortment of other colorfully garbed figures, including a very large moose and many soldiers. These are a few of them.
And, the reason for the season, was also represented in several variations of manger scenes. Although I didn't see as many Nativity scenes as other decor, residents may display these within their apartments. We do the same as the set has been in the family for years.

This week's weather forecast is for warmer temperatures with no additional snow forecast; however, the remains of last week's 11-inch snowfall remain. There's a possibility of snow showers on Thursday, Christmas Eve, which might give a new dusting in time for a White Christmas. 

Since we've nowhere to go, that's a hint about what follows, here are some facts about one of my favorite tunes, not just at Christmas, but throughout the winter season. 

Have you guessed the song title by now? 
Yes, it's Let It Snow . . . which has become a regular part of holiday playlists.

It doesn't mention Christmas: Unlike similar holiday tunes, this one has no reference to Christmas in the lyrics, but does include mention of a fire, popcorn, and winter weather, none of these are unique to Christmas. The 2019 video does an overkill on working a Christmas theme into this tune (as you will see below).

It was written during a heat wave: In July 1945, on one of the hottest days in southern CA heatwave, lyricist Sammy Cahn and composer Jule Styne skipped a day at the beach and instead wrote a song that recalled winter when they were growing up (Cahn in NY and Styne in London).

The song's full title is in triplicate: The tune was originally released under its full title, Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow, which has been shortened over the years.

It went to No. 1 75 years ago: Singer Vaughn Monroe was the first person to record it in 1945 and it went to No. 1 on the Billboard charts in late January 1946. 

This isn't the most familiar track: A 1966 cover done by Dean Martin is considered the classic version of this tune. After being played through decades of Christmas seasons, Martin’s version finally entered the Billboard Top 100 in 2018 — the first time in 49 years that one of his songs made the list.

An official music video debuted in 2019: Another milestone was in November 2019 when an official music video of the song was uploaded to YouTube. The animated version includes Martin crooning and celebrating with a cartoon cast of family and friends. They're in a cabin decked out with Christmas decorations, a tree and Santa Claus (not in the lyrics). The video was released by Universal Music Enterprises which previously did animated videos for classic holiday songs such as Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree (Brenda Lee) and Jingle Bells (Frank Sinatra).

It has a warm weather counterpart: Cahn and Styne also wrote The Things We Did Last Summer, a tune about warm weather nostalgia in which the singer relies on warm weather memories to get through a cold winter—a reversal of what led to Let It Snow. In 1946, this tune was a top 10 hit for Jo Stafford and a version by Frank Sinatra also charted that year. In 1962, Shelley Fabares had a hit cover on the pop charts. It's been recorded by many others including (ironically) Vaughn Monroe, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby and The Beach Boys.

Hope you enjoyed seeing more holiday decor and reading about a favorite seasonal  tune. This was a timely post as these ↓ window scenes were taken early today after a light snowfall ❄️ on Sunday. It was earlier than expected, a bit more than forecast, and lovely to see. 

Friday, December 18, 2020

Friday Funnies

Plows, we got 'em, and while Nashua, NH wasn't plowed in yet, these units were ready to go early Wednesday morning.

Just under 12 inches of snow fell here from late Wednesday night into Thursday afternoon. While it was the first significant snowfall in the past couple of years, it could hardly measure up to portions of the Northeast, like Binghamton, NY. There, a yardstick wasn't long enough to measure over 40 inches that piled up in under 24 hours.

If the white stuff hangs around, we could have a white🎄Christmas, the first one in years.
Glad many of you enjoyed yesterday's post about the Northern Cardinal, known as the Christmas card bird. We received a few more cardinal cards this week.

Enjoy Your Weekend, Everyone
One more week till 🎅 arrives

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Christmas Card Bird

Have your Christmas cards all been sent?

Speaking for myself, 2020 was a big year for card sending and I outdid my previous card tally this year (more on that later).

Do you know what the most popular bird is on most holiday cards? Those who send or receive
cards may already know this answer.

No surprise, it’s the male Northern Red Cardinal, christened the “Christmas Bird” for its spectacular red color. It's become the symbol of beauty and warmth of the holiday season. Cardinals are said to represent faith, hope, and love. The word “cardinal” comes from the Latin, cardo meaning “hinge or door." It’s thought that the bird was named as a representation of a door between the spirit world and the earth.

A glimpse of this colorful bird brings cheer, hope, and inspiration to many folks on a gray wintery day. And, in the midst of winter, this may be why its bright red plumage shows up on so many holiday decorations, wall decor, pillows, wrapping paper, ornaments and especially greeting cards. It’s a perennial favorite and who hasn’t seen images of a cardinal on a snow-covered tree, mailbox, Christmas tree, and even posed with a friendly snowman.

The association between cardinals and Christmas isn’t just because their scarlet feathers add color to otherwise dreary winter landscapes. While the origins of the cardinal’s affiliation with the holiday is uncertain, some have said that red is a universally-recognized Christmas color to symbolize the blood of Christ, shed to redeem mankind.  And, for many, it’s a reminder to focus on faith and the hope and peace that it can bring.

And, red is also the color of Santa's suit, another perennial favorite. 

Unlike many northern birds, cardinals don’t head south for the winter and can be spotted seen year round. They’re one of a handful of few birds seen during the holiday season, perhaps adding to their seasonal popularity. Not only is the cardinal one of the most common state birds, it’s also the official state bird of seven U.S. states — Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia.

The above photos were taken in our VA yard after one of our rare winter snowstorms. We had a picket fence which offered a great cardinal perch. (The male at the top right was taken separately and then added in when this image was used on a holiday card.) 
This North American bird was unknown in Europe until the 1600s. Many other parts of the world, Europe, the Holy Land and those outside the eastern two-thirds  of the U.S. see this bird when it flies into their homes on holiday greetings. Experts have said the number of cardinals number is dropping here in the U.S. and that for over a century, cardinals have been expanding their range northward.
Another image that was taken at our former VA home, when this male cardinal posed on a Nandina bush by the side of our home. This evergreen or semi-evergreen broadleaf shrub, produced red berries which showed off perfect in the snow.

Currently, folks in Ottawa, Canada, Bangor, ME and Niagara Falls, NY, are enjoying the sight of cardinals when many years ago they had little hope of seeing them in their backyards. The growing popularity of bird feeders is thought to be a factor in enabling the cardinal to endure harsh northern winters and now they've been seen from the Great Plains eastward across the U.S. and into southern Canada.

Despite the cardinal’s popularly on Christmas cards, it’s not featured on the most popular Christmas card. That honor goes to an image of three cherubic angels, two of whom are bowed in prayer. The third peers out from the card with baby blue eyes, her halo slightly tilted down.

The inside sentiment reads, God bless you, keep you and love Christmastime and always. First published in 1977, this card is still part of the Hallmark card collection. To date it’s sold over 34 million copies. (We received this card in 2019 and it's displayed outside our apartment with other cards received in 2019, recycled for a second display.)

My personal card count this year was about 105 mailed out, mostly within the U.S and several sent abroad. An additional 25 cards were distributed to residents living here in the mill apts. Thankfully, no postage needed for these, just foot power to walk the floors.

According to Hallmark Cards (which should know) the theme of the top selling cards this year included sentiments of Wish we were together. The company's head marketing officer said 2020 sales showed the most popular cards included front wording, like It would be so nice to wish you a Merry Christmas in personThe inside reads, But even though I can’t, just know that I’m thinking of you – now and all through the year.

I don’t know about all of you, but even without Hallmark saying so, sending a card can help feelings of isolation, especially now. Despite the popularity of text messages or e-cards, most people appreciate getting an actual card (holiday or not) and this Christmas more than ever.

Just so you all know, my offer to send a card to anyone who would like one mailed still stands, although it may arrive after the holiday. Regardless, send your info to the email address on the blog and I'll send one your way, and I always include a personal note.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Four Years Ago . . .

It hardly seems that long ago, especially now, but in December 2016, we were in Lancaster, PA, awaiting the pre-holiday birth of the youngest granddaughter.
She's 4 years old today, and, for the first time in a few years, we won't be there in person to help celebrate this occasion or Christmas. We did both 4 years ago after her arrival.

This year, we'll celebrate with a video visit and watch her open our gifts. 
Here's the party girl all dressed up for a home celebration held over the weekend. It was limited only to family visits from her aunts and uncles who live in the same area. Can you tell who likes unicorns a lot?
Of course, no birthday celebration would be complete without gifts; these were a couple of her favorites. She's a big fan of Play-Doh and also of Queen Elsa from the Frozen movie.

After gift opening, there was another treat, a cake, specially decorated in a Frozen design.

The youngest granddaughter is growing up. We hope to see her and her parents before the next celebration comes around.

Happy 🎂Birthday
Hope to celebrate with you next year!

Friday, December 11, 2020

Friday Funnies

Tis true, that it's the season to be jolly, but holiday joy has been lessened by the you-know-what virus. 
Still, we should take time to try and look at the humorous side of things as in this post. 
Many folks are growing so tired of being good all year, but Santa knows who's been good.
And, if we can all put the brake on some holiday activities this year.
Hopefully, we will eventually give this virus the boot for good.
Thanks for your comments on our holiday decorations, which cheer us up every day.

Enjoy Your Weekend, Everyone.
(Yikes, only two weeks till Christmas)

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

It's Beginning to Look . . .

I'm sure, you can all guess where this next line is going. 

Yes, it really is starting to look like Christmas, briefly outside, and definitely inside our NH apt. Since we're not traveling this holiday, we're making home as festive as possible.
On Saturday, Mother Nature provided a day of wintry weather that left a coating of white by early Sunday. The snowfall total was cut down by the rain that preceded and followed the snowfall.
The nasty weather outside gave us a full day to decorate the tree, which had been set up a week ago, and other areas. As noted in a previous post, our plans to get a real tree year were dashed by a management directive of no live trees, effective in 2020, so we have several pine-scented holiday candles. (To answer a comment from a previous post, we have always burned candles and there hasn't been any directive to the contrary.)
This is part of our varied collection of various sized stuffed moose toys. Some of these populate the area around the tree skirt and have been placed in other areas of our living room.
Years ago, the collection of toy bears was much larger, but the collection was whittled down during moves and space considerations. The large colorful bear was a Christmas gift from my brother (many) years ago. It formerly would be in my car during holiday travel, but this year resides on the LR loveseat.
In past years, a Dept. 56 New England village was set up on the window sill and extended to an added table. This holiday, it's in hibernation as the Christmas tree has center stage by the window with decos placed along the sill. It's a varied collection as we like toys.
The window sill is hosting a varied holiday assortment this year, including Charlie Brown and friends and the Grinch and Max. All these items were collected over the years and has been cut down over the years during various moves. We used to have a larger collection (tis true).

There's several Boyds Bear figurines — penguin, frog, of course, and several bears including our blog namesakes, Beatrice and Grenville bear. (In case, you ever wondered about our choice of blog aliases.)
These nattily dressed penguin figurines were gifts from a friend years ago and are always on display together. It might have something to do with birds of a feather . . .

Speaking of groups, here's another penguin collection that sits on a bookshelf year round. 
Snowmen are very popular in our household. A large collection will be on display outside the apt once the holiday season has ended. The ones below are not part of that group. 
The sax-playing snowman was a new purchase this year, just because, and plays Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and its cheeks turn rosy. (There's more on that song later in this post.)

This music box figure was a gift from a NJ friend, Ann, who since passed away. 
Seeing it, brings back memories of our friendship. Perhaps, you have similar memories of a holiday gift.
The window sill includes a varied assortment collected over the years from thrift store or craft show buys. The angel above was a holiday gift from family years ago, and seeing it we can remember them this year.
Our stockings were hung by the TV with care 
as we don't have a fireplace there. (sincere apologies to author Clement C. Moore)

The Nativity set has its own special display place and holds memories as well. All of the main pieces in this set belonged to my late mother. The creche is from a formerly owned set that has since donated to a local thrift store. They told us it sold within a day.

To end this post, here's the backstory on the classic, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. it was written by songwriters Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine for the 1944 film, Meet Me in St. Louis

Martin later said it began with the melody which he described as a madrigal-like tune he liked, but couldn't make work after a few days. So, he tossed it in a wastebasket. Blaine, who had heard the tune, urged him to salvage it because it was too good to throw away. Together they worked on the words; however, the film's star, Judy Garland, claimed it was too sad and reportedly said, If I sing that, little Margaret will cry. (Child actor Margret O'Brien played Tootie Smith, her young sister, in the film.)

The film's producer (Arthur Freed) said it the scene was supposed to be sad scene, but they wanted an upbeat song. Actor Tom Drake (who played the boy next door, John Truett) told Blaine he should finish the song because it was a great song and that he would be sorry if he didn't do it. Blaine finished the song and his completed version was in the film.

Because those lyrics are even more appropriate this holiday season, here's the movie clip of Judy Garland's character, Esther Smith, singing to her young sister, Tootie. Garland's version of the song, which was released as a single by Decca Records, became popular among U.S. troops serving in WW II.
Let your heart be light / Next year all our troubles will be out of sight (hopefully). 
If all else fails to cheer you, bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies as I did last weekend and it sure cheered Grenville up.