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December 22, 2015

advent: day 22
posted by soe 2:51 am

Today’s Virtual Advent Tour host is Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings. You may know Carl from his reading challenges: the Once upon a Time Challenge in the spring and the R.I.P. (Reader’s Imbibing Peril) Challenge in the days leading up to Halloween. He’s currently running the Sci-Fi Experience, a low-key reading event celebrating science fiction, through the end of next month. I’ll stop back here tomorrow after Carl’s had a chance to publish his post and update the link.

In Carl’s honor, I’m sharing a Christmas special I remember seeing once when I was a little kid. A Cosmic Christmas was, in 1977, the first tv special from Nelvana, a Canadian company known to this day for its four decades of work in children’s animation, from the Care Bears and Ewoks cartoons of the 1980s (and the animated segment of that appalling Star Wars Holiday Special that first introduced Boba Fett) to the more recent Fairly OddParents, Jane and the Dragon, and The Magic School Bus. A Cosmic Christmas tells the story of a boy named Peter and his pet goose, Lucy, who, on Christmas Eve, attempt to share the meaning of Christmas to a trio of aliens who have landed outside their town.

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December 21, 2015

advent: day 21
posted by soe 2:33 am

Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy! The Virtual Advent Tour has hosts for the next four days!

Today’s host will be Jane of A String of Pearls. I’ll stop by later to update this post after she’s had a chance to post her thoughts.

Instead of a full video/song, today you get a behind-the-scenes video at the recording of “Joy to the World” by the cast of Hamilton, because Hamilton.

The song is part of this year’s 2-disc Carols for a Cure album from Broadway Cares, an annual benefit for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The album, which won’t be available for download until next year, can be purchased online.

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December 20, 2015

advent: day 20
posted by soe 2:43 am

With less than a week until Christmas, you’re probably simultaneously craving a sweet treat and looking for something that’s dead easy and fast. How about a no-bake, single-bowl cookie recipe?

These are great to make with kids, and if your kids are a little older and capable of using a mixer, they can make them without supervision.

Chocolate Snowball Cookies (this isn’t the name I grew up calling these cookies, but their original name, a catch-all term for native people such as the Inuits living in icy climates considered acceptable as recently as 20 years ago, is a term that’s gone out of vogue and is now considered racist)

In a bowl, combine:

  • 1.5 sticks (12 Tbs) of softened butter (malleable but not drippy)
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 Tbs cocoa powder
  • 2 cups oats (I prefer regular, because those oats are hardiest, but quick-cook also do fine; instant gives you a much mushier cookie, but will do in a pinch)

(If you’re crunched for time, you can put the dough in the fridge and make the cookies later.)

Take a spoonful of the dough and roll it in your hands to make a roughly spherical shape.

Roll the cookie in powdered sugar.

Voila! Pop it in your mouth or put aside for later.


Makes three dozen or so if you refrain from snacking while baking.

I find these so addictive that I recommend making a double batch so they don’t disappear before you realize it.

While you’re baking, here are a couple songs from Darlene Love, whom we were lucky enough to see last night. The first, “All Alone at Christmas,” is from Home Alone 2, written for her by Steven Van Zandt:

And the second is her signature Christmas song, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” first recorded for the 1963 Phil Spector-produced A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records and popularized for younger generations by being the final song of the annual Christmas episode of The Late Show with David Letterman (this is from 2005):

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December 19, 2015

advent: day 19
posted by soe 2:45 am

Because today marked the opening of the new Star Wars movie, I was tempted to find a copy of the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special to share with you, but as I’ve had to sit through it at least twice now in recent memory, I just couldn’t do that to you. It really is painful.

Instead, I thought I’d round up some of the old Christmas-themed radio shows that aired in the 1930s, ’40s, and early ’50s. Obviously I’m not old enough to have lived through the original airings, but growing up my library did have a nice collections of radio shows on cassette and my dad got us into the habit of listening to certain episodes year after year.

Back in the day, Lux Radio Theatre and Campbell Playhouse, among others, would offer hour-long radio adaptations of hit movies featuring many of the stars reprising their film roles. During intermission, the stars were expected to shill for the sponsor. (Lux sold soap; Campbell, as you know, sells soup.)

You can listen to adaptations of films you know and love, including It’s a Wonderful Life

and Miracle on 34th Street:

Less well-known productions include The Miracle of the Bells (starring Fred MacMurray, Valli, and Frank Sinatra)

and Come to the Stable (with Loretta Young and Celeste Holm):

And for family fun, here’s the collection of Cinnamon Bear, a children’s fantasy series that aired in 26 12-minute segments between Thanksgiving and Christmas:

I hope you enjoy these while you’re baking, wrapping gifts, or finishing your knitting/crafting projects.

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December 18, 2015

advent: day 18
posted by soe 2:28 am

I first encountered Dylan Thomas in college, when we had to read his radio play Under Milkwood for a freshman-year English class I took. After college, I lived in a town where one of the performance spaces did a reading of A Child’s Christmas in Wales every year as their Yule production. I was instantly transported back in time and across the sea:

One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six. All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged, fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into the wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea, and out come Mrs. Prothero and the firemen.

Reading Thomas’ words is lovely, but it’s even better to hear Thomas himself read them to you:

Thomas first wrote and recorded pieces of this story in 1945 as a radio play for the BBC and, five years later, expanded it to be text we now know, which was published in the U.S. as an essay in Harper’s Bazaar—”A Child’s Memories of a Christmas in Wales.” When Thomas recorded it in 1952, only a year before his death at age 39, he shortened the title to what it’s been known as ever since, A Child’s Christmas in Wales. It was first published as a stand-alone book in 1955 and has become Thomas’ most popular work here in the U.S.

I can offer no personal assessment of it, but should you want to give it a shot, there’s a mid-1980s, made-for-tv film version of the story that’s got positive ratings at IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. It features Denholm Elliott, whom you may remember from his role in Raiders of the Lost Ark or A Room with a View:

I’ll leave you today with Welsh musician John Cale’s 1973 song, “Child’s Christmas in Wales,” inspired by Thomas’ essay:

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half price, bus driver, and waxing
posted by soe 1:31 am

Three beautiful things from my past week:

1. Walking past the charity bookshop, I see they’ve announced a half-price sale on cds. Six new Christmas albums have been added to the collection for the whopping cost of three dollars and change.

2. Metro track maintenance work means if you’re traveling outside of rush hour that you may have to wait for quite a while between trains. I arrive trackside at my home stop to see the taillights of the train disappearing into the tunnel and a 20-minute wait-time for the next train (to reach a destination that is less than half an hour walk). My transit app tells me that a bus heading downtown will be at the far exit of the station in a minute (there’s a traffic circle involved, so I know I may have a little wiggle time), so I hustle my way out, only to watch the bus drive past as I’m approaching the stop. I nearly catch up at the next bus stop, when the light turns green. Resolving just to walk in the rain, I see that the driver has noticed me and stopped the bus so I can get on.

3. I’ve enjoyed watching the moon each evening, progressing through the week from a Cheshire Cat moon to a mandarin wedge. (It will be full on Christmas Day for the first time since 1977, in case you want to take a peek.)

How about you? What’s been beautiful in your world this week?

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