Monday, December 19, 2011

What's On Your Playlist?

I'm a little particular about my Christmas music. I prefer traditional carols, though they can be sung in new and different ways, and the cheery secular songs like "Let It Snow," "Baby It's Cold Outside," and "Winter Wonderland'. I particularly like most anything Christmas sung by the Rat Pack: "I Believe" and "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm" are favorites. I'm not a fan of a lot of the newer stuff that's on the all-Christmas radio stations this time of year and sad songs definitely do not belong in my holiday season.

Here's what's on my playlist, in no particular order. I'm a little 20th century, still copying CDs to my computer. I am using iTunes though, and shuffling, of course. And I had "The Messiah" in there, but it has a lot of short pieces in it and the transition was too abrupt when it shuffled. That's one that needs to be played alone, in it's entirety. Preferably in the car with my husband so we can sing it together. Loudly.
  • Vince Guaraldi - A Charlie Brown Christmas (who doesn't love Charlie Brown?)
  • A Canadian Brass Christmas (the holiday brass band)
  • Bing Crosby and Liberace - Christmas (for "White Christmas" of course)
  • Manhattan Transfer - The Christmas Album (love "Snowfall")
  • The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir - Christmas at the Brooklyn Tabernacle (because I thought they were like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir - they're not at all, but I like 'em anyway)
  • Harry Connick, Jr. - When My Heart Finds Christmas (kind of Rat Packy)
  • Mormon Tabernacle Choir - Silent Night (for the traditional carols)
  • Christmas with the Rat Pack (my favorite Christmas album ever)
  • Jimmy Buffet - Christmas Island (fun stuff - I think I secretly want to spend Christmas in the Caribbean)
  • Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops - A Christmas Festival (because Christmas music doesn't always have to have someone singing)
  • Trans-Siberian Orchestra - Christmas Eve and Other Stories (kinda edgy, but I like it)
What's on your Christmas play list?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Things Not To Do in December

December may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it is also the busiest. For me anyway. Despite how I try to slow down and enjoy the holidays and all of the fun activities surrounding them, there's always too many work things to finish by year's end. In addition to the Christmas shopping, playing in community band concerts, baking cookies, making ornaments, attending Christmas events for my favorite local charities, Christmas parties, watching the occasional old Christmas movie, and just taking a little time to be one with the Christmas tree, there's the other stuff.

Like a book manuscript due on December 23rd. What in the world was I thinking?!?  Haven't I learned from the past?  I did this the first time 3 or 4 years ago. I didn't go well. I just flat out gave up and got it to them just after the holidays. Not good, but necessary. Then there was last year when I spent the entire month of December, right on through to New Year's (while on the road enjoying the holidays with family, I might add), proofing and indexing Lost Communities of Virginia to the point that I never wanted to see that book again.

This year, my husband and I are working on another book, Blacksburg Then & Now. I smartly set the due date for January 23rd. They smartly offered larger royalties if we got it in before Christmas. So here I am, dreaming of a white Christmas, while attempting to write captions and get all the photos together for the book. I'd say "never again", but who knows what next year will bring?

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Day In Need of Simple Pleasures

I don't mean to harp on Simple Pleasures Week at Epheriell Designs, but yesterday evening, I sure needed them to help return to some sense of normalcy.  An afternoon in lockdown will do that to you.

I went to graduate school at Virginia Tech. I live 30 miles from Virginia Tech. I work part-time at Virginia Tech. If you caught the news at all yesterday, I'm sure you saw that Virginia Tech was in the news. Again. For shootings. Again. This time, a police officer and, presumably, the shooter are dead. All of this happened about a mile from my office on the one day this week that I was in the office. So, you can imagine, I didn't get much done yesterday as we sat in lockdown, streaming the local TV station on our computers, and watching police cars drive by.

 Now you need to understand, that despite the reputation we seem to have on the national (and maybe international) news; despite the guy who escaped from custody, killed 2 officers when he escaped from them, and led them on a manhunt through Blacksburg in 2006; despite the largest campus massacre in US history in 2007; despite the foreign grad student who beheaded his girlfriend in a fast food restaurant on campus in 2009; and despite yesterday's events, I don't feel unsafe in Blacksburg or on the Virginia Tech campus. There's a small town atmosphere, very little crime, friendly people, beautiful surroundings, and no feeling that any of these crazy things would happen here. Yet they keep happening.

So after yesterday's afternoon of uncertainty as we sat in lockdown anxiously awaiting news that they had found the shooter and that it was safe to go home, all I felt like doing was coming home and indulging in numerous simple pleasures: a hot showera cup of tea, and reading a fluffy, feel good book, cozily tucked into my nice, warm bed with a fuzzy, purring cat at my side.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Simple Pleasures - Old Movies

I had been thinking about posting about The Bishop's Wife which we watched on Saturday, but it's Simple Pleasures Week over at Epheriell Designs and I realized that for me, old movies are a simple pleasure so why not join in the Simple Pleasures Week fun! 

{from True Classics}

I don't watch old movies year round, mostly during December and typically while I'm decorating the Christmas tree, making gifts for friends and relatives, wrapping presents, or baking cookies.  And I'm particular about the movies.  I prefer 1930s to early 1960s and nothing in the war or western genre.  Romantic comedies, musicals or movies with musical numbers, and anything with snow help bring on the holiday spirit.  Cary Grant, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, the Rat Pack, Audrey Hepburn, Bing Crosby, Debbie Reynolds...the list could go on and on.

Why are these movies a simple pleasure?  The romance, the humor, but most likely the idealism.  Men and women wear hats and their best clothing to go out.  Anywhere.  There's a certain glamor to the well-coiffed hairdos, the smoothness of the makeup, and the perfect speech.  Despite the twists, turns, and misunderstandings of life, all is forgotten in the end when everyone is happily together.  Someone may break into song at any moment and dance their way through the scene.  And it always snows on Christmas Day.

{from Hancock NH Congregational Church}

I experienced many of the things these movies depict growing up as a child in New England, so watching the movies brings back memories of the simple pleasures of sleigh rides, ice skating, Christmas caroling house to house on a Christmas In Connecticut kind of Main Street, skiing, sledding, and window shopping on the snowy streets of town.  Old movies bring back a simpler time when Christmas wasn't about consumerism and the gifting expectations it brings, but about the one wonderful gift you found for each person on your list and the true joy on their faces as they opened those presents.  It was about family and friends, the magic of Santa Claus, love and laughter...

So if that holiday cynicism creeps up on you like it does on me, take time out for the simple pleasure of an old movie to get your romanticism and idealism back in check!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Take It From the Alpaca...

Have you started your holiday shopping?  Are you feeling good about it?  In an unusual turn of events for me, I have and I am.  We had fun shopping this weekend, and it wasn't because we were circling parking lots looking for a spot, any spot, to park; being jostled through the masses just to find that imperfect gift; or waiting in long lines to check out.  We drove over 100 miles on Saturday, but we met some very friendly alpacas and their owners, we shopped in the gas lights of the Amish store, we were entertained by musicians while we shopped among artisans at a huge old general store that only recently reopened after extensive restoration, we stopped by our local historical society for cider and cookies at their open house and shopped in their museum store, and finished off with dinner at a favorite locally-owned restaurant. 

We might have spent a little more than we would have at the chains, but we bought well-made, locally made, unique gifts, we know the families who owned the businesses, met some new friends, helped the local economy, and enjoyed our day.  What's not to like about that?  Even the alpacas were smiling!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Whaddya Mean It's December?!

Subtitle: Eeek! What happened to November? 

I have a terrible time thinking about Christmas during the summer. I have to feel those first biting winds of winter, see a good frost and a dusting of snow, and really miss the leaves on the trees before I start to get any holiday ideas. At all. I've tried. Nothing.

And now I'm finally starting to get a bunch of ideas for Christmas-related products! But it's December 1st - too late in the world of Etsy and on-line shopping. I'm writing them all down though and thinking maybe I can crank some of these out in that lull after Christmas and be well-positioned for the holidays next year. I'll plan to test my ideas on friends and relatives this year and get my marketing plan in place early to try for some of those coveted blog and magazine markets in 2012.