Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Christmas Carol Countdown: Four Days to Go!

I had to correct the countdown above. Somehow I was off by one day! Actually the "somehow" doesn't actually apply here. I live in the land of "somehow", "I don't remember," "Did I say/do that?" ________ (fill in whatever phrase you want).

I think I know what day I'm leaving for Nancy Drew's house, what airline I'm using and the time the plane leaves. It's probably the one thing that I do know. That is unless I'm remembering but all the info is wrong!

Welcome to my world. It's probably inhabited by many of you! So if you see someone looking like my profile picture, introduce yourself!

I still have two presents in the making! The secret present I've been talking about is just about done...just the binding. That will get done today, or else! The second one is another secret. It will get done by Sunday night! Ah, the conniving, secrecy and fun of Christmas gift giving. In our house there was (and still is) a policy: Don't ask questions around Christmas and no shopping for yourself during the month of December!

When I was growing up, there was a quasi-tradition in our home. On Christmas Eve day, my step-father would go out and buy his very own hand-picked presents for each of us. It was always very

exciting to get something that just he had picked out. I was thinking about that this morning for the first time in a long time. I do remember one present. He gave me a case for storing cassettes. (For the young & uninformed, cassettes were how we listened to music in the space between records and CDs.) The cool part about the case was that it contained two compartments. You opened the top and there was a row of cassettes. Then flipping the case over, after closing the first compartment, and there was another storage area for more cassettes. I used that for years and years. It was so compact!

I'm hoping you have all your Christmas shopping and mailing done and can sit back and enjoy the season. And if you have children at home, lucky you!

I'm making it another two-fer day!

The first is from the last Bing Crosby Christmas TV Special. It was done in the 1970's. One of Bing's guests was David Bowie. I remember it was really odd to have someone like David Bowie appear with Bing. Apparently Bowie accepted because he knew his mother liked Bing Crosby. He didn't, however, like the song choice: Little Drummer Boy. He asked if there was something else they could do and someone wrote a counterpoint to Little Drummer Boy. This song has become a classic of Christmas songs. Bing Crosby died a month after taping this show.

I heard the second carol when I bought a CD of The King's College Choir. About a decade ago, Wherehouse (video/CD store) also sold used CD's. They contributed greatly to my large CD collection. At Christmas, I would make sure to hit Wherehouse looking for used Christmas CDs, especially the ones that were two bucks. This is how I discovered the King's College Choir, a choir of men and young boys. They make beautiful music! Gabriel's Message is a song that I first on their CD. Later I also heard the version done by Sting. I like them both equally. I couldn't find a version of Sting performing it, so I chose to post the King's College Choir. If you haven't heard Sting's version, go to youtube and look it up.

Wishing you the best this Christmas season. God Bless.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Carol Countdown: Four Days to Go!

Here is my whoop whoop for fact it's probably the biggest whoopity whoop of the whole year of 2013!

Today is my last day at work for 2 wonderful weeks! Those who follow my blog know that I'm going to spend Christmas with my daughter, Nancy Drew, and her family. That means my two grandkids: Sweetie, who will be 12 next month, and Curly, who is three-and-a-half. I spent a Christmas with them when Sweetie was 5! I've never been there with Curly. To say I am deliriously happy is an understatement!

The two darlin' granddaughters!

I remember when I was a kid and either Grandma (my Mom's mom) would be at our house or we would be at hers. Every Christmas. Whenever we'd leave after a stay, Grandma would stand in the driveway waving and crying.

Now I know why. Fifty years later and I figured it out. Darn it's hard to leave those darlings.

I chose a couple of great Christmas Carols for today. The first one is a Raffi song that I heard when my kids were toddlers. It was so much fun. Back then I played guitar a lot and sang with my kids... a lot. When I went looking for a video, I was astonished to learn that it had been originally done by Mitch Miller. You've got to be my age or older to remember Mitch Miller! He was an accomplished musician and in the 1960s, he had a TV show called Sing Along with Mitch. It was a "community sing." He and his male chorale would sing a song and at the same time the words of the song would show up at the bottom of the screen. It was FUN! First carol today is Mitch Miller and "Must Be Santa." (I also learned the Bob Dylan did a version of'll have to look that one up yourself!

My second is more current. The group, Pentatonix, is an a capella group of five people. They won the third season of the TV show "The Sing Off." I wouldn't know any of this except Nancy Drew. She followed the group through the third season on TV. She and I share a love of a capella groups, so she introduced me to them. When they were out here at Thanksgiving, she showed me a video of them singing "Little Drummer Boy." Fantastic! I know you'll enjoy this one!

God Bless.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas Carol Countdown: 5 Days to Go

Admittedly I'm not that well versed on what's popular nowadays. My kids are grown up and living on their own. I have a sixth grade student who is quite talkative. She'll tell me about something and I have to plead ignorance. She is always quite amazed that I have know nothing about x, y or z. It used to be easier when the kids were teens, which is little payback for having to live through three children's adolescence.

One day a while back, I took some time and used it in an unexpected way. Looking at YouTube. Someone had sent me a link and, after that for about a half hour I just cruised around looking. At that time, I knew nothing about Flash Mob. I didn't know it was so popular, so many have done it and I didn't know what it was called.

For the uninformed, like I was this that morning, a Flash Mob is done in a public place. It starts with one or a few people who dance or sing, usually to a very large boombox accompaniment. As the song progresses, more and more people from the crowd keep joining in the center with the group. Of course, it's all been well-rehearsed but it seems spontaneous. The cool part is seeing the crowd's reaction. 

During my cruising I found one that was done in Belgium in a train station. The huge group of people danced to Do-Re-Mi from Sound of Music. It was utterly wonderful. Of course I'm also a big fan of musicals.

The original link someone sent me is tonight's "Carol." It happens in a fast food court in a mall and it is the Hallelujah Chorus.

Many, many years ago, I was asked to join the presentation our Church and community did of Handel's Messiah. I had never sung it before. Even though the kids were pretty young, I committed and went to rehearsals twice a week for a month. We performed it twice in December. After that experience, I was hooked. I truly believe that Handel's Messiah is meant to be sung over being listened to. Or maybe just that you have to be able to sing it (in your correct part, not just singing with whatever part has the main voice) to really appreciate it magnificence. 

I'm an alto. Handel loved altos, their warm, cello voices that were full and glowing. After that first time, I started singing the Messiah wherever I could. When we moved, I found a new choir to sing in. I went to numerous Messiah Sing-Alongs. Each year I would sit down around Christmas, put on my CD of the Messiah and sing through the entire thing with it, to be sure I didn't forget my part.

My daughter, also an alto, grew up and started singing with me at my annual CD playing. Soon she knew the alto part. When she was around 14, we sang in our first Messiah choir. What a great experience!

And now, the flash mob of Handel's Messiah.

God Bless.

And here's another video of same group, not a Flash Mob this time, but a Christmas Carol!

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas Carol Countdown: 6 Days to Go!

Yesterday I got my Christmas gifts mailed east to TGS & OSLW.

I'm still working on the mystery gift. That has to be done by Saturday. I have another gift that I'm making and it has to be finished by Sunday. I would feel better if I also didn't have deadlines at work. By the time I get to Friday, I'm definitely going to need the vacation!

I'm winging out to Utah on Monday to Nancy Drew's house. Speaking of Nancy Drew, it brings up the Carol for today. My daughter was not supposed to come around Christmas.
She was supposed to come around Thanksgiving! If any of you've ever carried a baby past due date, you'll know what a stressful and disheartening time it is. 

Nancy Drew was born on December 26. Hmphh. 
Me and you-know-who Christmas Eve

As soon as my daughter could understand my sentiments, I told her, "Don't you ever whine to me about your birthday being the day after Christmas! I was ready to have you three-and-a-half weeks before then. You shouldn't have even been born in December!" Actually, she likes her birthday being the day after Christmas, which is good, very good.

Today's carol is sung by John Denver. He is my all-time favorite singer/songwriter. Just as I grew up listening to Johnny Mathis on my Mom's stereo, my kids grew up hearing John Denver. I played guitar and his songs were the backbone of my repetoire. His songs and music are woven through our family life. We had a canary named JD, short for John Denver. 

We had a password so that the children would know if I sent someone to pick them up, that the person was safe. The password was John Denver and Annie. (Annie was his wife). My husband says that whenever I got mad at him, I'd play John Denver on the stereo. Many of his songs have helped me through difficult times in my life. My sister and I sang his song, Perhaps Love, at our mother's funeral. My grandfather's favorite song for me to play on the guitar was Calypso, a song John Denver wrote about Jacques Cousteau.

A little side note...each of my children have a song. I didn't start out intending it to be that way, it just happened. My oldest daughter's song is a lullaby I sang to her hundreds of times. It is from a musical written by Carol Lynne Pearson called "My Turn On Earth." The lullaby, "Angel Song," became her song because it reminded me of the time when she was a newborn. After that, there was a song for each child that just came about that reminded me of them as a newborn.

John Denver wrote a song called, "A Baby Just Like You", about his son Zachary. It is a Christmas themed song and very sweet. Because of my daughter's birthday, "A Baby Just 
Like You," became her song; many of the sentiments in the song express how I felt about 

Noel Heart & Nancy Drew
her. One line in the song has the words: "Merry Christmas, little Zachary," which I changed when I sang it to: "Merry Christmas, little Andrea." It is another song from the first John Denver Christmas special with the Muppets.

I want to do two carols today, because I'm just that kind of care-free, kick-up-your-heels type of person at Christmas.

I was on YouTube (again) today. Watch out! This may be habit forming! I like to go through the "Mormon Messages," that are there. I also spent quite a while watching live performances of Neil Diamond. Eclectic, to say the least!

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings "What Shall We Give to the Babe in the Manger?" It's a beautiful and thought provoking song. We are reminded that the greatest gift we can give the Savior is to love him and serve others. This version of that carol reminds us of what Christmas is about.

God Bless.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Carol Countdown: 7 days to go!

What A Momentous Day for Me!!!! This is my 100th post. I am very excited. And grateful. Thank you to everyone who takes time to read my blog. It is a precious gift.  

Can it be? Three more days to vacation? Eight days to Christmas? I told my hubby tonight that we have some gift wrapping to do. I've got to get the east coast packages out of here!

It's fun wrapping with my husband...his way of wrapping is definitely his own unique style and the kids love getting packages wrapped by him. During the early years of our marriage, he wrapped everything in newspaper. Now that we no longer get a newspaper delivered, he's ventured into foil! Imported straight from the kitchen, no less. I've also seen packages with a ripped-off corner of wrapping paper taped on the outside of the box. The more presents he wraps the more minimalist he gets!

He's also a pro at guessing what he's being given. I gave up after a couple of years of trying to just put a wrapped present under the tree. I became creative. I put the wrong names on all the packages so he wouldn't know which one was his. That was dreadful, because then I forgot who the packages really went to. Then I went to disguising the present; you know, wrapping it in different sized boxes, putting marbles and nails inside, putting in a huge brick, etc. 

I think the best year was several years ago. I went to Big Lots and bought one of those humongous Christmas stockings. They must have stolen it from Big Foot. My big idea was to put all his wrapped presents inside so he couldn't see them. It ended up not being big enough, but that didn't stop me. I cut a slit down the back of the stocking and sewed in a "gusset," an extra piece of material so that the stocking was wider. I got all the presents inside, including a last-minute impulse buy: a Wii. We had played it for the first time at someone's house over Thanksgiving and had lots of fun.

He's so devious. On Christmas Eve, when we open presents, about the third gift he handed me was a package from him. I ripped off the foil and saw the box: it was a Wii. I about fainted. So I started blurbering the whole thing about how I had gotten him a Wii also. That was when he told me to open the box. Surprise! There wasn't a Wii inside, it was another gift for me. He proceeded to tell me, with a wolfish grin, how he figured I would get a Wii. Someone at work had gotten a Wii the week before and he asked to borrow the box to play a joke on me. That man! His ability to guess presents is the bane of my life!

My youngest daughter was born the day after Christmas. I've always managed to get birthday gifts for her, but most often forget to buy birthday gift wrap. I discovered that most Christmas wrap is white on the opposite side. Poor kid, she gets her presents wrapped in white paper. Once she pulls it off, it is revealed: plain ol' Christmas wrap!

Tonight's carol is one by Alan Jackson. My son gave me his Christmas album quite a few years ago. This song was an instant favorite. I was driving down to Southern California during December and had just gotten the CD. As soon as I heard Track Five I wanted to memorize the song. For mile upon mile, as I rolled down I-5, I played and replayed that song trying to memorize it.

That brings up the question, how come I still know every word to Johnny Mathis songs my mom played on the record player when I was a little kid, but can't learn the words to songs now? At least I can play the song over and over and over and over!

God Bless.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas Carol Countdown: Eight Days to Go!

The Design Wall has been doing pretty well, if you count that the "secret" project is now in my sewing machine being quilted. I can't wait to show you! It's a winner.

In the meantime, here's an update on the quilt for the "newlyweds." My son and his wifey got married in June 2012. They only had a 6-week engagement. I don't know about you, but I can't make a California King quilt in 6 weeks. In fact, I haven't been able to make it in 18 months! But I chug along.

A few months ago I posted the design wall with my progress on this quilt. The most recent progress is unfortunately on my iPhone. I switched phones and carriers just a month ago. In the meantime, my iPhone has been serving as and iPod since all my songs are there. It also had my camera roll. Cursed me! Since January of this year, the photos had not been backing up to the computer and I, like many of you, just let it go. "I'll get to it soon," I foolishly promised myself. Then my "soons" ran out. My iPhone has died. It won't charge. It died with my photos inside. I'm grief-stricken, and when I'm not I'm kicking myself for not getting the photos off of it. I'm in for a little work to get them back, but I will get them back! I will be triumphant! They cannot thwart me! I will put every last breath into getting my photos back! (Tune in soon!)

Here's the only Log Cabin photo I have:

On to a much brighter topic: The Christmas Carol Countdown. For those of you who haven't seen this on my blog, here's an explanation: I started on December 12 to countdown the 12 days till Christmas with Christmas Carols. In addition, I'm sharing stories about my family when the kids were young. We had an advent calendar that I used to give us a daily Christmas activity to do during December. If you want to see the Carols from the first day, click here. Then just on "Newer" at the end of the post and you will progress through till today.

Here's another item from our early family's Advent Activity Calendar. It starts with a young me. Wow were our Christmases spectacular! I always got lots and lots of presents. Even then I remember feeling a huge sense of letdown when the last present was opened. It wasn't a greedy feeling, but I felt that there should be more. Time passes and I'm a young mom. Christmas is more commercialized than when I was a child and it rates a two on the over-doing it scale compared to present day with its over-the-top money, money, money, and buy, buy, buy and more, more, more attitude.

We didn't have much money back then. My husband was just out of college working his first big job. I was a stay-at-home mom. We did a lot of scrimping and doing without. When Christmas rolled around, I worried that my children would feel they weren't getting enough presents. Actually, they weren't. I wanted them to understand the joy of giving and the spirit of Christmas.

In the first year of my marriage, I had read the entire set of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I had never read them when I was younger and I adored these books. I loved the ways they made do and did without.

One particular story and phrase has stuck with me from these books, it is in Little House on the Prairie. Pa is getting ready to go to town. He has borrowed some nails from Mr. Edwards and needs to buy some to pay him back. It took four to five days to get to town and back and he hasn't been in about a year. Finally Pa decides he'd better "go and get it over with." He equivocates that he could stay back. Ma reminds him that they don't like borrowing and that he has also borrowed tobacco. Ma is almost out of cornmeal. Finally Pa says, "We could get along all right, if I didn't. There's no need to running to town all the time, for every little thing."

I remind myself of that when I start to think of buying something that I think I "need." How much can I get along without? What is necessary? Have you noticed that now in advertisements that "deserve" has replaced the word "need." Now you really "deserve" to buy a new car, or "deserve" the latest vacation. We are a long ways away from what our depression-era parents and grandparents learned and what the quote teaches: there really is very little we actually have to have to get along.

But I digress...back to the Advent Activity. In my effort to instill good values in my children, one night in the days before Christmas the slip would read, "Little House on the Prairie." In this same volume is a story titled, "Mr. Edwards Meets Santa Claus." On the prairie it is Christmas Eve. Laura and Mary are worried because there is no snow for Santa Claus to travel with his reindeer. The creek near their home is swollen and roaring. Mr. Edwards had been invited for Christmas dinner but now won't be able to make it because the creek is too high. It is a very disappointed Mary and Laura who go to bed and to sleep. Sometime during the night, Mr. Edwards makes it to their home. He has brought presents from Santa. Laura gets a tin cup of her very own; until then Mary and Laura have shared a cup. They have each gotten a long stick of candy and a very pretty heart-shaped cake with white sugar on top and made from pure white flour. In the very bottom of their stocking is a shiny penny. They marvel at their gifts and stare and stare. Laura writes: "They had never even though of such a thing as having a penny. Think of having a whole penny for your very own. Thing of having a cup and a cake and a stick of candy and a penny. There never had been such a Christmas."

My children loved this story and eagerly looked forward to it each year. A few years ago, Nancy Drew called from Massachusetts on Christmas Eve. She wanted to read the Little House on the Prairie Christmas story to her new seven-year-old step-daughter. I scanned the story and sent it across the United States that night so a tradition could be handed down to another generation.

Tonight's carol is from Brad Paisley. You'll hear in the introduction that he wrote it when he was 13 years old. It's called, "Born on Christmas Day."

And a special treat for you:

God Bless.

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmas Carol Countdown: 9 Days to Christmas

Each time I type the title with the days left till Christmas, I have this inward shudder. Many of you probably share this dreaded countdown with me. How many days left until everything has to make it in the mail to get to the __________. These past few years the blank has been filled in with "East Coast." My son, TGS, is living on the "opposite" coast with his new bride. Up until October of this year, my daughter, Nancy Drew, lived on the east coast also.  The gifts have made it every year with some room to spare, but it's always a gnawing in my stomach until I leave the post office with their packages on the way!

My current situation is, admittedly, much better than four years ago when the same daughter as above was deployed and in Germany. But that was still fairly simple because of the military mail system. I only had to mail her things to San Francisco!

By far the worst location and, unfortunately, the worst turn-out was the year my son was stationed in Korea (Army) and same daughter was serving a mission for our church in Japan. (Is it just me or does it seem that the two of them are in "cohoots" to live far away?) 

It was getting close to Christmas and time to mail packages. My son's were easy, he was in the military, but my daughter's had to go through the regular mail system, and that is very, very expensive. I decided to send my daughter's Christmas box via military mail to my son in Korea. From there he could mail it to Japan, just a hop, skip and a jump over the little bit of ocean! 

The plan proceeded well until Christmas Day when my daughter got to call home. She reported that no Christmas box had arrived from me. That was truly dreadful. Here she was far, far away in Japan. First Christmas without family. And no Christmas presents from home. It was agonizing.

Then January came and went. No Christmas box. February, the same. Finally the Christmas box shows my son's "doorstep" in Korea. I don't know where that package had been for almost three months; I hope it had a good time.

Now the best plan was for my son to mail the package through military mail back to me. I then sent it through U.S. mail to Korea. Into the next month...Easter arrives in Japan. My daughter finally receives her Christmas box...the same day the Easter box arrives from home!

I'd like to believe that it was "all for the best." But it's going to be a hard sell!

Here is a carol I discovered a few years back and it quickly made it to my favorites list. It's done by a group called MercyMe. This carol, written by a member of the group, reflects on Joseph's feelings towards his newborn son.

I searched through all the videos I could find for one that I liked to illustrate the song. None of them were perfect. Each one had something beautiful and right, each one had a part or two that didn't fit for me. Here is the one that I finally picked. The song is so tender and filled with the love of a father. Here is "Joseph's Lullaby."

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