Count Your Blessings (and Presents) Instead of Sheep

Clump #255: Start Christmas list and present wrapping; day thirteen of National Blog Posting Month.


It’s that time of year when the holiday season is creeping into the picture before all the autumn leaves have fallen.  Though I’ve purchased a number of gifts, I needed to write them down to see where I am.


One gift I’d gotten that makes me happy is this copy of Anne of Green Gables for a young niece.  I wrote a note to go with it reminding her that when her cousin, our older daughter, was her age, she started reading the book and quickly tossed it aside because the language was too old fashioned.  I don’t know what possessed me, but I told her she couldn’t leave the cabin where we were vacationing until she had read at least two chapters.  (Mean Mother!)  She ended up loving it so much, she read the whole series and kind of turned into Anne.  I had trouble keeping a straight face when we we’d be having a heated discussion and she would assert, “For Pity’s Sake!”


Here it is, ready to delight another generation … I hope!


It’s only mid-November, so to get myself into the holly jolly spirit I turned to the reliable old chestnut, the movie White Christmas.  It’s my “ironing movie” for present wrapping: lots of good songs, and visuals I’ve seen so many times I don’t need to keep my eyes on it.  I started wondered how much of an age difference there was in real life between Bing Crosby and “The General,” Dean Jagger (just learned the actor’s name), who was such a source of pity because he was being put out to pasture.  Turns out they were the same age … fifty-one!  In the scene below, the General keeps calling “Bob” son.  And Rosemary Clooney, Bing’s romantic interest in the story, was only twenty-six!


She, with her deep, mature voice.  Such an elegant dress in the “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me” number.


I challenged myself last year to organize my holiday preparations so that I might enjoy the Christmas season.  So far, though it’s still early, I’m doing pretty well.


I took a picture of the sign above — in a shop where Christmas decorations were edging out the fall ones — as a helpful reminder.

Green Christmas

Clump #123: Put up pine rope for outside decoration.

The bad news is: I procrastinated buying and stringing up pine roping outside our house until today.  The good news: at this late date it was forty percent off, not to mention that we’re suddenly experiencing springlike weather.   I added some bright, shiny things to this wreath, otherwise it disappears on the black door.


Melting snow and a driveway with a bit of a drainage problem:


Speaking of melting snow, my younger daughter and I tried and failed to go to a sing-along version of the movie White Christmas today; it was sold out.  Waaah.  The movie is about characters who go to Vermont expecting a winter play land, but find a green landscape devoid of snow … and a little romance. Previously, when I wrote about the movie Holiday Inn, I learned that White Christmas was supposed to be kind of a remake of Holiday Inn, with the same male stars, Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.  Apparently Fred Astaire passed on the role, so they offered it to Donald O’Connor, who got injured before filming.  Funny to think that Danny Kaye was the third choice, and hard to imagine anyone else in the role.

Vera-Ellen (who played Judy) was anorexic before there was a name or cure for it. It’s a bit painful to see her minuscule waist, like a living Barbie doll.  No one thought there was something wrong?  Ironic that so much dialog in the film revolves around what and how much Betty (Rosemary Clooney) should eat, forcing her to say, “Why is everyone so concerned about my eating habits?”


As one of four sisters, this scene has special meaning for me.  “Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters…”


Here are some mysteries that someone who has seen the movie a quadrillion times might ponder:  1)  The coffee pot, back-stage, suddenly apparates  in Judy’s hand after she just put it down.   2) Why in heaven’s name doesn’t Betty tell Bob (Bing Crosby) what’s bothering her?  All she can come up with is “I mean that you shouldn’t mix fairy tales with liverwurst and buttermilk.”   3) At the finale, when snow finally falls at just the perfect moment, the candles on the General’s cake relight themselves after he had just blown them out.  4)  And the big mystery for all time:  Who ever thought up the line, delivered by the blonde bombshell (“Mutual, I’m Shuah”), “Well, I like that!  Without so much as a kiss my foot or haave an apple!” …

Okay, maybe I didn’t really need to see White Christmas for the quadrillion-and-oneth time …


I’ll sing along on my own.  “Snow … snow …  snow … snow … snow … where did you goooo?”

Clean and White

Clump #112:  Confront plastic Bag O’ Junk.

For the life of me, I can’t remember when, why or how this bag of random junk got stashed together.  A mystery for the ages. But today I broke it down into things I can do: toss out, give away, or, in at least three cases, return to someone else.  I enlisted my husband’s help and we puzzled over the pile together.


A few of the contents: foreign coins.  Great timing!  I’m going to see my younger daughter tomorrow and she can drop them off at her college’s Travel Abroad Office.


So, a little lesson for myself.  When an area is cluttered, it follows that the floor below is filthy.

What’s left?  My mother’s and my accordion recipe files.  They are not going anywhere … yet.  I’m sure the recipes could be winnowed down, but that is a clump for another day.


Clean at last:


We had a big snow storm here today, and the world was transformed.  It was a day of cleaning inside and out.


I couldn’t stop taking pictures.  These are just a few that seem like I was photographing in black and white.


I’ve been whining a bit (just a bit?!) lately about the loss of color in the landscape.  Man oh man, I couldn’t complain today!  I had a difficult time doing errands without pulling over every two seconds to capture another shot.


The minimal palette is divine.


At this very moment, the Christmas CD I’m listening to is Kelly Clarkson singing the song White Christmas.


May all your holiday days be clear and white, bright and light, and filled with beautiful sights.

Write Christmas

Clump #90:  Write and address Christmas cards, part one.

At first, I was stressing about not having the time to finish addressing these Christmas cards and blog about it.  Then it suddenly occurred to me: writing the cards in November means I don’t feel under the gun to crank them out in haste.  This is what life is like for a person who does not procrastinate. What relief!  Joy!

To get in the mood, I set up a little table in front of the TV with the cards and our old address book.


I can tell how old “the cat address book” is by checking inside its cover. When was the last time I was known as “Mommy” instead of “Mom”?


I turned on one of my favorite seasonal movies to get in the mood, Irving Berlin’s  Holiday Inn, starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.  How can you go wrong with those two …


Well, they managed to go very wrong with the song Abraham, in a number celebrating Lincoln’s Birthday.  This musical number done in blackface is beyond cringeworthy:


The dance where Fred Astaire lights fire crackers with his cigarette, in the spectacular Fourth of July number, dates the movie.  But what style and beautiful line.  I could watch any film featuring his peerless dancing. Fred Astaire’s daughter talks about her father in a special feature,  Ava Astaire MacKenzie In Conversation With Ken Barnes.  She reveals that the fire cracker dance number took 38 takes to film.  That’s a lot of smoking!


She also shares that her father took two shots of whiskey before the first take of the number where he was to dance inebriated, then apparently took one more before each subsequent take … and there were seven takes.  So, as she says, by the final take, “he was well on his way,” and that was the take they used in the film.


I love the witty repartee between Bing and Fred.  The morning after the drunken dance scene, Ted (Fred Astaire) wakes up and asks Jim (Bing Crosby), “Where am I?”  Bing tells him, “Holiday Inn.”  “How did I get here?”  “You were clinging to the undercarriage of a Jeep, I think. Then, pouring him coffee, “Here, have a slug out of the mug.”


(I also love Fred Astaire’s hands.)

The plot is inane: Bing’s character wants to get out of show business so he doesn’t have to work holidays.  Farm life gives him a nervous breakdown, so he comes up with the idea of working only on holidays … fifteen days a year.

Japan bombed Pearl Harbor during filming, thus, the patriotic war scenes were added to the Fourth of July number.  The song White Christmas originated in this movie (not the movie White Christmas) and became an anthem for homesick troops in WWII.


With every Christmas card I write   May your days be merry and bright.