Sunday, December 21, 2014

Once Upon a Wintertime

I'm glad it was a beautiful, sunny first day of winter when I got up this morning. It's supposed to rain for the next three days, including Christmas Eve! I had one last banana that was getting really, really squishy and coconut leftover from the Cherry-Coconut Bars. Tossed in a few of the smaller pieces of glazed pecans and made Tropical Banana Pancakes. Ooooh, they were so good! I wish I'd been able to finish them, but I was still a little full from yesterday.

Listened to Christmas music as I ate. The first Disney's Christmas Collection is much shorter than the follow-up. I still have it for the song "From All of Us to All of You" (from Jiminy Cricket's Christmas) and Jiminy's sweet recitation of "The Night Before Christmas." The rest of the CD is mainly selections from an older Disney holiday album mixed with two songs by the Disney characters, "Oh Christmas Tree" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." (What's with that weird medley of carols that finishes the CD? It sounds like it was sung by Chip and Dale going to a funeral.)

My favorite of The Great Songs of Christmas albums I have is the one that was released in 1965. Anna Maria Albergetti sings a lovely "Caroling, Caroling." Diahann Carrol gets two beautiful older hymns, "Lo, How a Rose 'Er Blooming" and "Some Children See Him." Maurice Chevalier, then in the tail end of his late 50s-early 60s comeback, does a really cute "Jolly Old St. Nicholas" and a gentle "Silent Night," the latter performed partly in his native French. The album concludes with a really fun number from Sammy Davis Jr, "It's Christmastime All Over the World."

I have Nat King Cole's The Christmas Song on cassette. The title song is by far the most famous number here, but there's some other nice pieces. I'm especially fond of the touching "A Cradle In Bethlehem." He even does a bit of "Oh Tannenbaum" ("Oh Christmas Tree") in its original German.

Work was on-and-off busy all day, not surprising for a Sunday. Sundays tend to be busy even when there's no holidays or football going on. Things did get a bit hectic later, when everyone started to come out of church and the malls and think about their Christmas and Hanukkah dinners. Thankfully, everything went pretty well. There were even leftover ham, pretzels, tortilla chips, and deviled eggs in the back room. My relief was one of the college boys, and he was right on time.

When I got home, I changed into regular clothes, then put on more Christmas music and spoken word collections as I made Pumpkin Bread. I have an episode of the Jimmy Stewart radio show The Six Shooter that adapts A Christmas Carol on a large set of various old-time radio shows. Stewart's Britt Ponset tells a runaway boy the story of old Eben Scrooge. This nasty western miser owned lots of ranches, but was too mean and stingy to build a real ranch house, or let his foreman Bob have one, either. He stubbornly refused to go to his nephew Fred's livery stable for a Christmas party. Four ghosts and Bob's small, fragile son work their way into Eben's heart and change his mind about the holidays...and the little boy and his aunt's minds, too.

It's Christmas Time was another cassette find from the Laserlight displays at Staples in the early-mid 90s. Although Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Nat King Cole are prominent on the cover, Cole only has two numbers, "The Christmas Song" and a rollicking "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." The rest of the album is made up of selections from Bing and Frank's various radio appearances. I think Bing's are mainly taken from The Kraft Music Hall, a radio variety show he hosted in the 40s.

My favorite song by far is the opening "Silent Night." I used to run this cassette right before I went to bed on Christmas Eve, so Bing's words were the last thing I heard before I went to sleep. "Hear that? The bells of Christmas 1945 ring out clear and free around the world and you. Their message comes from the hearts of 72 million grateful Americans. They wish you peace on Earth, good will towards men, and Merry Christmas to all of you." The other famous song is the finale, "Jingle Bells." I believe the "oh we have a lot of fun" was used in Target's holiday commercials for many years.

Incidentally, the Pumpkin Bread concludes my baking from scratch. The Red Velvet Cupcakes I'm going to make tomorrow come from a mix. The Pumpkin Pudding Pie I'll make Tuesday morning requires no baking. It's the same recipe I used for Mom's day-after-Thanksgiving breakfast, and it came out just as perfectly.

I made a quick Spinach Pancake (spinach, mushroom, cheese, and eggs) for dinner while listening to that Merry Christmas Supremes album I bought from Grooveground in Collingswood during the Christmas Parade. I'm guessing this Motown release is from the mid-60s, from their enormous hair-dos on the back cover. "The Children's Christmas Song," with its sweet and simple "ding dong ding dong" refrain, is probably the best known song. I liked the gritty "Son of Mary" even more. "My Christmas Tree," a tale of Christmas heartbreak, wasn't nearly as much fun.

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