Thursday, December 14, 2017

Christmas In the Kitchen

Awoke to a layer of fresh, white snow. I have no idea when the snow started last night, but when I peered out the window shortly after finishing my previous blog entry...there it was, coming down softly. It didn't amount to more than an inch or two, and it was melting even as I read The Great Santa Search and wrote in my journal.

Gulped down breakfast after I rolled out of bed so I could get started on the next batch of cookies. The Merry Christmas Molasses Cookies are the first of two types of cookies I get out of Betty Crocker's Cooky Book. The original recipe calls for honey and lemon flavoring, but I like the spicier variant that uses cinnamon, ginger, and molasses. I sprinkle them with colored sugar, sprinkles, and red cinnamon candies. I also try to do some unique shapes - along with the usual trees, angels, bells, hearts, candy canes, gingerbread people, and snowmen cookie cutters, I use a train, a small crescent moon, a teddy bear, and for my nephew Khai, a tyrannosaurus.

Watched Christmas In Connecticut while I worked. Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck) is the most popular columnist in the US in 1945. Every woman in the country look to her for tantalizing recipes and stories about her life on a cozy farm with her husband and baby. There's just one problem with this - none of it is true. In real-life, Elizabeth is a city girl who lives in an apartment and can't cook to save her life. Her scrumptious recipes come from Felix (S.K Sakall), a friend who owns a restaurant. Her fictions come crashing down on her when her pushy publisher boss Yardley (Sidney Greenstreet) insists on coming to her farm for the holidays and bringing soldier Jefferson Jones (Dennis Morgan) with him. She finally agrees to marry the obnoxious John Sloan (Reginald Gardiner) in order to use his farm...but the last thing she expected was to fall for Jefferson. Between mixed up babies, wandering cows, a confused maid (Una O'Connor), and judges going in and out, she finally learns that honesty really is the best policy, especially where love is concerned.

Cute but slightly dated screwball comedy benefits from the expert timing of its cast, especially Greenstreet and Sakall as the two very different bosses.

My Warners DVD includes the Oscar-winning short subject "A Star In the East." J. Carroll Naish plays an Italian man who owns a hotel in the desert. Thanks to his endless procession of complaining customers, he thinks all people are greedy and selfish. A hitchhiker reminds him that there's faith in all hearts at this time of year. The hotel owner refuses to believe it, until a young Hispanic man with a pregnant wife shows up seeking shelter. Now everyone in the hotel is helping the kids out, proving that no matter how selfish they seem, people are still capable of acts of kindness.

Continued the religious theme with The Little Drummer Boy as I cleaned up from the cookie mess and had lunch. The first of four Rankin-Bass specials to explore the more religious side of the holiday introduces us to Aaron, a little orphan who lives alone in the desert, playing his drum for his animals. His parents' murder by bandits has left him bitter against humankind, and the nasty group of strolling players who grab him and his menagerie don't change his feelings. It'll take the help of one special little baby to show Aaron just how horrible the hate in his heart really is.

Had a little bit of time for writing before I dashed off to work. Introduced Finn Be Nimble, one of Leia's assistants, and rewrote Mother Leia Goose's introduction a little. She's happy to meet the little girl but is distracted by all her duties, some of which she took on after her husband, Han Shaftoe, was lost at sea. She, Finn, and Rey take little BB to see her brother the Toymaker at the Toyland Toy Factory to try to figure out how to get her home.

Headed off to work shortly after I got off. Work was thankfully pretty quiet after yesterday. I did gather outside trash and recycling, swept under a display for a few managers, and rounded up baskets, but I mostly did the carts. I didn't mind. I'd been inside all morning leaning over a hot stove. Though it remained chilly and windy, probably in the mid-30's, it was also sunny and bright, with a lovely orange sunset.

Did one of the two holiday episodes of Moonlighting while eating leftover chicken sausages and defrosted green beans with almonds for dinner. "'Twas the Episode Before Christmas," and all through the Blue Moon Agency, we can hear Maddie yelling over David's latest brainstorm, the Santa Hotline. Meanwhile, their secretary and receptionist Agnes DiPesto discovered a baby in her laundry basket. While David and Maddie look for the mother, they argue over the idea of children and parenthood.

Finished the night with the 1951 British version of A Christmas Carol. Other than an expanded past sequence that shows just how Ebeneezer Scrooge (Alistair Sim) went from a bright young mind to a cold, heartless businessman, this is about as straightforward a rendition of this story as you're likely to find. Sim is one of the best Scrooges on record; he's especially good in the closing sequence, when his housekeeper thinks he's gone off his rocker.

My public domain copy includes the 1949 Dave Fleischer version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Rudolph is a baby reindeer who is teased by his peers because of his bright red nose. It turns out to be more of an asset than he thinks when Santa sees it while delivering presents and asks him to help guide him through thick fog. I like the animation on this one - even in my older copy, the Technicolor just glows. 

No comments: