Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas Wrap (up)

Here's the house all done up in lights. Way up on the roof is a 5 foot fiberglass snowman. My friend Daved got it for me after Christmas the year he worked at J. Crew. He called and asked for a ride, said he had something large to get home. Imagine my delight to find him waiting at the bus stop with our gentleman Frosty!

So there is was on the roof. I described the whole design schematic for my mother, "...and right up above the front door is the fiberglass snowman lit with spotlights on the roof!" And my mother asked me what we had attached it to. And I literally, "Pooh pooh"-ed her. "The roof is flat. It was so heavy getting it up there, there is no way it's coming down easily."

Then came the winds of Christmas Eve... 35-50 mile an hour winds. 70 mile an hour gusts. The lights flickered on, off, on, off.. then poof! Blackout. Moments later came the boom bounce sound of a large plastic object falling from a great height (I used to work in retail display, trust me I know that sound). Lyle and I looked at each other and both exclaimed together, "THE SNOWMAN!" and rushed out to see it rolling back and forth in the front porch. It's cracked, but may survive to live another holiday. Mom, I apologize. You knew best. (this time.)

Here's the decor without the snowman.

Mr Cooper LUVS getting gifts. Especially unwrapping and creating a horrid mess.
Lola loves unwrapping gifts so much, we don't keep any under the tree. Everything goes above doggy mouth levels. This year she nabbed one of Lyle's gifts while I was looking for ribbon to put on it.

And for Christmas I got an alien puppy.
Check out Mr Cooper's magic headlight eyes!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Mash-up

This is what it's like to live inside my head with all that Christmas music (and regular music).


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Fun Facts revealed!

And now, for the nine of you that wondered if you got it right, here is the breakdown of some of the Christmas songs I have the most versions of. Our top spot went to a song no one even voted for, Chestnuts roasting on an open fire... The Christmas Song.

  1. The Christmas Song – 58
  2. Silent Night – 52
  3. Jingle Bells – 48
  4. The Little Drummer Boy – 47
  5. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – 44
  6. O Holy Night – 44
  7. Winter Wonderland – 42
  8. White Christmas – 41
  9. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town – 34
  10. I’ll Be Home For Christmas – 32
  11. Sleigh Ride – 30
  12. Rudolph – 28
  13. Hark The Herald – 26
  14. Frosty the Snowman – 21
  15. Deck the Halls – 19

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas Eve

The Nutcracker collection

The tree in the bedroom features all the dog's ornaments

The entryway arch

The Mantle

The living room

View from the dining room

Top of the tree

The tree

and I wish you a very merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Favorite versions

Having multiple versions of the same song sung by anywhere from 10 to 58 different artists in varying styles keeps my holiday mood moving. But if I had to choose the definitive version of a song, could I? Here's what I came up with.

  • Christmas Song, The (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) - Torn between Diane Schuur and Ella Fitzgerald, both so different and yet so good.
  • Deck the Halls - London Symphony Orchestra (I like a big loud traditional rendition)
  • Frosty the Snowman - Ronettes
  • Hark The Herald - Vince Guaraldi Trio (from the Peanuts TV show)
  • Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - I've got to go with the classic by Judy Garland

  • I’ll Be Home For Christmas - Tony Bennett, this song can be a real downer, but his version in very swingin'.
  • Jingle Bells - Bing Crosby with the Andrews Sisters (a very close second is by SheDaisy)
  • Little Drummer Boy - people either love it or hate it. Strangely I just like it. But the primary version for me is by the Norman Luboff Choir (same arrangement we sang in choir in high School) and then for the geniusness of it all the version by Marlene Dietrich in German.
  • O Holy Night - for powerful vocals, I've gone with Wynonna. But right on her heals are Martina McBride and Billy Gillman (I love his angelic baby voice that sounds like a girl)

  • Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer - Dean Martin
  • Santa Claus Is Coming to Town - The version by Phil Spector. How can I not choose this one, it starts with, "Jimmy, I just came back from a lovely trip..." Hello, she's speaking to ME.
  • Silent Night - in German, Stille Nacht, performed by Chanticleer.
  • Sleigh Ride - André Kostelanetz
  • White Christmas - two versions chosen. Barbra Streisand because she does the intro I love to hear in Los Angeles, "The sun is shining, the grass is green, the orange and palm trees sway. There's never been such a day in Beverly Hills, LA. But it's December the 24th, and I am longing to be up North..." And then all the rest of the vote goes to Rosemary Clooney.
  • Winter Wonderland - Lena Horne

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Fun Facts about Christmas Music!

I fell in love with Christmas music and the smell of tires at the same time.

Every year my parents would go to Goodyear Tires and buy snow tires. With those snow tires came a free Christmas LP! Though they also offered a free Christmas LP at Firestone. But we got our tires at Goodyear. Oh the horror of having to choose your tires based on who was on this years Christmas LP. Lucky for me, my dad worked for an automotive parts store and had connections. (strangely, when I recently had to go buy new tires for my car, just the smell of all those new tires took me back directly to my childhood and memories of sitting in the waiting area for my dad to get off work so I could get a ride home.) Regardless of where we purchased our tires, or how many tires we purchased we got all the LP's available. Is it an early indicator that I would turn out gay that I was the one begging my father to hurry to Firestone before they ran out of LP's?

So I fell in love with the King Family Singers, Doris Day, Julie Andrews, John Davidson, Mahalia Jackson and wide variety of singers at a tender age.

I was going through my Christmas music in itunes. Of the 1800 songs I have under the "Holiday" genre I was stunned to find some fun facts.

There is one song title that I have 58 versions of. Take the poll on the side and tell me which one you think it is.

Here are the top twenty songs in my Holiday list by virtue of how often they claim to have been played. That play count is not for the week. It's from whenever I added the song. Kinda sucks to be the new kid on the block. How will poor Josh Groban ever catch up?
Still interesting to know what apparently gets played a lot for the the holidays at me house. Again this is the top 20 out of 1800:
  1. Oh Come All Ye Faithful by Julie Andrews 56 plays
  2. The Bells Of St. Paul by Linda Eder 54 plays
  3. It Came Upon A Midnight Clear by Julie Andrews 51 plays
  4. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) by Darlene Love 50 plays
  5. Cool Yule by Bette Midler 49 plays
  6. Medley: Jingle Bells/Sleigh Ride by Henry Mancini 48 plays
  7. Jingle Bells by Natalie Cole 48 plays
  8. Mele Kalimaka by Bette Midler 47 plays
  9. Sleigh Ride by Billy Gilman & Jessica Andrews 45 plays
  10. Christmas Trumpets by Ray Anthony 45 plays
  11. Sleigh Ride by The Ronettes 45 plays
  12. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas by Linda Eder 43 plays
  13. Let It Snow by Michael Bublé 43 plays
  14. Sleigh Ride by André Kostelanetz 42 plays
  15. We Wish You A Merry Christmas by Booker T. & The MG's 42 plays
  16. Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer by Chris Isaak And Silvertone 42 plays
  17. Little Bright Star by Diana Ross & The Supremes 42 plays
  18. Jingle Bells Cha Cha Cha by Pearl Bailey 42 plays
  19. It Happened In Sun Valley by Randy Van Horne Singers 42 plays
  20. Do You Hear What I Hear/The Little Drummer Boy by Vanessa Williams 42 plays

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Flashback

I am not in my twenties.

So there I was working on a little project for myself when I stumbled across some older photos.

WOW. Was that me? Over there, on the far left... With hair by Duran Duran.
It's my brother's graduation from college. Guess which one he is. And there's my mom, sister and dad all looking so much younger. I think I must be 23 in this picture. I guess I need to stop claiming I'm still 23. This is what 23 looks like, twelve.
Of course we had out matching Vuarnet Sunglasses. It was really exciting for me to wear the cap as I didn't graduate from high school. Shut up, I got my G.E.D. and got a college degree. I just never had a big ole' ceremony.

And how rare is this, I'm not totally mugging for the camera! These photos must pre-date my future as a complete camera hog.

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Christmas preview teaser

The theme around the mantle this year is icicle winter white.
It all tends to get a little involved.

These are the groupings on the side.
The white vase is normally by the door, the silver champagne bucket lives in the china closet.
The trophy hangs around the house and that large disco ball used to hang in my office (spinning with a pin spot, thank you).

This is a portion of the lower left mantle.
It's all in the details isn't it?


And then to be fair, I think I must add this.

This is the e-mail I sent off to Lyle today. This is what is going on behind the facade of a perfect Christmas.

I seem to have trouble conveying to you in a rational fashion that I am having a a slight panic meltdown. I have to be the one to fix it because it’s all internal.

I’m freaked out that my sister sent me three packages of napkins and now I have to send something to her. Then if I send something to her, I have to send something to my brothers. Oh, and this gift we got for my parents has to somehow get to Seattle before the weekend. I AM FREAKING OUT.

I want to be perfect and have everyone know that I care, so since I was looking at getting a plant delivered to my sister, I looked in getting that for friends of ours as well . Wow, an ugly poinsettia in an uglier basket delivered by FTD suddenly becomes $50 and you and I both know that even a huge one from Trader Joe’s is only $20 at the most.

Then someone told me that we should have planned better and mailed our gifts because their luggage is full and there is no room for a gift for your parents. So I took the bait, had a coniption fit her and made her cry. See, I don’t need any of your help to fix it, I am fixing it all just fine, all by myself.

I’m not going to the gym tonight. I am going to eat chocolate.

I had to math earlier. I had to shut the door to do math.

Perhaps all this is why I hate this gift for your parents. It’s not perfect. Nothing is ever perfect. Nothing will ever be good enough. I don’t want any gifts from people because they are all crap. Everything in the world is crap. I hate Christmas and am going to go rip it all down now.

After I write this, I am going to bed with the dogs for a sanity nap.

I’m planning cocktails and tv tonight and a cab ride home for any and all guests. Or, if need be, Xanax will be tonight’s appetizer.

What?! It’s only the 17th? Oh my God, I’m three days early this year!!!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Possesed

I've tried. Really I have. I've tried to pare down my Christmas display this year.

No light covers (that cut out about 60 things I'd have to press over the lights)
No ornamotion (the tree has no movement, but it sure is quiet)
Only about 20 of the 100's of dog ornaments (we buy an ornament for each member of the house each year. 4 dogs over the course of 17 years each getting an ornament dedicated to just them plus the stuff that just accumulates makes for over 100 dog themed ornaments)

Honestly, I tried. But then today we stopped to get some terra cotte pots at a nursery and... oops! We bought another tree. Yes, we already have a 9and half foot tree in the living room. This one is just 5 feet and is headed for the bedroom. (it's a big bedroom).

I CAN'T HELP MYSELF!
(Lyle is an enabler)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Christmas gift for you



I am hesitant to reveal just how awful my taste in music can be, except for this Heidi Klum song "Wonderland" - you must listen to it 3 times before you dismiss it. After that, you will beg me for it.




Monday, December 10, 2007

Guilty!

I have a guilty pleasure. I am addicted. I can't control myself and whenever I am home alone you will find me with it...

LEGALLY BLONDE - THE MUSICAL



Ohmygod, ohmygod you guys!! I saw it was going to be on MTV in October and decided it looked so bad I'd have to see it. Now I think I've watched it about 4 times. Then on the cruise we took, I met someone who also shared my obsession and he gave me a copy of the soundtrack. Itunes tells me I've listened to it 7 times so far. Lately, I've taken to re-enacting scenes that feature Elle Wood's dog, Bruiser, with my little lovely Lola. "What's that? Elle's trapped in the Old Valley Mill? Old Valley Mall?!"

Apparently my nieces are also infatuated with this. Once again I have far too much in common with 14 year old girls.

I am now working on how to get to New York to see it in person and how to trick Lyle into going with me...

For my sister

Every year at the Holidays there is a tradition between my sister and I. Who will be the first person to make the other person cry for Christmas. No, we don't poke each other in the eye. We play the worlds saddest Christmas song ever. (and it's not that damn Christmas Shoes song)

So, in an effort to catch her where she least expects it, here you go.

video
The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot sung by Nat King Cole written by Connor/Carr/Leach.

He's the little boy that Santa Claus forgot,
and goodness knows, he didn't want a lot.

He sent a note to Santa
for some soldiers and a drum,
it broke his little heart
when he found Santa hadn't come.

In the street he envies all those lucky boys,
then wanders home to last year's broken toys.
I'm so sorry for that laddie,
he hasn't got a daddy,
the little boy that Santa Claus forgot.

spoken:
You know, Christmas comes but once a year for every girl and boy,
the laughter and the joy they find in each brand new toy.
I'll tell you of a little boy that lives across the way...
this little fella's Christmas is just another day.
he's the little boy that Santa Claus forgot,
and goodness knows, he didn't want a lot.

In the street he envies all those lucky boys,
then wanders home to last year's broken toys.
I'm so sorry for that laddie,
he hasn't got a daddy,
the little boy that Santa Claus forgot.


Great, now I can't even read my own blog.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Oh. Christmas tree.

The house isn't done with Christmas until the tree is up and decorated.

Today I'd like to take you back in time to my childhood.

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest. North of Seattle. You know where Canada and the United States meet at the Pacific Ocean? Right there.

Every year we, as a family would bundle up in our waterproof parkas, pick up the saw from the garage and load into the station wagon. We would drive to Fullner's Christmas Tree farm. Out towards my grandparent's house, then a bit further. Towards Mount Baker, over the Nooksack river, turn left onto the Lawrence pavement, past the church where my parents got married, to the curve in the road where instead of following the road, you turn right, pause for the railroad tracks then continue to Fullner's Tree Farm (see this link for map that shows it just how I remembered).

On the drive out the discussion was always the same.
Can we have a really BIG tree this year?
"No."
What about a really TALL tree this year?
"No."
What if its not too tall, but really big AROUND?
"NO! God Dammit! You can only get a tree as tall as your mother. Once the stand is on it gets taller and you'll break the tree topper!"
(which did finally happen one year which validated everything my father had always warned us with a "See? I told you so!")
And then I'd sulk.

Once we got to the tree farm we'd see that the prices hadn't changed since last year:
under 6 feet - $8.
Over 6 feet - $10.


I remember there was a lot of grumbling the year that over 6 feet went to $12. We always seemed to get an over 6 foot tree. My mother by the way is not 6 feet tall.

Because it was the Northwest if it wasn't raining when we went to get the tree then it had just stopped or was about to start. Either way you needed your big rubber boots to wade through the muck.

We pull up, the family pours out of the car. My dad, mother, brother, sister and me. Everyone files out into the field of trees in an orderly fashion. The type of tree we like is towards the back. Everyone except me. I begin to zig and zag through every tree no matter what size, shape, color or condition.
How about this one?
Can I have one for my room?

Look at this one!

This one needs a home!

Can I have a bigger one for my room?

Can I have one if it's smaller?

This one is perfect!

No, this one!
Hey!
Over here!
OVER HERE!!!
But no one is near me. They are still walking with a purpose towards the area with the right type of tree in the right size category.

I'd make my way back to the family. Annoyed that no one listened to me or cared which tree I liked I'd start to cry. Seriously, every single year.

Then my dad would yell at me to stop crying and I would run away to find a better tree than any of them would ever choose. I'd show them all. Except they wouldn't come look. Seriously, every single year.

Finally all the family (except me) would have it narrowed down to 4 trees. My mother would have left Kleenex tissues on each one so we'd remember which ones they were. Then I would walk around and around and around them picking them apart.
There's a hole on this side
"Put it against the wall."
It's got two branches right at the top.
"We'll cut one off."
The branches go right to the ground, it won't fit in the base.
"We'll cut them off."
There won't be any tree left!
and off I'd go on another crying jag. Seriously, every single year.

So against my will we'd pick a tree and then came the sawing of the tree. I'd start to feel guilty that we were killing this poor innocent tree but excited that we were finally getting a tree, then angry that it wasn't the tree I picked out, then thrilled that Christmas was really happening, then sad because soon it would all be over and all that would be left to look forward to was the bleak dreary blah gray skies of winter rain.

My dad would tire from sawing and then my brother would step in. Then he would tire and I would take a turn. We really should have brought a better saw but this was the "tree saw" that hung in the back of the garage all year long just waiting to go and get covered in pine pitch then get hung back on the wall rusting in crud until the next year when we'd need it again.

Finally! The tree toppled over and my dad and my mother would each grab an end and we'd make our way back to the car. As we walked past every tree we hadn't taken I would make a mental note of how much better each of them looked to me and know that it was now too late to change our plans as we'd already cut this one down. My mother would ask my sister to collect the Kleenex off the trees we hadn't chosen so we wouldn't be litterbugs.

Then the tree was measured, oops, over 6 feet again! "God dammit, I told you this one was too big!" And we'd wrap it in an old sheet we'd brought and stuff in the back of the station wagon with the back window down for it to stick out and drive it home.

Once it got home and decorated you could never find that hole (placed against the wall for concealment) and the extra branch at the top would be cut off with a dull steak knife (why didn't we ever have anything sharp?), and the bottom branches would be cut off to make room for the stand (I'd take the branches and try to lash them together into a sad Charlie Brown tree for my room which would dry out in a few days, turn brown and all the needles would fall off which inevitably led me to cry all over again). But it was good that those bottom branches were gone because that left more room for all this presents under the tree.

All this is shared to explain away why shopping for a Christmas tree is not a simple task for me. Lyle and I went out today and went to two tree lots. Prices ranged from $120 to $350. Yes, we are looking at getting something over 6 feet.

Last year after we'd finally got our tree and I had finished crying I begged Lyle to go by himself this year. But I just can't seem to let him. Today in the tree lot we had to leave quickly. I was just about to cry. Its never just a tree for me.

My favorite tree ever was the one that grew wider and wider and took over the archway entrance between the dining room and living room. That tree had to be cut up inside the house to get it out the front door.
Me, my sister and brother, I'm about a year or two from the beginning of my tree crying expeditions.

To my father, mother, brother and sister - thanks for putting up with me I know I was not easy. But you must admit that through my keen future gay artistic eye, we always had the best tree. At least that's the way I see it.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

I'm hungry

I was just sitting here thinking about a meal I'd had a month ago. A meal I had planned on telling you about. But then the whole work and travel thing got in the way and i forgot. But not the meal. I did not forget that meal.It happened in New Orleans. In Early November. We were in town for a wedding, but it just happened to be my birthday. Don't go getting all "Happy Birthday" on me. I am always out of town for my birthday. My reasoning is that if you never have a visible birthday, you can never grow older. And here's a lesson, as soon as someone finds out its your birthday and you make the mistake of telling them how old you are, they never ever forget it. "Oh, this is you TWENTY-NINTH birthday! Because I remember I was at your 25th party and that was four years ago..." But that's not what I want to share with you. I want to share food with you. Food...
We returned to a new favorite restaurant in New Orleans, Stella! (Exclamation point included in the name) The last time we were there we had the 7 course tasting menu. This time we were really trying to branch out and have some of the other dishes offered on the menu, but we just couldn't. The tasting menu looked so good, except for the dessert. I hate bananas. And one other small problem was that we really wanted to try a dish not on the tasting menu, so we added an 8th course.
This is the Japanese Kobachasquash purée with applewood smoked bacon and Valrhona xocopili, translation squash soup with bacon and chocolate. Now I was uncertain about the chocolate in the soup. Sounded odd to me. I loved it. Three nights ago I opened a container of butternut squash soup from Trader Joe's and garnished it with bacon crumbles and dark chocolate. Not an exact match, but not a drop of soup left in any bowls either.

Here is the added course. Foies Gras BLT. OH. MY. GOD. It was so memorable. So amazing. So decadent. So tasty. So need to go back right now. Did I mention I was hungry?

"Surf & Turf" - seared prime filet of beef tenderloin and grilled gulf shrimp yakitori with sake glazed sweet potato and wilted Lacinto kale. The sauce on this is amazingly savory and sweet. I was totally a member of the clean plate club.

For dessert, we switched out the banana thing for a brioche and brie toasted cheese and chocolate sandwich with a berry sauce on the side. We were skeptical but said we trusted the chef to do what he thought best. Always a wise move. Look how happy I am to eat it!

We were actually there for a wedding...

But managed to go out for the bachelorette evening...

Someone is getting pointers on how to tip a go-go boy...

At the wedding, an intimate carriage ride for three.

A celebratory hoisting of the bride post wedding.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Greetings from Moscow!

My mother often tells me I have the most interesting life. I sometimes think I do. But then I realize that one of the things that makes my life so interesting is my friends. Hot on the heals of Robb & Lewis in Vancouver, BC photos, I'd like to share my friend Ricky's picks from where he is this week, Moscow. (and you have no idea how much I had to beg him to go get me some photos.)
Hi,
Walked through Red Square where the only tasteful tree is located. it is not neon, flashing Vegas lights or so much gold that the reflection causes Global warming and instantly cooks small children. I think I got you some really nice shots of St. Basil Cathedral and the Kremlin Tower with the tree. They are night shots at 3 in the afternoon. It gets lightish at around 9:30ish.
Enjoy and Merry Christmas!!!!
Ricky








Sunday, December 02, 2007

Princessess!

Yes, yes I know you are hoping to see all about Christmas going up at our house, but these things take time... it's about half up. The lights are all on outside. But a few more details need to be added... Today we finally got the "go-bo" projector up on the roof so it shines down a lovely snowflake pattern swirling on the front porch. The snowman made it up in the first go round.

Inside, all the greenery is up and lit. 4 out of 6 have the ornaments on. The tree is still not on the schedule yet. Probably next weekend.

In the meantime, I hope you will enjoy these Princess pictures. We went to see "Enchanted" last Thursday. After the movie, in a special tent out back of the theater they had the "Enchanted Experience". Well I did not see my size in princess dresses and I didn't want to jump in the bouncy castle or color with glitter... all that was left was to collect a picture of each Princess on hand for our entertainment. And I knew as I did it that this is where they would end up. Here are the best of the bunch!

Jasmine and Lyle square off.

Chanda talks glass slippers with Cinderella and her Prince Charming.

Its another face off between me and Ariel, the fish wife.

And then, as a bonus, I got this photo today from Robb & Lewis back in Vancouver, BC. They have their tree up, decorated and SNOW outside on the balcony!