"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Ringing in the new year

I'm not sure what it is about New Year's Eve, but people tend to celebrate as though the next 364 days will be such a hellish exercise, no one can look January 1 in the eye. In my youth, I attempted wild revelry. It didn't suit me. At one such event, I remember standing in a club, listening to a local band, drinking something minty that I hated but my friend brought so I was being polite, and all the time trying to avoid what I was thinking:

"I'm bored. Bored. B-O-R-E-D, bored. Bored beyond belief. Is it midnight yet?"

Nowadays, we usually get together with a few friends, have some food and a few drinks, and lots of conversation. No loud music, no twirling lights, no craziness. Just good times.

If you love going to the clubs and getting crazy with it all, I'm good with that. No matter what your party pattern is, if you're looking for alcohol with style, check these resources:

For wine lovers, I'll keep recommending Alicia Bien's Evolution of a Wine Drinker until you all buy a copy. Just do it, okay? Don't make me nag.

Here's the link to the Kindle version, but as you can see by the photo, it's also available as a paperback. http://www.amazon.com/Evolution-Wine-Drinker-Alicia-Bien-ebook/dp/B00E8ALIMW/

If you like martinis, may I recommend the Martini Diva? She's got recipes for every kind of martini, and I mean EVERY ingredient known to man. I haven't looked, but I'll bet she's even got one using artichokes.


Otherwise, here's a collection showing how to drink like a sophisticated detective and his lovely wife.

Honest to Pete, I don't know how they solved any cases.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

And to all a good night.

Christmas music for you to enjoy, from my own Celtic heart

To my hubby's African-American roots

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

If only in my dreams

I missed Elvis' younger days, when he was that dangerous, barely-controlled, hip-shaking singer who made girls swoon with longing and the Establishment quiver in fear and loathing. By the time I knew him, he was firmly under Colonel Parker's thumb, cranking out formulaic movies with forgettable songs (with the exception of Viva, Las Vegas).

No matter. He still pulls my heartstrings when he sings this.

Perhaps I'm thinking of all those men and women in the military who will not be home for Christmas, and I want to weep for their moms and dads and spouses who have to be strong and enjoy their holidays somehow.

It reminds me of a couple I know. The guy was a Marine during the Vietnam War. Did two tours. When he was at last home, he hadn't seen his two-year old daughter since she was an infant. That first night, his wife told their daughter to go give Daddy a kiss goodnight, and his daughter went over and kissed his picture on the table.


I asked Louise how she managed, with her hubby gone for so much time. "You just do it," she told me. "You don't ever ask yourself how you're going to get it done."

To the men and women serving our country, consider this a cyber-salute. Merry Christmas, and come home soon.

Monday, December 16, 2013

From our house to yours

I'm taking a short break in my regularly scheduled programming to give you...

The Carline Family Christmas Card!

Here it is, in its entirety:

"Seeing isn't believing. Believing is seeing."

Ten points for the person who can name the movie I quoted above. Much like that film, life at the Carlines is often about believing the unbelievable. From Santa Claus, to Christmas miracles, to pretending the house is clean and the dogs are well behaved—why accept reality when fantasy brings so much happiness? Not that reality is always bad.
Marcus really is in the first of his two senior years at Cal State Long Beach. Confused? Apparently when you have a double major in Vocal Jazz Studies and Composition, it takes you an extra year to get the job done. He’s sharing an apartment near the school with a friend and is so buried in classes he barely comes up to ask for more money. Dale’s fantasy is that his son will have time for a haircut. I’ve begun to call him M.C. (Mushroom Cloud) Marcus. I’m not certain what he’d say is the highlight of his year, but for me, it was that he turned 21. How could he become an adult in reality, when I’m still pretending not to grow up at all?
Dale’s big news is that the stars finally aligned and the figures added up, making his dream come true. In other words, he retired from Raytheon this year. What’s he going to do now? Well, according to him, he’s got a list of home repairs for both houses, he plans to continue to coach kids who want to play basketball on the Placentia Youth League, and I may or may not have some suggestions. In other news, he went to the Frozen Four NCAA Hockey Championships again, and did a little final traveling for Raytheon before saying his goodbyes.
I just keep writing books, riding horses, and attending to the needs of the Placentia Library as one of their trustees. My latest book is a memoir. Not mine, but my horse, Snoopy. (He tells a darned fine story.) I’ve done some special events with this book, from horse shows to large expositions, and they’ve all been fun. I can’t decide whether I fit writing around all my other activities, or fit everything around my writing, but I somehow manage to get it all done.
With Marcus’ schedule, it’s getting harder to plan family stuff, but we still made our annual trip to the mountains of Northern California with most of the gang. It’s becoming a bittersweet voyage for me. I’m so proud to see all of our kids growing up, and yet I miss the days when they were little. For other trips, Dale and I scampered off to Cambria for our anniversary, and he tagged along to a library district-related conference in Monterey. Fine meals were consumed and wine was purchased.
The animals are all doing well. Lady Spazz and Duffy entertain me daily with their full-contact wrestling. Now that Dale’s retired, perhaps I’ll take my laptop to Starbucks and let them entertain him instead. Katy the cat is getting very old and spends all day sleeping, after which she rests. Frostie and Snoopy are wonderful, as usual. In addition to his own blog, Snoopy now has his own Facebook page and YouTube channel. That horse loves an audience.
I’m looking back at my calendar to see if I left anything out, but the year has whipped by so quickly, I’m surprised at all we’ve done. It almost looks like we time traveled, and maybe we did. Perhaps it’s because I write fiction, but I like to believe in magic. I think we all should go out on a limb, bet on the underdog and reach for the unattainable, at least once in a while. And when it feels like the world is sucking all the joy from our hearts, we can all follow the instructions in the movie: Shake our snow globes and “Remember!”
Wishing you a Magical Holiday and a Fantastic New Year!

For those of you who don't want to read it, here is a badly narrated version for your listening enjoyment:

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Saturday, December 14, 2013

It's snowing promotions


Are you a Kindle reader who likes a bargain? Do you cringe when you see famous books by famous authors being offered on Kindle for more than the price of the paperback?

STARTING AT 9:00 A.M. TODAY (PST) - FOR ONE WEEK ONLY - Snoopy's memoir, From the Horse's Mouth, is being offered for 99 cents! That's $3 off the regular price - you could buy yourself a copy and gift three friends for the same amount. Talk about a Merry Christmas!

Snoopy's story of how trust and love helped him overcome injury and doubt is earning some great reviews. If you're a horse lover, an animal lover, or a sucker for a good old comeback tale, you'll enjoy this book. Here's the link on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00D0HDYRQ

Now... on to the snow...

Why is it that every song that mentions snow is lumped into the Christmas music genre? Doesn't it snow in February? Did it snow in Bethlehem two-thousand years ago?

Don't answer that. (http://photoblog.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/12/13/21890229-holy-land-blanketed-in-snow-after-intense-winter-storm)

Take this little ditty.

I like to listen to Michael Buble. Mostly, though, I like to say his name. Boo-blay. Boo-blay-boo-blay-boo-blay. I could say it for days. HOWEVER.

This song is not at all about Christmas. There is no tree, no holly, no infant, nothing jolly. It's about trying to convince your date to spend the night. (he he he) I mean, where's the Christmas spirit in that?

This version works for me, too.

It's not very Christmas-y, but it still makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Earl Grey, anyone?

Friday, December 13, 2013

He sees you when you're sleeping

He knows when you're awake. That's right. Santa is a stalker.

I do like the admonishment to be good for goodness' sake. It's kind of the bottom line, yes? Be good because it's good to be that way.

This is a nice rendition by Bruce and the E Street Band. Everybody's joking and hamming it up, and I love that Bruce is addressing the crowd in French. Oui, merci!

When I was younger and unhappier, I loved Bruce Springsteen. His songs had a yearning quality to them that was true and wonderful and painful. Without wallowing in TMI, I was trapped within a personae of what everyone who "loved" me wanted me to be. Springsteen tapped into that longing to get away. "It's a town full of losers and I'm pulling outa here to win."

Once I had chewed my paw off and escaped, his music stopped beckoning. I still enjoy him, especially his storytelling skills. But I don't need his voice in my ear, telling me to drive all night.

I will, however, be good for goodness' sake.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

I'm a mean one...

This is such a cool book. And cartoon. And song.

Thurl Ravenscroft sang this. He had the best voice, so deep and warm. I grew up with him as the voice of Tony the Tiger ("They're GRRRREAT!") but imagine my delight when I went to my very first Pageant of the Masters show in Laguna Beach and heard him narrating the show - in person! He did every show live, for as long as he could.

If you've never been to the Pageant of the Masters, you must go at least once. Anyone who tries to describe it to you can truly never do it justice.

Here's to hoping this holiday season your hearts are two sizes too big.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Been an angel, I swear

No one does this song like the original.

Eartha Kitt was quite a woman. She was a unique vocalist, and as you can see from the video, a hot tamale. In addition, she was a committed and unapologetic activist for peace and equality.

I loved her quirky voice. She ties with Julie Newmar as my favorite Catwoman, and I adored her as Yzma in Disney's The Emperor's New Groove.

She died on Christmas day of 2008, which I suppose is fitting, since this song was one of her most popular.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Oui, c'est Noel!

This is the snooty-patootie version of a song I learned to sing in French class.

That Renee Fleming - she sure knows how to milk a song.

Most of the songs I learned in French class were ones that I knew the English versions, although most of them did not translate equally across the languages. Jingle Bells, for example, is Tinte Cloches, a song about Father Christmas (Pere Noel) arriving on a train to give young children what they dream about. A train? Where'd the reindeer go? Baggage?

But Un Flambeau, Jeanette Isabella escaped me. I had never sung this song. But it's a sweet little ditty and flows off the tongue, something you can't say about a lot of French.

I looked up the translation and, hmm, well, maybe I'll stick with the French and not ask questions. Supposedly, the song is a call to a young girl to bring a torch to the stable and gather all the children together to see the Baby Jesus, but then to tell them to shut up because the baby's sleeping.

First of all, bring a torch to a stable? Around all that hay? Does that sound like a good idea to anyone?

Second, why are we gathering a crowd just to tell them to keep the noise down? Crowds are notoriously not quiet, especially crowds of children. They can whisper louder than the brass section of a jazz band.

Forget the translation. Just enjoy the lovely melody and lilting words.

ah-aH-AH que la mere est belle, ah-aH-AH que l'enfant est beau.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Wonder lands, such as they are

Here in sunny southern California, we don't have winter wonderlands. For Christmas, this is our wonderland:

Don't knock it until you've stood under the fake snow and watched fireworks.

Still, I love the song and like to imagine myself in a cute little cabin, fire in the fireplace, looking out on softly falling flakes and drinking something warm.

Well, maybe without Chris. Although, he has a certain magnetism.

Honestly, I looked for a video of someone current singing the song. Found Jason Mraz, Michael Buble, etc. They're all good. But this woman's voice is so beautiful.

If I get to heaven and the angels don't sound like Ella, I'm leaving.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Hark. Hark-hark-hark.

Kind of sounds like a dog with a speech impediment, doesn't it?

When I was a wee child sitting in Sunday School class and the teacher asked what hymn we should sing, I always asked for "Hark the Herald Angels Sing." If it wasn't December, my suggestion was ignored.

Stupid teachers anyway.

I found this version on YouTube and was reminded of my son and his a capella singing.

This carol was originally written by Charles Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church. It began as a rather solemn little ditty until Felix Mendelssohn got hold of it and perked it up.

It's been called the most theologically complete of the Christmas carols and is one of the four Great Anglican Hymns, which just means that, among a survey of church hymnals in 1885, it was one of four hymns common to every church.

Don't I just sound too erudite for words now?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Christmas meanings

I'm not sure when any song that mentioned "snow" got dumped into the "Christmas music" genre, but here's one that spells out the Christ in Christmas.

I love Nat King Cole. I do wish these videos were more interesting, but what can you do with music from the past? I particularly love this song, for two reasons:

1. Back when I was a flying angel in the Crystal Cathedral's Glory of Christmas, my first entrance was for the song, "Angels We Have Heard on High." I would sit in the balcony, sweats over my tights and wait for the song, "O Little Town of Bethlehem" as my cue to undress and get into my flying harness and costume.

One mid-December, after doing two-to-three shows a night for three weeks, I was in a department store, shopping for gifts. The usual background music was playing. Suddenly, "O Little Town..." began. My body went into autopilot and I looked down to see myself unzipping my jacket.

I scampered out of that store while I still had my clothes on.

2. After I became a mom, this song took on a slightly different feeling for me. I want to be clear here: in NO WAY am I comparing my family to Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. NO. WAY.

There is a line in the song: The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

Yes, the song is referring to the world and Jesus, however, it strikes me that it applies to any child born. As you hold that baby, you hold promise in your hands. Your hopes and fears. They could grow up to be anything, do anything. We all have hopes and fears for our future, but somehow a baby gives them a face.

Do songs change their meanings as your life goes through changes?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Let's get this over with

I was going to save this one until later in the month, but you know me. I'm Instant Gratification Girl.

I can listen to this song all year. The video is possibly the weirdest thing I've ever seen. I mean, what is that polar bear doing in there? But it has those lovely photos of both Dean Martin and Martina McBride. Dean is soooo seductive in this song. I know I couldn't say no. And Martina, well, she's drop-dead gorgee-ous. (Yes I KNOW he didn't really sing this with her and they remixed her voice with his. He's still magical and she's still enchanting.)

Here are my favorite two photos of Dino:

In his tux, he lives up to being the King of Cool. Suave. In control. No ruffling his feathers.

Here is what looks like the real deal. Working at his craft. Confident. Self-assured.

Oh, all right. Here's Martina.

Yes, most of us would give an arm and a pancreas to look like this, but I'd like to think any of us could be divas with the right amount of time and money.

Got any versions of this song you like? Share them with me.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Are you listening?

I'm giving you Annie Lennox today, singing Winter Wonderland.

It's been years since I spent a Christmas in the snow, but I still remember the overwhelming beauty of watching the white flakes falling late at night. I would sit on my bed and look out my window. Lights from neighbors' homes cast soft shadows across the lawns and sometimes the flakes were so large and fluffy they would drift in swirls. Other times, they would drive down sideways, with the wind. It was all so gorgeous I wanted to cry and laugh and wiggle my body from top to bottom and run in circles until I collapsed.

In particular, I remember one Christmas when I was in middle school and had gotten these really cool knee-high suede-ish boots. Think beige Uggs, except they were more sculpted and not fleecy. My grandmother was visiting from Indiana, and the electric fireplace in the playroom overheated, causing a fire. The fire department scampered right over to take care of it, but my mom and grandma were worried that the Christmas wrappings and boxes still in the living room would look like a fire hazard, so they moved all of it to the back room.

Turns out, the firemen needed access to the crawlspace above the ceiling. The entrance was, yes, in the back room. Instead of Christmas revelers, we looked like hoarders.

The thing is, the fire wasn't really worth a call to the fire department. I mean, I was a hormonally-challenged teenager and I wasn't worried. I wandered around outside, making snow angels and weird tracks in my yard.

Yeah... that was a good Christmas.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Christmas caroling

I've decided to regale my tribe with Christmas carols this month. Don't worry - I'm not singing. I'll let the experts do it.

Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby... aaahh.

Someone posted this link on Facebook, about how to be happier in your own home. Who doesn't want to be happier? I love all of these, and can see how they would tie into this time of year. Counting my blessings is one way that I'm going to celebrate this holiday season. What blessings are you counting today?

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