Friday, January 25, 2008

Friday Five: Winter

I have a lot of catching up to do, I've been reading and doing other things rather than blogging for a bunch of days now. But first, the Friday Five.
Singing Owl over at RevGalBlogPals posted this picture and says:

The picture is out a window at my place, complete with screen. ;-)

Brrrr! Baby, it’s COLD outside! At least that is the case where I am this morning. We are in a January deep freeze. Have a cup of hot tea and tackle five easy seasonal questions.

1. What is the thermometer reading at your house this morning?
It's afternoon now, and it has warmed up to 23 degrees F. I know it was colder than that this morning.
2. Snow—love it or hate it?
Both --- love looking at it, not so fond of slogging through it.
3. What is winter like where you are?
Snowy, quite often sunny, and cold but not usually excssively so.
4. Do you like winter sports? Any good stories?
No. But I like to watch the Winter Olympics when they happen.
5. What is your favorite season, and why?
Fall -- neither too hot nor too cold, easy to get around, beautiful colors.
Bonus: Share a favorite winter pick-me-up. A recipe, an activity, or whatever.
Well, basically I like to sit at home and read. I almost never get "cabin fever."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Friday Five: Read Any Good Books Lately?

RevHRod at RevGalBlogPals writes:
The website promoting this piece of art says, "For the first time, the world's most influential religious texts are brought together and presented on the same level, their coexistence acknowledged and celebrated”. The shelf is made of reclaimed wood that contains seven religious books. The designers have put them – literally – on the same level.

Well, pish posh! I think that some books ARE better than others! How about you?

1. What book have you read in the past six months that has really stayed with you? Why? I guess that would be The Coldest Winter by David Halberstam, a history of the Korean War that focusses mainly on the first year of the war. I picked it up while researching my father's life, but he was in Korea for the last six months of the war. Nevertheless, I learned a lot from the book and think about its lessons for us today. Just slightly more than six months ago I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and that has been quite influential in my daily life.

2. What is one of your favorite childhood books? The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I recently got my original copy back from the cousin I'd passed it on to. It was the first of Wilder's books I read, an old edition (even in my childhood which was a while ago!) with the original, pre-Garth Williams illustrations. Something about the hardships and the ways they got around them -- and then the wonderful day when the train got through!

3, Do you have a favorite book of the Bible? Do tell! Well, each book has its times and seasons, but all in all, I sure like Genesis. Lots of stories.

4. What is one book you can read again and again? There are more than one, but today I'm going to say Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. I enjoyed the movie that was made from it a few years back, but the book is even better and I find new things to chuckle at each time I read it.

5. Is there a book you would suggest for Lenten reading? What is it and why? I used to just pick up a free one that would come as a sample when I worked as a church secretary. Probably this year I'll either read the RevGalBlogPals choice or do Daily Office from Phyllis Tickle's book. However, I would like to recommend Nikos Kazantzakis' The Last Temptation of Christ. Although some considered the film made from it blasphemous, it was really the book that brought me back to the fold.

Bonus question: if you were going to publish a book what would it be? Who would you want to write the jacket cover blurb expounding on your talent? My wish and goal is to publish a book (I have to write it first, and before that finish researching) on my mother's family, specifically her father's line which starts with a Devonshire fisherman coming to Maine in 1635, and a large part of which has remained in Maine ever since. For the jacket blurb I guess I've got to get Robert Fate, although he might not be that interested in most of the characters, since I've "blurbed" one of his Baby Shark books (mysteries set in 1950s Texas -- very reprehensible and very good).

By the way, about the shelf shown above. At first I thought they meant that the reclaimed wood was somehow made from pulverized books. I can think of a few fundamentalists in every religion who would have some issues with that. (Not to mention bibliofundamentalists who can't stand the thought of destroying, recycling or throwing away a book of any kind, no matter how tattered or outdated!) Then I realized that the description just means that the hollowed out spaces make each book's top level with the others, no matter what the size. However, there would be an easier way to accomplish this, by presenting the books themselves in a uniform edition, and indeed, I own such a set which I got from the Quality Paperback Book Club some years ago. So pish posh again!

Pictures from our mid-morning walk

Perhaps later today there will be more words, but for now, pictures.

A neighbor on the next block has this interesting sight. It's an old house, note the moldings. I hope that the fact this house has a metal roof means that these icicles are not going to cause a problem, but I don't know for sure.

This is a shrub or very small tree outside the same house, which somehow acquired this odd coating of ice.

Here are some branches against the sky. I'm not
sure the photo shows how very blue the sky is
today in some parts (other parts are paler). It is
another sunny day, for which I'm grateful.

And below, a photo of the last leaves on a volunteer tree in
our back yard, and the shadows the sapling casts on the snow.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

We have had 59 inches of snow this winter

and although some of it melted during our January thaw last week, quite a bit is still here. So in response to requests, here are more pictures of snow!

This first one is "Why do I have to wait?" which is what Rusty is thinking as I am taking the picture. The big mound in front of him represents partly fallen snow and partly shoveled snow from the walk. All the photos were taken about 3 pm so it is getting on for sunset already.

The second photo shows our "back yard" such as it is, and a bit of the Mansion House behind us. Our house stands on what was once the majestic front lawn of this house, which has now been added to and contains apartments -- all of which appear to be rented by very nice, quiet people. Our deed says that we may never build a house higher than 1 1/2 stories on our lot, to maintain the ascendancy or at least the view, of the Mansion House (it's called that in the deed). Most of our back yard is the slope up to where the trees are. I think the light is pretty on the snow.

Next, looking over our side and front yard -- the corner of our lot -- toward downtown.
Here is a picture of our house as seen coming back from a walk on Maine Street. You will note we have not shoveled the front steps and walk. This is because (a) it's Maine, no one uses the front door, in fact in the country houses often have front doors but no steps up to them; and (b) the walk is a bit steep and tends to get slippery very easily, so this is for the protection of UPS delivery people and such, who do try to use the front door because that's where the address is. (The mail carrier delivers to the side, where the mail slot is. No complaints from the USPS here.)

We like our big 50s picture windows because they let lots of light in, and on sunny days like today we get free heat, which is not to be sneezed at these days, when a gallon of heating oil costs as much as a gallon of gasoline. The white, non-snow thing visible at the lower right corner is the electric door to our garage, which opens into the basement. In all the years we lived in Exile (aka "40 below keeps the riffraff out"), we never had an attached garage, or a garage door opener, and indeed for the most part did not have a garage our car would fit into. So we think we are living in the lap of luxury now.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tuneful Tuesday: Songs for Dr. King

Although the official holiday isn't until next Monday, today is the 78th birthday anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I well remember watching on television as he gave his "I have a dream" speech at the March on Washington, and Onkel Hankie Pants won a high school oratory contest by repeating that speech. I also remember the sadness, the outrage, and the fear that gripped my campus when Dr. King was assassinated. It's a time for remembering him and his work, but also a time to assess how far we have come on the road he led us on. There are certainly many changes that still need to happen, but one little vignette from my experiences last year gives me hope that change will continue. On the way back from the beach to Atlanta, The Decorator, The Accountant and I stopped at a chain chicken restaurant (I can't remember the name but I think they are known for their chicken salad). As we were eating our lunch, a pickup truck bearing the name of some small business pulled up outside and two men got out. One was black, one was white; they were co-workers and they came in to eat lunch together. Not only could they do that legally in a state where, throughout my childhood, eating places were segregated; but they ate together with every appearance of cordiality and as if it were something they did every workday. It may be a small kind of progress, but progress it is.

Some of the songs I've selected are ones you might sing in church next Sunday or at a special service or commemoration; others are associated with the Civil Rights Movement. They are in a rough chronological order, too.
1. Go Down Moses -- Marian Anderson -- Spirituals.
I'm sure everyone knows the story of Marian Anderson being refused permission to sing at the DAR's Constitution Hall, and how Eleanor Roosevelt resigned from the DAR and Harold Ickes intervened to reschedule her concert for the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. This was not one of the songs she sang at that concert (she did sing four spirituals including "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen") but this spiritual recounting the events of the Exodus has long been identified with the African-American struggle for freedom. If you can't get hold of the Marian Anderson version, try Paul Robeson:

2. Lift Every Voice and Sing -- Boys Choir of Harlem -- We Shall Overcome.
Long known as "The Negro National Anthem," this beautiful song, with lyrics by the poet James Weldon Johnson and music by his brother, J. Rosamond Johnson, is the official anthem of the NAACP. The version I have is by the Boys Choir of Harlem. You can listen to a story about the writing of the song, with links to several different arrangements, here. I hope we can sing it in church this Sunday. My 5th great-grandfather, Black Ben Darling, was African-American and, even living in Maine, his descendants faced discrimination for several generations, so I have some small right to join in. But in a larger sense, as with Dr. King's vision, the victory the song speaks of is for all of us.

3. We Shall Overcome -- Boys Choir of Harlem -- We Shall Overcome. In my Pilgrim Fellowship group, in then lily-white Fairfield, Connecticut*, we frequently, at the end of the Sunday night meetings, joined hands and sang this (we also sang Kumbaya, and I don't think either exercise was pointless). We were interested in the Civil Rights Movement, not yet, at 14 or 15 years old, sure what we could or would do about it. But we could sing the songs, and I think that in singing the songs, the ideas they represented became part of our worldview. The origins of this song are cloudy; the most reasonable description I've found is here (you will have to scroll down a bit to find We Shall Overcome, but it's worth it, and do click on the link to the Smithsonian recording). Note the identification of the tune with O Sanctissima -- mentioned in a previous post and here it is again!
*In our school of about 1000 kids, there were 2 black girls, I think. The boast of those who wanted to believe we were a liberal community was that Meadowlark Lemon lived in Fairfield. This turns out to be true, although he has since moved to Arizona.

4. Freedom Trilogy (Oh Freedom/Come and Go with Me/I'm on My Way) -- Odetta -- Gonna Let It Shine.
I was looking for a recording of Oh Freedom, another song I associate with the movement, and the one I liked best was in this medley by Odetta. In looking for some information on the song (it's probably a post-Civil War freedom song, adapted for the Civil Rights Movement), I came upon this hour-long report with music on Freedom Summer, 1964. It's well worth listening to, particularly if you can't remember 1964 because you are too young.

5. Hold On (Keep Your Eyes on the Prize) -- Pete Seeger -- WNEW's Story of Selma.
One more freedom song -- with a long introduction by Pete Seeger about how all these freedom songs came to be. There is more information as well as music and words here, giving some credit to Guy and Candie Carawan of the Highlander Folk School. And you should know, the Highlander Folk School was much influenced by the Danish folk school movement begun by N. F. S. Grundtvig! It's fitting that this song should appear on an album called "Story of Selma." The events in Selma, Alabama on Bloody Sunday made it hard, but even more necessary, for the civil rights workers to hold on and keep their eyes on the prize.

6. Deep River -- Paul Robeson -- Spirituals.
I said these songs would be chronological, and at this point I am thinking about Dr. King's life. Many forget that in the last years of his ministry he was not only a civil rights activist, but a peace activist, speaking out against the war in Viet Nam. I imagine that he may often have thought of the words of this old spiritual,
Oh, don't you want to go
To that gospel feast
That Promised Land
Where all is peace?
Paul Robeson had one of the most beautiful voices of all time. I found this on YouTube:

7. Precious Lord -- The Original Five Blind Boys of Alabama -- The Sermon.
Written by gospel pioneer Thomas A. Dorsey, this was Dr. King's favorite song and one he often asked Mahalia Jackson to sing at events. She sang it at his funeral. I had picked out the Original Five Blind Boys version since I don't have the Jackson one, but then I found this:

There's a little "blip" at the beginning but otherwise it's a good recording.

8. Siyahamba (We Are Marching in the Light of God) -- Tapiola Choir -- Joy!
When Dr. King died, apartheid still held sway in South Africa and Nelson Mandela was still in prison. But people in South Africa were already singing this song, which has become a favorite of children's choirs and is included in many American hymnals. There is some information about it here. I include it because the desire for freedom and the will to attain it are worldwide. The Finnish children's choir does a lovely job, but I also found this on YouTube, a slightly older mixed choir from Croatia:

Wow! That's a lot of clicking for you to do, but I think you will enjoy and learn from it. Let's all try to make next Monday more than a day off or an occasion for store-wide sales.

Monday, January 14, 2008

A funny thing about LibraryThing

I don't know how long these things stay up, but just now when I looked at the blog as published, I saw that right next to each other in the "Random Books from My Library" were: The Real Age Diet and The Cake Bible.
Actually the latter book is so complicated that I have not yet made any cakes from it. She (Rose Levy Beranbaum) would really prefer that you weigh the ingredients rather than measure, for example.

I have signed up on both GoodReads and LibraryThing, and after doing some entering of books, I decided that GoodReads "to read" shelf for me is only going to have books that I am actually planning to read in the next two or three weeks. And of course, it will also include library books. LibraryThing will only have books I actually own although in some cases there will be books I used to own and don't yet realize I don't have any more. All clear? OK.

Too Much Snow!

At least it looks pretty, but I didn't take any pictures today. I think it has finally stopped snowing. The first time Rusty and I went out today I had hardly gone 20 feet when suddenly I was flat on my back. Fortunately for my head I had both a hat and a parka hood on, but I still have aches and pains all over my back. There will be a lot of shoveling for everyone tomorrow (some people are already working on it, and Rusty does not approve, or else wants to join the fun -- on our walk he jumped and jumped when he saw people shoveling.) Rusty also likes to dig in the snow for who-knows-what, even burying his whole head in it. This snow is more the light, powdery kind, but there's lots of it. Maybe tomorrow I can take a picture.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Scattered Sunday

I'm trying to blog every day, but today has been a rather scattered day with no clear focus.
  • I wore my prayer shawl to church. It was made for me when OHP went to Baghdad for a few months back in 2004. He insisted then, and still does, that he was in no danger, and indeed was in the then-fairly-safe Green Zone nearly every moment. Still, the shawl was a comfort. It was made by a dear lady at Up the Hill UMC where I worked then -- she was one of those pillars of the church who did everything from outside painting to quilting to singing in the choir. Not long afterward she became a shawl recipient herself when she developed an aggressive brain tumor, and we lost her about the time we moved to Maine. So this shawl has a lot of memories attached.
  • Senior Pastor (who will be gone in 2 weeks, not by his choice) wore a lovely spangly white stole today and preached a good clear sermon on baptism with no warm-up jokes.
  • Brother #1 is improving, but now it looks likely he will remain in Big Hospital for a couple more days. Maybe just as well as we are expecting another big snow and windstorm tomorrow.
  • Local genealogical society met this afternoon and we had a rousing discussion about various uses of the computer for genealogy purposes. There was also an article on genealogy in the NYTimes Sunday Magazine, which pointed me to a 2001 article in the New Yorker, which I can read since I have the complete New Yorker (up through April 2007 now) on DVD. We also had several visitors, which was nice.
  • Both Cordeliaknits and Sisterknits were much involved in worship at their respective churches today -- Cordeliaknits preached at Professors at Prayer UCC and Sisterknits was the liturgist at our old church in City of Lakes. Evidently both efforts went very well. I'm very happy at the good reports I'm hearing of the new minister at our old church, and pleased at the good sense of the search committee in choosing a young minister (under 30 I think).
  • Four boxes of Christmas ornaments are photographed, the lights are off the tree, and it only needs a few moments of OHP and me together to get the tree out to the curb, where we hope the town will pick it up. (Otherwise he'll have to take it back whence it came, our woods, or perhaps to the town landfill set aside for leaves, brush etc.)
  • And that's all I can think of at the moment.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Friday Five: Las Mananitas

Mother Laura at RevGalBlogPals posts:

Éstas son las mañanitas These are the morning verses
Que cantaba el Rey David, That King David used to sing,
A las muchachas bonitas To the beautiful young ladies,
Se las cantaba así. He would sing them like this.

(The Mexican birthday song, sometimes sung as a dawn serenade).

Youtube Mariachi version here. Piano music and eleventy-zillion more verses here.

My forty-third birthday next Wednesday will inaugurate the "Birthday Madness" season in the Grimes-Honkanen household. The next day Katie will turn five and just over two weeks later, on Feb. 3, Nicholas will be eleven. In the middle, on January 30, we celebrate the gift of Grandma Di; Nicholas and I were both due on my Mom's birthday but I was uncharacteristically early and he was little late. We will be doing a trip to Disneyland to celebrate them all in a couple weeks; in the meantime I offer this birthday-inspired Friday Five.

1. When is your birthday? Does anyone else (famous and/or in your own life) share it?
July 24th. Famous: Amelia Earhart and Simon Bolivar come to mind. In my life: the only one I know of is my cousin Perry.

2. Do you prefer a big party or an intimate celebration for the chosen few?
I usually have the latter, and that's fine as I am an introvert by nature, but the times I have had a big party have been lots of fun. And I have a major birthday coming up this year!

3. Describe your most memorable birthday(s)--good, bad, or both.
My most memorable birthday, I think, was in 1997, when Onkel Hankie Pants, The Traveller, Sisterknits and I had rented a cottage in Phippsburg and invited all the Maine relatives for a big birthday bash. The requested gift was that the guests bring an old family photograph. I received many photos that I treasure to this day, and it was also fun to entertain everyone who had been entertaining us on our visits over the years. This photo shows me and Brother #1 -- I'm not sure if it was anyone's birthday but we are sure pleased with our cowboy hats!

4. What is your favorite cake and ice cream? (Bonus points if you share the cake recipe). Or would you rather have a different treat altogether?
At the moment, it would be nice to have German chocolate cake with coconut-pecan icing. And butter pecan or coffee ice cream. However, any cake or other dessert that someone makes for me would be just fine! And I really like custard pie.

5. Surprise parties: love 'em or hate 'em?
I've only had one that I can recall, and it was a post-birth baby shower so it wasn't so great -- unmet expectations on the hostess's part (that I would bring the baby) and they were people from OHP's work that I didn't know well, anyway. It wasn't awful, but I guess I'd say no surprise parties (but surprise *guests* would be great!)

Bonus: Describe your ideal birthday--the sky's the limit.
It would last a week; my oldest friends would be there for some of it, at least; ditto my children and spouse and siblings and other relatives; and also some of my newer friends (for the most part people I've known for less than 30 years -- I'm slow). No special expectations for activities, just time to hang out together. Actually maybe it should last at least 3 weeks to involve all those people and still leave time for close conversations.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I'm kvelling....

So, in the weekly email genealogy newsletter there was an article about documenting one's Christmas ornaments. Since I needed to take down the tree anyway, I decided to do it or at least make a start with the ornaments we used this year. Well, I got to about 110 photos before the batteries gave out on my camera and I had to stop to recharge; then my sister came to take me to the hospital to visit Brother #1; then it was dark and it's really a daylight job. (Ended up seeing #1 twice today in 2 different hospitals, as he's now in Big Medical Center where they have better technology, having another MRI. He is feeling better, though.)
Needless to say the 110 photos are a drop in the bucket.
But here is one of them; a word chain that Cordeliaknits made in kindergarten.
The construction paper is a little faded but we still put it up every year anyway. And today, I read on her blog that she got all As in seminary last semester! So I'm kvelling!
And, lest Sisterknits be forgotten, I'm kvelling for her too! Not only was she accepted to the filmmaking program she wanted to get into, but she was on the news! I will link to it here even though I'm not sure how long this will be available -- if it's no longer active, she was interviewed briefly about a proposed Light Rail line between Minneapolis and St. Paul which would drastically shorten her work-school commute. (I have to say, I almost never watch television news, and looking at the whole story, which you pretty much have to do to get to Sisterknits, I can see why. There is also a weird bit of editing that makes her first utterance a non sequitur.)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

January Thaw and a Sick Brother

I haven't much to report today, just that we are having a January Thaw. Oh, there's still a lot of dirty snow piled up (which the dog loves to root in, he is absolutely filthy and no prospect of a bath till Saturday I suppose) but there's also a lot of water running in gutters. As I write it is nearly 9 pm and 43 degrees F. I've been getting warnings all day of howling winds but they never seemed to materialize, or at least, not down at the level where I am. Seriously -- Rusty and I went for a walk down Maine St. a couple of hours ago, I did not really feel any wind, but the flag over one of the stores (about second story level) was flapping madly back and forth. Tomorrow, we are even supposed to have sunshine.

Brother #1 is in the hospital here, waiting for a bed to open up in a neurological unit in Portland. It's a complicated medical situation which I don't fully understand. He's been in the local hospital, mostly in ICU, for over a week now (though the waiting for a bed is only the last couple of days). I humbly solicit your good wishes and prayers for him and his family. Here is a photo of one of his paintings:
It's called Rain in the Garden of Names, and is part of a series of paintings inspired by a book of the many names of Allah in beautiful Arabic calligraphy. We have hung it next to a contemporary Iraqi artist's painting that Onkel Hankie Pants brought back from his sojourn in Baghdad a few years ago (I think he has written about it a little on his own blog). The photo doesn't really do it justice but was the best I could do.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Tuneful Tuesday: Epiphany Mix

With one hour and 5 minutes to go before it's Wednesday, here are my Epiphany season choices (really more of Epiphany itself, for the most part). Many of the songs are available as digital downloads from

1. Breakin' Up Christmas -- Mike Seeger, Penny Seeger, and other family members -- American Folk Songs for Christmas.
Maybe tomorrow I'll start breaking up Christmas -- i.e. taking down the tree. "Breakin' up Christmas" actually refers to the Appalachian mountain custom of having two weeks of house dance parties after Christmas. You can read a bit about it here and if you don't have the album cited above, you can watch this:

2. Beautiful Star of Bethlehem -- The Judds, or Emmylou Harris -- Christmas Time with the Judds, or Light of the Stable.
Emmylou Harris's version of this is available as a digital download, but really I like the Judds' version best, because of their harmonies. I think Cordeliaknits, Sisterknits and I have probably bought 4 or 5 copies of that Judds CD because it is a car favorite and keeps getting lost, and we just can't do without it at Christmas. Beautiful Star of Bethlehem is a bluegrass/gospel song, but almost no one seems to agree on who wrote it -- I have credits on various albums for Adger Pace, A. L. Phipps, R. Fisher Boyce, and James D. Vaughn. It has an interesting conceit of equating Jesus with the Star: "Jesus is now the star divine, Brighter and brighter he will shine."

3. Brightest and Best -- Jean Ritchie -- Carols for All Seasons.
The words, for the most part, were written by Reginald Heber, and the tune Morning Star by James Harding; the words have also been set to several other tunes, according to the Cyberhymnal. Jean Ritchie, and most folksingers, sing this to the Southern Harmony tune Star in the East, and add a first verse (Hail the blest morn, See the great mediator...) which doesn't appear to be by Heber. Both tunes are beautiful in their own way, but in fact I only have recordings of Star in the East.

4. The Magi (The Heart of Man's a Palace) -- Peter, Paul and Mary -- A Holiday Celebration.
A slightly more modern take on the magi and what they have to teach us. Available as digital download from for about 99 cents. According to one website, it was written by Peter Yarrow and Joe Henry.

5. We Three Kings -- The Roches -- We Three Kings.
This is not my favorite Christmas carol to sing in church if there is a lessons and carols-type Christmas Eve service. It's a great temptation to use it with the Matthew reading about the magi. But it's just too long and draggy at that point. However, I do like the version by The Roches and especially the instrumental parts. We Three Kings was written by Rev. John Henry Hopkins, Jr. for a Christmas pageant at the General Theological Seminary in New York. Although not printed until 1863, it is said to have been written in 1857, thus this past Christmas was its 150th anniversary. I have to wonder whether those high-achieving Episcopal divinity students at GTS still put on a Christmas pageant? I can just see each of the magi coming in, wearing the finest dressing gowns they could muster, each carrying his "gift" as the song reaches the proper verse.

6. 'Twas on a Night Like This (also known as The Star Carol) -- Cathy Barton, Dave Para, The Paton Family et al. -- 'Twas on a Night Like This.
The tune is the carol of the Italian bagpipers, a traditional tune played by shepherds from the Abruzzi Mountains who came to some of the villages and cities of Italy in December to play their pipes and get a few coins. There are several versions with words in Italian or English, but I like this one by Pete Seeger. He called it The Star Carol, but as there are also two other well-known Star Carols (one by the ubiquitous John Rutter and the other by Alfred Burt and Wihla Hutton), this recording uses its first line. You can download Pete Seeger's own version (for the usual 99c) by going here. There are many other musical treasures to be found on that site as well.

7. Marche des Rois -- The Taverner Consort -- The Carol Album.
This tune and song have quite a different view of the Three Kings, much more majestic. The song is said to be from 13th century Provence, and the tune was used by Bizet in his L'Arlesienne suite. Here's a very nice rendition:

8. Peace Round -- Cathy Barton, Dave Para et al. -- 'Twas on a Night Like This.
The tune is an old English canon, and the words are by Jean Ritchie, who must surely have been thinking of Psalm 133 when she wrote them. Another version is the Israeli folkdance Hineh Mah Tov, which is a more direct quotation from the psalm, and which I used to dance to rather clumsily in my folkdance class (it was part of my gym requirement) at A Host at Last University. You can hear Hineh Mah Tov here -- and I'm excited to have discovered this site!

9. Quaker Benediction -- Gordon Bok -- 'Twas on a Night Like This.
This isn't a song, although I have seen a hymn based on this quotation. It's from the work of Howard Thurman, an African-American theologian and activist who died in 1981. Thurman was an ecumenical kind of guy -- he was ordained a Baptist minister, studied with Quakers and I believe is claimed as a Quaker, and was Dean of Marsh Chapel at Boston University, a fine old Methodist institution. May we all carry on the work of Christmas through the short season of Epiphany, and throughout the year.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Some things I've been reading and watching

Tonight, a rare evening off from rehearsals for OHP, we watched Episode 2 of Season 1 of Foyle's War, the British detective series (police procedural) set during WWII. For one reason or another we had missed this on television and I'm almost glad as we now have several seasons to catch up on. I'm enjoying it very much. The acting is excellent as usual in British television, and we see the odd familiar face. Tonight it was Charles Dance, whom I first saw just about exactly 23 years ago on The Jewel in the Crown. How I know the date? I was watching the Masterpiece Theatre, and then reading the book, while staying up late with Sisterknits who was but an infant, and one who didn't want to go to sleep at night! She was perfectly happy as long as we were up, so I got to see a lot of late-night PBS for a couple of months.

While Sisterknits was visiting at Christmas, we went to a movie together -- National Treasure: The Book of Secrets. I may have mentioned this before. Although there were some howlers, it was a ripping yarn of the type I enjoy. An article in our local paper a few days later mentioned an unbelievable number of cars that were destroyed in the chase scene.

I set myself a project a few months back to read all the Edgar Winners for Best Novel (I had noticed that for the past few years they always seemed to pick something I hadn't read.) The Edgars, for those of you not so into mysteries, are awarded each year in several categories by the Mystery Writers of America. The Best Novel award has been given since 1954, and I'm now up to 1963 with Ellis Peters' Death and the Joyful Woman. The previous one was J. J. Marric's Gideon's Fire, and it was the first that I clearly remembered having read before (in the 1970s). I enjoyed it just as much the second time. I'm pretty sure I've read the Peters book too, and not as long ago, but I'm not remembering who done it, so that's OK.

Other mysteries lately were Rough Cider by Peter Lovesey, a Christmas present; Watery Grave by Bruce Alexander, from my "ToBeRead" shelf, a historical mystery; and An Ice-Cold Grave by Charlaine Harris, her latest book about Harper Connelly, who was struck by lightning and can find dead people. And they were all good, in fact excellent! (I generally don't finish books I don't like any more, unless they're part of that Edgar project -- I didn't care much for several of the early ones which were self-consciously "literary" in my opinion.)

And, I finally got around to reading My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prudhomme; it was wonderful. What a great woman she was, and what insight she had into herself and others. Most of the time I am not a big biography/autobiography reader, not sure quite why, but this one was worth making an exception for.

I am also reading Renita Weems' Listening for God for the RevGalBlogPals Book Club, but haven't got very far yet.

So what are you watching and reading?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Credit Where Credit Is Due

This morning in church we sang The First Nowell out of the Pilgrim Hymnal, and then two songs from the New Century Hymnal: Who Would Think That What Was Needed and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (Jesus, the Light of the World). On the way home, Onkel Hankie Pants pointed out a serious misstatement in the credits for Who Would Think That What Was Needed, which is sung to the tune Scarlet Ribbons, familiar to most people my age from Harry Belafonte's 1950s recording. The New Century Hymnal says that the melody is a Traditional English Folk Tune. This is not so. The song was written in 1949 by composer Evelyn Danzig and lyricist Jack Segal. We wondered if the misstatement comes from the Iona Community (John Bell and Graham Maule wrote the new words) and whether the New Century Hymnal committee simply took their word for it. And, indeed this appears to be true, as the Wild Goose Publications website where one can order sheet music for the song says that the arrangement is copyright 1987 but makes no mention of Evelyn Danzig. And John Bell a fellow of the Hymn Society!

OHP also had a bit of a quibble about the notes to the final song, which is an adaptation of Charles Wesley's words to Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. The tune is correctly attributed to George D. Elderkin (who also added the lines about "Jesus, the Light of the World") but the only dates given are those of Wesley's original words and the arrangement for the NCH which was done in 1993. Fortunately, my trove of Christmas (and Epiphany!) recordings includes the Boston Camerata's disc, An American Christmas. Its liner notes, by Joel Cohen, relate that the adaptation by Elderkin was published in 1890 in a book marvellously titled, The Finest of the Wheat: Hymns New and Old for Missionary and Revival Meetings and Sabbath-Schools. Cohen points out that the opening line has much in common with the Going Home theme of Dvorak's New World Symphony and wonders whether the Czech composer (who published his symphony three years later) might perhaps have heard Elderkin's song during his sojourn in America. This, however, we will never know.

And, apropos of giving proper credit, OHP also pointed out to me that Casey (whose real name was Roger Awsumb) was not actually singing in the clip I linked to yesterday, but was probably lip-synching to the singing of Yogi Yorgesson or Stan and Doug. But I can't tell for sure, because among the Christmas discs I do not own is Stan and Doug's I Yust Go Nuts at Christmas. (Hint to Santa....)

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Friday Five, One Day Late (Again)

Sally at RevGalBlogPals says:

Well it had to be didn't it, love them or hate them I bet you've been asked about New Year resolutions. So with no more fuss here is this week's Friday Five;

1. Do you make New Year resolutions?
I prefer to call them Goals and Objectives -- a holdover from a tedious exercise I used to have to do at work, but it seems helpful to me.

2. Is this something you take seriously, or is it a bit of fun?
Pretty seriously, but I'm rather distractable so I need to come up with a way to keep them in mind all year! Michelle Singletary, our favorite financial columnist, suggests a big dry-erase board.

3. Share one goal for 2008.
Improving my physical health.

4. Money is no barrier, share one wild/ impossible dream for 2008
Paying off all my kids' student loans!

5. Someone wants to publish a story of your year in 2008, what will the title of that book be?
Always Looking Forward, Always Looking Back.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Songs to Celebrate Winter

So, I skipped a few Tuneful Tuesdays, I was too busy having fun with Sisterknits and others. Next week I'll try to have a few ideas for Epiphany season music, but today in keeping with the previous post here are a few songs for celebrating winter (or daydreaming about it, if you live in a place with no snow).

1. A-Roving on a Winter's Night -- Anne Hills, Cindy Mangsen, Priscilla Herdman -- Voices of Winter.
This is the most mournful of the songs, but it's so pretty. And winter does give us time to reflect and remember. It's by Doc Watson, but owes a lot to Robert Burns's My Luve Is Like a Red, Red Rose.

2. Bleak Midwinter Polka -- Trailer Trash -- Hell, It's X-Mas.
Trailer Trash is a Minneapolis bar band that I've never heard in person. In this song, written by their fiddle player "Razz" Russell, they have a good suggestion for what to do if and when winter gets you down (as it sometimes does in Minneapolis, that's why they say the polka "makes living in this hell worthwhile.")

3. Walkin' in My Winter Underwear -- Trailer Trash -- Hell, It's X-Mas.
Trailer Trash's almost unintelligible version of the song made famous by Yogi Yorgesson, Stan and Doug, and Casey the Railroad Engineer (a favorite of Twin Cities children's TV). I caught something about Lake Street and got the idea that the singer is quite positive about his winter underwear, unlike the earlier singers, who had the old, scratchy version. For one of the original versions by Casey,

4. Snow Day -- Trout Fishing in America -- Merry Fishes to All.
The duo Trout Fishing in America has a childlike point of view with some very grown-up abilities at songwriting. This song is about the joy of waking up to a snow day, with all normal activities put on hold and an unexpected chance to play.

5. Frosty the Snowman -- The Roches -- We Three Kings.
This classic is given a fresh interpretation by the three New Jersey sisters and some of their young relatives. It's lots of fun. Frosty was written by Walter "Jack" Rollins and Steve Nelson, who also wrote Peter Cottontail; and Jack Rollins wrote Smokey the Bear. It was, of course, first recorded by Gene Autry (when I was little, I wanted to marry him. I'd be a lot richer if I had!)

6. Bob and Bob -- Trout Fishing in America -- Merry Fishes to All.
The conceit in this song is that there are identical twin snowflakes named Bob and Bob, when of course we all know that no two snowflakes are alike. There's also some interesting information about snow here and there.

7. Hot Buttered Rum -- Anne Hills, Cindy Mangsen, Priscilla Herdman -- Voices of Winter.
A winter love song, with a somewhat jaundiced view of winter redeemed by the presence of a loved one. It was written by the late Tommy Thompson, founding member of the Red Clay Ramblers. You can go here to see some great illustrations of the song done by kids.

8. Winter Weather/I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm -- Tony Bennett -- Snowfall.
There are several other great winter songs on this album, too. These two, sung in a medley, both speak to the joys of snuggling in the cold weather. Winter Weather was written by Tin Pan Alley songwriter Ted Shapiro, who was active in the 1920s and wrote a lot of songs for Sophie Tucker, the Red Hot Mama. I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm was introduced in the film On the Avenue in 1937 and was written by Irving Berlin. Tony Bennett is a national treasure.

9. The Frozen Logger/Proper Cup of Coffee -- Anne Hills, Cindy Mangsen, Priscilla Herdman -- Voices of Winter.
The Frozen Logger was written in the 1920s by Jim Stevens, who also wrote (or wrote down) a lot of the Paul Bunyan stories. The Weavers found it and had a hit with it in 1951, and it's been recorded by Odetta and several others. Proper Cup of Coffee was originally (as far as I can tell) recorded by the Andrews Sisters (also from Minneapolis!) in the late 1950s, and has also been recorded by Trout Fishing in America. Although written by Emanuele Pellegrini and Aaron Gershunoff, it has become somewhat of a folk song with different singers coming up with new verses, as Hills, Mangsen and Herdman have done here. The tune is slightly different now too, or at least jazzed up quite a bit.

You may have noticed that three out of the nine tracks above are from the same album -- I highly recommend Voices of Winter as well as all the other discs these three women have recorded both together and individually.

A Real Maine Winter, at Last!

Here's one of the sights Rusty and I saw on our walk this afternoon. Today, machinery and trucks were everywhere carting away excess snow, so our sidewalks are now a bit more walkable. It has been almost Minnesota-cold the last couple of days, but I think it's warming up a bit now. I have always remembered that on the day I joined the Army, 29 January 1971, we had had my height in snow here (65 or 66 inches). The paper said the other day that indeed, our area has had the snowiest December since 1970. Life seems to go on much as usual, though, with only occasional closings and cancellations which are soon made up. Here is a picture of one of the ways we prepare for winter; my readers in Georgia and California have probably never seen such a thing. It is a fire hydrant with a metal flag on top so that it can be located in the deep snow. The Fire Department comes around in their chartreuse trucks and shovels out each fire hydrant by hand a day or so after the storm.

Not the Real Blog Post

The Recipe For Auntie Knickers

3 parts Talent
2 parts Mania
1 part Intensity

Splash of Pride

Finish off with whipped cream

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Woeful Wednesday, sort of

Well, I've already broken my New Year's Resolution about blogging, but my excuse is that yesterday was Sisterknits' last full day with us before she headed back to City of Lakes today. We had a nice brunch with Brother #3 and The Photographer, and in the evening Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo and then the laundry, packing, scurrying about the house looking for stuff, and sadness at our impending separation from our youngest. Rusty knew something was up, but not quite what, and stayed up past his bedtime with some misbehavior as consequence.

So far today, all her travel has gone smoothly, knock on wood! As she headed off in the taxi to the Clipper Mart (where the bus to Portland and then Boston takes off), Rusty jumped and barked rather angrily at the very nice taxi driver who had been his new friend only a few minutes earlier. He would really like to have someone in permanent residence who would run with him and have snowball "fights" (throwing snowballs that he catches in his mouth.) But, Winifred the cat is getting lonely back there with only visits from SonShineIn to break the monotony; Up the Hill UMC and House of Large Sizes for Small People miss Sisterknits' hard work; and classes in her filmmaking and child development programs start in a couple of weeks. So, our house is emptier now.

There's lots of snow outside and I'm going to make tourtiere for supper -- French-Canadian pork pie with potato, onion and allspice.

Unless I neglected to add one to my list, I read exactly 200 books in 2007. That was 6 fewer than 2006, but one of the books was David Halberstam's THE COLDEST WINTER, which was quite long. I'm embarking on a month or so of reading only books I already own, some of which will be "deaccessioned" as we used to say in the library biz, when I am done with them. Last book read in '07 was a Christmas gift, ROUGH CIDER by Peter Lovesey; first of '08 was THE DELICATE STORM by Giles Blunt. The former was set in England, partly in the 60's and partly in WWII; the latter was set in Ontario. Both were extremely good mysteries.