Friday, December 2, 2016

Sharing the Joy...kicking off with Weekend Lit, featuring classic Christmas tales presented by Alison Larkin


I had the pleasure of listening to the Alison Larkin Presents versions of Dickens' A Christmas Carol and Clement Clark Moore's The Night Before Christmas. Anyone who knows me, knows I love A Christmas Carol. I usually either read it every year, or listen to some version on audio, in addition to watching all the film versions.

This particular version of A Christmas Carol was very entertaining. The narrator had a pleasing voice, and I was envisioning the story as I listened. It was quite a nice audio during my forays as Mom's taxi service. Teehee.

Alison Larkin narrated The Night Before Christmas herself and I just love her voice! She gave the traditional tale, that we all have loved since children, a very whimsical, yet heartwarming tone.

Listening to these classic Christmas tales in the lead up to the Christmas season was just what I needed to get me into the spirit. I highly recommend to anyone who loves Christmas, and enjoys listening to audiobooks.


About the book
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens & The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore are as different as England and America themselves, yet they remain the most popular Christmas stories ever told. Now they are brought together for the first time in this top notch holiday recording, read by Audie award winning narrator Derek Perkins and Earphones award winning narrator Alison Larkin.

To listen to a sample, click here:
http://www.audible.com/pd/Classics/A-Christmas-Carol-and-The-Night-Before-Christmas-Audiobook/B01M9E4YJS/ref=a_search_c4_1_1_srTtl?qid=1477601961&sr=1-1

Other popular classics from Alison Larkin Presents include the AudioFile Earphones award winning recording of Peter Pan and The Inconsiderate Waiter by J M Barrie, Pride and Prejudice and Songs from Regency England Emma and Persuasion and Poems by Jane Austen, The Princess and the Goblin by George Macdonald and Alice in Wonderland and Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll.

About Alison Larkin
Hailed by The Times as "hugely entertaining", Alison Larkin is an internationally acclaimed comedienne, award winning audiobook narrator and the bestselling author of The English American.

Connect with Alison Larkin Presents on social media at Facebook - @alisonlarkinpresents and Twitter @alisonlarkinTEA

Praise
“Raised in England by adoptive parents, Alison Larkin was actually born in America. She herself is a comic writer and performer – and she approaches Austen as a satirist – she has genuine theatrical skill - sustained comic creations. The voice reveals all.” The New Yorker

"There's a vintage feel to Alison Larkin's narration... The bell-like quality of her sweetly accented voice harkens back to another, quieter, time. However, her delivery… offers a flexibility that is contemporary and easy to hear.” AudioFile magazine

"Wonderful…unforgettable…” Audiobook Jungle

This post is part of....



Always in spirit...

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge - Sign Up!


Sorry I'm late with this! The season already has me scrambling!

As usual, there are multiple levels for participation, like children's books and watching Christmas movies AND the Christmas Spirit Readathon is back again this year. Keep reading for details!

Details and sign up:
  • challenge will run from Monday, November 21, 2016 through Friday, January 6, 2017 (Twelfth Night or Epiphany). 
  • cross over with other challenges is totally permitted AND encouraged! 
  • These must be Christmas novels, books about Christmas lore, a book of Christmas short stories or poems, books about Christmas crafts, and for the first time...a children's Christmas books level! 
Levels:
--Candy Cane: read 1 book
--Mistletoe: read 2-4 books
--Christmas Tree: read 5 or 6 books (this is the fanatic level...LOL!)

Additional levels:
--Fa La La La Films: watch a bunch or a few Christmas movies...it's up to you!
--Visions of Sugar Plums: read books with your children this season and share what you read

*the additional levels are optional, you still must complete one of the main reading levels above



  • The Christmas Spirit Readathon is back again this year. I'll be hosting once again over at Seasons of Reading also starting Monday, November 21 through Sunday, November 27! Details and sign-up can be found HERE.
  • the most important rule? Have fun!!! 
  • I will have a review linky posted as a page the day the challenge starts. You will find it at the top of the right sidebar. 
  • Sign up in the linky below (link to your post with your reading list...you can change up your list during the challenge...I just want to be able to stop by to welcome you and see what you plan to read).
    One final note: The giveaway this year will be a $15 donation to the winner's choice of a human rights organization, such as the ACLU, Boys and Girls Club, Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, Amnesty International, It Gets Better, Planned Parenthood, or another human rights organization of your choice, perhaps your local chapter or organization. This giveaway is open internationally.

    I hope you will join me!

    Grab a button...check the right sidebar...there's a grab code. And don't forget to check out the Readathon details at Seasons of Reading!

    Mister Linky's Magical Widgets -- Easy-Linky widget will appear right here!
    This preview will disappear when the widget is displayed on your site.
    If this widget does not appear, click here to display it.


    Always in spirit...

    Monday, November 7, 2016

    Countdown to the Season 2016


    Back again this year with a series of posts to get us ready for the season. I have lots to share, including upcoming events!

    Music

    In case you missed it, be sure to stop by and read about the new Christmas music coming out (or already released) this year, brought to you by Ken at Sounds of Christmas. You can read the post here. There are some really great artists on the list this year. I plan to pick up a couple myself.

    TV

    Over at the Hallmark Channel is their Countdown to Christmas with 19 original movies airing every Saturday and Sunday through Christmas. Fun! Plus, Christmas movies all day and all night every day. Personally, I love watching their Christmas movies. Heartwarming and just the thing to help get you into the spirit. I watched The Mistletoe Promise, based on the book by Richard Paul Evans, on Saturday night. It was really good. Hopefully, they will show it again if you missed it. Check the Christmas TV schedule at It's a Wonderful Movie (links below).

    Freeform (formerly ABC Family) is doing their annual 25 Days of Christmas. There will also be movies and specials on Lifetime, INSP Television Network, UP channel, TV One, Food Network and on network TV, of course. You can see the full schedule of the Christmas TV schedule at It's a Wonderful Movie, an awesome site that keeps us fully updated on all the Christmas TV doings all season long.

    Events


    My annual season long event, Sharing the Joy, starts the day after Thanksgiving. I'll be sharing book reviews, baking, cooking, stories, poems, crafting, guest posts (hopefully) and more. Anything Christmas goes!


    The Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge is coming up Thanksgiving week and to help kick things off, I'm hosting the Christmas Spirit Read-a-Thon again this year over at Seasons of Reading, November 21 - 27. Sign up information for both events is coming soon! I hope you will join me for this Christmas reading tradition.


    I hope you're looking forward to the season as much as I am!

    Always in spirit...

    Tuesday, October 25, 2016

    Welcome Ken from the Sounds of Christmas! What's new in #Christmas Music for 2016 #RudolphDay


    Thanks so much for inviting me back to your blog, Michelle!

    I am very excited about the upcoming season for the Sounds of Christmas (which starts on November 1, which is next week)!

    I’ve started this year off doing something a little different.

    For the last nine Christmas seasons, I’ve played a huge variety of Christmas music, and I’ve worked hard to play thousands of songs, without repeating the same song and the same artist. So you don’t hear “Sleigh Ride” twice an hour, and you don’t hear Johnny Mathis over and over.

    I have just always felt that there’s so much good Christmas music out there, and more and more coming every year, there’s no reason to play Bing’s “White Christmas” every other hour.

    I’m hoping to take that same philosophy into more online stations, which I hope to launch in early 2017. I don’t want to drag this blog too far off topic, but if you’re interested in learning more about the future of the Sounds of Christmas, and how you can be a part of it, check out our Patreon page right here àt https://www.patreon.com/SOCMusic

    So what’s new this season?

    Once again, there is a lot of terrific new music this year, much of which is already out! I’m sure I won’t be able to get to it all in this blog, and there are always surprise releases that show up as the season gets going!


    Fans of Reba McEntire probably already know about her new Christmas album, which was actually released last month, and my understanding is you’ll only be able to find it at Cracker Barrel! Although you can probably get it from Reba’s website. Or Cracker Barrel’s website.

    There’s also a really cool collection that came out last month, from about eighteen of the greatest musicians in the New Orleans area. They call themselves the NOLA Players, and the album is called “Christmas In New Orleans”. They released a video about the project before it came out, and if you’re interested, you can check that out here at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttTn3Eh6t1k

    Also last month, the Laurence Juber Trio released “Holidays and Hollynights”. You may not know his name, but you probably know at least some of Laurence’s work, including his stint as a guitarist for Paul McCartney and Wings!

    The “Marvelous Wonderettes” is something I stumbled across recently. This is a holiday version of a popular off-Broadway musical by the same name. The album is actually called “Winter Wonderettes”. The musical takes place during the 1968 Christmas season, and the songs are very fresh, while maintaining that 60’s girl group style.


    Country legend Loretta Lynn revisited the Christmas album she released in 1966, recording new versions of many songs that appeared on that earlier release. “White Christmas Blue” was released earlier this month.


    Frankie Valli, yes THAT Frankie Valli, has recorded a new Christmas album! And on "Merry Christmas, Baby" he teams up with rock guitar legend Jeff Beck! The album is called "Tis The Seasons", and it's the first solo Christmas release in his career! Frankie did record a memorable Christmas album with the Four Seasons in the 60's. And Bob Gaudio, who formed the Four Seasons with Frankie back in 1960 (and wrote many of their biggest hits), put this together with Frankie. Gaudio was also the force behind the Broadway smash "Jersey Boys"!

    If you’re looking for something a little different, or if you’re a classical music fan OR a classic rock fan, you should check out Classical Blast’s “Dark Side Of The Yule”. Classical Blast is known for putting a classical spin on classic rock songs, often mixing a couple of them together. One of my early favorites on this release is the mash-up of Tchaikovsky’s “Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy” with Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”. To get a better idea, check out the video they made about a year ago of Radiohead’s “Creep” with a little help from Bach - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_quX90YGgaM\

    Other notable releases from last month include Elizabeth Chan’s “Five Golden Rings”, Johnny Staton’s “Merry Christmas”, and the American Horn Quartet’s “The Christmas Album”.


    This month has seen the release of Damian McGinty’s “This Christmas Time”. Damian was formerly a member of Celtic Thunder, and he also played “Rory” on the third season of “GLEE”.


    Speaking of “GLEE”, Jane Lynch will be releasing a Christmas album, “Swingin’ Little Christmas”, next month.

    Also next month, another former member of Celtic Thunder, Keith Harkin, will release a Christmas album. Harkin’s is called “Nollaig”. Nollaig is an Irish word associated with Christmas Day, and usually with the birth of Christ,

    There are a lot of country artists releasing Christmas music this year. Aside from Reba and Loretta, there are also releases out from Chris Young, Rascal Flatts, Exile and the Oak Ridge Boys. Plus, there are more country releases on the way, including albums by Brett Eldredge, Kacey Musgraves, Jennifer Nettles, and a joint collection from Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood!


    This year, we’re also seeing a lot of releases from singers and bands that have previously put out Christmas albums. Some of these include Amy Grant, Jimmy Buffett, Straight No Chaser, Sarah McLachlan, Pentatonix, Neil Diamond, Jackie Evancho and She and Him.

    And there are several artists re-releasing albums with extra songs and/or video, including the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Kylie Minogue and Tony Hadley.


    Plus there’s a new single on the way from Josh Groban (“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”)!

    There are still plenty of rumors about other releases (including a Christmas album from William Shatner), so stay tuned for the latest. And once the Sounds of Christmas gets rolling, I’m hoping to bring back an hour of all-new Christmas music every week night at 8:00pm (Eastern)!

    Hope you’re able to spend at least some of your holiday season with us!

    And may you always believe in Santa Claus!

    Ken
    http://www.SoundsofChristmas.com

    A big thank you to Ken for all the exciting Christmas music news! My budget is going to be wrecked this year!

    Always in spirit...

    Sunday, July 31, 2016

    Weekend Lit - Poems and Farewell #ChristmasinJuly


    Today is the last day of Christmas in July. *pout* It has been so nice getting back to one of my favorite things. I'll admit to being a bit neglectful of it, and this blog, the past couple of years. This year, I feel like I'm home again. I hope you enjoyed everything I shared with you this month.

    Don't forget, today is the last day to get Rhonda Hopkins Christmas story, The Gift, for free. Visit this post for details.

    Also, today is the last day to enter to win a copy of Sarah Tipper's Tales to Take You to Christmas. Enter at this post.

    On this final day of Christmas in July, and of Weekend Lit (until this holiday season), I'm sharing a couple of poems. One from H.P Lovecraft (who knew that he wrote a Christmas poem!?) and another by Robert Frost.

    Viggo Johansen A Christmas Story 1935

    Christmastide 
    by H.P. Lovecraft

    The cottage hearth beams warm and bright, 
    The candles gaily glow; 
    The stars emit a kinder light 
    Above the drifted snow. 

    Down from the sky a magic steals 
    To glad the passing year, 
    And belfries sing with joyous peals, 
    For Christmastide is here!


    Christmas Trees
    by Robert Frost

    The city had withdrawn into itself 
    And left at last the country to the country; 
    When between whirls of snow not come to lie 
    And whirls of foliage not yet laid, there drove 
    A stranger to our yard, who looked the city, 
    Yet did in country fashion in that there 
    He sat and waited till he drew us out 
    A-buttoning coats to ask him who he was. 
    He proved to be the city come again 
    To look for something it had left behind 
    And could not do without and keep its Christmas. 
    He asked if I would sell my Christmas trees; 
    My woods—the young fir balsams like a place 
    Where houses all are churches and have spires. 
    I hadn’t thought of them as Christmas Trees. 
    I doubt if I was tempted for a moment 
    To sell them off their feet to go in cars 
    And leave the slope behind the house all bare, 
    Where the sun shines now no warmer than the moon. 
    I’d hate to have them know it if I was. 
    Yet more I’d hate to hold my trees except 
    As others hold theirs or refuse for them, 
    Beyond the time of profitable growth, 
    The trial by market everything must come to. 
    I dallied so much with the thought of selling. 
    Then whether from mistaken courtesy 
    And fear of seeming short of speech, or whether 
    From hope of hearing good of what was mine, 
    I said, “There aren’t enough to be worth while.” 
    “I could soon tell how many they would cut, 
    You let me look them over.” 

    “You could look. 
    But don’t expect I’m going to let you have them.” 
    Pasture they spring in, some in clumps too close 
    That lop each other of boughs, but not a few 
    Quite solitary and having equal boughs 
    All round and round. The latter he nodded “Yes” to, 
    Or paused to say beneath some lovelier one, 
    With a buyer’s moderation, “That would do.” 
    I thought so too, but wasn’t there to say so. 
    We climbed the pasture on the south, crossed over, 
    And came down on the north. 
    He said, “A thousand.” 

    “A thousand Christmas trees!—at what apiece?” 

    He felt some need of softening that to me: 
    “A thousand trees would come to thirty dollars.” 

    Then I was certain I had never meant 
    To let him have them. Never show surprise! 
    But thirty dollars seemed so small beside 
    The extent of pasture I should strip, three cents 
    (For that was all they figured out apiece), 
    Three cents so small beside the dollar friends 
    I should be writing to within the hour 
    Would pay in cities for good trees like those, 
    Regular vestry-trees whole Sunday Schools 
    Could hang enough on to pick off enough. 
    A thousand Christmas trees I didn’t know I had! 
    Worth three cents more to give away than sell, 
    As may be shown by a simple calculation. 
    Too bad I couldn’t lay one in a letter. 
    I can’t help wishing I could send you one, 
    In wishing you herewith a Merry Christmas.


    And that's a wrap...on this Christmas present in the heat of Summer, Christmas in July! See you in November for the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge/Read-a-Thon and my annual Sharing the Joy event. I'll try to post every month on Rudolph Day (25th each month) too.

    Always in spirit...

    Saturday, July 30, 2016

    Weekend Crafting...and Movie News #ChristmasinJuly


    Here are a couple of super simple ornament crafts. I love making homemade glass ball ornaments. There's no limit to what you can do with them.


    Yule Ball Ornament 

    Supplies:

    Clear glass ornaments
    Festive scrapbooking paper or remnant holiday wrap
    Polyester craft ribbon or curling ribbon
    Glittery pipe cleaners
    Packets of sequins or shiny confetti
    Wooden dowels or chopsticks (to curl the craft ribbon and pipe cleaners)

    Instructions
    • Cut strips of paper about 1/2 inch wide and 6-8 inches long.It's up to you how many pieces of paper you use, but to fill 8 ornaments, I cut 40-50 strips of paper. The nice thing is, it's really easy to cut more paper if you need it. Next, roll up or spiral curl the paper (I used my wood dowel or a pencil for spiral curling the paper). If you roll the paper, make sure to wind it tight...it will unroll into a nice curl when you put it in the ornament.
    • Curl the ribbon and pipe cleaners. I used a wooden dowel again to spiral wrap the pipe cleaners. If you want the easiest and fastest curling ribbon, I'd suggest curling ribbon...since all you'll have to do is score it and voila...you have curly ribbon. I decided to use polyester craft ribbon (it was so silky, shiny and colorful...I just couldn't resist), so I had to curl it the same way you would if you were making korker ribbon. To do this you'll need to wrap the ribbon around wooden dowels and secure them with wooden clothes pins at the end. Once you have all of your ribbon wrapped, place it on a cookie sheet and bake it in the oven at 275 degrees for 20 minutes. After they've cooled, slip the ribbon off the dowel...and you'll have yourself curled ribbon.
    • Next, cut your curled ribbon, paper and pipe cleaners to whatever length you like. I cut mine about an inch and a half long.
    • Here's the really fun part! Pull off the top of the ornament (press lightly on each side of the wire and pull up slowly) and start shoving in the pretties! As you put things inside, shake the ornament up to let the paper and ribbon settle. It will help you decide if the ornament needs more stuffing.
    • If you decide to use glitter or confetti, pour it into the ornament last. I'd suggest using bigger confetti pieces, since the small star sequins I used sort of fell around the paper and collected at the bottom of the ornament. To spread it around, I shook the ornament up (with the top of the ornament back on!) until the confetti nicely distributed.
    • When you're all done, snap the top back on to the ornament. If you like, add colorful ribbon for hanging the ornament.


    Iridescent Christmas Ornament

    Supplies
    1-2 1/2″ clear glass ornament
    1 Package mixed color iridescent plastic beads – example shows approximately (800) 5mm beads
    Silver ribbon – approximately 13″
    Elmer’s Glue-All
    Instructions
    • Take the cap off of the ball and fill to the top with the plastic beads.
    • Put a small amount of the glue around the top and replace the cap. Let dry completely.
    • Wrap the silver ribbon around the cap and tie a bow.
    • String a piece of silver ribbon through the top loop and knot leaving enough to use as a hanger.
    I think this ornament would also look gorgeous with brighter colored beads, green and red beads, and even gold and silver. The sky's the limit!



    I could only find one holiday motion picture coming out in the upcoming holiday season. Perhaps there will be more as the season approaches, but this one looks to be a good one.


    Almost Christmas
    November 11, 2016

    Starring:Kimberly Elise, Omar Epps, Danny Glover, Romany Malco, Nicole Ari Parker, J.B. Smoove, Gabrielle Union, Jessie T. Usher, DC Young Fly
    A new comedy from writer/director David E. Talbert ("Baggage Claim") and producer Will Packer ("Ride Along," "Think Like a Man" series, "This Christmas"), "Almost Christmas" tells the festive story of a beloved patriarch who asks his family for one gift this holiday season: to get along. If they can honor that wish and spend five days under the same roof without killing one another, it will be a Christmas miracle.
    Read more at http://www.comingsoon.net/movie/almost-christmas-2016#c1Zriu53KWKqVXUH.99

    OFFICIAL WEBSITE:
    AlmostChristmasmovie.com| Facebook|Twitter| Instagram



    Only one more day of Christmas in July. Where did the time go?

    Always in spirit...

    Thursday, July 28, 2016

    Christmas Around the World - Brazil #ChristmasinJuly


    Since the 2016 Summer Olympics are being hosted by Brazil, I decided to feature Brazil in my only Christmas Around the World post during this year's Christmas in July.

    Some random facts about Christmas in Brazil:

    Christmas traditions were brought to Brazil by Portuguese settlers.

    Brazil has the largest per capita Roman Catholic population in the world. The majority of the celebrating reflects this fact.

    A law enacted in the early 1960s called the "Thirteenth Salary" gives every worker an extra month's pay at Christmas. Wow!

    Advent Season


    Beginning the fourth Sunday before Christmas, Advent season is a vital pre-Christmas event. The focus for people is the preparation of the presepe or manger scene. From simple to elaborate, these manger scenes run the gamut. Some displays may fill an entire room, or even more than one room, and there might even be a quiet manger scene alongside a space age development. The presepe is usually on display through January 6 which is referred to "King's Day" or "Little Christmas." The figure of the Baby Jesus is not placed in the crib until Christmas Eve and the Three Wise Men arrive on January 6.


    Santa Claus is called Papai Noel. He wears the traditional red suit, despite the heat, and has a sleigh with reindeer. Papai Noel enters the home through the front door rather than the chimney. Children hang stockings, and put out their shoes near the stove in the kitchen, or sometimes on the roof for the convenience of Papai Noel. Sometimes the jolly man hides gifts all over the house.


    The Christmas tree is put up on Christmas Eve, colorfully decorated and strung with lights. The season is highlighted by the making of  huge Christmas "trees" of electric lights. These "electric trees" are seen in major cities such as Brasilia, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro throughout the season, reflecting beautifully against the night sky.

    The 25 year tradition of the Auto de Natal, or Act of Christmas is an outdoor Christmas play held in Rio de Janeiro. It's a free play which attracts many viewers and it portrays poor people living in Brazil as its theme. There are many other local holiday plays and pageants going on throughout the country as well.


    Christmas Eve is a time for family gatherings and is a coming together of several generations. Families attend the Missa do Galo or Mass of the Cock at Midnight. Carol singing follows, followed by a return home for the ceia de Natal or Christmas dinner. There are many traditional dishes served including turkey stuffed with farofa made of toasted manioc flour, onions, garlic, turkey livers and gizzards, olives, hard-boiled eggs, and bacon. Dried cod is another popular dish. In the interior of the country, roast pig might be served. Also, African couscous, steamed fish pie made with corn meal, cassava flour, sardines, shrimp and seasonings, or fried shrimp...and don't forget the champagne! A dessert favorite is rabanada, which is very similar to French toast.

    The Day of the Kings is on January 6 and marks the end of the Christmas season in Brazil. This day celebrates the visit of the Three Wise Men to the Christ Child. Since they arrived on camels, Brazilian children put out corn for the tired animals when the Wise Men visit bringing toys and other gifts.

    Excluding the extremely hot weather and absence of snow, Christmas in Brazil is very similar to Christmas in the United States.

    Reference: Christmas Worldwide: A Guide to Customs and Traditions by Cathy Cunningham Tucker

    Always in spirit...