Merrie December

"When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash."

 Why, that's not Santa on the roof, it's my dear Mr. Rios!! Once again Greg has braved the shaky, almost-too-short ladder that rests precariously on a weak, almost-collapsing gutter to hang our Christmas lights! Hooray! Now, I must say we have the fanciest house on the block, which really isn't saying much as there are several rather squalid houses on our block, whose idea of christmas lights are a bleak, blinking green strobe light and a broken candy cane in the lawn.

Our tree this year is a monolith. It is awe-inspiringly large and a bit intimidating, actually. We actually stuffed this thing in the back of our car and then exhausted ourselves decorating it. We ran out of lights and ornaments! I do love this gorgeous tree, but I feel like letting it go back to the wild. It fills up an entire corner of our living room, and looks out of the little windows next to it like it's thinking about its herd.
   I can't help but think there might be some kind of Chris VanAllsburg moment with this tree, in the middle of the night. Perhaps it will silently levitate on Christmas Eve and then Tom Hanks will pop out and say "All Aboard for the North Pole!" or something like that.

Much delicious food has been cooked and consumed this season, and here are some photos to prove it. I have never made so much stuffing at one time before. The giant piles of chopped pecans and onions and mushrooms looked beautiful and succulent, and I had to make a photographic record of such bounty!

  I have also had the pleasure of watching two of the MOST WONDERFUL shows that I must recommend!!! First, the 2002 film "Nicholas Nickelby" which I had no idea existed and now am its number one fan! This film is not to be missed! The performances and art direction are impeccable, surprising, original!!!   This is a true interpretation of Dicken's work, showing both the detailed and dramatic personal quirks of the characters, but also the whimsy and dry humor in their portrayal. The language used is perfect, and the delivery is hilarious.

Jim Broadbent and Juliette Stevenson make the worst and most horrible evil villains I've ever seen, Jim Broadbent is one of my favorite actors ever.

Christopher Plummer is absolutely wonderful, and soooo handsome still! (But I have a weakness for top hats, I must admit.)

I almost coughed up my coffee when I saw in the credits that the actor who plays  Nicholas Nickelby himself is none other than Charlie Hunnan, the young Curt-Cobain look-a-alike who plays Jax in "Sons of Anarchy"!!!!   So now I am a HUGE FAN of this young man, because he has to 1. have the cojones to put aside a tough-guy image and play a darling, almost-christian, goody two shoes (who does have a righteous temper when provoked, it's true) and 2. have the chops to look good alongside the revered, great actors in this cast! I don't know if many young, handsome actors would be able to pull it off, or even recognize the great opportunity such a role really is, so kudos to Mr. Hunnan!
Here is a great trailer for the movie:

The other show I am currently enjoying is yet another English period piece called "Cranford". ( An aside: for those of you who may not know already, I am a complete English History Addict. I cannot get enough of the stories from the middle ages through the current Royal Family. Castles make me giddy. I love James Herriot,  the Sex Pistols,Watership Down and The Lord of the Rings. I also love Charles II, Harry Potter and Led Zeppelin. And Narnia.
I devour books about the Plague and the Great Fire of London in 1666. More on all of this later.)

"Cranford" is a series, is an absolute must-see, and is one of the best things I've ever seen from BBC. The writing is fantastic, the characters subtle and sensitive, and so tenderly funny! The acting is flawless, from Imelda Staunton's (Dolores Umbridge!) comic busybody Mrs. Pole, to the eerie, faded hauteur of Francesca Annis's Lady Ludlow. This is my favorite thing Judy Dench has ever done, she plays against type and is perfection as the mousey spinster Matilda Jenkins who lives in the shadow of her prim sister Deborah Jenkins played by another of my favorite actors ever, Eileen Atkins. Michael Gambon (Dumbledore!) stars also, as do so many other greats!!! The focus is not always on the characters, but also on the transitional time between an older age of aristocracy, and an industrial revolution that will forever change the face of the world. It is a time when greeting cards were considered vulgar, visits never lasted longer than 15 minutes, and eating a juicy orange was considered profane enough to remove oneself to the privacy of one's bedroom to do it! The horrors of the french revolution are not in the too-distant past, and when hearing news of the new railroad's depot coming to their small country town, Lady Ludlow bemoans the dangers of "moving the people about". "Cranford" is a beautiful piece of work that shows the struggles of the time just to survive, to receive good medical care, and the fear of education. It is also tremendously sweet and funny, and not at all at the sacrifice of beautiful language.
   Here is just one of so many great scenes:

So Happy December 1st, and Merry Christmas to all of us, I'm hoping I can keep up the spirit from now until Spring!