Posts tagged with: Holidays

Letting Go

My daughter called me the other day to inform me she’d finally gotten to the ugly job of cleaning her kitchen cabinets.  That’s one of those tasks you swipe at when you’re doing dishes or cooking, promising yourself you’ll tackle the deep cleaning later.

kitchen cabinetOf course, like most of us, you wait until the job becomes THE NASTY CHORE.

While I listened to her complain about the cleaning job, how long it took, and how much elbow grease she invested into it, I took a quick look at my own kitchen cabinets.

For maybe a second or two I thought about tackling the same chore in my 30-year old house and concluded … nah, I’d rather spend my limited time doing something else.

I decided I can live with a lot of things that I categorize broadly as “letting go.”

I have a long list of things I have let go of; here are a few:mopping floor

          1.     I no longer mop floors on my hands and knees. If I can’t con someone (like Dr. Big) into doing it for me, I spray cleaner on the flooring and maneuver my foot wrapped in a rag to wipe up the dirt.

          2.     I no longer cook dried beans. Seriously, that’s what canned beans are for, and I promise you no one can tell the difference in your recipe.  My perennially favorite chili takes about thirty minutes to make instead of hours.

          3.     I no longer wear eye makeup. This was a hard one to let go of – vanity pushed me for a long time until I realized that wearing eyeglasses covers up most of my eyes anyway.  My “makeup,” when and if I use it, takes 20 seconds to apply.

eye makeup          4.     I don’t wash my sheets every week. This is not a nod to conservation (although I always pretend it is), but honestly, how dirty can sheets get when a person showers before bedtime?  Every two weeks is fine.  Oddly, the hard part of this chore is not the washing and drying of the items, but putting them BACK ON the bed!

          5.     I don’t send out Christmas greetings. This is a new “letting go” for my family.  Those folks I know and love most dearly keep in contact via phone, email, or text nearly every day – Banditas included, of course!  Why pressure myself with a tradition I no longer enjoy doing?

What about you?  In this terribly busy holiday season, what are you “letting go” of?  Xmas cardWhat shortcuts can you share with our readers?  How are you streamlining your life so you have more time for the activities you really enjoy?

 

TPG Final cover
I’d love to send a free download of my Christmas novella “The Perfect Gift,” to one commenter whose ingenuity about “letting go” tickles my fancy.

Holidays and Reading – Quick Five!

It’s a busy time of year. For the US Banditas and BBs, you have Thanksgiving next week. For the rest of us, who don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, we edge ever closer to the big Christmas holiday!

I don’t about where you are, but the Christmas ads started appearing in late September and Christmas in the shops was around that time too! Now, I love Christmas, but really? It gets earlier and earlier every year and the sales even start before Christmas now! I went into one well-known shop and they were already playing Christmas music in September! I said to the check-out girl that she’d be sick of it by the time Christmas rolled around and she said she was already channeling Scrooge and ‘Bah, humbug’!

We’re traditionalists in the Sugden household and wait until December 1st to start decorating – though now that Doc Cambridge is retired, we do tend to get the decs up as soon after the 1st as possible. Also, we’re very strict about taking them down again before Twelfth Night — it’s considered bad luck to have them up after that — so I like to be able to enjoy the lights and baubles and Christmas spirit.

As for getting the presents, my friends and family fall into two camps – the ‘organised and have it all finished before the decorations even go up’ crew and ‘where can I buy that on Christmas Eve’ gang! As everyone has got older, it has become harder to find presents, so we’re definitely ‘buy it when you find it’ shoppers. We also try to be organised, because we have so many parcels that have to be posted overseas and the last posting dates are getting earlier and earlier! For our friends Down Under, it’s December 3rd! *gulp*

Tiny TreatsOne thing it’s never too early for is holiday reading! I can buy holiday reads all year round! This year, with writing A Perfect Party for Tiny Treats: A Holiday Collection, I went on a holiday read spending spree. I can see I’m going to have lots of nice reads for the next couple of months! Of course, I’m always on the look out for recommendations, so feel free to tell me about great holiday reads.

That said, the holidays are also a time when I get long periods where I can just sit and read – such a luxury! So I often save up books by my favourite authors to read then. Especially the ones I still by in hardback! They’re very rarely holiday themed, but I enjoy curling up in front of the fire and getting lost in their worlds. (Though since some of them are romantic suspense – not too lost!)

So, over to you

1. What kind of Christmas shopper are you? Are you a ‘buy it when you see it’ or a ‘last minute panicker’ or a ‘start on Black Friday and get it all done by Dec 1st’ or something else?

2. When do you put your decorations up? ASAP, after Thanksgiving, Dec 1st, as late as possible, Christmas Eve?

3. When you do start reading holiday stories? As soon as possible, any time, after Thanksgiving, after Dec 1st, just over the Christmas to New Year period?

4. Favourite all-time holiday read?

5. What are you looking forward to reading this holiday season? Any recommendations?

And don’t forget to download your copy of Tiny Treats – it’s FREE! Just click on the cover and it will take you through to Amazon.

 

Christmas with the Earl!

Earl low resIt’s a launch party in the lair!

But first, an apology!

I know it’s far too early to be talking Christmas – even when it’s only Christmas books. Please don’t take this post as a signal to run off and give your list to Santa! It’s still a bit over six weeks until the fat, jolly bloke with the facial hair squeezes down your chimney!

So having got that off my chest, let me tell you about my latest release, HER CHRISTMAS EARL: A REGENCY NOVELLA!

While it mightn’t be the time yet to wrap the gifts for under the tree, it’s definitely the time of year when it’s nice to have something romantic and short to read while the world goes crazy around us. I think novellas are really great when there’s Holidays everywhere and all the other end of the year madness. You get your romance fix and still have time and attention to deal with any crises that pop up!

Writing a novella at this time of year is almost a public service!

Haddon 2So given how chaotic things get in the lair in the lead up to the festive season, I thought we’d have a practice run so the cabana boys have everything down to a T when the real time comes.

But before I introduce your Yuletide entertainment, let me introduce HER CHRISTMAS EARL. Firstly, here’s the blurb:

No good deed goes unpunished…
To save her hen-witted sister from scandal, Philippa Sanders ventures into a rake’s bedroom – and into his power. Now her reputation hangs by a thread and only a hurried marriage can rescue her. Is the Earl of Erskine the heartless libertine the world believes? Or will Philippa discover unexpected honor in a man notorious for his wild ways?
haddon 1Blair Hume, the dissolute Earl of Erskine, has had his eye on the intriguing Miss Sanders since he arrived at this deadly dull house party. Now a reckless act delivers this beguiling woman into his hands as a delightful Christmas gift. Does fate offer him a fleeting Yuletide diversion? Or will this Christmas Eve encounter spark a passion to last a lifetime?You can read an excerpt on my website here: http://annacampbell.info/xmasearl.html

And all of that Christmassy Earlish goodness for the measly price of 99 cents!

Goodness, I think you should go and buy 10! Well, I would think that, wouldn’t I?

If you click on that pretty red cover at the top of this piece, it will take you right to Amazon (we like to make things easy for you!).

You can also buy HER CHRISTMAS EARL from Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/486725christmas 2

The story starts on Christmas Eve during a country house party in Wiltshire – a good excuse for me to share a couple of favorite photos from beautiful Haddon Hall which is in Derbyshire but was very much on my mind when I wrote this.

So I asked the cabana boys to turn the lair into a stately home in Regency England at Christmas. But I fear they didn’t get quite the right idea!

Plastic Christmas trees in lovely Hartley Manor in 1823? Sacre bleu as the French chef there is fond of saying!
christmas 1And what about the  plastic reindeers that light up? It’s enough to send Wellington back to Waterloo in disgust! And Napoleon off for a nap!

So if you were arranging a lovely Christmas party in snowy Wiltshire for an Earl and his new bride, what would you do to make the house atmospheric and lovely? Mince pies? Carol singers? Roaring log fires? Lots of mistletoe for the earl and his bride to kiss under – not that they need much encouragement!

BanditBootyI have three downloads of HER CHRISTMAS EARL: A REGENCY NOVELLA up for grabs today to people who comment so get talking Christmas decorations! Good luck!

Anticipating the Holidays

…and not in a good way. A friend of mine was hosting a Halloween party this year. Awesome! Her party, however, fell the day after Halloween, on November 1. This was actually perfect, since it was a Saturday night and we “fell back” an hour last night/this morning as we left off Daylight Savings Time. A fun party plus an extra hour of sleep? Woo hoo!

pot brownieThis was a costume party, mind you. A costume optional party, but my husband and I thought it would be fun to go in costume for once. We are not “costume people.” Still, we were making an effort. Yesterday (the day of the party), I went to a craft store to look for a couple of things I needed to complete my costume (I was a pot brownie, he was Tim the Enchanter). While there, I noticed there was a lot of Anticipating the Holidays going on. Not only was all the Halloween stuff at least 75% off, but the Thanksgiving stuff was at least 50% off. Thanksgiving isn’t for another 25 days, people! For the mathy among us, that is 3 weeks and 4 days away. Practically a month! Yet they are so desperate to commit fully and completely to Christmas that Thanksgiving has already been pushed into one side of a single aisle and priced to move.

Tim the EnchanterI don’t care to anticipate the holidays quite that much. Heck, I have Veteran’s Day to celebrate and a 7-night cruise to enjoy before we even get to Thanksgiving! After that is my mother’s birthday, a sister’s birthday, a brother-in-law’s birthday, my sister-in-law’s birthday and my father’s birthday (he would have been 78 this year) before we get to Christmas. I don’t need to jump straight from Halloween to Christmas, craft store people. Thanks anyway!

How about you? Do you like to jump ahead and get an extra-early start on the holidays or are you content to let one pass before anticipating the next? (Confession, I have bought a couple of Christmas presents already.) I would love to know who is carefully crafting for Christmas and who still has turkey on her mind! :)

A Lovely Haze

champagne meI’m going to channel my grumpy hero Jonas Merrick here. Those of you who have read SEVEN NIGHTS IN A ROGUE’S BED will know that Jonas spent a lot of his childhood in Italy and tends to break into Italian at moments when he’s moved – as he is quite often when he’s pursuing Sidonie!

Jonas would know well the wonderful Italian saying of il dolce fa niente which basically means the lovely art of doing absolutely nothing.

By the way, here’s a health warning for people currently suffering the awful cold temperatures that are afflicting those in the Northern Hemisphere. This program is rated HW (hot weather). There will be pictures of people basking in sun and enjoying warm temperatures. But I warn you no champagne cocktails were harmed in the creation of this blog.

Huh? Who am I kidding?

Of course champagne cocktails were harmed in great numbers! 

BD rogue2013 was such a flat out year for me and I reached the end of it feeling utterly exhausted. I usually try to take the week between Christmas and New Year off. It’s the middle of the Australian summer, nothing is happening (my father always said not entirely as a joke that if anyone wanted to invade Australia, they’d get from Cape York to Tasmania without striking an ounce of opposition if they decided to come on 27th December). The world seems to be made up of steamy weather, afternoon snoozes and crickets scratching their lungs out. Perfect break weather.

In 2011 and 2012, sadly I got hit with book revisions right on top of Christmas so my hopes of a decent bit of time off went completely west. This year, thanks to a very speedy response from my editor, I managed to get the revisions for Cam’s story WHAT A DUKE DARES, in before Christmas.

Which meant…downtime!

So much downtime that I renamed my house Downtime Abbey!

So for one delicious week, I just pottered around doing what I felt like. Surprisingly, while I did a lot of reading, I didn’t get through nearly as much of the TBR pile as I thought I would. Instead I seemed to be hooked on watching hours and hours of quite uneducational TV (OK, a hint of education snuck in now and again, but it was very much under the cover of darkness!). 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy parents had cable installed in the house before I moved up here and now I’m addicted to it. There’s something wonderfully comforting about watching LAW AND ORDER from back when Jerry Orbach was still investigating. Makes me feel immortal – clearly nobody ever dies in cable TV land. Apart from the victim in LAW AND ORDER, obviously! And even then, they have the comfort of knowing that the tecs of NYPD always get their man. At least on TV!

So I had a lovely time watching stuff on the Criminal Investigation Network. Strangely relaxing hearing about the pursuit of nasty people, no idea why. And a myriad of antique shows on Lifestyle. As some of you know, I’m addicted to people talking about secondhand stuff. Just give me ANTIQUES ROADSHOW, FLOG IT!, ANTIQUES ROADTRIP, CASH IN THE ATTIC, ANTIQUES MASTER, you name it!

Now I think of it, there’s a kind of immortality in Great Aunty Edna’s dining table. It kind of goes on forever too!

And a few other shows I just love. One of my guilty pleasures is JUDGE JUDY. I tell myself it’s research for my books – after all, life’s rich tapestry is displayed with all its clashing colors on JJ.

If I’m not working – as you’ve probably gathered by now, I wasn’t – I’ll also watch THE PEOPLE’S COURT too. I’ve no idea why other people’s loans to their boyfriends and nasty fights with their housemates are so compelling. But somehow they are!

header_judyAnd joy of joys, the Lifestyle Network had new ESCAPE TO THE COUNTRY episodes. I’m not sure if this BBC show is on in the States, but it features U.K. city dwellers who enlist the help of a presenter to help them find a wonderful place in the gorgeous British countryside.

The only real downside (rather than downtime!) of ESCAPE TO THE COUNTRY is that it makes me desperate to own a thatched country cottage in Somerset. Sigh. But nonetheless, it’s perfect lunchtime viewing.

So now I’m back at work, in spite of the fact that the weather is still horrifically hot and the crickets are still carolling in the new year and most other people I know are also having a break. Started a new book on Monday. Wish me luck. And those hours of guilty pleasure TV are but a memory.

EscapeSo what’s you must-watch TV show? Do you have any guilty pleasures when it comes to TV? Do you take  the week between Christmas and New Year off? If so, what did you do this year?

And it bears saying again, may you all have a wonderful 2014!

 

 

12 Days of Banditas Christmas – GRAND PRIZE WINNER!

BanditBootyThank you to all the wonderful readers who commented during the 12 Days of a Banditas Christmas! We had so much fun, and we hope you did, too. The grand prize winner, selected at random from among everyone who commented on Christmas Day is…

Teresa Hughes!

Congratulations, Teresa! I’m so happy for you!!! Please send your snail mail address to me at email hidden; JavaScript is required so we can get your prizes in the mail.

The grand prize package includes…

  • From Christina Brooke, a signed trade paperback of the Australian edition of London’s Last True Scoundrel
  • From Suzanne Ferrell, Kidnapped plus Godiva Chocolates
  • From Anna Campbell, A Rake’s Midnight Kiss
  • From Trish Milburn, Out of the Night
  • From Donna MacMeans, The Casanova Code
  • From Jeanne Adams, a Rooster Mug and Saucer, plus a download of her brand new novella
  • From Jo Robertson, her Christmas novella, The Perfect Gift
  • From Christie Kelley, Enticing the Earl
  • From Caren Crane, Kick Start
  • From Tawny Weber, Nice & Naughty, Naughty Christmas Nights
  • From Susan Sey, Taste For Trouble (Kindle or paperback) and Talent For Trouble (upon January release, also Kindle or paperback)
  • From Joan Kayse, Kindle download of The Patrician
  • From Nancy Northcott, Renegade, Guardian, or Sentinel as download
  • From Kate Carlisle, A Cookbook Conspiracy and some cool Bibliophile swag
  • From Anna Sugden, A Perfect Distraction plus Cadbury’s chocolate
  • From visiting author Katie McGarry, her latest YA Crash Into You
  • From visiting author Natalie Richards, her latest YA Six Months Later

Merry Christmas, Banditas and Bandita Buddies!

The Romance Bandits want to wish all of you who celebrate Christmas the merriest of days! (And even if you don’t celebrate Christmas… be merry today.) Hope you’re spending the day with people you love. We’ll be popping in and out throughout the day to say hello. Be sure to post a comment below so you’ll have a chance to win today’s Grand Prize in the 12 Bandita Days of Christmas celebration!

The grand prize package includes…

  • From Christina Brooke, a signed trade paperback of the Australian edition of London’s Last True Scoundrel
  • From Suzanne Ferrell, Kidnapped plus Godiva Chocolates
  • From Anna Campbell, A Rake’s Midnight Kiss
  • From Trish Milburn, Out of the Night
  • From Donna MacMeans, The Casanova Code
  • From Jeanne Adams, a Rooster Mug and Saucer, plus a download of her brand new novella
  • From Jo Robertson, her Christmas novella, The Perfect Gift
  • From Christie Kelley, Enticing the Earl
  • From Caren Crane, Kick Start
  • From Tawny Weber, Nice & Naughty, Naughty Christmas Nights
  • From Susan Sey, Taste For Trouble (Kindle or paperback) and Talent For Trouble (upon January release, also Kindle or paperback)
  • From Joan Kayse, Kindle download of The Patrician
  • From Nancy Northcott, Renegade, Guardian, or Sentinel as download
  • From Kate Carlisle, A Cookbook Conspiracy and some cool Bibliophile swag
  • From Anna Sugden, A Perfect Distraction plus Cadbury’s chocolate
  • From visiting author Katie McGarry, her latest YA Crash Into You
  • From visiting author Natalie Richards, her latest YA Six Months Later

wrap1You know that I write a mystery series about a bookbinder, so it probably won’t surprise you to hear that I’m a fan of beautiful wrapping paper. (Understatement!) Sometimes when I get a gift, the paper is so lovely that I open it carefully, delicately, because hurting the paper would hurt my feelings.

A Brief History of Wrapping Paper

Gifts have been wrapped in paper for nineteen centuries in China. Gift paper was popular in Victorian England, but it was much thicker and more cumbersome than what we use today, and it was only affordable for the upper classes.

wrap2Modern gift wrap came into being by a quirk of fate. The year was 1917. Americans at that time mostly wrapped Christmas gifts in red, green, and white tissue paper, but a card store in Kansas City ran out of tissue paper. The quick-thinking owners remembered that they had sheets of French envelope-lining paper in back. They priced the decorative sheets at 10 cents apiece (about $2.35 in today’s money) and watched them fly off the shelves… and an industry was born.

That company is still in business today. Hallmark. And all because of poor inventory control.

Have you opened presents today? What made you smile?

At the Cottage…I mean Cabin….

Happy Memorial Day, everybody!

Susan-Ann cabin

Like many of you, I’m at the cottage this weekend.  Excuse me, I mean the cabin.  Not my cabin, let me be clear.  This is a friend’s cabin.  We’re lucky enough to have wonderful friends who own a cabin, and they invited us to spend the holiday weekend with them.  So here we are enjoying the lake in the north woods.  This is us above.  We’re watching the kids catch frogs & the men catch fish while we open a bottle of wine & discuss, well, everything.

We’re having a grand time.  And that was what I intended to write about when I sat down. 

Then I tried to title this post & got hung up.

Because here’s the thing:  we live in Minnesota, and the woods/lake we’re currently enjoying are in northern Wisconsin.  Therefore this structure I’m inside?  It’s a CABIN.  

Now I grew up in Michigan, where if you said “cabin” you were talking about Laura Ingalls Wilder stuff–a historical, pioneery thing build out of trees stacked up like Lincoln logs.  The little houses on northern lakes that we flee to when it gets too hot in the city?  Those are COTTAGES.

Also, we Michiganders ice fish out of shanties, not fish houses or ice houses like they do here MN/WI.  

And when a Michigander says ROOF or ROOT, she’ll pronounce the OO like you would in ALOOF or HOOT.  Minnesotans/Wisconsinites would pronounce the OOs like you would in GOOD or SOOT.    

Now I actually like this for the most part.  This is the upper midwest–we don’t actually have a discernible accent, & I’ve always wanted one.  So I kind of cherish these little regional difference in language.  Every now & then, if you’re really lucky, you’ll hear somebody refer to a drinking fountain as a “bubbler.”  I find this delightful.  

But the other day my kid came home from school and told me she’d been given “rut beer” at school for a special treat.   And I realized that she was growing up with a Minnesota accent.  And I didn’t know how I felt about this. 

On one hand, how fun!  An accent in the family (however tiny.)  Wheee!

On the other, my kid & I now look at the same word and think different things.  And that strikes me as…unsettling.   We’re family.  We’re blood.  We should speak the same language.  And mostly, we do.  Except for this tiny little point where we don’t.  And I just don’t know how I feel about that.

So tell me about where you live.  Does it come with an accent, or regionally-specific terminology?  Does your spouse/partner/kid have an accent that’s different from yours?  How do you handle the differences?  Are they invisible?  Amusing?  Cause for argument?  Share!

stockphotos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

Fly Your Flag Proudly

A Cookbook Conspiracy by Kate CarlisleIt’s Memorial Day weekend here in the United States, a time to remember people who sacrificed their lives for the greater good. With the U.S. flag flying everywhere, the colors of the day are red, white, and blue. It started me thinking about how many national flags around the world use those same colors. England, Australia, and the U.S., certainly, all countries that are well represented here at Romance Bandits.

flag1The founding fathers of the United States rebelled against Mother England in many ways. We dropped the “U” from words like “colour.” We drive on the other side of the road. (I was going to say, “We drive on the right side of the road,” but I thought that sounded ethnocentric, even though I meant “right” in the sense of “not left” opposed to “not wrong.”) But we kept the same colors in our flag.

Red, white, and blue.

flag3According to Wikipedia.com – admittedly, a sometimes unreliable source – more countries use those colors than any other color combination. For our Canadian Banditas, red and white is the second most common combination. In addition to Australia, the U.K., and the U.S., there are at least 26 other countries that fly a red, white, and blue flag.

flag2I don’t know whether this is truly interesting, or merely interesting to me because I’ve been on something of an American history kick. My next Bibliophile Mystery, A COOKBOOK CONSPIRACY (June 4) features a handwritten, leather-bound cookbook/journal that is filled with secret codes from the American Revolution. I really got into the research for the book and learned a lot about the early days of spycraft, hidden messages, the freemasons…

A Few Fun Facts about the American Flag

  • flag4 Until 1912, the arrangement of the stars was left up to the person who made the flag. Each of the pictures I’ve included in today’s post shows a different layout of the 13 stars that represented the first 13 states. In 1912, Congress set a standard. At that time, there were 48 states.
  • Robert Heft, the 17-year-old student who came up with the current configuration of 50 stars, received only a B- for the project in school, but when Congress accepted his design proposal, his grade was changed to an A.

flag5

  • The U.S. flag is not supposed to be used on anything disposable. Clearly, that’s a rule that’s broken all the time.

Americans, how are you celebrating Memorial Day Weekend? Others, tell me what country you’re from and an interesting fact about your national flag!

The Boom Bandits’ Christmas Top Five

I’m here with Jeanne, my evil twin, and Nancy, the third Boom Bandit.  For any new readers, I should explain.  We have been so named because we like suspense, mayhem, and of course, blowing up stuff.

Blowing up stuff in our books.  Mostly.  Ahem…

 

Anyway, here we are, and we’re talking about our top five Christmas albums, and some of our favorite Christmas songs.

Tis the season, yaknow? 

Yes, I get it.  Some people don’t like Christmas music, don’t like being reminded that it IS Christmas, and would prefer not to hear about it.  In truth I went through a spell where I felt that way. I was sick to death of the crowds and the money mongering, all to the same melancholy musical backdrop that takes over radio frequencies from November until New Year’s Eve.  

 

Then I watched the film Elf, and something shifted.  Partly because in that film, for the first time ever, I heard the song, Baby It’s Cold Outside

I hear you asking the question. “How could this be, Cassondra?  How is it that you could live this long without hearing that song?”

I. Don’t. Know.

I started playing gigs all around the state (singing and playing guitar), when I was fifteen.  I started playing piano for money(all over the southeastern United States) when I was seventeen.  But that was mostly gospel and country.  I grew up in a fundamentalist church.  My whole childhood was swallowed whole by gospel, country, classical (checked out from the library)  and folk music (albums sneaked out of the attic upstairs, when my mom wasn’t looking).  Almost no jazz, or jazz-influenced music at all.  I got a hint of Big Band from the Lawrence Welk Show, but that was it.  That could be the reason I missed out on the jazzier side of Christmas.  The only Christmas music played around our home–or actually, around our town, that I remember–was the kind that centered on the religious.  Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie…

Santa Clause was comin’ to town, but only in a church-approved sleigh, yaknow?

Granted, Christmas is  a religious holiday, for many.  But still…where were all of these songs I missed? Merry Christmas Baby, you sure did treat me right…

I have this one memory.  I think it was from fourth grade.  Each of us had to bring a Clorox bleach jug from home.  (For those of you who don’t know, these jugs are opaque white plastic, like the one on the right.  We cut the top off of the jug, just at the top of the label,  where that ridge is in the picture.  We removed said label, turned the bottom half of the jug upside down,  then cut holly leaves and berries out of construction paper and glued them onto the front of the upside-down jug,  to make a marching-band-style “hat”.  Then we had to wear these godawful abominations and stand on a stage, on risers in front of family and friends, while we sang really bad, really depressing carols at the Christmas program. 

It. Was. Awful. 

Maybe that’s what turned me against Christmas carols to begin with.

Honestly though, when you think about that Baby It’s Cold Outside song, and its real meaning, there’s no mistake.  It’s a romance novel in the making.  A really steamy one.  Our intrepid hero is working his butt off to get our heroine to stay for  the night.  She’s resisting in a rather ridiculous  must-play-hard-to-get fashion.   He’s hoping for wild monkey sex, right?

You know he is.  I mean, he’s a guy.

In case you haven’t heard the song, here’s one of my favorite versions, from one of the favorite albums I list, below.

 

My suspicion is that this song was considered inappropriate by a lot of people when I was growing up. Maybe there just weren’t a lot of recorded versions out there.  I dunno. It certainly would have been inappropriate  in MY house.  You know…because of the whole “potential for wild monkey sex” thing.  Nothing sexual about Silent Night.   Well, maybe the “round yon virgin” thing.  But I digress.

Flash forward to adulthood, and  to the movie Elf and Christmas music came alive for me again.  I started buying albums full of Christmas music from Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and their ilk. 

Jeanne grew up in a church-going area too.  She sang in the church choir when she was old enough, and of course, carols were the order of the day.  But mostly, her favorite thing about the season is that it’s COLD. Baby, it’s cold outside, dear Lord  LET IT SNOW in this winter wonderland.  This is where our twin thing diverges.  I’ll go to a nice warm beach, thanks.

Nancy had her share of carols and Christmas music.    About this formative experience, she said,  “I sang in Junior Choir. Considering I can’t carry a tune in the proverbial bucket, this was probably more fun for me than for my more gifted choir-mates. Enthusiasm counted for a lot, though, and I was enthusiastic. In high school, I went caroling with friends a couple of times, again hoping enthusiasm made up for being pitch-challenged.”

So for the three of us, carols were the order of the day.

But back to my (relatively) recent discovery of the NON-carol Christmas song…

Many of these songs have nothing to do with Christmas itself.  They’ve just become standards of the season. And yet, the newer music is, mostly, my favorite.  I still do love the traditional carols though, and I’ve figured out that for me to like them, they have to be upbeat and maybe even a bit jazzy. 

So to that end, we give you the Boom Bandits’ Top Five Christmas albums, which will end up being fifteen, since there are three of us.  Then again, Jeanne and I are the evil twins of the lair, so we may have some duplicates.   Still…although we have a number of evil twin crossovers, we do not always tow the evil twin line.

#5:

 Cassondra: Anything Manheim Steamroller because they just rock.  It’s feel-good music.

Jeanne: Windham Hill’s  Winter Solstice.  Because of the sheer musicality of it, and this amazing, ancient-sounding  stuff you don’t hear on common playlists.

Nancy:  The Roches~~We Three Kings.   This is a capella, beautiful harmony.

 

#4:

Cassondra:  Amy Grant’s Home For Christmas.  Just a really warm, easygoing, family-at-home, glass-of-cider album.

Jeanne:  Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas–It’s jazzy and fun and it’s got my absolute favorite, O Holy Night, with someone who can hit all the notes crisp and clear. 

 Nancy:  Joan Baez~~Noel.  Lovely voice.  Folk music delivery of various carols.

 

#3:

Cassondra:  James Taylor’s At Christmas.  This is from 2006. There is not a bad track on this cd. If I started naming my favorites, I’d name almost every one. I’d never heard In the Bleak Midwinter until this album.

Jeanne:  Anything Manheim Steamroller.  They just rock.  (Cassondra:  I see the evil twin thing starting)

Nancy: The Homecoming Orchestra~~Christmas Baroque.  This is brass renditions of traditional carols.  This was one of those bargain bin purchases.

#2:

Cassondra:    Amy Grant~~A Christmas Album (her first one).   I love most of the songs, but the top ones are Tender Tennessee Christmas, Breath of Heaven, Grown Up Christmas List, and Emmanuel.

Jeanne:  Amy Grant~~ A Christmas Album–Ahem…Notice the exact repeat of my evil twin’s opinion…verbatim….I love most of the songs, but the top ones are Tender Tennessee Christmas, Breath of Heaven, Grown Up Christmas List, and Emmanuel. And yes, I am serious.  We scare each other at times.

Nancy:  Manheim Steamroller~~Christmas Extraordinaire.  Fabulous Orchestral renditions of holiday favorites.  Heavy on brass. (Cassondra:  I’m getting the idea that Nancy likes brass. Hmmm..and we all like Manheim Steamroller.  Which is kind of cool.)

 

#1:

Cassondra:  Rod Stewart’s new Christmas album~~Merry Christmas Baby.  The songs We Three Kings and Auld Lang Syne are worth buying the album for, but you’ll like the others too.  Stewart is an icon for a reason.  And he has some wonderful duets on here. 

Jeanne:  Handel’s The Messiah–You just can’t beat the sheer magnificence of this choral performance. My  father loved opera, so he had  Handel’s The Messiah on the stereo a lot, and I grew up singing it.   It’s still one of my favorites.

Nancy:  Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra~~Christmas at the Pops.   I mean, come on. It’s Arthur Fiedler. It doesn’t get better than that.  (Cassondra admits that she has to agree, and likes this album too.)

 

Okay, okay…we can’t do this without some honorable mentions: 

Jeanne’s new current favorite is Blake Shelton’s brand new Chrismas CD.  In particular Oklahoma Christmas.  (Cassondra:  Just the name makes me want to buy it.)  A second honorable mention goes to BoyzIIMen’s Christmas Interpretations, and in particular, their version of Mary Did You Know.    The bass on that song is so deep and resonant. You just wouldn’t know they were that good until you hear this song. Third is Take Six’s He Is Christmas–I love this a capella group and their incredible sound.

 For Cassondra:  Anything from the Rankin Bass Claymation Christmas shows like Rudolph The Rednosed Reindeer, Silver and Gold–anything by Burl Ives. The soundtrack from The Muppet Christmas Carol.   Martha Stewart’s Christmas collection.  This is a compilation, of course, but it’s an easygoing grouping of jazzy favorites, and is perfect for fixing dinner with a glass of wine, or eating dinner with friends and wine, or relaxing by the fire with wine…ahem… 

Nancy: There’s this album my parents got as a gas station giveaway, back when gas stations had to care whether you bought your gas from them or someone else, but it’s on vinyl, so I never get to play it anymore.  :-/   It’s called This is Chrismas.  I really like the various artists and styles.

Cassondra:  OH…A favorite song I MUST mention is Trisha Yearwood’s version of Mary Did You Know.  It’s haunting, and like Amy Grant’s Breath of Heaven, makes you think about what that time must have been like for Mary and Joseph, outside of the idealized manger scene.  A pregnant young virgin, trekking cross-country and  the man who was taking care of her, who must have had some serious “are you freaking kidding me?” moments when he was taking the whole thing on faith, based on the word of some shimmery dude who poofed into his room out of thin air.  Bandits and buddies, now that’s a romance novel, complete with conflict, and if we tried to sell that story to editors, they’d say, “No way. That would never happen.”

 

So, Bandits and Buddies,

Tell us YOUR favorites.

Do you have a favorite Christmas Album? 

A favorite Christmas song?

Do you like traditional carols, or the newer, jazzier, FUN Christmas songs?

Or do you put on the dark shades and stick in the earplugs and listen to classic rock for six weeks, waiting for the whole thing to be over and done with? 

Do you celebrate Christmas at all? Or do you celebrate Hanukkah?  Or perhaps another holiday? If so, is there special music attached to the midwinter celebration or holy day that you love?

And as long as we’re mentioning the movie Elf, what’s your favorite Christmas movie?

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Be sure to come back to the Lair on December 13 when we kick off the annual 12 BANDITA DAYS OF CHRISTMAS! Prizes and recipes every day!! Roosters. Starbucks goodies. Books. Dragons. Books. Cookies. Godiva. Books!! (By Banditas and friends like Dianne Love, Sabrina Jeffries, Marquita Valentine, Liz Carlyle, JD Tyler, Lydia Dare, Deb Marlowe, Addison Fox and many more!) You know you want the cookies, for sure, so come home to the Lair for the Holidays! Who knows, you might win something, and you’ll be guaranteed to have fun!!

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