Christmas Countdown — Day 3

by Kathy Larson

Day 3 was a bit of a struggle. I wasn’t feeling particularly festive after what can only be described as a ‘trying’ day. But, I persevered and after a little bit of searching I stumbled upon It Happened One Christmas.

The movie was released in 1977 and it stars Marlo Thomas. Remember her? Danny Thomas’ daughter, star of That Girl and The Marlo Thomas Show. For a while Marlo was a huge star on television and personified the all-American, girl next door. I remember watching That Girl, it was funny and, for its time, groundbreaking.

But, we are not here to discuss old tv shows. We are here to talk about It Happened One Christmas.

Essentially, this movie is a reimagining of It’s a Wonderful Life, with the main character roles reversed. Instead of George Bailey we have Mary Bailey. Instead of Mary Hatch we have George Hatch. It was a simple character switch that allowed the main plot of the movie to stay the same. Another character shift was to replace Clarence the angel, second class with Clara the angel, same designation. Cloris Leachman played Clara, and honestly, she was simply awful. It was a good thing that her role was much smaller in this adapted version of the story than was Henry Travers’ in the original.

Despite the movie hailing from 1977 it was easy to watch and not at all as dated as you might expect. That is due to the fact that they kept it true to the era of the original film — 1928 — so costumes, scenery, and attitudes were essentially the same. Bedford Falls was recognizable as Bedford Falls, supporting characters looked and sounded enough like their original counterparts that I sometimes found myself thinking they were the same actors from the 1946 IAWL.

The major changes were subtle, but important. In this version you have a strong, independent woman who wants to chart her own course through life, but, like her male counterpart George in the original story, sacrifices her personal goals and desires for the good of her family and community. The important distinction, however, is that Mary Bailey is the representation of the true feminist ideal that was being pursued in the last half of the twentieth century. She was smart, strong, beautiful, knew her own mind, was unselfish, thoughtful, and caring. On top of that she ran a successful business, managed to have and raise four children, looked after her injured war-hero husband and happily took a backseat to her younger brother’s dreams and aspirations. Through it all she remained perfectly put together, with impeccable clothes and beautifully done hair and make-up. And, unlike George Bailey, she never shows any frustration or anger at her situation (other than when she wishes she had never been born, there is no way that could have been left out of the story). Other than that one lapse, she is a stoic and smiling figure of the EVERY WOMAN all women should strive to be.

At least in the 70s. Now, of course, we know that for women to try and be all that is ridiculous. And exhausting. And not good for our mental health.

Political overtones aside, as in the original, this is charming little movie. It is not nearly as good as the original with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, but I didn’t expect it to be. If you’re looking for a feel-good movie the whole family can enjoy this will fill the ticket. We found it on Prime.

Happy holidays!

Christmas Countdown — Day 2

by Kathy Larson

Okay, so today I watched two Christmasy/holiday shows.

  1. The Holiday Baking Championship — I actually started watching this about a month ago. It’s a ton of fun. Jesse, the hunky host, who is actually a former NFL player, does a great job leading the show, introducing the day’s challenges, as well as adding some gentle humour. Today’s show saw the contestants get whittled down to six.
    I’m always amazed at what these bakers can whip up in the allotted hour to ninety minutes they’re given. Sometimes the ingredients are more than a little bizzare. Like the time they had to make a holiday dessert based on an ingredient from a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Sage? Balsamic vinegar? Sausage? In the end they all presented some pretty astounding, and according to the judges, delicious desserts.
    This is a fun way to while away some COVID hours and get a little inspired to try some holiday baking. Check it out.
  2. Die Hard — Now some may argue that this is not a holiday movie, but I am firmly rooted in the camp that believes it is. It takes place on Christmas Eve, in New York (no city in the world dresses itself up better for the holidays than New York!), there is Christmas music playing during much of the movie, and who can dispute that Alan Rickman is the grinchiest Grinch that ever was?
    This movie is a classic. Originally released in 1988, it has stood up well and I had as much fun watching it this time (probably my twelfth, though I can’t honestly say for sure) as I did the first time. You can’t help but cheer for John McLean and I can barely watch without flinching every time he pulls all that broken glass out of his poor, battered bare feet.
    If you have been living under a rock and never seen the film (the best one, imho) then do yourself a favour and grab a bowl of popcorn, a pillow to grab on to and enjoy a fun, fun, fun ride.

    Well, that’s what I watched today. Hope this gives you some ideas for your own quarantine-until-Christmas television watching.

    Ho!Ho!Ho!

Christmas countdown. . .Day 1

by Kathy Larson

So, like most of the rest of the world we are essentially in lockdown again because of COVID 19. No one has actually said the dreaded l-word, but come on, we can’t invite anyone into our homes who doesn’t already live there, we’re restricted to ordering take-out (if we’re brave enough), and nearly every form of mass social interaction has been put under closure or extremely close to it. The only busy places these days are hospitals and emergency rooms.

God bless all the doctors, nurses and other front-line health care workers who continue to make sacrifices on our behalf. I am sure when this pandemic is finally over that there will be an annual global day of recognition instituted to pay tribute to their heroic efforts.

But this post is not a rant about COVID. No, it is about trying to get into the Christmas spirit.

And, I have decided that one way to do that, besides decorating super, super early, is to watch a Christmas or holiday themed movie or show every day from now until the BIG day.

This actually started a couple of weeks ago when I watched Bridget Jones’ Diary for the umpteenth time. Then I watched Last Christmas. Followed by The Man Who Invented Christmas.

I thought my pace of watching schmaltzy holiday movies was pretty good, though indulging a little early, but, what the hey. Then, new, tighter, more restrictive measures were put in place in the ongoing battle to manage the pandemic and I thought, somethings gotta change. Seeing as I’ve got to spend the bulk of my retired life cooped up in the house I might as well try and enjoy my time. Thus, the idea I mentioned above, was born.

It began in earnest last night with The Christmas Chronicles. If you haven’t watched this one yet, then do. It’s tons of fun, Kurt Russel is amazing as a pretty hot Santa, it’s cute but not too-cute, and it’ll leave you feeling good without having your heart torn out and stomped into fake snow. It’s playing on Netflix right now, but I’m pretty sure it can be found on many other stations. (Is that an old-fashioned reference?) Lol. You’ll figure it out.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a brief run-down of what I watched today.

Jingle, jingle!

Menial Chores, the luxury of

So, yesterday, I got up close and personal with my kitchen and bathroom floors.  For the first time in over 10 years I got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed them.

Now, don’t go thinking I’m some kind of slovenly pig — I do wash my floors quite regularly — at least once a week, but I usually do it with a mop.

My husband owns this horrible pair of black-soled shoes that leaves awful scuff marks whenever he tromps through the house with them on.  I’ve asked that he cease doing that, at least in those shoes, but, he’s a man and he forgets.  So, I’m forever stooping down to scrub them away and cursing him while I’m at it.

Yesterday, I decided it was high time to wash the floors and I noticed that there were scuff marks all over the place.  I would be stooping and cursing a lot, it seemed.

It would, I thought, be easier to just stay low to the floor.  Out came the mop bucket, a good rag, one of those miracle sponge thingys and a scrub brush — and a towel for my knees, which I didn’t think of getting until I was nearly half-way done.

I enjoyed the exercise.  Honestly.  While I was down there scrubbing away and wiping off the scuff marks I had a great conversation with myself.   I thought about the Christmas just past and how much I’d enjoyed myself, I envisioned my afternoon with friends and the movie we were going to see.  I mumbled and muttered away to myself about all kinds of little, forgettable things.  Yes, it took twice the amount of time it normally takes me to wash the floors, but, it was time well spent.

My floors are old.  They’re pushing 30, I believe, and need replacing in the worst way.  But, they’re going to have to last for a couple more years, at least.  I took my time while scrubbing and wiped the baseboards down, I dug into corners and scrubbed grimy spots under the cupboards. I was horrified to discover just how much hair I’d lost — my god, it was everywhere!

While I was down there I thought about how much use these floors have seen:  the years my son spent growing up here and the thousands of footsteps he’d taken upon them; the scrabble of our two dog’s nails upon them as we tossed balls or played catch-me! with them; the hushed footsteps of my husband and I as we traversed the cool linoleum on early mornings trying not to wake each other as we begin our days; the untold number of friends and family’s footsteps during visits and holidays; and now, the constant patter of my grandchildren’s small feet as they run and dash through the house whenever they’re over.

They are old floors, they are battle-scarred and worn, and as I washed and scrubbed and scoured I felt thankful that I had such wonderful floors.

Still, when I was done, when I stood up and slowly flexed my aching knees and stretched out my crooked back I took an appraising look at my handiwork and declared loudly that that was the last time I’d wash a floor on my hands and knees.  Ever.

Oh, and lovely memories or not, those floors gotta go.

A post-Christmas post

So, here it is December 28th.  Christmas came and went in a flurry of activity.  It was one of the happiest Christmases I’ve enjoyed.  Everyone was relaxed and into the spirit — Tim and I have days of down-time following ‘the big day’ and that has been a wonderful bonus.

I really don’t have too much to say about Christmas itself, other than what I’ve stated above — it seems the older I get the less important gifts have become — it’s more about spending time with people you love and taking the gift of those times away with you.  Don’t get me wrong, gifts do still play a part, but I worry less about how much I’m buying and concentrate more on how happy what I’m giving will make the recipient.  So, if it’s one or two meaningful things as compared to a truckload of stuff that will be forgotten the moment it’s opened, that’s the way I’ve gone.

One of my favorite memories of these holidays will be the night the kids came over for our Griswold Family Christmas night.  We watched Nat’l Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (a tradition) put out snack and finger food and just sat around eating and laughing and watching the kids (who really didn’t sit still for much of the movie).  Ethan decided that the Dickens’ Village display in the kitchen was far more interesting than the Griswold’s and their problems.

I found him rearranging everything and driving his flourescent green and purple HotWheels cars through the tiny plastic-cobblestone streets.   It was delightful.  He gave me  a big smile when I asked him what he was doing and said:  “This needs go here, Gramma”  as he picked up some tiny people and shoved them into the entrance of the church.  When he was finished there were lamp posts dangling off the edge of the shelf and groups of little porcelain people huddled together as if in fear of some unseen, monstrous danger, but everything was intact.  He toddled off to the next thing to catch his attention — a candy cane — which I am still wiping traces of off various surfaces around my house.

All in all, this Christmas break has been just the break I needed.

Wishing all a season of joy and happiness for the coming New Year.

Saturday Night

Just a very quick blog to state how very, very, very happy I am to be on Christmas break!  Finally!  Yay!

This is how I’m looking at it:  two whole friggin’ weeks of Friday nights!  Yahoo!

Am I happy?  You bet your sweet patootie!

To everyone who works in a school —  you know what I’m talkin’ about!

So, go do your happy dance!  Dance! Dance! Dance!

I feel like a loon and that’s the way I wanna feel!

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 15th

This morning I am watching my gorgeous granddaughter at gymnastics. At this moment she is practicing handstands and flips. She is amazing. Of course I will say that – I am biased – but it’s true.

My heart skips a beat each time she launches herself at the mat but she does it with such fearlessness and abandon and joy that it takes my fear and replaces it with a smile.

This morning while I did my treadmill duty I was listening to Feist. One song in particular had me smiling and thinking about what is most important to me, not just now as we head into Christmas, but always. I’m not sure of the title but I think it might be: It’s Cool to Love Your Family. It’s a wonderful little song, one completely appropriate for the season.

I don’t have the capability to download it because I’m too damn cheap, but you can easily find it on YouTube.  Check her out, you won’t be disappointed.

Love your family, love your life, love yourself.

Images of winter 2012

Here’s a collection of pictures from our winter so far.  It’s been a true winter this year — it began early and it ain’t lettin’ up for nothin’!  Hope you enjoy them.

Sunday evening, Dec. 2, 2012 — It’s comin’ on Christmas

Like Joni sang:  “It’s comin’ on Christmas; they’re choppin’ down trees. . .”

The 2011 Larson Family Christmas tree
The 2011 Larson Family Christmas tree

We went out this morning to cut down the Larson family Christmas tree.  Gunlor Pines has been providing us with our tree for over 20 years.  And so it was with hot chocolate, blankets and many layers of winter clothes that we headed off kind of early this morning with visions of the perfect tree leading us on.

Alas, we got to Gunlor only to find out it was closed.  And then, double alas, we found out it had been sold!  My daughter-in-law managed to contact the former owners who kindly told her that the place was closed on Sundays, but we could call and make an appointment for the next weekend.  (Saturday only.)  While we were there another vehicle pulled up — that made 3 of us wanting trees.  So, Jenn contacted the new owners, but they weren’t interested in coming to open up.

I’m thinking their little tree farm venture isn’t going to last too long. Ah, but I digress.

The kids did an internet search and found out there is another tree farm about 2 hours south of Edmonton.  They considered going, but it was getting late.  Tim and I had tickets for the Vinyl Cafe Christmas show, so there was no way we could go.  We had sadly accepted the reality that there would be no freshly cut nine-footer this year.  (In truth, I wasn’t all that sad.  And while I’m talking truth I have to admit that I’d much rather have a multi-coloured pre-lit artificial tree that is only about 7 ft tall.  It would make my life much easier.)

And so it has been decided that next weekend it’s Gunlor on Saturday, or the new place on Sunday.  Whichever it is I probably won’t be going.  We’ve got family coming for the weekend so I’ve got cooking and entertaining to take care of.  However it plays out come next weekend we’ll have our tree.  I’ll play Joni Mitchell while we bring it in the house and then I’ll put on It’s a Wonderful Life while I shred my fingertips as I string the lights.

Though I wish I had a fake tree I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I do love the smell of a real tree, and, that once it’s up and decorated it truly is a special thing and something that helps get me in the Christmas spirit.  It takes me back to trees past and all the memories hung upon countless branches.

Every year I go to the fancy greenhouses and take in all the beautiful Christmas displays with the designer trees in all their fashionable colours.  There are blue trees, copper trees, pink trees, red trees and silver trees.  Black trees, gold trees, sparkly trees.  And, yes, even green trees.  Besides all the colours there are different shapes and sizes.  Two-footers through to 12 foot giants.  Fat, full branched ones and skinny, one-sided trees.  Trees that will fit in corners and trees that hang upside down.  (I don’t like the upside down trees, they look so odd!)

I always aspire to change my tree decorating habits; I envisage a glittering masterpiece of red and gold, feathers and velvet streamers.  Something worthy of gracing the pages of Martha Stewart Living or House & Home.  But, in the end I turn away from those glimmering decorations and turn to my boxes of treasured ornaments, the ones I’ve spent my lifetime collecting.  They’re what really makes me smile.  And as I hang each shiny bauble, each hand-crafted paper ornament that my son made, or each ornament collected on holiday I’m reminded that our tree is history of us.

When my grandkids come over I love to point out this one or that one and tell them a little story about how it came to be.  I’ve started adding the ones they make now and try not to think to far ahead into the future when perhaps I’ll be adding ornaments from great-grandchildren.

In the end, I suppose, it doesn’t matter whether the tree is real or fake.  What matters is what you make of it.

Monday, near the end of November

It’s hard to believe, but this month is nearly at an end.  December is a mere 5 days away.

December.

Christmas.

The longest night of the year.

The beginning of the depths of winter.

It has been an exceptionally rough Fall this year.  For me, anyway.  I’ve had what I think is more than my fair share of trials and tribulations.  That may sound like whining, but I’m being honest when I say it’s been a helluva long haul.  And it ain’t over yet.

Oh, no.  There’s still plenty coming my way.  Only now, I’ve managed to gain a modicum of perspective and I think I’ll manage to get myself through without too much trouble.  (That’s my fervent hope, anyway.)

I’ve had help from those nearest and dearest who have listened, talked, calmed and helped me see that it isn’t as bleak as I sometimes paint, and when I’ve felt that I’ve painted myself into a corner they’ve been there with the rags and the thinner to help show me the way out.  I truly am blessed.

Sometimes, it’s easy to lose your perspective.  Easy to give into the dark thoughts and fears that wait for the times when you’re feeling weak and vulnerable.  But, with perseverance and love and kindness, eventually you’ll see that all the good, joyful, wonderful bits that make life bearable are still there and that they can overcome your fears and insecurities.

I don’t know why, really, it was so hard for me this year.  Usually, I’m pretty tough.  I can take just about anything and bounce back ready to fight.  But this time around. . .

. . .I don’t know.  The fight seemed to go out of me.  I’m tired of fighting, I guess.  And that confused the hell out of me.  Because if I’m not ready to fight, then what am I to do?

I know what I want to do — and that is simply just to be.  I want to relax in the evenings and bake cookies if I feel like it.  I want to go out for leisurely strolls in the cold winter evenings, even though I hate the cold.

I want to curl up on the couch and read.  Pick up the crochet book and the yarn I bought.  I want to rearrange my bedroom.  I want to wander over and see what my grandkids are up to and then wander back home and have a hot cup of tea and go to bed.

But right now I’m not capable of any of that.  Right now I’m simply rallying.  Rallying my defences — physical, mental and emotional.  And that is taking a lot out of me.  Slowly, slowly I’m beginning to feel strong again, a little bit of the fight in me is showing through again.  It won’t, I don’t think, ever come fully back.  And that, I believe, is because I won’t let it.

It’s time for me to take care of me.  There’s only so much of yourself that you can give away before something inside you gives way.  It’s been a tough lesson, one I would have thought I was too old to learn.

Apparently I was wrong.

I’m hoping that my mind is a little clearer a little more free again and that one of these days I’ll start writing something besides these angsty, self-analysis posts.  Until then, thanks to everyone who has continued to check in on my meagre and sporadic offerings.

The glass half full — with cranberries!