Author: Janet

A Return to Downton Abbey

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Like the millions of people who tuned in year after year to catch up with the Crawley’s, I find myself missing the great house this time of year.

Odd, since in the US the series ran starting in January – long after the U.K. had visited and moved on for the season.

Somehow, though, Christmas is the time I get a bit wistful to see Branson, Lady Mary, and all the other occupants of the house and grounds, not to mention the neighboring village.

There is something serene about the place.  Comfortable even in those rooms full of gilt, silk and deep carpets.

If you are a viewer of YouTube, you can see some of the DVD extras that talk about back stories and settings and characters.  For me, who does not own the DVDs, it is an interesting addition to the fond memories I have of the series.

To be honest, it makes me want to brew a cuppa and settle down in front of the telly with Amazon Video to dive in.  The entire series is there, waiting.

I am hearing bits about the new movie that is coming next year.  To be honest, I’ve not paid any attention if only to preserve some of my sanity.  There is something about the anticipation that keeps things on an even keel.

Join me, won’t you?  Settle back and dive in to watch all or part of the series.  Remember the joys and the sorrows and the amazing holidays at Downton Abbey

Categories: Music Musings TV

Taking a Breather

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I realize that most of the world is caught up in Holiday Madness right now.  Perhaps that is why I suggest that we all take a breather.

You know, prepare a simple meal, dim the lights a bit, turn on some nice music and put your feet up.  The rush to Do Something On The List can wait until tomorrow.

I was channel hopping tonight and happened to catch a good portion of a film I have heard of for years, but never saw.  Bullitt.  Yeah, that one – with Steve McQueen. 

I was, to be polite, blown away.  Great cinematography.  Fantastic characters.  A cast list that is eye popping.  And that car…that Mustang…and that chase scene…  Worth any amount you’d care to name.

Truth is, unless I owned a copy, or could find one to rent or stream, I would have missed it if I was keeping up with The List Of Things To Be Done.

In case you were wondering, I saw this wonderful classic film on Movies TV Network.  Check the site to find out where you can watch in your area.

My point is, take time for yourself right now, so you can enjoy all the festivities later.  And, if something doesn’t get done, remind yourself that it is very unlikely that it will end the world.  (You have to prioritize that list, you know.)

One step at a time.  🙂

Categories: Movies Musings TV

Returning to Cherry Tree Lane

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She’s Back

Put a note on your calendar.  December 19th is the release date of the brand new film Mary Poppins Returns.

The very first movie I remember seeing was Mary Poppins way back in 1964.  I was six.  My mother and I walked from our home to the local movie house and spent a magical couple of hours watching penguins, chalk pictures, tea parties on the ceiling and this nanny…this nanny who turned everything upside down only to turn it right side up again.

It was my first experience not only with Disney magic, but with movie magic.  It set the stage for a lifetime love of film, music, musicals, dance and tons of other connected arts.

For those who don’t know, Mary Poppins was the creation of author P. L. Travers who went on to create eight volumes of Poppins stories from 1934 until 1988.  Wikipedia has an interesting collection of information here.

Walt Disney obtained the film rights for Mary Poppins and set about creating the movie version that won several Oscars and huge box office returns.

By the way, if you want to see a rather interesting film that tells the story of the acquisition of the rights to the book and the backstory of Ms. Travers, see Saving Mr. Banks.  It will give you an insight and impression on two very formidable personalities.

There were stage versions of the story, along with rumored adaptations of other books and a remake.

The amazing Emily Blunt will be playing Poppins.  I won’t go into the rest of the stellar cast.  If you are inclined, check out imdb.com here:  Mary Poppins Returns.  The cast list is one to make your mouth water.

If you are inclined, take a step on the wild side and pick up the books.  You will find a slightly (?) different version of Poppins.  Travers’ creation is a bit more … Poppins than we were introduced to in the movie.  None the less, well worth the read.

I heard a comment the other day that made me stop in my tracks.  The com-mentor said that they had no idea they needed Mary Poppins until they found she was returning.  

In this day and age, with all the stress and angst, perhaps it is the perfect time for the nanny to return to take care of the children by taking care of the adults.

(This will make a lot more sense to you if you’ve done your home work.)

In the meantime, I’m digging out my DVD version, looking for the soundtrack and contemplating parrot umbrellas and dancing penguins.

She’s on her way…

Categories: Disney Movies Music Musings

Holiday Goodies

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I’ve been contemplating some holiday goodies lately.  I don’t do a large scale bake-a-thon because I don’t need to be eating that much sugar. 

Yeah, I know, but it sounds good, right?  🙂

Midnight Bliss Cake

One item has been returning to my mind: the Midnight Bliss Cake that Kraft and Bakers One introduced us to years ago.

Check out the recipe here:  Bakers One Bowl Midnight Bliss Cake.  I like to play with flavors, so I’m contemplating replacing the chocolate bits with Andes Creme De Menthe Baking Chips.

This cake is an easy to prepare show stopper that can be baked in smaller bundt pans to be wrapped and gifted.  It is moist, however, so be thoughtful of the amount of time between creation and gifting.  Wouldn’t want the cake to be stale when first bite is taken.

Cocoa Cinnamon Pound Cake

The cocoa cinnamon pound cake is another easy to do showstopper recipe that I was first introduced to by Hershey.    It has a rich flavor with a touch of cinnamon that is different. 

Check out this recipe from Cooks.com:  Cocoa Cinnamon Pound Cake.  It is also one that can be made in smaller pans for gifting.

I hope you check out these two recipes and enjoy both.  They are great additions to a dessert table, pot luck, holiday fare or for gifting.

Categories: Cooking Food Gifting

Sherlock Holmes

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Like many people, I grew up with Sherlock Holmes.

Books, movies, television, radio, Holmes was everywhere.

I have owned the Complete Collection, watched the various Masterpiece series and the movies, listened to the Old Time Radio shows.  But recently I discovered a new way to enjoy the Master Detective.

Audio – or, more accurately, audiobooks.

Stephen Fry has narrated the Sherlock Holmes collection that can be found on Audible.com.  All 62 hours and 52 minutes.  Yep, 3 days plus of some amazing stories.  🙂

Granted you can get various versions of the entire collection;  Amazon has quite a variety of ebook and print versions.  I picked up the audible version on a whim, and it turned out to be a wonderful experience.

First, Mr. Fry does a wonderful job of introducing the listener not only to the series, but to the various works in the collection.  Second, his mastery of various voices used in the production is a joy – a good reader is a definite plus when listening to audio books.

The stories themselves are engrossing and entertaining.  I like to listen when I go to bed at the end of the day.  If I’m not careful, I can be up all night caught up in the story.  🙂

If you like a detective story that actually explains ‘who done it’, Sherlock Holmes is a great series to delve into.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did, actually, set the standard and the bar for what came next in the genre.

Whether you are new to Holmes or a long time fan, this version is well worth investigating.

Categories: Audiobooks Books

Holiday Programming

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When I was growing up, the holidays included lots of specials on TV that were not just cartoons for the kids, but musical and variety programs and special holiday episodes of series programs.

Over the years, this has fallen away until there is not much out there for folks to enjoy.

Before television, radio celebrated the holidays with all sorts of amazing and wonderful shows.  Musicals, variety shows, kids shows and more.

For the past few years I have enjoyed the special programming put on by one of the Old Time Radio stations I listen to. 

Radio Once More (radiooncemore.com) will begin its Christmas Classics lineup at midnight (eastern time) Thanksgiving night and continuing through December.  Check their website for listings and schedule and to find out how to listen online.

I listen to the station via TuneIn – a free app for my phone, computer or laptop not to mention Smart TV. 


What are you in store for?  How about the Jack Benny Show, Fibber McGee and Molly, Lux Radio Theater and more.  Listen to A Christmas Carol and Miracle on 34th Street.  Hundreds of shows that share the spirit of the holidays with a smile, a tear and warm thought.

I sincerely hope you take this opportunity to add a little something extra to your holidays this year – and if you like what you’ve heard, please drop Neal and the gang an email or a post on their Facebook page.  The information is on the site.

Categories: Musings Old Time Radio

November Not Quite Rush

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I had intended to write a piece about preparing the Thanksgiving meal, but life got in the way.

Anna Olson has some great recipes and ideas as does Entertaining With Beth and the Domestic Geek.  Check them out on YouTube and see what inspiration grabs you.  Don’t forget Sara’s Weeknight Meals – she has some great How To’s as well as guidance on avoiding mistakes.

Over on Magic Journeys, Mig Vee and Janell have been exploring new menu items and interesting holiday decor.  To be honest, I’m enjoying watching Disneyland’s Christmas decor appearing.  They always do the holidays right.

Miss Annie and I woke up to temps around 18 degrees today.  Winter seems to have arrived.

On the one hand we are enjoying being together and cuddling (sweet smelling kitty fur!) and on the other we are happy to not be out and about with the rampaging hoards of folks who are running about in a panic getting ready for The Holidays.

Did I mention I hate crowds?

I’m enjoying the few holiday catalogs I’ve received in the mail.  Contemplating what, if anything, I might send to those few folks I gift to.

During November and December, I find excuses not to get out and hit the mall or the big box stores and if I can pick up my groceries without going into the store, more the better.

The Holidays are what you make them.  Keep that in mind as you stress making your lists and setting up your calendar.

Here’s to a great cup of cocoa and a nice cookie or two.

Categories: Musings

Rethinking the Holidays

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In the last week or so I’ve had some interesting conversations with friends about the upcoming holidays.

Over all, most of us are pretty stressed, tired, budget crunched and not exactly looking forward to the potential mine field that often accompanies holiday gatherings.

What to do?

Many people approach the holidays with the mind set that they need to continue traditions that they either started “way back when” or grew up with.

This becomes more and more complicated when you blend families.

Some folks are not in a financial state to spend the money they used to – or simply do not want to – but don’t know quite what to do to make the holidays special.

Why not switch it up a bit?

Have you heard the story about the mother and daughter reminiscing about Grandma’s wonderful roast ham and how it was always made in that Special Pan?  They spent a lot of time discussing the preparation and the wonderful presentation but when it came to actually doing the recipe themselves, they felt it impossible.  Why?  Because they didn’t have the Special Pan.

When they explained this to Grandma (who was hoping to not have to make the wonderful roast ham that year), her reaction surprised and shocked them.

Turned out that the only reason the Special Pan was used was because it was the only one Grandma had Way Back When and she just continued to use it as the years rolled by.

Traditions are what happens when you continue to do something.  That doesn’t mean that the something needs to be repeated, it can be replaced.

Why not try a pot luck instead of making the entire dinner yourself?  Share the fun in the kitchen with others in the party who might actually want to participate.  Entertaining With Beth has a great Friendsgiving menu that is easy to put together and no one has to be a Chef to make one (or all) of the dishes.

Not really into a turkey or roast ham?  Why not change the menu to something that you would prefer?  I knew of a family who created an Italian feast for Christmas Eve. 

Why not really make it special and check out a local restaurant to see if they will be open for the holidays or if they will prepare a feast that you can take home?

When you compare the cost of cooking yourself to eating out, you might be surprised to find it isn’t what you expect.

Gift giving can also be an issue.  Lots and lots of stress surrounding budget and wish lists and crowds and traffic.

It may fly in the face of Tradition, but why not shop at home?  A good cup of coffee, slippers, some nice music in the background and a lot of online catalogs could provide you with what you are looking for without spending a lot.  (And if you use Ebates &/or Honey you could save even more!)

At the end of the day, how you celebrate the holidays is up to you.  There is nothing that says you can’t make them the kind of experience you want.  If you have family, bring them into the conversation and see what they would like to do.  You might be surprised to learn that maybe they want a break from the hustle and bustle too.

Food for thought.  🙂

Categories: Musings

Inspector Ian Rutledge Series

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I first learned about this series when book #20 was released this year.  I added that book to my Audible wishlist and picked up book number one to see if the sample I had listened to was worth diving into.  It was.

The series is written by a mother/son writing team that goes by the name of Charles Todd.

The series is set in the years after World War I.  Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge is a survivor (barely) with post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) which exhibit itself in the manifestation of the spirit of one of the men who served under him in France.

The setting is one that I do not normally tend toward.  When I first thought about this series, I reminded myself that I enjoyed Downton Abbey which covered pretty much the same period and area of England. 

That seemed to provide a frame of reference that allowed me to slide into what is a typical British character driven mystery.  Think Masterpiece Mystery and you get the idea.

The characters are well developed and interesting.  Rutledge himself is quite a complicated mess – and that is without the inclusion of his shadow.  I have to think it difficult to deal with the public opinion of PTSD (negative) along with the reality of living with it (complicated).

The stories themselves are very well written.  I would tend to align them with Agatha Christie.  There is a similar complicated simplicity to them.  The stories themselves are not simple, there are some very complicated themes with characters that have many shades of grey.

I admit I listened to the first three in the series, then jumped to number twenty – in part to move forward with the series and in part to get #20 off my wishlist.  🙂  Totally worth it!

I would definitely recommend starting with #1 because it provides the groundwork you will need to understand Rutledge’s journey.  After that…  I am contemplating catching up before the next new one comes out.

Categories: Audiobooks Books

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