Earth Wind and Fire Christmas?

earth-wind-and-fire-650-430Like a married couple (that we are not), Jeremy and I were having our age-old argument about music on the way to our annual tree decorating at the Kenney Krieger Festival of Trees.  It goes like this:

Me:  I don’t like when FILL IN THE BLANK ruins that Christmas music by making it all jazzy and weird.  Whey can’t FILL IN THE BLANK just do it right?

Jeremy:  What?  This is a classic!  It’s because you don’t understand music.

Me:  That’s what Roger [my husband] says.  You are both crazy.

Jeremy:  (Audible Sigh) You just don’t get it. . .

So now that you are familiar with my credentials as a music critic, I bring you Ken Tucker’s review of four new Christmas albums, including Christmas at Downton Abbey, Earth Wind and Fire’s Holiday, the soundtrack for A Merry Friggin’ Christmas, and Living Sisters’ Harmony is Real.

You think this post is going to be a gushing recommendation of the Downton Abbey album.  (The countdown to the next season’s first episode in America is just about as important to me as the Christmas Countdown itself–I keep threatening to move to England so I can get a jump on Season 5.)  On the Ken Tucker review, I heard a snippet of Elizabeth McGovern’s rendition of “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” and it was lovely.  I’ll have to do a bit more listening before I make a purchase, though.

What really caught my attention was Earth Wind and Fire’s “Joy to the World.”  Here is a clear improvisation, call and response version of a standard that you would expect would elicit my standard complaint–“Just sing it like normal.” Instead, I was boucing a little in the driver’s seat of my car, thinking, “I need to get this album.”

Later, I pulled up the iTunes preview, and overall, had a lukewarm response to the rest.  Part of me loves the sound because of my 70’s upbringing, but most of the standards are recorded just like that, standard–and there’s someone else out there that does it better . . .much better.  Two of the songs on the album are slight revisions of their greatest hits, “December” and “Happy Seasons.” Yuck.  Call me a traitor, but in this case, I don’t want to hear the “regular” version.

Still, as I change my radio station to “all Christmas” from tomorrow (Thanksgiving day) to December 25, I’m going to be listening for Earth Wind and Fire’s version of “Joy to the World.”  I hope it gets as least as much airtime as my least favorite, “The Christmas Shoes” by Alabama.  (I’m not hyperlinking that out of spite.)


Jacquie Lawson Edwardian Christmas Calendar

Edwardian houseOn December 1, we can begin marking the last days frenzied days to Christmas 2013.  Most of us have one (or more) Advent calendar, and we start opening doors, finding treats, hanging ornaments or whatever we do to mark each day.

At our house, we’re still using the same felt calendar that my friend Donna and I made when our boys were four or five.  I have a second, more elaborate, woodland house from my sister, Barbara.  In each door, tree or window, there is a small woodland creature.

Last night my friend Gini showed me the best computer Advent calendar, a Jacquie Lawson Edwardian Christmas calendar.  For a small fee (less than a standard Hallmark card), I purchased the animated calendar. Each day, I will watch the family in an English country house prepare for their Christmas.  The setting is very much like Downton Abbey, with both the upstairs and below-stairs members of the household.  On December 1, we were introduced to the family dogs and cat.  I looked around the house and found puzzles and games, other animated curiosities, and, in the library, numbered books that elaborated a little more on the customs of the early 1900’s.  I imagine that people of all ages can enjoy something in this animated wonderland.

I sent the calendar (for another small fee) to three of my friends, and I hope they enjoy it as much as I do.  I was a little worried about downloading the file, but that went smoothly.  One small drawback is that the calendar does not work on iPhones or iPads.

The snow globe icon is on my desktop, so I’m reminded of the joys of the season while I am working!

Lawson and her small team of employees work out of a village in England creating e-cards. There is a second Advent calendar, the Alpine Village, that is also available.

(If you are visiting our blog today, you can see that the snow is falling across the page!  I love that widget.)

Downton Abbey – A Christmas Treat

ScotlandAccording to the Style section of the Washington Post, the first episode of Season 3 of Downton Abbey drew 8 million viewers to PBS on Sunday night.  Roger and I were two of them for sure.  I can give you about a million reasons for my Downton Delirium, which, I think, must be as bad as a teenage girl’s Bieber Fever.

On the other side of the pond (and at the White House where Michelle Obama saw Season 3 this past fall–that’s one of the perks of being First Lady), they’ve already seen all of Season 3, culminating in a Christmas Day airing of Episode 7, where the Crawley’s go to Scotland. I am including this Telegraph Review, but don’t click the link if you don’t want your American viewing experience spoiled.

Meanwhile, we wait until February 17th for the final episode of Season 3, with five delicious Sundays in between.

Thinking about the Downton fans in your life?  Highclere Castle, where the series is filmed, boasts an online gift shop.  PBS has quite a few Downton gifts, too.

Want to try your hand at creating Downton Abbey at your house?  Check out this gingerbread video.  The windows are melted butterscotch candies–even if I won’t ever get to see the real Downton, I can try my own version in cookie form?