Non-Holiday Holiday Movies!

Are you getting a little tired of all the Christmas schmaltz? Fighting off that Bah Humbug feeling about now? When all the holiday madness starts to get to be too much, but you don’t quite want to give up on finding some Christmas spirit, try watching one of these movies. None of them are about Christmas (or New Years), but each has great holiday scenes – just enough glitter and holly to keep you in the mood!

Love, Actually – Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Alan Rickman, Kiera Knightly, many others

This one actually has a lot to do with Christmas, but it’s really about love in all it’s funny, touching, heartbreaking forms.

When Harry Met Sally – Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal

Not Christmas, but New Year’s Eve. Funny with several classic, iconic scenes. Don’t miss it.

Trading Places – Eddie Murphy, Dan Akroyd, Jamie Lee Curtis

Everything starts at one of those dreaded Christmas office parties…… A modern comedy classic.

Meet Me in St Louis – Judy Garland, Margaret O’Brien

One of the great American musicals, this movie introduced the heartbreaking song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”.

About a Boy – Hugh Grant

A trust fund slacker living off the profits of the Christmas song his father wrote years ago, gains a life – and a heart – with the help of a little boy. Sharp and funny.

While You Were Sleeping – Sandra Bullock, Bill Pullman

Through misunderstandings that never get cleared up, lonely Lucy gains a family and falls in love – with the wrong guy! Set during Christmas and New Years. Bullock is at her charming best.

Jolly Holidays in the Forties!

Lately, my mother and I have been on 1940’s holiday movie binge and they are all FANTASTIC! Of course we watch Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) every year, but here is a list of some of the  films that we have just discovered:

It Happened on 5th Avenue
(1947)
Starring: Don DeFore, Ann Harding and Charles Ruggles

A homeless man and ex-GI secretly move into a millionaire’s empty mansion during the holidays and are soon joined by a young woman after they catch her robbing the mansion of its fur coats. Unbeknownst to the gentlemen, the young woman is actually the millionaire’s runaway daughter and soon she invites her cranky father, the millionaire, to move in with her as an undercover vagrant.

Christmas in Connecticut
(1945)
Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan and Sydney Greenstreet

A Martha-Stewartish journalist becomes frantic when her publisher insists she treats an injured GI to a real family-oriented Christmas at her Connecticut home–what will happen when they find out she has no cooking skills, no husband, no baby, and no home in Connecticut?!

The Shop Around the Corner
(1940)
Starring: Margaret Sullavan, James Stewart and Frank Morgan

Two workers in a Budapest gift-shop absolutely loathe each other, but are unaware that they are each other’s beloved anonymous pen-pal. Who will be the first to discover the truth? This is the original movie that inspired You’ve Got Mail starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks!

Holiday Affair
(1949)
Starring: Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh and Wendell Corey

Classic romance where a single mother struggles to choose between a comfortable fiancé and an unexpected romantic stranger on Christmas.

The Secrets of People Who Never Get Sick by Gene Stone

It’s the cold and flu season again – what do you do to combat that “achy, sniffly” feeling? Do you get a flu shot? Swear by chicken soup? Stock up on vitamin C and zinc? Get more ideas in The Secrets of People Who Never Get Sick by Gene Stone which reveals the favorite tricks of people who stay healthy all winter long.

A lot of the “secrets” are pretty common sense – wash your hands, reduce stress, get enough sleep – and some are grounded in tradition – chicken soup, eating garlic, keeping a positive attitude. However, there are a few that are, shall we say, unusual – dunking your head in hydrogen peroxide every morning for instance, or eating dirt. No matter what the secret is, Stone takes a non-judgmental look at it, examining both the scientific and anecdotal evidence for each. And he tries each of these secrets on himself – some have become part of his daily life, some not so much. In the end, Stone asserts that you need to do what’s best for you – what works for one person may not work for another. Your key to success (and good health) lies with two important factors – belief that what you’re doing is working, and consistency. Armed with those facts and some new ideas, you can look forward to your healthiest winter yet!

The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell

As someone who is not a history buff at all, I was hesitant to pick up The Partly Cloudy Patriot.  But at the urges of my best friend, I gave it a shot, and I am so glad that I did.  Sarah Vowell makes her nerdiness wholly endearing in this series of humorous essays with topics ranging from the Salem Witch Trials to Buffy the Vampire Slayer to the 2000 election of George W. Bush.  Vowell fully embraces her nerdiness, especially when describing her “nerd voice” and her various vacations to (often depressing) historical landmarks.  Though I always found myself bored in history class, Vowell’s book taught me some things I didn’t know all while making me laugh.  She makes the information simultaneously humorous and personal; one of my favorite chapters was about Al Gore speaking to a group of high school students and having his remarks taken wildly out of context by the media, changing his message of hope into something egotistical.  Not all her stories are aimed at those interested in politics and history; she also has some gems about how to deal with her parents visiting  for the holidays and her fear of Tom Cruise.

Just for a taste of her dry wit, here’s one of my favorite passages:  “I was enjoying a chocolatey cafe mocha when it occurred to me that to drink a mocha is to gulp down the entire history of the New World. From the Spanish exportation of Aztec cacao, and the Dutch invention of the chemical process for making cocoa, on down to the capitalist empire of Hershey, PA, and the lifestyle marketing of Seattle’s Starbucks, the modern mocha is a bittersweet concoction of imperialism, genocide, invention, and consumerism served with whipped cream on top. No wonder it costs so much.”

25 days of Christmas

‘Tis the season for hooky, sentimental, wonderful Christmas movies on ABC Family Channel, Lifetime Channel and Hallmark Channel. Over the years these three channels have produced their own movies for the holiday season. If you are like me, you love watching these made for TV movie classics. If your holiday becomes too hectic or you have missed your favorite movie, check our catalog as we have quite a few of the made for TV Christmas Movies.

Christmas Blessing ( 2007) – Neil Patrick Harris, Rebecca Gayheart, Rob Lowe

When a medical resident loses a patient, he moves back home with his father to rethink his career. His world is turned upside down when the lives of the woman he loves and an innocent young boy are in crisis. Will a Christmas miracle save them all?

Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey – Tom Berenger, Joely Richardson

When a boy loses the wooden nativity set that links him to his deceased father, his mother persuades a reclusive woodcarver to make a replacement. As Christmas approaches and the boy demands more, will the gift be finished in time?

Santa Baby – Jenny McCarthy, George Wendt

When Santa Claus gets too sick to run the toy shop, his workaholic daughter Mary leaves behind her high-powered job in the city and heads north.

Christmas Story Lady – Jessica Tandy, Stephanie Zimbalist

An elderly lady has a gift for storytelling that brings a troubled family together and envelops them in a world of imagination.

Alias on DVD

I feel a little bit silly now realizing that Alias:  Season One began airing almost ten years ago, and yet I am only now getting into this awesome series.  It stars Jennifer Garner as Sidney Bristow, a grad student who is part of what she thinks is a covert branch of the CIA called SD-6.  After getting engaged, she decides she has to come clean to her fiance about being a spy.  Unfortunately, since her status has now been compromised, the head of SD-6 orders that Sidney’s fiance must be killed.  This is when Sidney learns the horrible truth about SD-6:  they’re not really part of the CIA.  Rather, they’re part of an organization that the real CIA has been fighting for years.  At the end of the pilot episode, Sidney goes to CIA headquarters and offers to be a double agent and help them bring down SD-6 once and for all.

So far I’ve only gotten through season one, but I’m definitely interested in seeing more (I just checked out Alias: Season Two and I’m dying to go home and watch it!).  It’s hard to not keep watching, especially since almost every episode ends with a cliffhanger!  One of the things I have found most interesting about the series is the relationship between Sidney and her father, Jack Bristow.  After finding out that her father has also been working for SD-6 for years, she is surprised once again to find out that he’s also a double agent for the CIA.  The two have never had a close relationship, so through their double agent work, they’re getting to know each other once again.  It’s a really interesting dynamic and I’m enjoying watching it develop.  The cast is great and gels together well, and the series is well-written and has a lot of exciting action sequences.  I highly recommend it, especially if you like other J.J. Abrams series such as Lost or other dramas where women kick butt, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

DVDs for December

December 4th

Twilight Saga – Eclipse – Robert Pattinson, Kristin Stewart, Taylor Lauber

It all begins with a choice. In the third chapter of Stephenie Meyer’s phenomenal Twilight series, Bella Swan is surrounded by danger as Seattle is hit by a string of murders and an evil vampire continues her quest for revenge. In the midst of it all, Bella is forced to choose between her love, Edward Cullen, and her friend, Jacob Black, knowing that her decision may ignite the ageless struggle between vampire and werewolf.

December 7th

Shrek Forever After – Mike Meyers, Cameron Diaz

Longing for the days when he was a ‘real ogre,’ Shrek signs a deal with Rumpelstiltskin to get his roar back, but turns his world upside down in the process. Donkey suddenly can’t remember his best friend, Fiona is now a tough warrior princess, and Puss in Boots is one fat cat! Together, they have just 24 hours to reverse the contract and restore happily forever after.

Inception – Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Leavitt

Dom Cobb is the best there is at extraction: stealing valuable secrets inside the subconscious during the mind’s vulnerable dream state. His skill has made him a coveted player in industrial espionage, but also has made him a fugitive and cost him dearly. Now he may get a second chance if he can do the impossible: inception, planting an idea rather than stealing one. If they succeed, Cobb and his team could pull off the perfect crime.

December 14th

The Other Guys – Mark Wahlberg, Will Ferrell

When two mismatched NYPD detectives stumble into a seemingly dull case that no other detective wants to bother with, it turns out to be New York City’s biggest crime. The two seize the opportunity to step up like the city’s top cops, whom they idolize. But do these two guys have the right stuff?

Despicable Me – Steve Carell, Jason Segel

Gru delights in all things wicked. Surrounded by an army of tireless, little yellow minions, and armed with his arsenal of shrink rays, freeze rays, and battle-ready vehicles for land and air, he vanquishes all who stand in his way. Until the day he encounters the immense will of three little orphaned girls who look at him and see something that no one else has ever seen: a potential dad.

December 17th

The Town – Ben Affleck, Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall

Doug MacRay is leader of a Boston bank robber gang but not cut from the same cloth as his fellow thieves. When Doug falls into a passionate romance with the bank manager briefly taken hostage in their last heist, he wants out of this life and out of the town. As the Feds close in and the crew questions his loyalty, he has one of two choices: betray his friends or lose the woman he loves.

December 21st

Salt – Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber

As a CIA officer, Evelyn Salt swore an oath to duty, honor, and country. Her loyalty will be tested when a defector accuses her of being a Russian spy. Salt goes on the run, using all her skills and years of experience as a covert operative to elude capture. Her efforts to prove her innocence only serve to cast doubt on her motives, as the hunt to uncover the truth behind her identity continues.

Food Week – Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco

Though there are several food-related adult mysteries to blog about (my favorite is  The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by C. Alan Bradley, which Ann blogged about earlier) I’m choosing instead to highlight a delightful childrens book with a food theme — Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco.

Polacco has written (and also beautifully illustrated) many fine stories for the younger set, and some of those, such as Pink and Say, have some pretty weighty underlying themes.  But Thunder Cake is just a fun, family story which not only “teaches” about rain and thunderstorms, but also about how to put a cake together.  By ignoring the thunder and keeping busy gathering ingredients, Grandma effectively dispels her granddaughter’s fear of thunderstorms.  At the end of the story, you’ll find the recipe, which includes a surprise ingredient — tomatoes!  I used this book back when I was a school library-media specialist and I’m looking forward to the time when I can use it again when my own granddaughter is old enough to want to make cakes herself.

Food Week – From the Archives of a Famous Chef

I thought I knew all about bacon but --, ca. 1930sIf you are a fan of cookbooks, or any type of book related to food, then take a quick trip to Iowa City to see the The Chef Louis Szathmáry II Collection of Culinary Arts housed in the University of Iowa Libraries’ Special Collection Department. This collection contains over 12,000 items relating to the art and science of cooking and eating, including cookbooks, fiction, pamphlets, artist books, manuscripts and much more. Louis Szathmary (1919–1996), was a Hungarian-born chef, restaurateur, food writer and owner of The Bakery restaurant in Chicago who built one of the largest culinary arts archives in the United States; in fact, the University of Iowa is housing only a fraction of his collection. In Books at Iowa 42 (April 1985), Szathmáry wrote: “To house this large and varied collection requires 31 rooms in the residential area above my restaurant (The Bakery) in Chicago.” That is a lot of tasty print!

However, don’t worry if you prefer to be an Armchair Cook– The UI Special Collections and Digital Libraries have digitized a huge selection of Szathmary’s Recipe pamphlets, such as “I thought I knew all about Bacon–“, that you can view online at http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/szathmary/!

Food Week – Southern Charm with Recipes

In my quest to find all fiction books set in Savannah, Georgia and low country South Carolina, I have found Mary Kay Andrews. She is a wonderful author and these three books about Savannah are the funniest I have read. The characters are Eloise “Weezie” Foley and BeBe Loudermilk, best friends to the end.

Savannah Blues

Landing a catch like Talmadge Evans III got Eloise “Weezie” Foley a jewel of a town house in Savannah’s historic district. Divorcing Tat got her exited to the backyard carriage house, where she has launched a spite-fest with Tal’s new fiancé, the elegant Caroline DeSantos. BeBe owns a restaurant in town, and Weezie makes pies for her. An antiques picker, Weezie combs Savannah’s steamy back alleys and garage sales for treasures when she’s not dealing with her loopy relatives or her hunky ex-boyfriend. But an unauthorized sneak preview at a sale lands Weezie smack in the middle of magnolia-scented murder, mayhem . . . and more. Dirty deals simmer all around her — just as her relationship with the hottest chef in town heats up and she finds out how delicious love can be the second time around. There are not recipes in this book, but it does introduce you to Weezie and BeBe.

Savannah Breeze

In this eagerly awaited sequel to Savannah Blues, Southern belle BeBe Loudermilk loses all her worldly possessions thanks to a brief but disastrous relationship with the gorgeous Reddy, an “investment counselor” who turns out to be a con man. All that’s left is a ramshackle 1950s motor court on Tybee Island-an eccentric beach town that calls itself a drinking village with a fishing problem. Breeze Inn is a place where the very classy BeBe wouldn’t normally be caught dead but, with no alternative, she moves into the manager’s unit, vowing to make magic out of mud. With the help of Harry and BeBe’s junking friend Weezie, she soon has the motel spiffed up and attracting paying guests.Then there’s a sighting of Reddy in Fort Lauderdale, and BeBe decides to go after him. She puts together a posse, and with the irrepressible Granddaddy Loudermilk snoring in the backseat of the Buick, heads south. The plan is to carry out a sting that may be just a little bit outside the law but that, with any luck at all, will retrieve BeBe’s fortune and put the dastardly Reddy in jail where he belongs. The recipes in this book are for Breeze Inn Crabcakes and Blue Breeze Cocktail… Yummy

Blue Christmas

It’s the week before Christmas, and antiques dealer Weezie Foley is in a frenzy to garnish her shop for the Savannah historical district decorating contest, which she intends to win. Weezie is ready to shoot herself with her glue gun by the time she’s done, but the results are stunning. She’s certainly one-upped the owners of the trendy shop around the corner, but suddenly things start to go missing from her display, and there seems to be a mysterious midnight visitor to her shop. Still, Weezie has high hopes for the holiday—maybe in the form of an engagement ring from her chef boyfriend. But Daniel, always moody at the holidays, seems more distant than usual. Throw in Weezie’s decidedly odd family, a 1950s Christmas-tree pin, and even a little help from the King himself (Elvis, that is), and maybe there will be a pocketful of miracles for Weezie this Christmas Eve. The recipes in this book are for Foley Family Irish Corned Beef Dip and Red Roosters, a Christmas-y cocktail.