If you’re like me and associate Truman Capote primarily with In Cold Blood, you might be pleasantly surprised to find something totally different in his “tiny gem of a short story,” A Christmas Memory.  It fits the bill if you are looking for something meaningful yet humorous, and something nostalgic but not excessively sentimental.

The story is largely autobiographical, a classic memoir of Capote’s childhood in rural Alabama in the early 1930’s.  Until he was ten, Capote lived with distant relatives and this is his recollection (written in the present tense) of the time spent with a favorite cousin, Miss Sook Faulk, when he was about seven.  Sook is a simple, older woman (perhaps mid-sixties) and is herself much like a child.  Together they make fruitcakes — some for friends and neighbors,  some to be shipped away.  They count the money they have saved over the year (somewhere between $12.73 and $13.00) and decide they have enough to purchase all the ingredients, including a quart of “sinful” whiskey.  Afterwards, they get a little tipsy on the leftover moonshine.  They also chop down their own Christmas tree and end up making kites for each other as presents.  The kleenex part comes at the end when Buddy is sent away to military school, never to see Sook again.

The Davenport Library also has a DVD version of this story, starring Patty Duke as Sook.  Unchararcteristically, the movie actually has more character development than what is actually revealed in the sparse print version.  However, the same message still comes through in both — that friendship and caring for each other, no matter the gap in years — never goes out of style.

greenchristmasYou can enjoy a colorful, festive holiday and still be eco-friendly. Check out I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas by Anna Getty for lots of simple and creative ideas.

Getty touches on nearly every aspect of Christmas preparations – recipes, decorations, gifts – and also includes lots of general tips. There are the usual “green” recommendations with a focus on Christmas. For instance, buy local (purchase your tree from a local tree farm, and food and decorating materials from the Farmer’s Market), use what you have (create decorations from natural materials in your yard or common objects in your house) and recycle (make pillows out of worn out sweaters or ornaments out of tea bags) A lot of the suggestions have an old-fashioned charm – stringing popcorn for tree garlands, making wrapping paper out of newspaper – that have the added bonus of fun projects to share with children. Scattered throughout the book are lots of eco-tips which are useful at any time of the year. For instance, Getty has several recommendations for “green” shipping, claiming that UPS has the most environmentally friendly shipping policies and the largest alternative-fuel vehicle fleet.

Enjoy a greener and healthier holiday!

Lynn wraps up our week of holiday recommendations with a favorite for kids ages 2-92.

Heat MiserDuring the Christmas season, appointment tv for me is The Year Without a  Santa Claus (the original 1974 Shirley Booth version).

Kids can really relate to the story, which is based on the Phyllis McGinley book. Among other things, it features sibling rivalry in the form of brothers, Heat and Snow Miser, fighting over the earth’s climate. Their mother, (Mother Nature) is constantly mediating their feuds. Also cool, the brothers each have super powers (melting and freezing objects).

But, really, it’s the catchy tunes and the chorus lines of miser dancing that I  love. Just try to get his out of your head now:

“He’s Mr. White Christmas, he’s Mr. Snow. He’s Mr. Icicle, He’s Mr. 10 below.” and “He’s Mr. Green Christmas. He’s Mr. Sun. He’s Mr. HeatBlister. He’s Mr. Hundred-and-One….”

Rita’s choices for Christmas viewing are all about 1940s and 50s nostalgia. Take a step back to a simpler time before the words “video game” and “internet” were invented.

white christmasWhite ChristmasBing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen.

After leaving the Army after W.W.II, Bob Wallace and Phil Davis team up to become a top song-and-dance act. Davis plays matchmaker and introduces Wallace to a pair of beautiful sisters (Betty and Judy) who also have a song-and-dance act. When Betty and Judy travel to a Vermont lodge to perform a Christmas show, Wallace and Davis follow, only to find their former commander, General Waverly, is the lodge owner. A series of romantic mix-ups ensue as the performers try to help the General. I love the singing and dancing and the romantic mixups of the 1954 movie.

ralphieChristmas Story Peter Billingsley, Darren McGavin, Melinda Dillon

This vignette-laden, nostalgic view of Christmastime in 1940s Indiana follows nine-year-old Ralphie, who desperately wants a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas–and is waging an all-out campaign to… This vignette-laden, nostalgic view of Christmastime in 1940s Indiana follows nine-year-old Ralphie, who desperately wants a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas–and is waging an all-out campaign to convince his reluctant parents that the toy will be safe in his hands. By turns warped and winsome, the comedy follows Ralphie as he prepares for the big day with his rather idiosyncratic family. Based on the novel by humorist Jean Shepherd (who also narrates the film), A Christmas Story gained popularity long after its theatrical run, through frequent holiday broadcasts that turned its schoolyard “triple-dog” dares, family neuroses, and childhood indignities into a Yuletide tradition. I love this movie as it reminds me of my early life in Davenport. In the 1960’s we were still double dog daring, going to see Santa Claus at Petersen Harned Von Maur and wishing for the perfect Christmas gift. Mine was a Tiny Tears Doll.

My new Christmas tradition is to watch all the Christmas movies broadcast on ABC Family Channel’s “25 days of Christmas” Some of these are the hokest Christmas movies ever, but it does get you in the mood.

Amber’s recommendation for holiday cheer celebrates our unique American history and appeals to our can-do spirit against all odds, just like the pioneers.
littlehouseI love everything about the Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books, but I especially love holidays in the Ingall’s household. These collections of Christmas stories, A Little House Christmas and A Little House Christmas Vol. 2, bring together all my favorite Little House moments: Maple Syrup candy hardening in the snow, Laura and Mary secretly making a button string for Carrie, the beautiful fur cape and muff from the present tree that Laura wished so hard for, and many others. This is Christmas at its purest and best.

Bill’s choice for favorite holiday escape is a beloved classic. Since it is largely set during the austerity of the Great Depression and World War II, it reflects many of the same economic hardships we’re experiencing now – and shows that there’s always something to be grateful for.

The 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life frequently appears on lists of the top 100 movies of all time (sometimes it ranks in the top 10) for a reason…it’s good.  It’s a feelgood story from an innocent American age, when all that was needed was black and white celluloid and a good script.  I suppose it doesn’t hurt to have the Tom Hanks of the World War II era on your payroll either.

We can relate to George Bailey’s existential questioning.  It has a happy ending for the holidays.  Finally, its over-the-air broadcast is a free local television tradition that serves as a much-needed respite from the brutal Iowa winter, people jockeying for your last cent, and familial stresses.

And in case you were wondering, young Zuzu is no longer six years old.  She will be 70 next year.

The Christmas/End-of-Winter holiday season is a wonderful time of year but sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the chaos and endless to-do lists.  The librarians here at the Davenport Library Info Cafe blog offer some reasons for making time to stop and make the season “merry and bright” with their favorite holiday movies and books.

beholdastarI’ll get things started with my favorite Christmas music. Firmly rooted in tradition (there’s no “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” here!) but with a fresh and modern approach, the Quad City-area-based Nova Singers offer some of the most beautiful music of the season.

The Nova Singers is a 20-voice ensemble with a nationwide reputation and are known for their creative song choices and virtuoso performances. They’ve produced six recordings, three of which are made up of Christmas music. All of them are beautiful but Behold a Star is my favorite partly for the Nova Singer’s version of  “The 12 Days of Christmas” (you can tell they’re having a lot of fun with this) and partly because of the inclusion of “A Shoot Shall Come Forth” a gorgeous and unusual carol that speaks of renewal and peace and promise, exactly what the Christmas season is about.

The best part is that you can see the Nova Singers perform right here – they put on 8 concerts a year, divided between Galesburg and the Quad Cities. Their Christmas concerts this year will be held December 18 and 19. Be sure to check their website for times and locations. Then treat yourself and go – you’ll be glad you did!

No, we’re not trying to push the start of the Christmas season even earlier than it already is (Halloween is plenty early) We’re just reminding all crafters out there that if you’re going to make any presents this year, the best time to start making them is now. Handmade gifts are probably the nicest, most thoughtful gifts you can give, but they take time. Here are some great resources for ideas and inspiration.

Closely knitHandmade home

Closely Knit: Handmade Gifts for the Ones You Love by Hannah Fettig

Handmade Home: Simple Ways to Repurpose Old Materials into New Family Treasures by Amanda Soule

Crafty chicaMartha Stewart craftsCrafty Chica’s Guide to Artful Sewing by Kathy Cano-Murillo

Martha Stewart’s Encyclopedia of Crafts by Martha Stewart

pillowcasebag bazaar

Bag Bazaar: 25 Stylish Bags to Make in an Afternoon by Megan Avery

Craft Challenge: Dozens of Ways to Repurpose a Pillowcase by Suzanne Tourtillot

Love Christmas movies but can’t seem to find the right ones on television? Try one of these classic titles, old and new, from the library. Fix a cup of hot chocolate, sit back and relax.

Christmas Carolvarious versions

Classic Dickens story about a bitter old man who’s given a chance for redemption when three ghosts come to visit him on Christmas Eve.

A Christmas StoryPeter Billingsley, Darren McGavin

Ralphie Parker, a 1940s nine-year-old, pulls out all the stops to obtain the ultimate Christmas present- a Red Rider BB gun- in this delightfully funny holiday movie.

Elf Will Farrell, Bob Newhart

A young orphan child mistakenly crawls into Santa’s bag and is transported back to the North Pole to be raised as an elf. Years later, Buddy learns he is not really an elf and goes on a journey to New York to find his true identity.

Fred ClausVince Vaughn, Elizabeth Banks

Fred Claus has lived in his little brother’s shadow for most of his life. Fred is in jail and Nicholas has to bail him out on the condition he come to the North Pole and repay his debt.

Miracle on 34th StreetNatalie Wood, Maureen O’Hara

The real Santa is hired by Macy’s to play Santa in the Thanksgiving Day parade, but he has to prove in court that he is who he says he is.

Holiday InnFred Astaire, Bing Crosby

Two song and dance men join together and start a hotel that’s open only on holidays.

It’s a Wonderful LifeJimmy Stewart, Donna Reed

George is saved from a suicide attempt by an angel and is then shown how important he is to the people who love him. A Christmas classic.

White ChristmasBing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney

The classic musical about two guys that become a popular song-and-dance team and play at a resort for charity.

Just paging through Merry and Bright will put you in the holiday spirit. Full of ideas on how to brighten your holiday, there’s something for everyone from crafts to recipes to decking the halls.

As you would expect from Country Living, the emphasis here is on the simple and homey. Most of the projects can be accomplished with things you have on hand already – buttons, ribbons, paper – and encourages you to dip into your collection of ornaments and holiday decorations and use them in new ways.

Beautifully photographed, most of the ideas are quick to finish and yield big results. Antiques, collectibles, nature and tradition mix with the new ideas for an old-fashioned Christmas with a fresh, bright look.