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.

Tick Tock – Christmas is Coming!

Hey crafters! Have you finished making gifts for the coming Christmas season? No? But you’ve started them, right? Um – do you at least know what you’re going to make for the lucky people on your list? Oh dear – Christmas is just a little over three months away – you need to get busy! Here’s some great new crafting titles to help you out.

Embroidery Companion by Alicia Paulson –  Alicia’s new book is just as fun and charming as her popular blog Posy Gets Cozy. Clear instructions for a variety of lovely projects, with personal stories sprinkled throughout (including the adventures of Clover Meadow, Alicia’s corgi), you’ll be reaching for needle and thread in no time.

Martha Stewart’s Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts by Martha Stewart – Martha sets the standard – highest quality workmanship and precise directions covering a wide range of techniques and skills.

More Last Minute Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson – The first title (Last Minute Knitted Gifts) created a sensation in the knitting world with several of the patterns in it becoming iconic; you can expect the same from this one. The patterns are simple yet sophisticated and modern and cover a range of moods and wishes. One note of caution – your idea of “last minute” and Joelle’s idea might not be the same!

One Ball Knits: Gifts by Fatema Habibur-Rahman – Here’s a great way to use up some of that leftover yarn you might have hiding in a closet. A nice variety of fun and useful projects for everyone from babies to grandparents make this a go-to source. And who wouldn’t love to receive a warm pair of slippers this winter?

Simply Sublime Gifts by Jodi Kahn – Whimsical yet stylish, these crafts are fun, inexpensive and quick to make; many require no sewing. Ideas range from baby onsies to fabric notecards to the amazing Wonder Bread wrapper apron shown on the cover.

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey

christmasmiracleIn searching for something new to read in celebration of the season, I came across this beautiful picture book by Susan Wojciechowski.  The author had worked as a school librarian and admitted that “every December, I read the same two or three classic Christmas stories aloud to the students.  I wanted another special one to read aloud, so I tried to write my own.”  She has succeeded with The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey.

This is a lovely book, handsomely illustrated by P.J. Lynch, who actually traveled from his home in Ireland to do research at a Vermont museum to further authenticate his artwork.  He too, succeeded.

In a nutshell, Mr. Toomey is a gloomy woodcarver whose wife and baby died.  He is approached by the widow McDowell and her son who ask him to carve a nativity scene to replace one lost in a recent move.  During the time that it takes to carve the set, Mr. Toomey not only comes to terms with his grief, but he also begins to appreciate his life anew. A touching story and recommended for children and adults alike.

A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote


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.

I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas by Anna Getty

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!

The Best Christmas Special Ev…er

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….”

Favorite Christmas Movies

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.

A Little House Christmas

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.

Hello Bedford Falls!

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.

Behold a Star by the Nova Singers

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!