Thursday, December 22, 2005

Lots of activity in the neighborhood this a.m. You can tell it is the Holiday Season - kids outside playing and laughing. Jet skis zipping around the bay, sailboats with happy tourists laughing and singing as they go by. Oh how I love this time of year. My cousin Karen called last night and we talked about our Gramma and when we were kids. She mentioned our very Finnish Gramma's insistence on her lace doilies being just so on the arms of the chairs. Now I know why Steve has nicknamed me Nils (from the Fraizer TV show) - I am persnickety. I think I got it from Gramma!

I am listening to Reba McEntire's Christmas CD as I type. I have many of the country singers' Christmas CDs as they remind me of the Patsy Cline and Lynn Anderson albums my mom used to play when I was a kid. Reba may have written two autobiographical books, but she hasn't delved into the picture book and novel writing as some of the other country musicians have. Have always enjoyed Kenny Rogers' music so I thought his book can't be too bad as it is co- written with Donald Davenport, a screen and television writer. I was right - I really did enjoy Christmas in Canaan. Middle school age DJ needs an attitude adjustment when he can't handle Rodney, a very smart black kid, telling him the right answer on the Social Studies homework assignment he is trying to finish on the bus. They get into a fight at school and as punishment DJ's East Texas farmer Dad decides the two boys need to spend a couple of days in each other's homes. The 24 hour togetherness and DJ and Rodney nursing a shot puppy back to health seals the bonds of a lifelong friendship between the two boys, but that bond is severed for a time when Rodney's mother appears and takes him with her to California where he becomes a writer. He writes and produces plays about his and DJ's life in Canaan, Texas. Having spent time in East Texas I loved this book. For the kids who enjoyed Armstrong's Sounder, or any other boy and his dog books, offer them Christmas in Canaan.

Yesterday I wrote about a book in which the cat had become a guardian angel. Today I am sharing an old favorite from the 1970s, The Christmas Cat by Elfer Tudor Holmes, illustrated by her mother, Tasha Tudor. An abandoned cat is found by the woodsman who feeds the animals on Christmas Eve. He delivers the cat to the farm of young Nate and Jason, who are delighted to wake up and find their new Christmas pet curled up sleeping in a chair by the fireplace. Included is the Gingerbread Animal Cookie recipe for the cookies Jake and Nate had been decorating in the story.

A fun Christmas gift would be both The Christmas Cat and The Tasha Tudor Cookbook: Recipes and Reminiscences from Corgi Cottage for the mom who loves to cook and bake with her kids. I can close my eyes and see my kids with red and green stained fingers and mouths from "helping" me color the frosting for the sugar cookies. One year Mary was on a blue kick and we had more blue Christmas trees and reindeer than we did green or brown ones. :-) They tasted great anyway - the love is the needed ingredient in all Christmas cookies. And, for the rum ball - only Captain Morgan's spiced rum. :-)