Monthly Archives: December 2013

Holiday Entertaining – Tea at the Drake

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The Drake Hotel in warmer weather

There was much Chicago over the weekend for this humble suburbanite. I wish I were better about experiencing all the wonder of living near a good-sized city. I got a ten-ride pass on Metra over a month ago so that I’d get downtown more often. I have yet to use it. Maybe that’s one of my New Year’s resolutions, or would be if I made them: use the Metra pass.

However, when you have out-of-town guests, you need to entertain them. One way we entertained ours was by taking them to tea at the Palm Court of the Drake Hotel. It was quite a crush, *she said, fanning herself.*

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The Palm Court – decidedly civilized

Well, of course it wasn’t a crush. You can’t have tea, and have a crush at the same time, it just wouldn’t be civilized. There were more people there than I’d seen before, but I understand that’s usual during the holidays. It was lovely. There was a harpist. There were probably over twenty different choices of tea, although I didn’t count them; you could also get hot cocoa, which may come in handy if you’re bringing any young princesses or princes with you. For the reprobate in the family, mimosas, bellinis, and tea cocktails were on offer, though we didn’t try those. There were finger sandwiches and cranberry orange scones with Devonshire cream, strawberry jam, and lemon curd. There were ginger madeleines, pumpkin cream puffs baked in the shapes of swans, assorted macarons, and opera cake. In all, there was a grand excess.

A charming young woman with an enormous camera went around to all the tables to take the patrons’ pictures. I don’t usually buy that sort of picture afterwards. Someone is usually blinking or slouching or otherwise embarrassed by their appearance. However, no one in our party had any objections, so I went ahead and bought our picture. Here it is:

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Standing, L to R: Kat, Liz & Lori. Seated: me, Danny

Don’t we clean up nicely? The whole experience was surprisingly low-stress. Here’s a tip from me to you: if you drive, go ahead and opt for valet parking. With validation, three hours (or less) was only fourteen dollars (not including tip), which seemed good for Chicago parking. The nicest part was not worrying about finding a nearby space on a cold day.

Actually, no. The nicest part was being together for a lovely tea.

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What I won from Medusa’s Library

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No such thing as too many books

I took a wonderful writing workshop online from Mary Robinette Kowal a while back. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I haven’t said much about my fellow workshoppers. One of them publishes a blog I really enjoy, called Medusa’s Library. I’ve learned a lot about many books I’d like to read, including the ones about Phryne Fisher. I read this post and went, “How have I never heard of these books? Library trip!”

I’ve also been reminded about authors I’ve enjoyed in the past, like Naomi Novik. I only read the first few books in her Temeraire series, so I have the opportunity to catch up by reading Tongues of Serpents and Crucible of Gold.

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The first Temeraire novel

Anyway, on the sixth day of (retail) Christmas (not to be confused with the religious 12 days of Christmas), I won a book! It’s by the fabulous writer, Seanan McGuire.

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The book I won

I think there are a few giveaways still going on, so check out Medusa’s Library and see if you can get lucky, *she said, bossily*. Even if you don’t, or you read this after the giveaways are finished, the blog itself is an treasure trove of book-related knowledge.

Christmas Joy, courtesy of Mariah Carey

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What a wonderful child!

It’s kind of silly to talk about a favorite movie, book, song, or whatever, for me, anyway. They’re subject to revision. That said, one particular Christmas song is really speaking to me this year. You can dance to it. And you should. I recommend standing as you listen, so that when the spirit moves you, you can dance along. Sing, too, if you’re so inclined.

Here it is: Jesus Oh What a Wonderful Child

O Holy Night

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DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church Candlelight Service

One musical highlight is shockingly (!) missing from my previous holiday music posts.

Allow me to explain. Every year for I don’t know how many years, DUUC looks forward to hearing Curt Johnson play O Holy Night. Usually he plays during the special holiday music service which is always the second Sunday in December, but this year, Curt thought he would be out of town. There was disbelief and mourning.

Then the glad tidings came.

Curt is playing for the Candlelight Service on Christmas Eve. I haven’t gone to that service in several years, preferring to attend a vigil mass closer to home. But this year, you’d better believe I’ll be there. Here’s a video of Curt playing last year, in the old sanctuary.

Merry almost Christmas. Tomorrow I share my (current) favorite Christmas music. Hint: dust off your dancing shoes.

Worldbuilders

We interrupt the holiday hit parade for a different seasonal topic.

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Patrick Rothfuss, best-selling author of The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, is working via Worldbuilders this year – as he does every year – to raise funds for Heifer International. There are any number of rewarding ways to help out, and I encourage checking them out.

Personally, my plan is to order a 2014 calendar when I get a spare moment, but you also have the opportunity to snag some Rothfuss fanfic/erotica, authored and read by award-winning author and professional audiobook reader Mary Robinette Kowal. Fun for the whole family! Sorry, I meant to say, fun for any members of the family who are above the age of consent.

Merry almost Christmas. Tomorrow I share my (current) favorite Christmas music. Hint: dust off your dancing shoes.

Holiday Feast

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Borrowing a page from Mary Robinette Kowal’s book – I mean, blog. She posted an absolutely gorgeous holiday menu a couple of weeks ago. Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, I’m posting our Christmas dinner menu. These are  mostly dishes we’ve enjoyed for many years. This has been a busy few months, so I’m sticking with the tried-and-true.

This menu might seem unusual. See if you can spot what I mean.

Appetizers
Vegetable Birds Nests with Dipping Sauce
Assorted Cheeses and Crackers
Veggies and Dip

Dinner
Spinach Soufflé Crepes
Orange Scented Beets
Mashed Golden Potatoes
Green Beans
Applesauce
Olives
Croissants

Dessert
Christmas Cookies
Peppermint or Vanilla Ice Cream

Did you figure out how this menu differs from much traditional Christmas fare? Leave your answers in the comments section below. Christmas cookies will be awarded to the first five who answer, if you’re willing to provide an address.

Ding Dong Merrily on High

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Bells

One of my favorite Christmas songs is “Ding Dong Merrily On High”, because you gotta  love a song with all those glorias. This one even beats out “Angels We Have Heard On High”, if you ask me. I especially like this version by Kings Choir.

However, if you want to get a sense of what it takes to sing all those glorias in one breath, you should check out this version: Julie Andrews from Christmas in Washington, 1992