Sunday, November 30, 2008

Cooking With Kitten: Gateau de Minuit

As promised, here is the recipe for the cake I baked for brunch yesterday.

The real title of this recipe is "Brown Sugar Pound Cake." However, it got its new name since I baked it at midnight two nights ago. It sounds much more interesting than its original name.

This recipe originally came from the cookbook Moosewood Celebrates, one of the latest volumes from the Moosewood Collective (and you know how much I lurve them). It's a neat little cookbook filled with menus and recipe ideas for holidays all throughout the year.

Pound cakes got their name because, traditionally, they required a pound of each ingredient: a pound of butter, a pound of sugar, a pound of flour, etc. While this particular recipe doesn't require a pound of each ingredient, it does use higher amounts than what you may be used to for a modern pound cake.

So here's the recipe (taken from pages 374-375 of Moosewood Celebrates):

  • 2 cups butter, at room temperature (that's 4 sticks)
  • 3 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 cups unbleached white pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup milk or heavy cream


  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk or water


  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-inch bundt pan and dust it with flour.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar until light. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until fluffy. In a separate bowl, stir together the baking powder and flour. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the milk. Beat until well blended, another minute or two.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 75 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. The cake should be golden brown, firm, and pulling slightly away from the pan.

While the cake bakes, prepare the glaze and topping. In a small bowl, mix all of the glaze ingredients together until smooth. In a cup, stir together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg for the topping and set aside.

When the cake is done, cool upright on a rack for 10 minutes and then invert onto a serving plate, leaving the baking pan in place for another 10 minutes before removing it. Then apply the glaze and topping while the cake is still warm. Using a pastry brush, quickly coat the surface of the cake with the glaze and immediately sprinkle the topping on the moist glaze. Carefully tip the cake a bit while sprinkling, so that sugar will adhere to the sides as well as the top.

It's very, very delicious!

Can't I Wait Till December For It To Start Sleeting?

It's sleeting/freezing rain here in Connecticut right now.

I woke up VERY late (about 15 minutes before church services started), went downstairs, looked out the window, and there was a thin layer of white stuff on my car. I thought it was snow at first, then I got a closer look at the roof.

There were little, icy pellet layered atop the shingles.


There wasn't enough to impede traffic, though, as the cars are still going at full speed past my condo complex. Still, I have absolutely no plans to go out today. As my mother told me on the phone earlier, "Today's a good day to stay in and clean."

Or, it's a good day to procrastinate and blog.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Un Petit Dejeuner Francais

I'm glad I've been able to stretch my Thanksgiving break out for a few days, not only because it's my favorite holiday, but because I've had such a blast this year with everything I've done.

Thanksgiving Eve, I spent a wonderful night with my French Meetup group, and today, spent brunch with them. It was a very nice late morning/early afternoon of conversation, food, and petanque. What is petanque, you ask? It's the French version of bocce. I ended up playing on a team for several rounds. I'm pretty good at it, but if I get too cocky, then I start having problems.

I made a brown sugar pound cake to bring to the brunch. Only two slices went. I really wasn't surprised; we all ate lightly, given that it was right after Thanksgiving and we're still burning off turkey calories. I started mixing around 11:15 last night, and finally put it in the oven around midnight. My friend called it the "gateau de minuit." I think that's what I'll call this cake from now on. I'll post the recipe tomorrow, if I get the chance.

Meanwhile, I need to finish cleaning the condo. I'm putting the Christmas tree up tomorrow, and I need to be organized!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Dinner Reprise

Every year, we stretch Thanksgiving out to two full days. In addition to the Thursday turkey fest, we all have another fancy dinner together the following night. In years past, my mother made her world-famous, prize-winning lasagna, served Italian bread, and offered us the remains of the pumpkin and apple pies from the night before.

Last year, however, my godsister and her husband started a new tradition: post-Thanksgiving feast at their house. My godsister's husband cooks, along with my other godsister, and the rest of us clean up.

It's a pretty fair arrangement, considering the yumminess that we get.

Here's this year's menu:
  • filet mignon, cooked to absolute tender perfection: nice and pink, and we didn't have to use steak knives (talk about slicing like butter!)
  • shrimp scampi, broiled with a mixture of butter, garlic, vermouth, and other yummy goodness
  • red roasted potatoes, roasted with rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper, and olive oil
  • cauliflower roasted with salt, pepper, and olive oil
  • rice pilaf with carrots, pecans, and craisins
  • asparagus roasted with salt, pepper, and olive oil, with a shallot dressing poured on top of it
  • bittersweet flourless chocolate cake
  • vanilla panna cotta
  • cannoli, which Papa Cat picked up from the South End of Hartford
  • coffee
  • and lots and lots of wine

The food was delicious, but the company was better! After we had sufficient time to digest, we all played Rockband for an hour. Even our parents. It was truly a site to see.

I got home an hour ago, and am baking a brown sugar pound cake for a brunch I'm going to tomorrow. I just checked it, and it looks as if it's about to flow over the pan. This could be a potential cooking disaster. Keep your fingers crossed!

Wow...three days of food over this Thanksgiving! Yikes! I'm doubling my workouts!

Barack Roll

And now...the Barack Roll.

Seriously, though, someone's gonna have to help the President-Elect with his dancing skills before the Inaugural Balls.

Rick Roll at the Macy's Parade

They're going to be talking about this for years to come.

I'm just happy that Rick Astley can laugh at himself for this.

P.S. I was unaware of the term "Rick Roll" until I found this link. For more info on Rickrolling, consult that bastion of journalistic integrity, Wikipedia.

Another Meme from FranIAm

I've highlighted the things that I've done in BRIGHT PINK LETTERS.

1. Started my own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sung a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched lightening at sea
14. Taught myself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown my own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught myself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had my portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Ridden an elephant

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

Twas a good celebration chez mes parents. There were many traditions that we kept: the wine, the bloody Marys, the abundance of food, the fire pit, and football. However, there was one new tradition: the 30-somethings were falling asleep.

I include myself in that tally. Between my mother's appetizers and the two glasses of wine I consumed, I grabbed my mother's afghan, put up the recliner, and took a long nap. I don't know how long I slept, but I woke up around 4, right when the turkey came out of the oven.

We 30-somethings all went home around 9:15. Two of us have to work tomorrow. Fortunately, I don't! Yay!

Tomorrow, once I get my camera out of my purse, I'll write a post about another one of our family tradition's: my godmother's very scary cranberry mold. I tried some this year, for the very first time, and it wasn't too bad.

More about that tomorrow, though...I'm falling back into food coma!

I Love a Parade

Every year, for as long as I can remember, the annual telecast of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade has been one of those non-negotiable, must stick with traditions for me. I always got up extra early on Thanksgiving day so I could park myself in front of the TV and stay frozen for the next three hours. I loved everything about it--the floats, the balloons, the Rockettes, even the commercials.

I still watch the parade every year, but now that I am an adult, I can no longer park myself in front of the TV for a three-hour period of time. This morning I had the parade on in the background as I got ready to go to my parents' house. I slept until 8:30, but didn't get up or bother to turn on the TV until 9:15, so I missed the ribbon cutting and the president of Macy's exclaiming, "Let's have a parade!" I also missed the moment when the Rockettes form a kickline in front of New York's finest, then part in the middle to reveal the parade's arrival at Herald Square.

I did, however, see a couple of things that made me realize that yes, I am a jaded adult in a lot of respects. Al Roker, during the 9:00 hour, interviewed a handful of stars of NBC shows, asking them, "So what are you doing this Thanksgiving?"

No, he wasn't getting personable; he was helping them plug their shows! I hate that kind of publicity! But hey, the parade is on NBC...

I've also noticed a lot of commercialism over the past few years, or maybe I didn't notice it as a kid. It seemed as if a lot of businesses were pushing their products, like the Harajuku Girls float, sponsored by Coty. (Man, I wish Gwen Stefani was there!)

I was very happy to see that Sesame Street still had a float, and was amazed to see that many of the same actors who were on the show during my childhood are still on the show, mainly, Bob, Gordon, Susan, Luis, and Maria. How old could they possibly be now? (I must say that I am rather disappointed that the show has shifted more towards its Muppets to get the storyline across and has relied less and less on its humans. Le sigh).

There was one float, however, that really bothered me. I looked up at the TV screen and saw this pink castle coming down 34th street. At first, I thought it was another Barbie princess float, but no! It was a princess float, but not just any princess float! It was a float from the good people at "My Princess Academy." Here's a description of My Princess Academy, courtesy of Wikipedia:

"My Princess Academy is based around a virtual princess world that empowers girls to be a “new kind of Princess” by teaching the “4 Pillars” of being a real princess -- generosity, intelligence, beauty and confidence. Created for girls ages three to seven, My Princess Academy lets girls create their own princess avatar, princess room, and play games and activities. The brand also teaches girls how to become their own kind of princesses - their best selves, defined not only by physical beauty but by inner beauty."

Dear God. Who is responsible for creating a minature Second Life for three-year-old girls? I am embarrassed by this! Yes, it is good that it aims to teach girls about their inner beauty and self-confidence, but we don't need a web site to teach this! Aaaaaannnddd...we're encouraging these little girls to use the Internet at too early of an age!

But I digress. The float was embarrassing. And I won't even get into the new teenybopper group that appeared on the float, The Clique's the link from Wikipedia to find out more, if you're so inclined.'s what I feel was the most interesting, bizarre moment of the parade. I was up in the loft when I heard the strains of "Never Gonna Give You Up," Rick Astley's biggest hit. You remember Rick Astley, don't you, Kittens? The man who was just proclaimed the Best Act Ever at the MTV Europe Awards? I thought, "Why is this song on right now?"

I looked down from the loft at my TV screen.

And there was Rick Astley himself, all bundled up, lip-synching to his first hit.

Why was he there?

I still can't believe that he was there.

I had to leave for my parents' house after that. I missed the rest of the parade. In spite of its shortcomings, however, I still enjoy watching it. It's a nice tradition to have.

Up next: the Tournament of Roses Parade, January 1st!

Happy Thanksgiving

I couldn't decide whether to write a sentimental, serious post, or a slightly humorous post for Thanksgiving.

When I saw this image on a card at Whole Foods, however, I knew I had made my decision:

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, from your friends at the Bookkitten.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Unicyclists in the Parking Lot

It was a very good day indeed, a day filled with simple pleasures.

First, I only worked half a day. I left school shortly after 1:00. I got home shortly after 1:30. Bliss.

I got home, blogged a bit, spent some time on the computer, had lunch, had dinner, then went to the Y.

From the Y I went straight to my French Meetup group. Tonight it was at Whole Foods, instead of our usual location, so I got to take advantage of some yummy foods that I knew were good for me (in the sense that they didn't have additives). It was sooooooo good to speak French with some friends!

When we all left, around 9:30, two members of our group took their unicycles out of their cars and started to ride them around the parking lot.

Unicyclists in the Whole Foods parking lot.

A sweet way to end a sweet day.

The Name Game

Shout out to FranIAm for this one. I didn't do the ones involving first or last names, since I blog under a pseudonym and I want to protect my privacy.

WITNESS PROTECTION NAME: (mother’s & father’s middle names): Ann Joseph

NASCAR NAME: (first name of your mother’s dad, father’s dad): Philip Leonard (ahh!)

STAR WARS NAME: (the first 2 letters of your last name, first 4 letters of your first name): N/A

DETECTIVE NAME: (favorite color, favorite animal): Purple Cat

SOAP OPERA NAME: (middle name, city where you live): Ann Middletown

SUPERHERO NAME: (2nd favorite color, favorite alcoholic drink, optionally add “THE” to the beginning): Green Mudslide

FLY NAME: (first 2 letters of 1st name, last 2 letters of your last name): N/A

GANGSTA NAME: (favorite ice cream flavor, favorite cookie): Cookie Dough Chocolate Chip (yikes!)

ROCK STAR NAME: (current pet’s name, current street name): Maggie Washington (I kinda like this one)

PORN NAME: (1st pet, street you grew up on): Clyde Truesdale (now THAT's a porn name!)

Two Things I'm Thankful For

1. Sunlight. Why? Well, there are two reasons. First of all, I have a vitamin D deficiency, and vitamin D, as we know, is "the sunshine vitamin." Our bodies produce vitamin D whenever we're out in the sun. I do take vitamin D supplements, per doctor's orders, but I'm always grateful when the sun shines. I try to take in as much as I can. It's good for my body, and my mood.

2. Lower gas prices. Today, the idiot light went on two exits before the one I get off of. Not wanting to be stranded in the afternoon on Route 9, I pulled off the exit and went to the closest Mobil station. I didn't want to use my debit card to pay an extra five cents per gallon, so I took out a five and paid with that. Today, my five dollar bill got me almost three gallons of gas! Woohoo!

Of course, I have to fill up the tank later today for the drive up to the family homestead tomorrow. I know the gas stations will be open tomorrow, but I'm going out tonight, so I may as well get some gas while I'm out.

There are other things for which I am thankful...but these two are the ones I'm most grateful for right now.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Curse You, Time Warner!

Yeah, I know it's only Tuesday, and I don't subscribe to TV Guide, or look at the TV listings beyond the current night. But is it me, or is there a total lack of animated Thanksgiving specials now? Or rather, a total lack of Thanksgiving specials, period?

When I was a kid, the airwaves were full of Thanksgiving specials such as Bugs Bunny's Thanksgiving Diet, Daffy Duck's Thanks for Giving, and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Only A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving has been seen on TV in the past five years.

So why, oh why, have the Warner Bros. toons faded into obscurity? I have no idea. Does it have to do with rights? Does it have to do with Ted Turner? Does it have to do with the fading popularity of Bugs Bunny and company, who are little known to the current generation of kids?

I will admit that a lot of the humor in the Looney Tunes library is dated, but we can't let Bugs and company simply fade into obscurity! What will it take to bring back our friends?

At least we still have Christmas specials to look forward to...but alas, not from Warner Bros. studios...curse you, Time Warner!

No More Twittering

I've removed the Twitter section of the blog. I was hardly using it, anyway, and besides, I post here regularly enough that you should all know what's going on in my life. There's no need for everyone to know all of my comings and goings.

Besides, how many of you paid attention to my Twittering, anyway?

Curse You, iTunes!

And curse you, too, Comedy Central, for not making the DVD of A Colbert Christmas available for download!

Sure, I can get the soundtrack just fine, but it's not the soundtrack I want, I WANT THE WHOLE DAMN SHOW!!! ARRGGH!!!

OK, rant over.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving According to Bob Edwards

Ah, Bob Edwards, how I miss you so. Morning Edition from NPR News is just not the same without you. Yes, I know it's been several years since your unfortunate departure, but I miss listening to your soothing baritone during my morning drive.

I especially miss your Fantasy Thanksgiving segments each year. Do you still do these on your satellite radio show? I am not one of the fortunate ones to receive XM-Sirius or whatever it is called. I loved how you invited all of those wonderful chefs to your door: Paul Prudhomme and his turducken, Julia Child (rest her soul) and her mashed potatoes, Wolfgang Puck and his smoked salmon appetizers, among others.

And how I especially miss Susan Stamberg crashing the whole affair with some of her mother in law's cranberry relish. (The recipe of which you can find here).

I enjoy listening to Steve Inskeep and Renee Montaigne, but they don't have your cheeky humor, your snarkiness, your dulcet baritone announcing, "This is Morning Edition from NPR News."

NPR was a fool to fire you, Bob.

In the meantime, I shall comfort myself by listening to the Morning Edition archives. I just listened to your Fantasy Thanksgiving from 2001, and now will proceed to 2002.

Maybe this time I'll finally have the guts to try some of that cranberry relish.

TV Review: "A Colbert Christmas"

I very rarely schedule "appointment television" for myself. I'm either reading, doing schoolwork, or at the computer. Last night, however, was an exception. I was writing an E-mail around 8:30 when I suddenly realized, "A Colbert Christmas is on tonight!"

I had to stop what I was doing, since I couldn't remember if it was on at 9 or 10.

It turned out to be the latter.

I went up to the bedroom, snuggled under the covers, and turned on Comedy Central. I caught the last ten minutes of the Jeff Dunham Christmas special. I was bummed that I missed most of it; I saw him in person when I was a sophomore in college. He came to the Quick Center for the Arts to do the Harvest Weekend show, and he was an absolute riot.

Anyhoo, back to Colbert. At the beginning of the special, you can clearly see that Stephen Colbert is lampooning, as only he could, the classic Perry Como/Andy Williams Christmas specials of yesteryear. (For those of you in my generation, those are the specials they run in PBS retrospectives each season). So our friend Stephen is prepping to leave his mountaintop cabin to go down to New York to film his Christmas special when--gasp!--there's a bear outside! Loyal fans of The Colbert Report know of Stephen's hatred and fear of bears. (Are they On Notice or Dead to Me right now? I, sadly, have not been able to watch The Colbert Report regularly for a while).

So what is Stephen to do? Elvis Costello is the special guest star, and they're already filming the dancing reindeer! (Which are actually goats with antlers!)

Fortunately, Stephen has beaucoup visitors to his mountainside cabin. First to arrive is "country music superstar Toby Keith!" (Cue the applause track! This special makes affective use of both fake applause and the laugh track.) Toby's hunting in the woods when he decides to pay Stephen a visit. They talk about how more people say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" these days, and Toby decides to put his lament to song. It's a very musical tribute to the "War on Christmas."

Willie Nelson makes an appearance too. I won't give too many details of what he does, but I will say this: Willie claims he's so high, Stephen's hallucinating.

Jon Stewart stops by to ask Stephen, "Can I interest you in Hanukkah?" Forest ranger John Legend arrives next, and sings what has got to be the sexiest song ever written about...nutmeg. Nutmeg, you say? Trust me on this. It'll be on iTunes tomorrow if you wanna make the investment.

This was a great hour of appointment television for me. Some of the musical numbers, all original (except for one), dragged on a little long, but the lyrics were very clever. (Especially "Another Christmas Song.") It's a great combination of cheeky retro humor affectively blended with present satirical wit. (Witness the two stockings hanging over the fireplace. One says "Stephen", the other says "Colbert.")

Finally, A Colbert Christmas has a very clever ending. I won't spoil the surprise. Do Stephen a favor and buy it for yourself!

Sunday, November 23, 2008


This is going to be a great week.

First of all, I only have to work 2 1/2 days. Don't get me wrong, I love my job, but any break from work is always welcome! (That's why they call it work, Kittens!)

And this Thursday, I celebrate my all-time favorite holiday.


I'm very grateful that I get to look forward to Thanksgiving. I'm aware that there are many people who look upon the celebration with dread. I have a few friends who absolutely dread Thanksgiving because they have to spend time with their families.

But I am different.

You see, I really like spending time with my family.

We celebrate Thanksgiving with my godparents and their kids, husbands, and significant others. There are usually 10-12 of us around the table any given year. We all get along fabulously, which makes the holiday that much more fun.

We start arriving at the family homestead (that is, my parents' house) around noon. Dad greets each of us with a bloody Mary. (I have mine sans vodka. I never liked vodka. Long story, will tell you about it another time). I'm usually the first to arrive, and the others start to trickle in as I'm gnawing on my celery stick.

Once everyone has arrived, bloody Marys consumed, Mama Cat starts with the appetizers, and Papa Cat cracks open the first bottle of wine. We drink beaucoup wine and eat beaucoup, too. Mama Cat makes pigs in a blanket, with a little Gulden's at the side for dipping, pizza rolls, with a little tomato sauce at the side for dipping, crab cakes, crudites, cheese and crackers, brie en croute, and giardinera. Mama Cat makes the crab cakes, the pizza rolls, and the pigs in a blanket. If she could make the rest by hand, she would.

Once we've gorged ourselves on appetizers, we kick back and watch TV. We watch anything that is on TV--football, the dog show on NBC, or our recent fave, the Food Network. More wine is consumed during this period as we catch up on the year.

(Now Kittens, I know what you're thinking, and I'm going to say this now: we do NOT get drunk on Thanksgiving day.)

While we sit in front of the boob tube, Mama Cat is in the kitchen, basting the turkey and making all of the side dishes. She absolutely lives for Thanksgiving, and loves to prepare everything from scratch. She refuses any outside help; she declines all offers to make side dishes, except for my friend's green bean casserole. This green bean casserole is made from scratch: organic green beans, fresh portabella mushroom slices, hand-chopped and fried onions, and fresh heavy cream. Mama Cat would banish us forever from the Thanksgiving table if we dared to bring anything that came out of a can or a box.

After several hours of laziness and wine drinking, we drag ourselves to the table. Papa Cat, by this time, has carved the turkey and has said grace. We load up with all of the trimmings: mashed potatoes, yams, green bean casserole, my godmother's very scary cranberry mold (long story about that one, too), salad, dinner rolls, and mixed veggies (the one item that comes out of a bag). Oh yeah, and we drink more wine here, too.

So then we finish the meal, and the children clear the table and wash the dishes. This is an annual Thanksgiving tradition. I usually wash; I hate drying dishes, but if I have to do it, I do. While the children wash, the mothers take out their knitting and compare their latest projects, while the fathers go down to the garage and smoke cigars.

Once we've digested the main meal, after about an hour or so, we return to the dining room for coffee and our choice of one of Mama Cat's two homemade pies: apple or pumpkin. Her apple pie is so popular that she now has to make two of them; she only makes one pumpkin. She sends each slice around the table with a dollop of Cool Whip (though I may have to change tradition this year: do you even know what's in Cool Whip?!!? I think I'll buy two cans of Reddi Whip, and that will be my contribution to dinner).

After the dessert dishes have been washed, we retire to Papa Cat's chiminea outside, where we build a huge fire. We sit around and hang out by the flames, keeping warm and talking some more. This may just be my favorite part of the day.

Before we all leave, Mama Cat sends each of the children home with a grocery bag full of leftovers, as well as two loaves of her world-famous, prize-winning pumpkin bread.

OK, the pumpkin bread is neither world-famous nor prize-winning, but it's still pretty damn tasty!

And then we all go home, but that's not the end of the see, Kittens, in my family, the day after Thanksgiving, we all go over to my godparents' daughter's house for Thanksgiving dinner, part deux. We don't have any leftovers, but we do have a completely different, yet totally wonderful, decadent menu. Last year we had flourless chocolate cake for dessert that day. Flourless chocolate cake!

Thanksgiving...the holiday that's so nice, I celebrate it twice!

Clip of the Week: Thanksgiving Week Edition

Thanksgiving dinner, courtesy of the good folks at Blendtec Blenders, who bring you that ever-so-popular YouTube video series, "Will It Blend?"

If you haven't seen the rest of the series, you MUST. It's one of the greatest guilty pleasures alive.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

DVD Review: The Carol Burnett Show, Vol. 6

Today was a good day to fold laundry and watch The Carol Burnett Show.

OK, maybe it was a good day to watch The Carol Burnett Show. Folding laundry's easier when you have a distraction.

Volume 6 opens with interesting commentary from Carol herself. The big revelation here is that she admits to disliking her Charwoman character. What?!?! Dislike the character who became her signature, her logo? She said that she didn't like doing the Charwoman because "all she did was dust a little, then sit on a bucket and sing the blues." Well, obviously Joe Hamilton, her husband and executive producer, saw a lot more in that character, and the audience must have, too, for the Charwoman has become a classic.

Revelations aside, this is another quality show from Carol and her crew. We kick things off with a Tudball and Wiggins sketch about fire safety. The insurance man (Harvey) pays a visit to determine whether the right fire safety protocols are in place; if they're not, then Tudball's rates will go up. Of course, teaching Mrs. Wiggins about fire safety is a job in itself. Watch for Harvey trying to get Tim to crack up; it was a noble attempt to get Tim to finally lose his cool.

We follow with a superb tap dance number featuring Ken Berry, a Carol Burnett Show semi-regular (so far he's guested on three of the DVDs I've received so far), and the Ernest Flatt dancers, tapping to the beat of the Gershwin classic "I've Got Rhythm." I still don't understand why this man never got a chance to headline a Broadway show. He did go on tour in the shows George M! and The Music Man, though, so people across America were able to see his many talents.

A Harvey-Tim sketch comes next, with the dynamic duo "Lost in the Sahara." They play two soldiers--two very thirsty, dehydrated soldiers, who encounter an oasis. Tim insists the bar, presided over by Vicki Lawrence, is not an apparition. Is it, or isn't it? Harvey insists that it's a desert mirage...but how else do you explain how Tim suddenly gets drenched with two Tom Collinses?

We finish with a two-part finale: a takeoff on the Mickey-Judy movies called "Babes in Barns." Ken Berry stars as "Spunky," and Carol stars as "Dodie." She sings in the style of Judy Garland, complete with deep, shaky alto bravado. This is one of her best impressions. This finale also features one of the Ernest Flatt Dancers, Toni Kaye, who looks a lot like Chita Rivera. I did an internet search on her as I prepared this post. Not only did she dance on The Carol Burnett Show, she danced in the movie Funny Lady and helped choreograph Pennies From Heaven. She also helped choreograph Sugar Babies and starred in one of its national tours. Sadly, she died of cancer in 1995.

Anyhoo, Ms. Kaye stars as Dee Dee, whose sole talent is that "she can do the splits!" She gets cast in a show created for Spunky's parents can pay off their mortgage. She gets cast not just because she can do the splits, but because her wealthy father has lots of money, enough to back the show. A love triangle forms among Spunky, Dodie, and Dee Dee. In the true tradition of MGM musicals, can you guess which gal prevails and wins the heart of Spunky in the end? This is a very cute parody with some great music and dancing, one of the best finales I've seen so far.

The second episode in this volume features a very young Bernadette Peters as its guest star. I'm guessing that Bernadette is in her mid-twenties here. She co-stars with Carol in an installment of "As the Stomach Turns," The Carol Burnett Show's parody of daytime soaps. This sketch is actually a parody of a parody; in it, Bernadette stars as Carol's niece, Raven, who becomes demonically possessed. Yep, you've got it: it's a parody of The Exorcist, which was the movie at the time this episode was written and filmed. Tim Conway, who was not a regular at the time, guests as a exterminator-turned-exorcist. This sketch takes place in his pre-Tudball days; he uses the Tudball accent in his portrayal of the exterminator-turned-exorcist. It's an especially funny sketch because of its very subtle cultural references scattered throughout. For example, Raven, who is from Washington, D.C., brings her aunt souvenirs from her home city--among them, two reel-to-reel tapes, which her aunt "places with her comedy albums." (For those who didn't get the pop-culture reference, this show originally aired on February 16, 1974, near the height of the Watergate scandal. And for those of you who are too young to remember Watergate or have not studied it in school, find out more about it here.)

Bernadette then sings a touching rendition of "Blame it On My Youth," which is appropriate, given that, like I said earlier, she's in her mid-twenties here. In this performance, she shows the first signs of her sultriness and vulnerability, two qualities which helped make her one of our top theatre divas. (And she, like Patti LuPone, is a fellow Italian-American gal, and we Italian-American gals gotta stick together!)

The next sketch features Carol and Vicki as two old high school friends catching up on their years apart. Carol portrays a deliciously evil, spiteful woman who is jealous of her friend's life. It's a lot of fun to watch.

The sketch that follows is a very weak parody of war films. Even though this particular episode won an Emmy for writing, this sketch was not of the quality we have come to expect from The Carol Burnett Show. Harvey and Tim play Japanese submarine sailors who plan to sink Cleveland. They try--"try" being the operative word here--to speak Japanese. I just plain didn't like this one.

A brief sketch comes before the finale, one featuring Harvey as an Italian barber, whose client is targeted by a clumsy hitman, Tim. I'll go no further; this wasn't particularly memorable.

This episode redeems itself in the finale, a salute to the music of Harry Warren. Carol plays a wallflower pianist who is asked by her crush, Harvey, to play at his frat party, where he plans to pin his crush, Bernadette. There is an incredible tap dancing segment here with Bernadette and the Ernest Flatt Dancers, the highlight of this sketch.

Carol always said she never felt comfortable playing the beauty, that she felt more at home playing either average-looking or homely characters. What is great about these characters, however, is that they always get their man in the end. Ahhh, what a world! Men looking for brains over beauty! I love it!

Volume 7 also arrived in the mail with this one. I should watch it tonight, given the amount of laundry I have to fold.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging

A totally new way to get the housework done.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cooking With Kitten: Peanut Butter Cookies

Last night I made about five dozen peanut butter cookies for charity. Needless to say, I was happy to bake cookies and use my Kitchen Aid!

Here is the recipe I used, courtesy of Mama Cat's cookbook (thanks, Mom!)


Cream together:
1 cup softened butter
1 cup smooth peanut butter

Cream the above ingredients till they are very well blended, then beat in:

1 cup white sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

Once the sugars are well blended, stir in:

2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour

Arrange by teaspoonfuls on a cookie sheet. Press flat with a floured spoon or mark with a floured fork. I use the fork; I make a little criss-cross design with it. That's how my mama did it!

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes until firm. Cool on wire rack or wax paper.

Variation: add chocolate chips and do not flatten.

(You can add peanut butter chips if you want, too).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My Jaw Dropped When I Saw This

I was over at Peacebang's earlier this evening when I came across this clip she posted.

It defies explaination.

You've just got to see this for yourself, and you'll know exactly what I mean.

Apologies, everyone

If you look to the left margin of the page, you'll notice my "Twittering". I had altered some settings on my Twitter account earlier today; I had password-protected my updates. I didn't realize that password protection would result in a little pop-up box appearing on the blog whenever someone logged in.

Sooo...the problem is fixed, and you can cruise on without worrying about passwords.

We now return to your regularly scheduled programming.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Clip of the Week: Pachelbel Rant

I have seen this clip dozens of times. A friend of mine recently sent this to me again, via E-mail, and wrote, "You've seen this, right? About that time of year."

Well, I think this is about perfect at any time of year, and with all of the grey and cold going on here, I thought this would be perfect.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Monsoons in Connecticut

I just logged onto my Yahoo! mail, and according to my weather box, it's 66 degrees outside. I had to do a double take; we are in mid-November now, are we not? Because isn't it supposed to be colder? Isn't my heat supposed to come on right about now?

I've only had the heat on a couple of times so far this fall. I have to be thankful for that!

Today it rained...and rained...and rained some more. It messed up my sinuses something awful. I took three Sudafed this afternoon (I know, more than I should take), but I was desperate. Our church choir had a concert tonight, and I needed the meds to help me sing.

The meds didn't help. At all. I sniffled through the whole proceedings.

And the weather's only going to get weirder. According to WFSB, a tornado watch is in effect for most of the state until 2 AM. Temps are supposed to dip into the lower 30s for Monday and Tuesday, with a chance of snow showers both days.

Welcome to New England, Kittens.

I Am an Eighties Lady

Even though I have a special fondness for the 70s, please remember, I was only born in 1976! But remember, too, that my parents are both natives of the greater New York City metropolitan area, and even though I grew up in Connecticut, they still spiritually lived in Westchester and Elizabeth (where they were born and raised). So my bringing-up was filled with my parents' longing for New York news, New York TV, the Daily News, and the New York Post.

I was raised with 70s pop culture all around me. My 80s influences came from my peers at school.

I remember when there was a rivalry between Cyndi Lauper and Madonna, and how I thought Cyndi Lauper would trump Madonna easily in a cage match. I remember grooving to Bon Jovi and having such a crush on Jon. I remember watching Saturday mornings on ABC, and how Menudo would come on between airings of Schoolhouse Rock.

I remember watching the Smurfs, and having a collection of hundreds, literally, of the 3-inch figurines, which my sister and I kept in coffee cans. I remember wearing ruffled skirts and denim skirts with the leggings underneath. (They were still better looking then than when teenagers wear them now). I remember wearing neon jelly bracelets, at least ten at a time, and when there wasn't a meaning behind the color of each bracelet.

I remember playing clapping games on the playground and jumping rope with my friends. I remember wearing lip gloss lockets around my neck, and how my teachers used to yell at me for putting on lip gloss during class. I remember Tinkerbell cosmetics, and how we used to put it on our faces on the bus to school. I remember my pink Barbie makeup kit, and how much I loved that one, too.

I remember my Cabbage Patch Kids, Strawberry Shortcake, My Little Pony, and Care Bears dolls, and how today's versions can't even hold a candle to their counterparts of yesteryear.

I remember watching He-Man and She-Ra after school, which came on right after reruns of Tic Tac Dough, The Joker's Wild, and Press Your Luck.

I remember watching The Facts of Life, really identifying with Natalie Green and loathing Blair Warner.

I remember wanting to watch Fame, but was upset that I couldn't, because my mom thought the show was too old for me.

I remember defying my mother's orders, on many occasions, not to watch You Can't Do That on Television.

I remember wanting to be as confident as Punky Brewster.

I remember Friday nights being the night, when we could watch Full House and Webster.

I remember reading Sweet Valley High and The Babysitters Club books obsessively, and would count down the days until the new book in the series was available at Waldenbooks.

I remember my frustration at not being able to get my bangs three inches high, and how my mother would not let me crimp my hair.

I had Wonder Woman Underoos and wore them till they were barethread.

I remember when Deborah Gibson was known as "Debbie," and being a charter member of her fan club.

I remember my delight when I bought my first iPod, and how I could re-create all of my mixtapes with iTunes.

A large portion of my iPod consists of 70s singer songwriters and 80s tunes from my childhood, with some current tunes thrown in for good measure.

Which reminds me, I haven't posted a playlist in a while.

Excuse me while I pull up my iTunes...

I Am A Child of the 70s

I was born in 1976, grew up in the 80s, came of age in the 90s.

So why am I such a fan of 70s pop culture?

When it comes to entertainment, all the reviews you've seen so far on this blog have to do with 70s icons: The Carol Burnett Show, The Magic Garden, and Patti LuPone's nightclub act from 1980. (Yeah, I know, it's the first year of the 1980's, but it's one year off from the 70s, so that should count, n'est-ce pas?)

Now...I loathe shag carpeting, bellbottoms, and hot pants. But I do have a fondness for ABBA, James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, and Carole King. I love disco and all of the 70s singer-songwriters who wrote their own material and played their own instruments. I remember when my mother had a fondness for Tab Cola and drove an orange Pinto hatchback. My father was floored when he heard I could pronounce "Ayatollah" at the age of 3. (I kid you not.)

I remember when the Muppets were cutting edge, and had biting, satirical humor wrapped in their shows, and weren't Disney-fied like they are now. I remember when reruns of I Dream of Jeannie, The Brady Bunch, and I Love Lucy ruled the airwaves, not the manufactured, over-produced, badly written crap that's written for today's kids. I remember trying to play fake sick so I could watch these shows, as well as The Price is Right. I remember when Bob Barker had dark hair, and was upset when he let it go grey. (Although I got used to the grey hair pretty quickly).

I remember when the USA Network had the Cartoon Express, with reruns of The Flintstones, Devlin, The Banana Splits, and all of those old Hanna-Barbera shows from the 70s that are almost completely forgotten now. I remember coming home from school, flipping on USA, and watching reruns of Tic Tac Dough, The Joker's Wild, and Press Your Luck (the favorite of me and my sister). I remember watching reruns of The Gong Show when I was in high school, and my mother yelling at me for those acts being too risque. (Although, in today's standards, most of those acts are pretty tame now).

I remember watching the old episodes of Zoom, when the kids wore those striped rugby shirts, and learning how to speak Ubbi-Dubbi with my friends on the playground. I remember when Mr. Snuffleupagus was imaginary to everyone on Sesame Street except for Big Bird. I remember watching The Electric Company, and was amazed that the same guy on Fat Albert was also on my favorite show.

I remember Fat Albert, and all of the Cosby Kids. That is, the Cosby Kids whose names weren't Saundra, Denise, Theo, Vanessa, and Rudy. I remember Bucky, Mushmouth, Dumb Donald, Rudy (not the little girl), Old Weird Harold, and Russell.

I remember the original Not Ready for Prime Time Players, and how they could put today's cast of SNL to shame.

I remember those old In the News segments on CBS, as well as Schoolhouse Rock on ABC, and how my Saturday mornings weren't complete without them. I remember being freaked out by those old production company logos: The Viacom V of Doom, and the ITC spinning diamond logo (the latter of which creeps me out to this very day).

I remember when WPIX was known as "11 Alive", and when Jim Jensen was the man to watch on TV news on WCBS. Well, he was the man to watch for local news. My dad always, always, always stopped whatever he was doing so he could watch "Uncle Walter" Cronkhite. That I remember especially.

I remember when Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Porky Pig reruns greeted me in the morning before I went to school, and am saddened that few kids know who they are today.

I am a child of the 70s who grew up in the 80s and came of age in the 90s.

I still have fond memories of the 80s and 90s, though--but those are for later posts.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging

I spend $5 on plastic balls with the little metal jingly ball inside, and my cat prefers to play with a box.
I've stopped buying cat toys for that very reason.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton?!?!

Just found this on Yahoo! News...God, I hope it's true!

Yes, say what you will about how Obama should steer himself away from Clintonian politics, but really, is anyone the least bit surprised that she may be named to a Cabinet post? Before the election, I had mentioned to friends that she'd either make a good Secretary of State or Attorney General.

Well, NBC News originally reported this, and they're pretty credible.

Here's the link.

Now let's see what CNN says, if it has published anything...

Nope, nada.

So let's go straight to the horse's mouth, NBC News...

And here's the link to the video clip.

It's Dark Out There

When did it get so dark, so soon?

Yeah, I know that daylight savings is long, long gone, but I got home at 5:12 this evening (according to the clock in my car), and it was just sooooooooooooo freakin' dark! Yeah, it's raining here, and yeah, there are clouds in the sky, but it's just soooooooooooo dark!

No wonder I was kinda crabby all day. Not totally depressed, but not totally happy either. Just blah.

That, coupled with a growing to-do list, and the fact that I haven't been getting to bed as early as I should, is contributing to my mood.

I also was reminded today why I should not have two cups of coffee in one day. I'm feeling like I've got constant heartburn right now.

I should end this, and get to the work that I'm supposed to do.

It's gonna be a looooooong night here at the computer.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

DVD Review: The Carol Burnett Show, Vol. 5

As promised, Kittens, here is my rundown of the latest volume of Guthy-Renker Carol Burnett Show DVDs.

The first episode of the DVD was also the first episode of the 10th season. How do I know it's the first episode, other than Carol mentioning it at the top of the show? Jim Nabors is the guest star. Loyal Carol Burnett fans know that she had Jim Nabors as her guest on every season premiere of her show. She considered him her good luck charm. They kick off the show with a duet of "The Rain in Spain" from My Fair Lady. Now imagine Carol as Henry Higgins and Gomer Pyle as Eliza Doolittle, and you get an idea of how this whole thing goes.

The first sketch following the opening credits stars all five regulars, plus Jim Nabors, in a parody of the Norman Lear soap opera satire, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. Harvey, as Norman Blear, introduces the audience to his newest work: a soap opera for children, entitled Mary, Mary Quite Contrary, Mary, Mary Quite Contrary. This seriously is one of the best sketches that was ever performed on The Carol Burnett Show. The writing, satire, and parodies in this sketch are simply brilliant--especially Carol's performance in the Louise Lasser role.

Now for many people, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman is one of Norman Lear's most obscure--if not, his most obscure--work. I had to find some YouTube clips to fully understand the whole parody, but once you view them, it's easy to see the satire. For some samples, click here, here, and here. And here's a whole article on this show, courtesy of Wikipedia.

After the Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman parody, Jim sings "Let Me Be There," accompanied by the Ernest Flatt Dancers. Mind you, when he sings, there's hardly any trace of that Gomer Pyle accent. His singing voice is really quite lovely. I had to rewind the DVD several times to listen to it; I couldn't get over how much I liked it.

Tim has a starring role in the next sketch, about a traveling businessman who hasn't slept in two nights. He decides to spend the night in a cheap, crappy motel. As he starts to fall asleep, a fly starts buzzing about the room, annoying the heck out of our friend.

Tim Conway. A fly in the room. Use your imagination.

Eunice, Mama, and Ed join the proceedings with a sketch involving a friendly little game of Monopoly. Eunice is about to triumph in the game when, as all family sketches go, things go terribly, horribly wrong for her.

A Family sketch. A game of Monopoly. Carol Burnett as Eunice. Again, use your imagination.

We wrap up the show with a mini-musical called "Shipwrecked in Tahiti," featuring the music of Nacio Herb Brown (I never heard of him till I got this DVD). It's cute, but not among Carol's best, IMHO.

The second episode of this DVD guest stars Carl Reiner and Ken Berry, two of The Carol Burnett Show's most popular semi-regulars. Ken stars in the first number, a cute little rendition of "Razzle Dazzle" set in an early 20th century barbershop. Why Ken Berry never became a huge Broadway star is a mystery to me; the man is incredibly talented, especially as a dancer.

The following sketch parodies all of those disaster movies of the 1970s. In "Disaster 75," we find Carol as a stewardess on Titanic Airlines flight 1313. Her passengers include Vicki Lawrence as a singing nun, Ken Berry as a nose transplant patient, and Carl Reiner as the air traffic controller who is also Carol's vengeful ex-lover. In the beginning of the DVD, Carol herself admitted that she would have cut this sketch out of the show if she could. She complained that it lasted forever. It did. I agree with Carol; this was not one of her best works. However, there is a clever little parody of her Q&A segments in this sketch, which pretty much saved the whole thing.

Finally, Harvey, as Alistair "Cookie," parodies Masterpiece Theatre. He announces that the BBC has decided to put Shakespeare's plays into musical comedy form, and that tonight is the first of its efforts.

Their first musical? Hold Me, Hamlet, featuring music by long-time Burnett collaborators Ken and Mitzie Welch.

Yes, at first glance it seems like it's bound to flop, but Harvey, as the King of Denmark, saves this one. Carl Reiner, as Hamlet's father, also saves it. Again, it's not the best mini-musical they have done, but you have to give them credit for trying.

Overall, there are some real gems in this volume, that are really worth seeing. There are some questionable sketches, like I have noted, but even Carol herself has admitted that she couldn't hit it out of the park every time. You take the good, you take the bad...

Oops, wrong show.

Ahhh, The Facts of I miss you, how I miss you!

Maybe that'll be the next show I'll get on DVD...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Patti LuPone at Les Mouches - MEADOWLARK

Here's a YouTube clip of a long-lost video from Patti LuPone's 1980 gig at Les Mouches. This is the version of "Meadowlark" which I llllluuuuurrrrrrrvvveee!!!

CD Review: Patti LuPone at Les Mouches

I was up late last night, since I had today off. Well, that was only one of the reasons why I was up late. I really wanted to see how quickly after midnight iTunes unloaded its latest releases. It turned out to be pretty quickly, since, when I logged on at 12:45 AM, the CD that I had been coveting for a while was available for purchase.

That CD? Patti LuPone at Les Mouches.

I was in college when I became fascinated by Patti. A good friend of mine introduced me to the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Patti's version of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" was on the disc I borrowed. That was enough to make me fall in love with her voice ten times over.

That, and the fact that she was a fellow Sicilian-American girl, sealed the deal for me.

Anyhoo, that compilation CD led me to purchase a couple of Patti's solo CDs. I also have some songs from Evita on my iPod (not the whole soundtrack...yet), and her soundtrack to Gypsy (which, if I'm lucky, I'll see on Broadway if I can get a good price on tickets) is on my most-wanted list. I saw her perform "Everything's Coming Up Roses" on the Tonys this year and was absolutely blown away. I felt that if she didn't win this year, there was something wrong with democracy. Fortunately, our Patti won.

So last week, I found myself over at SarahB's blog, where she had uploaded a WNYC interview between Patti and Leonard Lopate. I took a listen, and it was an excellent conversation. Patti is a diva, and one who takes a great deal of pride in her craft. This is where I found out about her new CD. There was a sample of a track from the Les Mouches CD at the end of the interview, "Latin from Manhattan," and it sounded so good I knew I had to have it--and it's very rare that I really want to buy a whole CD.

So what's the big deal about Patti LuPone at Les Mouches? Well, back in her Evita days, Patti moonlighted in a Chelsea nightclub, Les Mouches (now closed), Saturday nights at midnight. This gig lasted 27 weeks. She'd come out of doing her 8 PM performance of Evita, get to Chelsea somehow, and perform her cabaret act.

The gig was filmed, the tracks recorded on audio, and the tapes were seemingly lost to the ages.

Until now.

So how did Patti's legendary performance at Les Mouches once again see the light of day?

Patti related the story to Leonard Lopate. A couple of years ago, Patti asked a friend to put all of her tapes from her performances on DVDs "before the tape disintegrates." Her friend found the video from Les Mouches, decided it should be a show, and then, as Patti was starting rehearsals for Gypsy, Joe's Pub had a show called Leslie Kritzer Is Patti LuPone at Les Mouches, where Leslie Kritzer sang the exact same songs and said the exact same dialogue that Patti did in the original gig. This led to renewed interest in Patti's nightclub performance.

According to Patti, they were about to release a recording of Leslie Kritzer's rendition of Patti's set from Les Mouches, when Patti stepped in and said, "Wait a minute here."

The result? The original tracks from the Les Mouches gig were digitally remastered and recently released onto CD.

And it's incredible.

You really feel as if you've traveled back to 1980, traveled back in time, to a nightclub in Chelsea, where a young Broadway ingenue is singing her little heart out. Patti's patter is so incredibly endearing in this set; she is so incredibly in awe of everything that's going on in her life, of everyone who has come to see her perform.

It's an interesting, wide-ranging set, and Patti really demonstrates her versatility well. In addition to "Rainbow High" and "Don't Cry for Me Argentina," she sings some 60s standards like "Downtown" and "Mr. Tambourine Man," as well as a Bruce Springsteen tune, "Because the Night." (I think another Patti, Ms. Smith, also sang that one. I need to do a fact check).

My favorite track, however, is "Meadowlark." I've heard Patti sing this on a couple of her solo CDs, but this one is my absolute favorite rendition. It will send chills down your spine. It's unbelievable.

It's really neat to listen to this gem of a CD, and see how far our Patti has come.

Now to get the Gypsy soundtrack!

This has been a week of reviewing some favorites of mine from the entertainment industry: Patti, Carole and Paula, and Carol without an E. Which reminds me, I promised to review the other Carol Burnett Show DVD I received a couple of weeks ago.

That will have to wait, Kittens, since I have to go to bed.

After all, I have work tomorrow!


Carole and Paula and "The Magic Garden" in Today's New York Times

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post on one of my favorite TV shows as a child, The Magic Garden. I wrote about how I was reliving my childhood by watching their new DVD, which has 10 episodes of the show.

Today, I was in Starbucks, grabbing a coffee before choir practice, when I saw that there was an article about Carole and Paula and The Magic Garden in the arts section. I was so excited that I skipped over the crossword and read the article first. I was amazed to learn that both Carole and Paula are 68 years old! I thought they were a few years younger (like early 60s).

Anyhoo, you can read the article, too, and learn more about my heroes, by clicking here. You can even watch a clip of The Magic Garden.

I must say, the ladies look good--and so does Sherlock! He looks just as pink and happy as ever!

Eighty Years Ago Today...

...on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month, the Armistice Treaty was signed in France. It was the treaty to end "the war to end all wars."

Eighty years later, the United States is involved in two overseas wars.

And let's not forget World War II, Vietnam, Korea, and the Gulf War.

Most of my colleagues, and I include myself in this, were grumbling that we had to have Tuesday off, as opposed to Monday. Come back one day, only to have the next one off?

And then it hit me.

Why am I grumbling? Most Americans look at this day as just another day off. They've forgotten why we have this holiday in the first place.

I knew a lot of older men, my parents' age or my grandparents' age (if my grandparents were still alive), who had fought in foreign wars. But this past Sunday, that all changed. My minister honored the veterans during this week's service. One of the veterans was a woman--a woman my age, perhaps younger, who had served in the Gulf War.

That's when it really hit me.

It's not just a day off for me anymore.

Remember our veterans today, whether you buy a poppy from someone at the VFW or go to the cemetary, or even have your own moment of silence, please, don't forget them.

Don't forget. Never forget.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Picture of Dull, Boring Grey

Almost overnight, here in the Nutmeg State, we have gone from beautiful, sunny, colorful autumn to grey, wet, crappy, bare autumn.

I woke up one morning and all of the leaves on the trees were gone. No exaggeration. Gone.

My morning commute has gone from being a thing of beauty to bare, naked ugliness.

It beautifies, however, when there's snow on the branches. Then my commute looks like I'm driving through a Currier and Ives scene.

Then the plows come along. And it gets dirty. And we're back to the ugliness again.

Please forgive me for my cynicism tonight, Kittens. I miss the autumn leaves. Hell, I miss the leaves, period. And the brown leaves that are still on the oak trees don't count as leaves.

I miss the color.

Don't get me wrong, I like sweaters, jeans, and cozy clothing. And sitting by fireplaces, drinking hot cocoa with mini marshmallows.

But not for extended periods of time.

And if you think I'm bad now...wait till January, right after the holidays. Wooo, I'll be reaaaaaaalllll cheery then! :P

DVD Review: The Carol Burnett Show, Vol. 4

I received my latest batch of DVDs of The Carol Burnett Show several weeks back, but haven't had a chance to review them until now. We'll start with Volume 4.

The first episode on this DVD features Rock Hudson and Nancy Walker (the gal best known as Rosie the Waitress from the old Bounty paper towel commercials, or, depending on who you talk to, Ida Morgenstern, Rhoda's mother). Anyhoo, the show opens with a wonderful Q&A segment between Carol and her devoted audience. I don't remember any specific questions at the moment, but any Q&A with Carol is wonderful. The first sketch after the opening credits features Hudson and Walker in a parody of a Fred-and-Ginger style dance. For this top-hat-and-tails number, you need to keep the following in mind: Rock Hudson was 6 foot 4. Nancy Walker was 4 foot 11. Nuff said.

We continue the shenanigans with the annual Carol Burnett Show salute to the year's funniest commercials. I really wish they included the original commercials they parodied in the DVD, because there were some parodies where I really missed the point. Then again, I was only two years old when this show went off the air, so of course I would not remember the original commercials.

After the salute to advertising, we have a semi-serious sketch between Harvey Korman, who plays a ventriloquist, and his dummy. I use the term "semi-serious" because there were hardly any laughs in this sketch. In fact, the monologue between ventriloquist and dummy contains some statements that are rather sad, that make you feel sorry for Harvey's character.

Finally, we're treated to a mini-musical parody of the Betty Grable movie, When My Baby Smiles at Me. Carol and Rock star as a husband and wife vaudeville team. Rock is the hard-living, hard-drinking husband who takes his wife for granted, and Carol is the starry-eyed, naive wife who overlooks all of her husband's flaws. You can see, in this parody, why the mini-musical was one of the hallmarks of The Carol Burnett Show. It's a damn shame that these segments couldn't go into syndication, what with all of the music rights clearances and what not. I'm glad that some of them (out of over 278 episodes) made it to DVD.

The second episode on this DVD features Roddy McDowall as the guest star. It opens with a Carol-Harvey sketch about a marriage proposal that went south. I'll leave it at that, as I don't want to provide any spoilers.

We continue with a duet between Carol and Roddy, where Carol asks Roddy why so many British actors sound so eloquent and articulate. Roddy's answer? Tongue-twisters. The two then engage in a clever duet featuring many tongue twisters, a duet called "Moses", from the movie Singin' in the Rain. (A movie which I have never seen. Yes, you may call me names and slap me now).

A Harvey-Tim sketch follows. Our comedic duo stars as two divorced men who seem to be, on the outset, really happy about their single status--but are they?

Speaking of marriage, we then get a chance to watch a sketch among Carol, Tim, and Roddy, about three assembly line workers in a love triangle. This seems to be a theme among Carol Burnett Show sketches; I have seen quite a few of them, both on the DVDs and in syndication.

All five regulars, and guest star, are featured in a Bette Davis parody called The Little Foxes. Again, I have never seen the movie on which this is based; if anything, maybe Carol's movie parodies may motivate me to go to Blockbuster and maybe, just maybe, may make me a movie person after all.

We finish with an unusual mini-musical: The music of Cole Porter, set to a Baroque theme. You have to see it to believe it. Bob Mackie, legendary designer and Carol Burnett Show costumer, really outdid himself on this one.

So that's a review of Volume 4, Kittens. Tomorrow, I'll review Volume 5, as well as (if I can get it from iTunes), a review of a CD I've been really wanting to buy: Patti LuPone at Les Mouches. If the previews are any indication, as well as the other reviews I've been reading, this should be an excellent CD!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Clip of the Week: Songs from The Magic Garden

Here are the songs that were buried in--then unleashed from--my memory bank only six years ago. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do!

"Pardon us, the garden-us is where we'll be..."

When I was four years old, my family moved from Westchester County, New York, to a (then) small town in northern Connecticut. I don't have a ton of memories from my time in New York, but the ones I do have are very, very vivid and fond. One of those fond memories involves a local TV show that has since become a classic.

That show? The Magic Garden.

WPIX-TV, which was then an independent station (it then became a WB affiliate, and is a CW affiliate in its current incarnation), produced this lovely show. It started airing in 1972, and starred two young women, Carole Demas and Paula Janis, who had been singing and performing together since their days as schoolchildren in Brooklyn. It was a very simple, gentle show about friendship, creativity, music, and imagination.

Of course, that description sounds very simplistic, but that's pretty much the premise of The Magic Garden. Every day, for half an hour in the afternoons, I would watch The Magic Garden, oftentimes with my Aunt Marlene, a neighbor who used to babysit me quite a bit. My favorite part back then was the Chuckle Patch, a patch of daisies that would shake and giggle whenever they had corny jokes to tell. Carole and Paula would each take a leaf or two from the Chuckle Patch, and the leaves had jokes written on them.

The opening and closing images of The Magic Garden were seared into my brain for years. The show opened with the image of a window in the center of a wall with pink striped wallpaper. As soon as Carole and Paula sang the opening chords of the theme song, the window's French doors would open out into the garden, and slowly, the camera panned through the window, showing Carole and Paula in the Magic Garden, both in their long pigtails, sitting on rope swings, singing the theme while Paula strummed her guitar. The show's closing was very similar, only the camera panned out of the garden, and the window slowly, slowly closed on Carole and Paula as they sang the ending theme.

The Magic Garden was a cult hit in the New York City area, and Carole and Paula had a huge fan base. Kids of my generation who grew up in New York bond instantly whenever we hear or sing the first few words of any, any song that Carole and Paula sang on The Magic Garden:

This is the garden of make-believe,
A magical garden of make-believe,
Where flowers chuckle and birds play tricks
And a magic tree grows lollipop sticks.

When we moved to Connecticut, cable TV did not exist. It was something fancy that my grandparents had, and whenever we went to visit we would ooh and ahh over the number of channels they had. But I digress. The point is that we didn't have cable in our little Connecticut town, and we were so far away from New York we couldn't pick up WPIX, no matter which direction we pointed our TV antenna.

In short, as I grew up, I had all but forgotten everything I knew and treasured about The Magic Garden. Cable eventually came to Granby (that little town where I grew up), and WPIX was a part of the channel lineup, but The Magic Garden was no longer broadcast. (Hell, when my parents learned that they could now watch PIX and WWOR from their Connecticut living room, they practically drooled. My mother, especially, for she always talked about PIX with sort of a longing for days gone by).

Anyhoo, fast forward to the fall of 2002. I was in my living room, in my cozy little one bedroom in New London, watching the WPIX News at Ten. I was putting some corrected papers into my backpack, getting ready for school the next day, when I looked up and saw, for the first time in many, many years, Carole and Paula themselves. They were older now, but I still recognized them. They were speaking in unison, inviting viewers to tune in, on Thanksgiving day, for The Magic Garden reunion special at 1:00 PM.

The image of that window, hidden deep in my memory bank for twenty-something years, came roaring back instantly.

Open up the window,
Listen to the wind blow,
Pardon us, the garden-us
Is where we'll be.

I set my VCR.

But it turns out, I didn't set it properly.

I was crushed, but recovered after half an hour of disappointment.

The Sunday after Thanksgiving, I went Christmas shopping with my best friend. When we returned to his apartment, his partner was engaged in--raptured, even--in something on TV. He paused the TiVo when we came in.

Can you guess what he was watching?

When I learned that, yes, indeed, he was watching The Magic Garden, I shrieked. We immediately started reminiscing, and my best friend just shook his head and rolled his eyes.

We rewound the TiVo, and, for the next hour, sat silently, enraptured by the images on the TV.

My best friend didn't get it. He still doesn't.

Well, he gets part of it. We still both rush home to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer when they come on TV.

And we're both 32 years old.

But back to 2002, and that wonderful special about The Magic Garden. I googled Carole and Paula when I got home, and learned that they had a website--and tapes for sale. Granted, it was a two-tape set with one episode on each, but I didn't care. I ordered a set for me, and a set for my best friend's partner, who then told me it was the best Christmas gift he received that season.

Then I went on eBay. Quite a few sellers from the New York City area had taped The Magic Garden reunion special and had it for sale on eBay, along with the two episodes of The Magic Garden that aired afterwards.

I bought it. I paid an exorbitant amount for it, but I didn't care.

About a year later, I loaned my precious tapes to a friend of mine who loved The Magic Garden as much as I did. We were planning to get together to watch.

That get-together never happened.

And she still has my tapes.

I went back on eBay six months later. Nothing.

And then...only recently...I happened upon Carole and Paula's website. They had a DVD on sale...WITH TEN EPISODES!!!

I did some comparison shopping and found a set on eBay for $15.

It arrived yesterday.

I've watched four episodes so far.

It feels so good to be a kid again. But the adult in me appreciates the fact that The Magic Garden was so powerful, and struck such a chord, because of its simplicity. It was about as low-tech as you can get for TV shows. You could clearly see the strings that made the Story Box open and close, as well as those that made the Chuckle Patch giggle. But its low-tech made it so endearing. In one of the episodes, the Magic Tree gave Carole and Paula a set of cardboard nesting boxes. They made the boxes into a variety of things, all with the power of their imagination. There was a boat, a train, and an ice cream sundae. There were no special effects that helped them out. There was no fancy music, no quick cuts to a scene outside of the garden. It was just two grown women having fun.

I also appreciate how The Magic Garden was not an overly-scripted show that talked down to kids. Carole and Paula talked very naturally, not as if they were reading from a script (Hi, EVERYBODY! My NAME is DORA!), but rather, as if they just talking casually with an old friend. They were both very mellow, very low-key. There was no gimmick to the show at all. They weren't trying too hard to shove curriculum down a kid's throat, much the way that a lot of kids shows do today.

But I best appreciate that this show allowed kids to use their imaginations, a quality of kids shows that doesn't exist today. The Story Box segment used very simple props that kids could find around their homes, nothing fancy that required them to go to the store and purchase. And if they didn't have the exact props they needed, they could use glue, tape, and a little fabric to make props themselves. There was no merchandise tied in to The Magic Garden, except for three albums of songs that the fans requested--or maybe even demanded--Carole and Paula to record.

I spent the afternoon watching four episodes of the compilation, and smiled fondly at remembrances of my childhood. The Magic Garden will no longer be buried in the depths of my memory bank, thanks to the good people at Koch Entertainment, the company that released the DVD.

I'll be scrounging YouTube for a Clip of the Week featuring Carole and Paula, for those of you who did not have the privilege of growing up with these two lovely women. In the meantime, Kittens,

See ya, see ya!
Hope ya had a real good time, Bah-bum,
Hope ya had a real good morning, do-do,
Hope we get to see ya again!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election History: President Barack Obama

Various projections from CNN's coverage last night. At 2:47, you'll see the moment that had me screaming.

Epilogue to an Election

Eight years ago, I vowed to stay up all night, watching the election returns, determined, for once in my life, to witness the networks declare a president-elect. I had just finished my student teaching, and didn't have to go into work the day after Election Day, so I decided to stay up for as long as I could.

Well, we all remember what happened.

I woke up the next morning, asked Mama Cat who the next president was, and she told me there wasn't any. I turned on CNN and heard the story, again and again, about the whole fiasco that was unfolding in Florida. Sister Kitten, a college senior at the time, called from Ithaca and asked what the hell was going on.

In 2004, I just wasn't motivated to stay up. I cannot remember the last time I felt so indifferent towards an election, a fact that I am embarrassed and ashamed to admit now. I felt the way many Americans did: I voted for John Kerry, if only to get W. out of office.

This year, however, I was very excited about Obama. Here was this young, charismatic individual, a fast-rising star on the political scene, who had this gift of rallying people around him. I liked his articulation, I liked the way he spoke, I liked the way he related to people, especially the youth. I really liked the way he got young people, the next generation, excited about the political process.

Now I am no political analyst. There are so many "what ifs" still out there. What if things were really going well for the Republican party right now? What if there was a huge October surprise on the eve of Election Day? Several months ago, the election was too close to call. Both McCain and Obama were in a dead heat in many states, and I kept thinking, as I read whatever I could about the election, "Another 2000. Another 2000."

I had those anxious fears that something--anything--would go wrong last night. I was expecting to go to sleep once the Starbucks wore off (thanks for the two free cups of coffee I received at two different stores). I watched the returns nonstop on CNN all night long, with my calculator, figuring out possible Electoral College scenarios. (By the way, how the hell did I miss the holograms?)

In short, with all signs pointing towards Obama, I was expecting McCain to pull an upset.

And then 11:00 PM rolled around.

Wolf Blitzer had a countdown graphic on the Magic Map. Countdown before the polls closed on the west coast. Five, four, three, two...

CNN Projection...

And then...


I started to scream. I kept saying "Ohmigod" for almost half an hour. I was literally breathless.

I went online immediately and started looking for blogs. I was amazed that none of the news websites, particularly CNN and the New York Times, crashed due to the onslaught of traffic. I called my minister in a frenzy; we were both outspoken Obama supporters.

The adrenaline kept me up till 1 AM. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Not just the fact that I was witness to a new president being elected, but the fact that we elected an African-American as president.

This fact wasn't lost on Roland Martin, who was very emotional over Obama's win. He mentioned that next year, the NAACP will celebrate its centennial. It was founded in 1909 as the result of a racial riot that took place in Springfield, Illinois.

Springfield, Illinois.

The same city where Barack Obama announced his candidacy.

I was blogging last night when I overheard McCain on the TV. I ran back into the living room. Now, I don't agree on much of McCain's politics, but after his concession speech, I have increased respect for the man. He delivered a classy, dignified, gracious concession, and you could tell that he sincerely wished his opponent well. Yes, he was disappointed, but he wasn't bitter about his loss.

And Obama, too, extended an olive branch to McCain after a long, often bitter, campaign.

I will never forget the acceptance speech in Grant Park. Obama was serious, dignified, overwhelmed at times, that he won. He recognized that there was a long road ahead. He knew that there were a lot of problems ahead. And he was humble enough to say, "I need your help."

Yes, we could.

Yes, we did.

This morning, I had more time to reflect. What if McCain had won? Would there have been some racial rioting in the streets in various cities? How would the world have reacted? There was nothing short of adoration and jubiliation all around the world.

I'm overwhelmed, physically and emotionally, but psyched that I have lived through this momentous time in American history. I got home early enough to take a nap, and I did, for three hours.

And now, an early bedtime.

Now the withdrawl period begins.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


No sooner had CNN posted the final seconds of the countdown to the closing of the West Coast polls when they had declared Barack Obama the President-Elect.

I started screaming, hyperventilating, and crying.

Two of the CNN anchors, Roland Martin and Tara Wall, were on the verge of tears.

I just finished watching Senator McCain's concession speech.

All I can say is, "Wow."

We did it.

Thanks, America.

More tomorrow. And thanks again.


With only 34% of precincts reporting, Connecticut voters have decided, 60% to 40%, to vote no on question one, that is, whether or not the state should have a constitutional convention. This is great news!

And my congresswoman, Rosa DeLauro, was re-elected! Yay Rosa!

And Connecticut voters have voted to let 17-year-olds vote as well.

Most importantly, WE'RE A BLUE STATE! Granted, we have only a handful of electoral votes, but it still makes me feel pretty damn good!

So that's the update on the homefront. Now back to surfing the net and the TV for the latest scoop.

Freakout Mode, Election Edition

I was keeping my cool all day about the returns...until now.

It is official--we here at The Bookkitten (that is, Maggie, Gabby, and I) are in total, uncontrolled, full-fledged, unequivocal, freakout mode.

And you know how I get in Freakout Mode.

Just found out Obama's projected to win Ohio. Okay, that's now 194 electoral votes. So let's do the math here, Kittens...

...Obama wins Florida, that's another 27...which puts us at 221...then he wins California, and that's another 55, so that makes 276...

Yep, it's a squeaker, but there's HOPE!!!!

I'm gonna be up awhile. I got my free Starbucks coffee after work, then picked up another free coffee at the Starbucks on my way to choir practice. Starbucks is the only coffee that keeps me awake.

But tonight, adrenaline is doing a damn good job, too.

I'll be back later. Sam Adams is paying a visit. Having a beer just seems really appropriate right now.

Hooray, Hooray, It's Election Day!

It's finally here...I really don't believe it!

And in tribute, here's an early 90s tribute to our presidents, courtesy of the Animaniacs.

I hope we can add Barack Obama to the list!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Ms. Kitten Rocks the Vote!

On my 18th birthday, I walked into the town hall in Granby, Connecticut and met with the registrar of voters. After filling out some paperwork, showing some identification, and taking an oath, I became a registered Democrat.

My party affiliation hasn't changed since.

My interest in politics seriously began when I was a junior in high school, when Bill Clinton was running for the first time. I found a Clinton/Gore bumper sticker and, since I didn't have a car at the time, stuck it on my AP US History notebook. I felt it was appropriate to stick it there.

Election Night, my friend Jon and I had maps of the US, and we colored the states in red and blue as the returns came in, and we were both so excited to show each other our maps, in Clinton's favor, at school the next day.

If I could have voted in that election, I would have.

My first official election was in 1994, when Bill Curry and John Rowland ran for governor. I was in college at the time, and my parents weren't willing to pick me up and drive me home just to vote, so they made me contact Town Hall so I could obtain an absentee ballot. I voted for Bill Curry, partially because he was an alumni of my high school. (I only recently learned that Joe Courtney, another Connecticut politician, is also an alumni of my high school). Anyhoo, John Rowland won that election.

And if you follow Connecticut politics closely, y'all know what happened to him.

My first official presidential election was in 1996, and again, I had to vote by absentee ballot. Reason? I was studying abroad at the time. I was so excited when my absentee ballot arrived in the mail, I mailed it back the same day. That was the Clinton/Dole election, and of course, I cast my ballot for our incumbent president at the time.

The first election I could actually be present for was back in 1998. I had just graduated from college, and really felt weird actually being present on Election Day to vote. It was another gubernatorial contest, this time, between Barbara Kennelly and John Rowland.

It was the only time I voted Republican. I voted for John Rowland.

Mama Cat, a lifelong, self-described, tree-hugging liberal, was soooooooooo mad.

My first presidential election was in 2000. I voted for Al Gore.

And y'all know what happened then.

And tomorrow morning, I'm off to the polls once again. I always vote on my way into work; that way, I can avoid the post-work crowds around 5 PM. I vote at an elementary school with a really smart PTA. Why is the PTA so smart? They use Election Day as a bake sale fundraiser! So I can go vote tomorrow morning, and then get breakfast!

(Granted, it'll be of the sugary, buttery variety, but it's Election Day Breakfast!)

So tell me, Kittens, what was your first time voting like? Let's discuss!

Election Night Party Plans

Good evening, Kittens!

I can't believe that Election Day is here in just a matter of hours. I know that our nation has a long, dragged-out election process, but this one has felt waaaaaaaayyyyyy longer than usual. I am so anxious for tomorrow night! It is definitely going to be one verrrrrrrry long day.

So what are your plans for watching the returns tomorrow night? I'm not sure what mine are going to be. I have choir practice till 8:30, then I'm running home and I'm sitting on the couch and getting whatever alcohol I have in the house. Depending on how things are going, I may either have beer or wine. No champagne, though. I'm saving that for if Barack Obama wins.

And in spite of what the polls say, two people I spoke with today say that people would never admit in a poll that race plays a factor in their election decision. This makes me twice as nervous.

All I really care about, is waking up Wednesday morning, and knowing for sure that we have elected a president. I don't want any drag-ons like we've had for the last two elections.

But let me forewarn you, Kittens: Wednesday I'm either going to be in a really, really good mood, or a really, really bad mood.

Do you think Canada can handle the onslaught of all the Americans who could potentially cross its borders?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

My Favorite Time of Year

I get really psyched when the calendar hits October 31st, because that begins the period for my favorite time of year.

Yep, Kittens, I am a sucker for the holiday season.

I'm not so much into the shop, shop, shopping or the overcommercialism of the whole shindig. I cringe whenever I see Christmas decorations up in Target at the beginning of October. But I really, really love this time of year because I get to spend time with the people I care about most: my friends and family. I know that sounds tres corny, but that is why I love it so.

I especially love December. I love Christmas carols, decorations, hot cider, fluffy snowflakes, and all of the joy and spirit that goes along with the holiday season. There's just such a tangible love in the air, and it really makes me feel alive.

I can say this now, because last year, I didn't feel alive at all. In fact, I felt like I only existed.

Last year, at this time, my life hit rock bottom. I won't divulge too many details publicly, but I will say that I entered the deepest depression I ever had. It was a challenge for me to even get out of bed sometimes. I really hated myself, and just felt awful, awful, awful.

You see, Kittens, I was addicted to the two most available substances we have: food and money. I spent too much, I ate too much, and at this time last year, it all came to a head, and I had to seek help. I started by contacting my minister, who then got me in touch with two twelve-step programs: Debtors Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous, and I started to attend meetings. Two months later, I found, through a friend, a wonderful therapist whom I see to this day. I started to get help, and work on my problems from the inside out.

I have battled anxiety and depression for almost my entire life. Previously I was on antidepressants, and those really helped for a while, but they didn't address the core problems that were making me depressed and anxious. I also didn't like the physical side effects they had on my body. I slowly, slowly weaned myself off them, and physically, I feel a lot better. These drugs were partically to blame for my weight gain, and I lost 20 pounds just by going off of them.

NOW, I recognize that there are those who need to use antidepressants for the long-term, and I respect that as a part of their treatment. Antidepressants, however, did not really benefit my OWN case in the long run. Please do not take my situation as a substitute for medical advice, PLEASE! I am not a doctor!

Addressing my problems head on has helped me a lot. Slowly, I started coming out of my fog. It didn't happen overnight, not at all. I had many, many setbacks. I shed a lot of tears, and used a lot of Kleenex. It's not easy for me to write this right now, even though I'm writing under a pseudonym and most of you don't know my real identity (except for the handful of friends who know of this blog's existance). I've seen many of you blog articulately, thoughtfully, and openly, and I admire you all for that. It's really hard for me to be unguarded, except with my family and my closest friends. (My best friend, who gets frequent press time here, is especially good at getting me to let my guard down).

The tagline on this blog, as you have seen, is "Reflections on life's journey and the peaks, valleys, and amusements along the way." I have learned to seek the joy out of life's simplest things, whether it be a walk along the Brooklyn Bridge or picking apples on a crisp autumn day. I've blogged a lot about the diversions and peaks, but not too much on the valleys. I really don't want to dwell on the valleys, but rather, would acknowledge their existance, for they are a part of life.

But I don't want to concentrate on the valleys now. Right now is a peak time--and hopefully, if Barack Obama gets elected, will stay that way. I want to focus on the holidays, and rather, the joys, scents, sounds, and togetherness of the season. I especially want to focus on my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, where you don't have to worry about buying anyone anything and you can eat to your heart's content and not feel guilty. Oh yeah, and spend a lot of time with the ones you love.

I'm aware that there are those who can't spend the holidays with their loved ones.

But I am lucky that I can.