Posted in holiday guest blog, music

Days of Christmas: Have to Listen–Favorite Holiday Songs

I love this Paul McCartney ode to the Christmas spirit–and maybe love it all the more because it sounds like space aliens are adding their hoopy frood grooves to it.  It’s like Charlie Brown and Ford Prefect were in charge of the music.


Any version of the Carol of the Bells works for me, but I really do like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s.  And this one by the Celtic Women.  Although, I could do without the earnest staging.


Annie Lennox can do no wrong, and her version of The Holly and the Ivy is goosebump gorgeous.  So is she.  That woman is stunning.


Of the serious carols, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel is my deepest favorite.


And of the not-so-serious, I prefer to put on yarmulke and celebrate Hanukkah.  With Bowser from Sha-na-na and Arthur Fonzarelli.


The Christmas song that makes me the happiest, and always inspire me to squeal up to my highest vocal heights?  Oh, my Mimi!  All I Want for Christmas is You!  (Chair dancing and humming along as I type this. Happy!)


What’s your favorite?




Posted in holiday guest blog

Days of Christmas: Holiday Have to Phone It In

I spent most of the past weekend in the hospital with my mother, whose personal twelve days of Christmas included three MRIs a’scanning, two mini-strokes a’having, and a long night in the ER [she’s okay, thankfully!]  Thus and so, I did not make the time to prepare a holiday gift guide for today–Frankly, I am exhausted.  Instead, I’d just like to tell you that I am thankful for good doctors, kind MRI techs, family and friends, and even relative strangers who care, and access to healthcare.  And the internet, through which I was able to contact and be contacted by all those family, friends, and caring relative strangers.

B and I have been catching up on that deliciously soapy series, The Tudors, and once I got over my personal chafing about the vagaries of history brought about by good storytelling (Gabrielle Anwar…so miscast.  Not a vagary of history, I’m just saying.) I started to really enjoy it.  But, like every show I watch, I find it making me wonder how I would feel in certain cases.  The Tudors reminds me of how fortunate I am to live in an age where communication is nothing more than a few clicks of a button, and healthcare is more than [not the] leeches [again!!!]

Some of my friends are having their first holiday seasons without members of their families.  Some of my friends are having their first divorced holiday seasons and are sharing custody of their children back and forth.  Some of my friends are sitting bedside of sick loved ones this season.  Several of my friends are still adjusting after several years of the same.  I want you to know I’m thinking of you and caring about you.

To make you smile, because it make me giggle like a fool this morning, I give you Celine Dion singing Feliz Navidad.  Oh, friends, she is REALLY serious about your Navidad being very, very Feliz.  Enjoy!

Posted in holiday guest blog

Days of Christmas: Holiday Have to Give–Feed the World with Jewels’ Jewels (and other things)

There's a world outside your window, y'all, and you can help feed it by purchasing one of these pretties.

I am copying and pasting directly from Julie Anne Rhodes’ website here:

ALL PROCEEDS [from the sales of the pendant featured above] BENEFIT SAVE THE CHILDREN’S HUNGER CRISIS FUND Spread the true spirit of the holidays this season by giving in two very meaningful ways with a limited-edition pendant designed by jeweler Jodi Zuletta.

Crafted from hammered Argentinian silver, the pendant features a glittering drop with iridescent crystal and tiny freshwater pearl accents. The fund provides relief to children facing starvation in the drought-ravaged countries of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia.

More than 29,000 children under the age of six have already perished with another quarter million more expected before the drought ends. One-hundred percent of the monies from every sale will be donated directly to the Children’s Hunger Crisis Fund to provide children in need with food, water, and medicine.

Complete your holiday shopping and save children at the same time – one gift will put a smile on two faces!

(click here to purchase)

Julie Anne is a tireless crusader against hunger, and this is one of her ways of giving her audience an opportunity to share what they have with others.

For solutions closer to home, Feeding America is accepting donations to help put food on the tables of hungry Americans.  At their website, you can find and donate to a group in your geographic location.

In Texas, I choose to donate to the North Texas Food Bank, a charity we have supported for six years.

Wherever you are, and whatever you are able to do, I urge you to donate.  If you can spare a single dollar as donation to charity, especially this time of year, please do.  Drop a handful of dimes in the Salvation Army bucket.  Give online to the charity of your choice.  Give directly to people you know who are in need.  Every penny helps.

There are literally thousands of ways to help people, whether you are the 1%, the 53%, or the 99% remember that we are all the 100% and if nothing else, this season has come to mean celebrating the story of a truly wonderful gift.  I’m sure there are babies out there today who could use a little modern myrrh, if you get my meaning.

P.S., I dare you not to sing along!

I also dare you not to look at all that 80s hair without laughing. That Boy George…that man’s voice is amazing.  I’m going to go dig out my Culture Club albums now. 


Posted in holiday guest blog

Days of Christmas: Holiday Have to Read–Comics

I’ve been a comic junkie for as long as I can remember, and though I haven’t bought a lot of comic books for myself (aside from the Archies, Spiderman, and Superman comics that my grandmother let me buy when I spent summers with her) I never turn up my nose at a good strip.  I will even admit to being a fan of Elf Quest.  I have a group of strips I read daily, as part of my morning routine.  As part of today’s Holiday Guide, I’m sharing my absolute favorites.

1.  Sinfest

This comic by Tatsuya Ishida updates M-Su with a full color strip on Sunday.  My favorites are the Percy and Pooch strips, featuring “The Artist’s” pets in action, but I also love Ishida’s Devil Girl story lines, and his current treatment of feminism.

Monique checks out the patriarchy.

2.  Girls with Slingshots

I love, love, love, love, love Danielle Corsetto’s strip about friends.  This one also updates M-F, making me very happy.  Girlfriends, a talking cactus, ghost cats, and the most human and humane treatment of relationships of all kinds I’ve seen in any format.

And maybe because it reminds me of my friendship with Amy.

3.  Multiplex

Life in a movie theater by Gordon McAlpin, my only complaint is that this one doesn’t update frequently enough!  Only M and Th, but always worth the wait.  Right now, the Multiplex gang are filming their own zombie movie, and it’s as much fun watching how McAlpin’s art changes with scenes from the movie, back to scenes from “reality” as it is waiting to see who gets eaten next.

ZOMBIES! How could you not love it?
Posted in Chef Lane, Giveaway, holiday guest blog

Days of Christmas: Holiday Must Make–Truffles, Cake Balls, and Jars of Cake

I get 90% of my sweet recipes from Jamie over at A Dash of Domestic, including the idea for Jars of Cake and Cake Balls.  I saw this Holiday Truffles recipe on Facebook, and had to try it.  I figured it was a dessert I couldn’t bake to death or ruin in some other way.

I picked up the following at the grocery store, then Thor and I got to work tonight.

  • 2 bags of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 bag of dark chocolate chips
  • 1 14oz can of condensed milk
  • 1 box of Duncan Hines Red Velvet Cake Mix
  • 2 things of Duncan Hines frosting (1 cream cheese, 1 chocolate)
  • 1 half gallon of whole milk
  • Assorted Sprinkles
  • 1 tin of cocoa
  • 12 4oz jelly jars with lids

Following the Holiday Truffles recipe, I melted up the chips and condensed milk, let Thor do the stirring, then popped it in the fridge to chill while I went to work on the cake.  Once everything was cool, I rolled up my truffle balls and then covered them in the assorted sprinkles.  I found it worked better to warm the chocolate in my hands a little before sprinkle dousing, and I found it worked really well to just roll the balls around inside a bowl of cocoa to cover them with that.  Now they are sitting in the freezer, waiting to go to a Christmas party.

Holiday Truffles

I made the red velvet cake batter as directed, then poured in 2 cups of chocolate chips (1 semi-sweet, 1 dark) at Thor’s behest.  Half the batter I poured into the tiny jars (situated on top of my Pampered Chef stone baking sheet–I love that thing so much!  Thank you Emily Reese!), filling the jars about halfway, then baked for 26 minutes at 350.  I used a teaspoon to scoop off the muffin-y tops of the cakes, then stuffed my cream cheese frosting into a ziplock baggie and cut a tiny pinch from a corner for a makeshift decorating tip.

After the cakes were cooled, I frosted them, screwed the jar lids on, and decorated one for you to see.  Those are now refrigerated, waiting to be delivered to their lucky owners.

Cakes cooling. I set them in warm water to help cool them down without breaking the glass. Ask me about my glass breaking story sometime.
Icing on the cake.
When is a door not a door? When it's ajar. Ahahahahaha! This is a cake in a jar.
Festive, non?

I baked the other half of the batter as a sheet, then mixed it up with about a quarter of the chocolate frosting (and the cake muffin tops I had cut from the jars) and formed cake balls with that.  I rolled the balls in cocoa, and have them in the freezer with the truffles, chilling and hanging out until it is time to be eaten.  Soon, my sweets, soon.

I did melt down some chocolate chips and mixed with whole milk, then dipped about 6 of the cake balls into that.  I caught Thor sneaking them from the platter where they were cooling.  The cake-faced grin would have given it away if the chocolate soul patch he was sporting had not.  Or the stomach ache he ended up with later.

We had fun.  Next up is the gingerbread train kit we’re putting together tomorrow.  Woo-woo!

On the topic of cooking, remember that if you leave a comment on ANY blog entry between now and December 30, like The Outside Lane on Facebook, or leave a comment on The Outside Lane on Facebook, you can win a month-long Premium Membership to my favorite Personal Chef’s website: