Saturday, 6 December 2008
Every Time a Bell Rings . . .
By now you will all have noticed my surprise! Yes, I had the look of my blog re-done. I wanted something fresh and new and I am ever so pleased with the results! It looks a lot less cluttered and I'm very happy with it. Thanks so much Hannah!
Okay, you're really in for it this morning!!! Grab your popcorn and pull up a chair. You are now going to get the list of my all time favourite Christmas Movies! Movies that I just can't get through the holidays without seeing, and movies I highly recommend. It doesn't matter how many times I've seen these films, I love to watch them over and over again, and it just wouldn't be Christmas without seeing them at least once during the holidays. I'm afraid Todd is tortured with seeing these films year after year . . . but he doesn't really mind . . . a lot of them are his favourites too!!!
1. It's a Wonderful Life ~ George Bailey has so many problems he is thinking about ending it all - and it's Christmas ! As the angels discuss George, we see his life in flashback. As George is about to jump from a bridge, he ends up rescuing his guardian angel, Clarence. Clarence then shows George what his town would have looked like if it hadn't been for all his good deeds over the years. Will Clarence be able to convince George to return to his family and forget about suicide ? It just wouldn't be Christmas without watching this film at least once. I love it from beginning to end and it doesn't matter how many times I have seen it, I never tire of it.
2. A Christmas Story ~ This movie remains so fresh with each viewing, it is easy to forget that it was 25 years old this year. Told from Ralphie's viewpoint, these are the Christmas reminiscences of an adult whose pre-teen Christmas wish is a BB-gun that adults discouraged with the phrase "You'll shoot your eye out." In his quest to convince his parents that he is old enough to have a BB-gun, young Ralphie hatches several plots, including writing the best "What I Want for Christmas" essay in his class, also leaving BB-gun ads in conspicuous places, and, as a last resort, asking Santa Claus. (Parents with young sons, beware: you may want to delay purchasing this film until you are ready to deal with a similar request.) I absolutely love this film. Todd had never seen it until I introduced him to it and now it is a firm favourite with him as well. I highly recommend this film. Watch it and you'll be hooked! I double dog dare ya!
3. Miracle on 34th Street ~ The original one with Maureen O'Hara and Natalie Wood. I absolutely love this film. (I know, I know, I say it about them all! But it's true!) Christmas is not Christmas to me without this film. Edmund Gwenn must come close to every body's ideal of Santa Claus/Father Christmas, the kindly, good humored grandfather. The warmth of the story is the restoration of belief in all things Christmas came to represent,and we soon see that in the presence of Kris Kringle even the most cynical opportunism and expediency is doomed. If you've never seen it, you've never had Christmas at your house!
4. A Christmas Carol ~ the original version with Alistair Sim. This is the "desert-island" choice of the many versions of "A Christmas Carol", with a magnificent, full-bodied portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge by Alastair Sim that leaves everyone else in the dust. NO other version seems to quite cut it with me. It HAS to be this original one, in all it's crackly, grainy, black and white goodness . . .
5. The Homecoming ~ This was the movie that predicated the popular television series "The Waltons". A homespun tale, the movie focuses on rural life during the Great Depression and the anxiety a family feels one Christmas when their beloved Father is overdue after being forced to travel to the city to find work and earn money for his family's survival. Each of the characters reacts to his departure in different ways. Ultimately, the oldest son, John-Boy, portrayed by Richard Thomas, takes important steps to manhood and toward his ultimate career as a writer. If you've never seen this movie, you owe it to yourself to view a more unvarnished, less "suburban" rendition of life in this beloved family. A scene in which little Elizabeth, who desperately wants a doll for Christmas, receives one . . . with a cracked and broken face . . . from a "charity" Missionary, only after having to "perform" scriptures, is so raw that it hurts. "It's dead," the little girl sobs into her brother's comforting arms. This film is anything but dead. There is real life in every panel that reaffirms true family relationships and the Christmas spirit without being heavy-handed.
6. Home Alone ~ This is a classic Christmas movie. The plot, cast, and the acting are all top notch. The story is about young boy named Kevin who gets left behind when his family leaves for Paris. While alone, he must fend off two bumbling burglars while at the same time, his family is on a desperate race against time to return home. I fell in love with this film the first time I saw it and I have many happy memories of watching it with my kids. It just wouldn't feel like Christmas for me without watching it at least once during the holidays. It doesn't matter how many times I see those robbers get hit in the face with paint tins, or walking on broken ornaments in their bare feet, I laugh my head off every time!
7. Meet Me In St Louis ~ One of the finest American musicals, this 1944 film by Vincente Minnelli is an intentionally self-contained story set in 1903, in which a happy St. Louis family is shaken to their roots by the prospect of moving to New York, where the father has a better job pending. Judy Garland heads the cast in what amounts to a splendid, end-of-an-era story that nicely rhymes with the onset of the 20th century. The film is extraordinarily alive, the characters strong, and the musical numbers are a splendid part of the storytelling. I love Margaret O'Brien in this, but then I love her in all her films, and the singing of Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Judy Garland is a classic, not to be missed, moment.
8. The Family Man ~ In the tradition of the best films that Hollywood ever had to offer comes this refreshingly honest movie that isn't afraid to say that you don't have to be rich, hip and cynical to be successful and happy with your life. "The Family Man," stars Nicolas Cage as Jack Campbell, a man who took the "road less traveled," and turned his back on love for a career on Wall Street, and thirteen years later still doesn't realize how empty and shallow his life has become. Then something happens; on Christmas Eve, Jack does a good turn to the right person at the right time. His name is Cash , and he just happens to be a guy with . . . well . . . connections. The next thing Jack knows, he's getting a "glimpse" of what his life would have been had he made a different choice all those many years ago. When he wakes up on Christmas morning, he's not in his bed in his penthouse apartment, but in a house in the suburbs, sleeping next to Kate Reynolds, the woman he once loved, but abandoned. Wall Street is history; he's now a crackerjack tire salesman at "Big Ed's," and he and Kate have two kids, Annie and Josh. I won't tell you how it turns out as I don't want to spoil it for anyone. Let's just say this is a fabulous feel good movie, an honest, heart-felt film with an important message about life in today's world.
9. The Dollmaker ~ This was a made for TV movie that was produced in 1984. Starring Jane Fonda, it is the story of an Appalachian woman and her family that are forced to move from the comfort of their hills to the big city of Detroit during the big depression of the 1930's. In the movie we see the love and the struggles of an Appalachian Kentucky family. The Nevel family may lack in money and materialistic "things" but the family is rich with tradition, family, love and faith in God. From the outside they had little but really they had it all. It is a bittersweet struggle of survival for one woman, to beat all the odds stacked against her and her family and to follow that dream in life . . . "HOME". It proves one CAN go home again if they only have the dream and desire. It might not be a "Christmas" movie in the strictest sense of the word, but I love the way it makes me feel.
10. Holiday Affair ~ I love this Christmas gem from 1949. It has all the ingredients necessary to earn a place in my Christmas movies Hall of Fame . . . an adorable little boy who wants a train set his widowed mom can't afford. Janet Leigh plays a WWII widow struggling to provide for her son. Wendell Corey is the kind and decent man who wants to marry her. Robert Mitchum, (hubba hubba) is the drifter on his way to California who changes everything. It has charm without being schmaltzy, humor without being too cutsie, and an ending that has you standing up to cheer. Start stringing the popcorn and plan to watch this every Christmas season.
So there you have it . . . my top ten Christmas movies to watch! Oh, I know there are a lot more than these ten films that I just HAVE to watch every Christmas, but this is a good starting point. Tell me what is your MUST WATCH Christmas film? I'd love to hear all about it!
Oh, I was so thrilled to see that in my cookbook challenge this week, you all picked the Mushroom Bisque! This soup was delicious and quite easy to make. It would make a perfect first course for your Christmas Dinner actually and I can see myself making this again for Christmas day! You can actually make this a couple days ahead and re-heat, adding the cream and the sherry just before you are ready to serve. Yummo!! Thanks so much for picking this!
*Mushroom and Potato Bisque with Pancetta Croutons*
Serves 6 to 8
This makes a lot but I was able to cut the recipe in half quite successfully. Made with a combination of dried and fresh mushrooms, it had a lovely rich flavour. Deliciously creamy with a wonderful topping of crisp pancetta bits, this was a real winner. I added an additional garnish of some extra fried mushrooms and it went down a real treat!
2 ounces dried wild mushrooms, shitake or porcini
6 cups of either chicken or vegetable broth
3 TBS butter
1/4 pound of thick cut pancetta or bacon, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 leek, white and light green parts only, cleaned and finely chopped
1 pound of fresh cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
one 8 ounce baking potato, peeled and cut into 2 inch dice
1 fat garlic clove, peeled and minced
salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
1 TBS plus 1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 cup single cream (or half and half)
1/3 cup dry sherry, or to taste
chopped fresh flat leaf parsley to garnish (I forgot all about this!)
Bring the chicken or vegetable stock to a boil. Add the dried mushrooms and then set aside for 5 minutes to infuse.
Melt 1 TBS of the butter in a large soup pot. Add the pancetta and fry, stirring occasionally, until nicely browned on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon to drain on some paper kitchen towelling. Discard any fat left in the pot and wipe clean.
Melt the remaining 2 TBS of butter over medium high heat and add the chopped leek. Cook and stir for several minutes, until softened. Add the fresh mushrooms (if you are doing my optional mushroom garnish, save a small handful out), potato and garlic. Cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes, or until the potato begins to soften.
Scoop the dried mushrooms out of the broth and add them to the pot. Strain the broth into the pot through a finely meshed strainer. Season to taste with some salt and pepper and add the soy sauce. Top with a lid, leaving it slightly ajar and simmer the soup for about 15 minutes.
Using a hand blender or a stand blender (with caution) blend the soup until it is roughly pureed with a bit of texture remaining. Stir in the cream and the sherry, if using. Simmer for another two minutes to heat through. Taste and adjust seasoning as required.
Ladle into hot soup bowls and garnish each with some of the pancetta, the parsley and some of the extra fried mushrooms, if desired. Serve right away to your lucky family and guests!
*Note - This does not freeze well because of the cream. You could make it ahead up to the point where you have to add the cream and sherry, and then freeze, adding them once you have reheated it.
If you choose to use vegetable broth this becomes vegetarian.