12 Days of Christmas Music That Won’t Turn Your Brain to Goo (Day 6)

Today has been a frenetic day (which is why this post is coming to you so late). But this song is a wonderful, soothing antidote to mind-stress.

Enjoy George Winston’s piano rendition of another one of my favorites, “Carol of the Bells,” from his Wyndham Hill album December. This song, this version of it, this arrangement and its performance, are gorgeous.


12 Days of Christmas Music That Won’t Turn Your Brain to Goo (Day 5)

So, last year I included this song, which I first heard in the movie Love, Actually (which I love, actually), and which I enjoy listening to, which I love, actually (see what I did there?), when I’m bopping around in the car on my way through traffic, singing at the top of my lungs. It’s fun.

My husband will have none of it, though. The song makes his ears bleed. In fact, all songs by Mariah Carey do. Fair enough.

This is for him.

And, since I’m posting it on the blog, also for you. Enjoy.


12 Days of Christmas Music That Won’t Turn Your Brain to Goo (Day 3)

I love this carol, too, and I seem to be collecting different versions of it. One of my favorites is the Barenaked Ladies/Sarah MacLachlan version, though I think I already posted that one last year. I actually have two others this year, one today and one tomorrow.

12 Days of Christmas Music That Won’t Turn Your Brain to Goo (Day 2)

If I told you Bad Religion had made a Christmas album, you might have one of the following responses:

  1. I’ll bet it’s offensive.
  2. If not offensive, it’s probably at least ironic.
  3. Was this a dare?
  4. I don’t believe you.

Fine, fine, but it’s TRUE, and the music is GOOD. With the exception of one original song, the playlist is all traditional carols, performed in a completely sincere way, just not in a traditional way. The force of their playing style only highlights the strength of the songs they’ve included. They made this album for charity, and I strongly recommend you go and buy it now. It’s become my family’s new favorite holiday album. There are so many good songs on it — including one track with the first verse done a capella in harmony — but because I’ve had so many other good entries this year for the 12 Days list, you’ll need to go and check out the whole album yourself to hear them all.

I’m presenting today one of my favorite carols, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Rock on, and enjoy.


12 Days of Christmas Music That Won’t Turn Your Brain to Goo (Day 1)

It’s that time of year again! The time when “Houston’s Christmas Music Station” sets their radio dials to stun with the most tired, limp, overdone Christmas carols you can imagine. And honestly, it’s past time, because they started it the Friday before Thanksgiving, as is their villainous wont.


Behold, your antidote: I have curated a dozen songs here this year which will not turn your gray matter to mush in a zombie-haze cocktail that’s one part hatred and two parts despair. I hope you like them. I’d like to take this moment now to thank everyone who wrote in on my Facebook pages with some fantastic suggestions for this year’s series. Quite a few of the entries this year come from their choices, and it’s just unfortunate that I couldn’t use all of their great ideas. This series is, after all, only twelve days. (Some of their songs may show up next year, though.)


I feel the need to begin this series, as I do every year, with a song whose themes are near and dear to my heart. I suppose I might pass on it some year when this season doesn’t feel insanely rushed to me, but until then (i.e. for as long as I’m still teaching), this is my go-to pick-me-up.


Happy holidays!



For more fun tunes, check out previous year’s offerings here and here.


Forbidden Cookbook: Pot Roast

This is a great dinner for a chilly evening. It’s very basic, and though it takes about an hour to prepare, most of that is stove time with the pressure cooker that you can use to do something else. I like to make the pot roast and use the au jus from the pot as a gravy over mashed potatoes and peas. (And to be really easy about it, use mashed potatoes from a mix and frozen peas.) Add a salad if you want and some ciabatta rolls, and yum.

I found a version of this recipe online, though I don’t remember where and can’t find it now (sorry). But as with all recipes, I tweaked it to exclude items I didn’t like or am allergic to and added things I do like. Then I played with measurements. (All the ones here are to taste unless otherwise indicated, but if you prefer having something concrete to go by, try it with 1 tsp. each of the herbs and go from there according to what you like.)

There’s no picture for this one because it’s just too boring to look at, despite how delicious and fall-apart tender it is.



beef roast (2-3 lbs.)
olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of your pressure cooker)
1 envelope Ranch dip mix
1 envelope brown mushroom gravy mix
garlic salt
black pepper
minced dried onion
dried thyme
dried oregano
dried parsley
24 oz. beef broth
1 white or yellow onion, thinly sliced

If you have the time and want to get fancy, add sliced baby bella mushrooms when you put in the sliced onion.

Heat olive oil in pressure cooker and brown roast on all sides in it. Be careful not to splash or burn yourself; the oil will heat very quickly.

In a small bowl, mix Ranch dip mix, mushroom gravy mix, and other herbs and spices together. Sprinkle them evenly over roast. Add beef broth and diced onion. Stir broth around so that herb mixture covering roast is moistened and diced onion pieces are in the broth. Seal the lid on the pressure cooker and cook on high heat until the pressure indicator sounds.

Turn heat down to medium and cook for 45 minutes.

Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Run under cold water to help release pressure before unsealing the lid.