Pretty pictures, ribbons, and busy days before Christmas puts the wonderful in it’s the most wonderful time of the year.
Busy times bring happy holiday times, so let’s get this party cracking.
Is your Christmas list of things to do wrapped up with a big bow on it?
Mine is not as there’s still things to do, presents to wrap (Merry Christmas, fellow present wrapping procrastinators), goodies to bake and box, gifts to deliver, and halls to deck.
I liken the last few days before Christmas to that of a fabulous performance, building to a crescendo of epic and joyous volume.
Music is an integral part of my daily routine, even more so when it comes to the holiday jingle all the way.
Traditional tunes make the playlist, but discovering new holiday songs and new arrangements of old favorites is a gift all its own.
I’m streaming Smooth Jazz JJZ on iHeart radio, loving the holiday songs from Dave Koz, Luther Vandross, Tony Bennett, Joyce Cooling, Rick Braun, Boney James, Gerald Albright, John Tesh, Diana Krall, Mannheim Steamroller, and the incomparable music from my friend, Chris Botti.
I don’t believe I’ve ever shared with you all how my fan to friend relationship with Chris Botti began.
Dave the Builder and I were on our way to yes, you guessed it. Las Vegas.
Part of the fun is in the pre trip prep, so before our trips out to America’s Playground I would stream the Las Vegas smooth jazz station (changed format, no longer a listener) to set the mood and the tone.
I learned from listening that the station was sponsoring and promoting an evening of smooth jazz set to air air on the local Vegas PBS station and hosted by Chris Botti. I checked to see if we would be in town on the night it was set to air, and to my delight it was on arrival night.
Being a regular to Vegas coupled with the fact we would be in town eight nights, as my dad used to say, Vegas does not close. I knew I wanted to watch the special, so I told Dave I thought I would spend the first evening in, order room service, and take in the show.
Dave confirmed he was not expected to do the same, trying his best to hide his thank goodness glee.
George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston (IAH)
We had a small, but unhurried layover at Bush Intercontinental Houston. Dave popped into a store for something or other, and I walked on down to the gate area. I was half looking over my shoulder, half checking out our fellow travelers, when I noticed a guy walking by carrying a soft instrument case over his shoulder.
You know how when at first you don’t recognize someone, but after a few minutes you realize hey, that’s _________.
The hey, that’s ________ turned out to be Chris Botti.
When Dave strolled up to the boarding lounge, I asked him if he recognized the guy down at the end of the gate area.
No. Who is it?
It’s Chris Botti.
Are you sure?
Yes, I’m sure.
Is he on our flight?
It took me less than a second to process the situation and put two and two together. Smooth jazz American classic trumpeter extraordinaire, staunch supporter of PBS, hosting gig in Vegas this evening- yes, I do believe he is.
The boarding call for first class passengers goes out, and one Mr. Chris Botti heads that way. When the boarding call for coach passengers rows this through that is announced here we go.
Upon boarding I spot the jazz man sitting in back row left window in first class talking on his phone. Dave and I settle when fan to friend inspiration hits me. I retrieve my printed boarding pass from my briefcase, turn it over, and write a note to one Chris Botti. I spot the flight attendant and motion for him to come see.
“Would you mind giving this note to the blond hair gentleman in the back row left window seat in first class?”
The flight attendant was happy to be a player in my flashback to grammar school note passing caper. I put in the note my plans to watch the special, and it would be among one of the more special dinner and a show-Welcome to Las Vegas evenings.
Not long after reaching cruising altitude, the flight attendant came by our row with a message.
“The gentleman said to tell you he would meet you in baggage claim at McCarran.”
Excited to say the least, I was looking forward to our impending face to face meeting. Somewhere between the four corners and the ending of the movie, Dave the Builder announces “here comes Chris Botti.”
Chris came back to meet and greet, and thank me for my support of PBS and the smooth jazz artist community.
We gabbed for several minutes, met again and gabbed some more in baggage claim at McCarran.
Emails, conversations, and concert meetings find us here almost thirteen years later.
I hit the fan to friend jackpot for sure.
Now on to the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day menu at Places In The Home portion of the show and tell…
Our Christmas Eve traditional come casual, come comfortable, come hungry get together is super laid-back.
The menu is simple comfort food.
The no-fuss plan places me in the middle of the fun instead of in the kitchen all evening.
Been there, done that at Thanksgiving.
Who doesn’t love hamburgers cooked low and slow?
This group surely does, and the requests to “make them like Reed & Bell” is one this cook aims for.
John Margolies Roadside America photograph archive (1972-2008), Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division
Reed & Bell Drive-In was a hometown hamburger and cold frosted root beer institution.
Reed & Bell hamburger patties had a crisp edge, and the top of the buns were lightly brushed with hamburger grease.
Of course not, but see delicious.
Reading this post out loud to Dave, he reminds me Reed & Bell hamburgers ring super close to In-N-Out hamburgers.
They most certainly do, Dave.
Homemade potato salad is the side of choice accompanied by a platter of dills, gherkins, chips, bread and butters, assorted cheeses, red, green (Christmas colors), and sweet onions, sliced tomatoes, and fresh crisp lettuce.
Traditional Christmas Day fare is tradition.
Sliced spiral ham, Southern sweet potato casserole with walnut brown sugar crunch topping, seasoned green beans, deviled eggs, cranberry sauce, and yeast rolls.
Traditional favorites of egg nog, fresh apple nut cake, walnut fudge, date nut roll, and almond peanut butter cookies round it out.
Christmas came early to me when I received this fabulous surprise present from my darling nephew and niece-in-law.
Southern Living 50 Years: A Celebration of People, Places, and Culture promises to be a good read and a lovely addition to the coffee table library.
Shiny and bright.
Do you treat yourself to a to me from me Christmas present?
That’s exactly what I did this year when I found the Holy Mary statue at Paul Michael Company.
The Canadian Snowbird couple sent pictures of the Christmas cookies they baked together for their holiday game night party.
I admit I am one of those moms who asks her son and daughter-in-law to take and send photos of the little things in their lives.
It’s the little things in their lives that add up to big memories in ours.
Pretty pictures, ribbons, and busy days before Christmas remind me the present is in the process, and the gift is in the giving.
Merry Christmas, dear friends.