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Snow clinging to trees

"The night was clear and frosty, all ebony of shadow and silver of snowy slope; big stars were shining over the silent fields; here and there the dark pointed firs stood up with snow powdering their branches and the wind whistling through them."

By Lucy Maud Montgomery

Hubby and I watched as the snow clung to our trees. Several of the branches on the big tree in the middle of our yard seem rather spindly so we figured they might break off with the snow and the wind. Fortunately they stayed put. In one way, we were happy to see the snow. We know that snow protects plants from the bitter cold temperatures. About five or six years ago, we had very little snow but very cold temperatures. That was the winter that we lost more than a dozen of our rose bushes. We now have three new azalea bushes planted in our yard. The bushes were given to me when I was in the hospital following knee surgery. We pray that they survive this winter.

On Wednesday, Dec. 12, Hubby and I, along with daughter Sue, drove to the Amazing Things Arts Center, in Framingham, to see and hear our daughter-in-law Alex sing in an Open Mike Cabaret. When we arrived, we found son Paul sitting in the front row, along with Alex's parents, Sara and Earl. We spoke about our all being together at daughter Jeanne's home in Rockport for Thanksgiving dinner. When I asked Alex if she were nervous about singing, she said, "Not too much, now."

The Cabaret host Leslie Holmes had an impressive list of singing accomplishments. She has been a soloist with the Boston Symphony, the Boston Pops, and the Opera Company of Boston. She has given recitals on both U.S. coasts and in Cuba, Europe, and also on the radio. She sang several selections later the program. Leslie mentioned how fortunate the center was to have Michael Larson as pianist for the evening. Michael is sought by Boston-area singers for his skill and understanding of singers. He plays from score, chords, and even by ear. Before Alex came to the microphone, we heard at least one song from each member of the musical group, among them, Elsa Powel and Wayne Fritsche.

After the break in the program, Leslie invited Alex to the microphone. Alex looked lovely in a navy blue dress, with sparkling rhinestone jewelry. She gave us the theme of her selections, "love." She chose a wonderful group of songs. She began with Gershwin's Summertime, and then proceeded to Cole Porter's In the Still of the Night, Weill/Hughes's What Good Would the Moon Be?, and Cole Porter's So In Love. The next song was a very well known tune, Can't Help Loving That Man, from Showboat. The next selection really made us smile. Alex chose He's My Man by Tom Lehrer. (I must find our Tom Lehrer CD of his famous songs.) The next song was by Duke Ellington, I'm Beginning to See the Light, which was followed by a Johnny Mercer/Harold Arlen tune, Come Rain or Come Shine. Those were followed by one of my favorite songs, from Meredith Willson's The Music Man, Till There Was You. (I can still picture Shirley Jones in my mind as she sang that so beautifully in the movie.) Alex ended her evening as the featured singer with a wonderful song, Over the Rainbow, from The Wizard of Oz.

When Alex finished, she came back and sat between her parents and her husband, our son Paul. He gave her a kiss. Her mother Sara leaned over and gave Alex a big hug. Sara was so proud of her daughter's singing ability. By the way, the photo of Alex on the evening's poster was a great one, taken by her own personal photographer, our son Paul. We stayed for a short time, listening to several other members of the group perform. Then we figured we had better head for home. The forecast for the following day was for a good-sized snowstorm. The forecast was correct. Our area was inundated with the first big snowstorm of the season.

On Dec. 23, we drove to Rockport to celebrate our own family Christmas at daughter Jeanne and son-in-law David's home. The electric candles were glowing in the windows of their home as we pulled in the driveway. We beeped the horn and out came Jeanne, David, and the World's Greatest Grandchildren, Brendan and Erin. They all helped us unload the car. (Daughter Sue, in the back seat, had to keep moving presents around so she could take deep breaths.) Not only did we have presents for Jeanne, David, and the kids but we also had presents for son Paul and daughter-in-law Alex. We even had presents for Hubby's sister Peg and niece Terri, who were also going to join us. Sue had brought her potato salad and chocolate pudding pie. Hubby brought in a pot full of warm meatballs, thanks to Roche Brothers' Italian Meatballs. (We had run out of time to make our own.) They turned out to be quite tasty.

No sooner did we arrive than Alex and Paul came in, followed by Peg and Terri. There were presents everywhere. We all admired the Christmas tree, which David and Erin had chosen and cut down themselves at a tree farm. It was beautifully shaped and nicely decorated. Jeanne had Christmas candles burning throughout the house. We did watch TV for a short time but everyone was hungry so we all gathered in the kitchen

Jeanne said, "I am rushing St. Patrick's Day" and proceeded to put out a platter of corned beef and a dish of cabbage. They were next to Hubby's meatballs. There were cold cuts and cheeses, along with rolls to make sandwiches and meatball subs. Jeanne placed a dish of coleslaw next to Sue's potato salad. We all enjoyed the food. Jeanne had made an apple pie and put it next to Sue's chocolate pudding pie for the desserts. Hubby and I had given Jeanne a new Mr. Coffee machine a few weeks before Christmas after she had trouble with her old coffee pot at Thanksgiving. For Christmas, Jeanne had bought a pound of Dunkin' Donuts coffee so the coffee to accompany the pies was wonderful. There will be more about our family Christmas next week.

Thanks to Niece Terri, I found out that I really should be in New York City tonight, Thursday, Jan. 13. The new Cunard ship Queen Victoria, which was christened by Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, on Dec. 10, will rendezvous with the Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Elizabeth 2 in the waters off Lower Manhattan. The Statue of Liberty will provide the background for the three ships when, at 7 p.m., there will be a fireworks display to commemorate this once-in-a-lifetime event. On Jan. 6, the Queen Victoria will embark of a three-month, around-the-world cruise. The QE2 is expected to be retired from service later in 2008. Cunard is currently building a new Queen Elizabeth, to be ready in 2010.

An additional update on the Cunard ships (as of Monday morning): the QE2 set sail on her last global tour last Sat., January 6. The new Queen Victoria also set sail that day and is following the QE2 across the Atlantic Ocean to New York. When the QE2 returns from her final world cruise, she will be turned into a five-star hotel and will be located at the world's largest man-made island, the Palm Jumeirah, off the coast of Dubai, in the Arab Emirates.

I must thank the K Club for the beautiful suede-covered Pocketpal calendar book, which each guest at the Christmas Party was given. I already have dentist and doctors' appointments for 2008 and I now have my Pocketpal to write them in before I lose the little appointment cards.

I was sorry to read of the death of Theresa Sparda on Dec. 23. I send my sympathy to her children, Joan LaBelle, Maureen, Concetta Mayer, Donna Cooper, and especially to my friend, Shirley-Mae Sullivan.

Of course Hubby and I will be glued to our radio this Sat. evening to hear the Patriots' game. As I have already mentioned, we turn the TV's sound off and turn our radio to 104.1 FM, WBCN. Gil Santos and Gino Capaletti are so good announcing the game. They get excited when the Patriots score, so unlike the announcers on TV. We'll stick with Gil and Gino. The game will also be telecast on WBZ-TV, Ch. 4.

If you are looking for a place to go on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, Jan. 21, you might like to spend the day at the Museum of Fine Arts. Admission is free that day from 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. There will even be teenage guides to lead tours. This sounds like a great way to spend a winter's day.

Because we are still so close to New Year's, I would like to end this column with two Irish New Year's toasts that Daughter Sue received in an e-mail from Ireland this year. The first was written in Gaelic and then translated: "'go mbeire muid beo ar an am seo aris." "May we be alive this time next year!"(I'll drink to that!) The second one was written in English and is a second wonderful wish: "In the New Year, may your right hand always be stretched out in friendship but never in want. All the best to you and your family."