Dec 8, 2007

Blogger Advent Calendar: Christmas Music, Food, Stories, and a Book Giveaway!

One of my favourite things about Christmas is Christmas music. I start listening to it on mid-November and don't stop until January. So I thought I'd start by sharing the video to one of my favourite Christmas songs: "Put the Lights on the Tree" by Sufjan Stevens.

Sufjan Stevens is my favourite musician, and, not surprisingly, his Christmas songs are my favourite. He has a boxset called "Songs for Christmas" that contains 5 CDs of both original songs and traditional Christmas classics. One of the reasons why I love his songs so much is the fact that they manage to be both moving and tender and goofy and fun, like the one I posted the video for. And during the month of December, you can stream these 5 CDs for free over at his label's website! I urge you all to go over there and give them a listen. You can also download an mp3 of what happens to be my favourite song in the boxset: "That Was the Worst Christmas Ever". Head over there now; you know you want to!

Another of my favourite things about Christmas is, of course, the food. What is your very favourite Christmas recipe? Mine is a traditional Portuguese Christmas dessert called Sweet Rice. Sweet Rice is a kind of rice pudding flavoured with cinnamon and lemon, and its smell somehow captures the very essence of Christmas for me. It is a smell that is intertwined with my earliest Christmas memories. My mother always makes Sweet Rice for Christmas, and goes on making it until my birthday in early January, which marks the very end of the Christmas festivities in my house. Here is the recipe for Sweet Rice:

Ingredients for about 6 servings:
  • 250 g (9 oz.) of long-grain rice
  • 200 g (9 oz.) sugar
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 750 ml (3 cups) of milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 cinnamon stick and ground cinnamon
1. Cook the milk, rice and sugar on medium heat. Add the cinnamon stick and the lemon zest and let the rice cook for about 30 minutes.

2. Remove from the heat and add the egg yolks. Return to very low heat and stir while the egg yolks cook.

3. Pour into a dish or bowl, and decorate with the ground cinnamon. My father always decorates it with the loveliest Christmas patterns.

There! Not only it is delicious, but also very inexpensive and easy to make. And oh, how I love the smell of lemon and cinnamon together.

Another thing I love about Christmas are the stories. I try to read as many as I can every December. What are your favourite Christmas stories? One of mine is Truman Capote's very moving "A Christmas Memory", which you can read online here. It's a beautiful and nostalgic story and I never tire of re-reading it. Go over there if you have a half hour to spare. I don't think you will regret it.

And of course, we can't talk about Christmas without mentioning gifts. Which is why I am giving away a copy of Cornelia Funke's When Santa Fell to Earth (I posted a mini-review of it here), along with some surprise Christmas treats. To be entered in the draw, just leave me a comment letting me know you're interested until Tuesday the 11th of December. I will announce the winner on Wednesday and mail it out on Thursday. Please feel free to enter even if you already have the book, but would like another copy to give to someone.

That's all I have for you today. Don't forget to visit the rest of the Advent Calendar!

9 December - Raidergirl (an adventure in reading), Chris (Stuff as dreams are made on)
10 December - Dewey (The Hidden Side of a Leaf)
11 December -Suey (It's All About Books)
12 December - Chris (Book-a-rama)
13 December - Jill (The Well-Read Child)
14 December - Robin (A Fondness for Reading)
15 December - Alyssa (By The Book)
16 December - Rachel (A Fair substitute for heaven)
17 December - Literary Feline (Musings of a Bookish Kitty)
18 December - Dev (Good Reads)
19 December - Callista S.M.S. (Book Reviews)
20 December - Tiny Little Librarian (Tiny Little Librarian)
21 December - Carla (Carla Nayland Historical Fiction)
22 December - Carolyn Jean (The Trillionth Page)
23 December - Booklogged (A Reader's Journal)
24 December - Kailana (The Written World) / Carl V. (Stainless Steel Droppings


  1. This was an awesome post - full of my favorite Christmas things too - music, food, reading and fun! I enjoyed the music especially. I too listen to Christmas music in mid-November. My husband thinks I am crazy!

    Merry Christmas!

  2. I always used to love Rice Pudding, so this sounds really tasty! Thanks!

  3. Great post and cultural too. I love learning about different traditions. This advent tour has really put me in the spirit. The book sounds really interesting too.

  4. Hey Nymeth, throw my name in the hat.

    I am fascinated by the different Christmas music people like. It is great that there is so much of it out there as there is something for everyone. I love discovering new music, Christmas or anytime.

    I too start listening to Christmas music in November, usually on Thanksgiving day unless we get some snow before then and I stop on New Year's.

  5. What a fun post! The rice dessert sounds scrumptious!!! You have encapsulated the numerous reasons why Christmas is one of my favorite seasons :)

  6. Very nice! I was looking at that Cornelia Funke book the other day, I am surprised I had never heard of it before. I look forward to the music, I plan to look through the site later on today. :)

  7. What a nice post! I'm going to try cooking the Sweet Rice this weekend! ... Truman Capote's "A Christmas Memory" is so beautifully written, and I loved it when I first read it last spring--you were the one that recommended it to me! ... And I'd never heard of Sufjan Stevens, but I like his voice and the other songs by him I found this morning! ... Happy Holidays, Nymeth!
    Oh yes...please throw my name in the hat!

  8. What an awesome post, Nymeth! I have absolutely no idea what I'm going to post tomorrow :/

    I love Sufjan Stevens too, but had no idea that he did any Christmas music! That song was great and I love the video. Thanks for the links.

    I'm definitely going to try the recipe. Very different from what I'm used to eating and I'm excited about trying it! It sounds like it's simple enough not to completely mess up :p

    And definitely put me in for the Cornelia Funke drawing! I've been dying to read it since Debi's review and yours!

  9. Good food, good music, good reads. I plan to go read that Capote story this season, and the rice pudding sounds yummy. Thanks for sharing, and put my name in for the book. I read Inkheart this year, and liked her writing.
    Merry Christmas

  10. Thanks for sharing the music recommends. I love Christmas music too. :) And I'd like to enter my name in the contest. I love Cornelia Funke and haven't read this one.
    Happy Holidays!

  11. Hi! I'd love to be added to the drawing, Cornelia Funke being one of my most favorite authors!

    I love learning about new (new to me anyway!) musicians, so thanks for sharing your favorite. I will be listening.

    Also, I'm adding that recipe to the growing list. We'll have our own little Book Bloggers Christmas Cookbook by the time it's over!

  12. I love finding all these recipes! Please enter me for the giveaway :)


  13. Nymeth, this was just the most fabulous post! Just exactly what I needed at a very tiring day of non-stop wrapping. Put me right back in the spirit!

    I cannot wait to try your sounds delicious! I love rice puddings, but I've never had heard of one with lemon in it...mmmm....

    And I loved that song! O.K., I admit it...I'm old and so out of touch that I'd never heard of Surjan Stevens. But I am definitely going to go give those a listen. We're such suckers for Christmas music here, we can hardly ever just walk by a new CD without buying it.

    Thanks for this wonderful post!

  14. Oooh! Please enter my name in the drawing! I love Cornelia Funke.

    And I am going to try making the sweet rice tomorrow! Lemon and cinnamon are some of my favorite smells and flavors. Do you think it would work in my rice steamer? If I just put all the ingredients in there instead of stovetop?

  15. I love rice so I'm sure I'd love sweet rice! It sounds a lot like a dish we have in Mexico called arroz con leche (rice with milk) which is like a pudding. Now I'm hungry :)

  16. Great post and great contest too! I didn't know Funke had a Christmas book out! I'm reading The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L.Frank Baum right now.

    My mom makes Rice pudding for my dad all the time but it's the only thing she makes that I've always refused to eat lol. I can live on fudge this time of year...

  17. Great post, Nymeth! Thank you for sharing the video of one of your favorite Christmas songs. :-)

  18. Jill: It makes people think I'm crazy too, but hey, I am having too much fun to care :P

    Marg: You're welcome :) Thank you and Kailana for putting this together. Reading everyone's posts has been great.

    Chris: I love learning about different traditions too, which is one of the reasons why I'm loving the calendar so much!

    Carl: You're in! And yeah, it's great that there's such a variety of Christmas music out there to choose from!

    Wendy: I'm glad you liked my post :)

    Kailana: I hadn't heard of it either until Debi mentioned it, and apparently it was published in 1994! I hope you like the songs on the site :)

    Robin: Do let me know how the recipe turns out! Sufjan has a beautiful voice, doesn't he? So soothing. Happy Holidays to you too, and your name is in the hat!

    Chris: Oh, you must listen to his Christmas stuff! It has that very Sufjan instrumentation he normally uses and it sounds very Christmas-y at the same time. I was going to say that the recipe is pretty much impossible to mess up, except that I messed it up myself last evening :\ Just make sure you add enough milk :P The texture is supposed to be very creamy, almost liquid. Mine turned out too dry. It still tastes good, though. You're in for the book!

    raidergirl3: You're in! Inkheart has been recommended to me several times. I really look forward to reading it!

    em: You're in for the contest. And you're welcome :)

    Suey: You're added! lol, are you're so right... we could totally make our own little cookbook!

    Becky: It's fun, isn't it? I have so many new recipes to try out this Christmas! And you're in for the book.

    Debi: I'm glad you liked my post :) I was wrapping presents for hours the other day too... I enjoy doing it, but not after the first 20 minutes :P You're not old and out of touch. He's not very famous or anything. I hope you like the songs!

    Dewey: You're in! I think it would work just fine, yes. Do let me know how it turns out!

    Bookgirl: If that's anything like the version they have in Brazil, then yes, it is very similar!

    Jenny: I didn't know that site. Thanks!

    Ladytink: I saw that L. Frank Baum book at the bookstore just the other day. Very tempting at this time of the year!

    Literary Feline: You're welcome :)

  19. The Sweet Rice sounds very nice! I love cinnamon and lemon but I don't think I've ever had them together. Must try it. :)

  20. Great Post!! I think this is finally helping me get into the Christmas spirit!! Not really sure about the Rice dessert. Not my cup of tea, but it does sound interesting....

    I'd love to win your book!!! So please enter me in the contest!!

  21. Could you please include me in on your drawing. That book sounds neat!

  22. cool post!the giveaway is a another great idea of yours.:) I won't enter it though cause I know I won't have a chance to read it any time soon and want to leave it to somebody who actually can!

    I like Sufjan Stevens too, but I'm not really into christmas music so I never listened to that one.
    I think that working in a shop spoiled xmas music for me. We all hate it!!!it goes on and on all day like a drill, not a nice feeling:P

    But I like the sound of that rice pudding! My favourite xmas recipe is probably apple crumble for dessert, even though it's not really an italian tradition.

  23. This was a great post. Thanks for sharing some of your favorite things. And definitely enter me in the book givaway.

    Now I'm off to call my grandma on the phone, "call her on the phone." =)

  24. I've never heard of Sufjan Stevens... thanks for the video. The girls liked it. I love Christmas music, too... I'd break it out earlier than mid-November, but I think I'd get too many stares. :)

  25. It's been about 20 years since I played christmas music and baked..but a year doesn't go by I don't remember those special Christmas's...

    If I'm not too late put me in for Cornelia Funke's book!.. I love her writing, even the younger books by her. One day I will own all of her books.. I'm determined in that fact!

  26. ah, this is great! isn't this just such a christmassy christmas with all us bloggers doing christmassy things?!

    and with regards to christmas music, isn't it so cool how a lot of old christmas songs are making it into the charts now via the whole download thing!?

  27. tanabata: You must indeed!

    Stephanie: You're in!

    Other Stephanie: You're in too!

    Valentina: I understand how you feel. I had several friends who worked in retail during the holidays tell me the same! I can imagine how being exposed to Christmas music all day every day would spoil it. Apple crumble is yummy! We don't have it in Portugal, so I'd never tried it until I came to England, but now I'm hooked.

    Petunia: lol! That last sentence really made me laugh out loud :P

    Melissa: You're welcome :) lol, I think I would too.

    Deslily: It's not too late, no... you're in!

    Jean Pierre: It's cool indeed. These are songs that have been around for ages and yet there are always people re-discovering them, or new versions of them being released. I love the Christmassy feeling in blogland :D

  28. Ah, no, the rice cooker didn't work out. :) Some of the rice was so overcooked it was gluey, some was still crunchy, and the milk was all curdled. I will try it again stovetop soon!


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.