Make music merry

A fan’s gift guide

It’s the holiday season and once again time to make a music fan’s eyes and ears light up like a Christmas tree. From modest to mammoth, and across a range of ways to access their passion, here are suggestions for your special someone.

If your giftee’s passion extends to creating music, check out Teenage Engineering, a Swedish company that makes the Pocket Operator, a line of mini synthesizers that resemble a calculator and sell for under a hundred bucks. If you’re feeling extravagant, the company has introduced the EP-133 KO II, a larger device with exponentially more groove and sequencing power; it’s $299 at

For the audiophile on your list, there’s the AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt, a device that bypasses the crummy audio delivered on cell phones and laptop computers to truly leverage the enhanced sound offered by streaming services like Qobuz and Tidal, $199 at, and for phones it’s a good idea to include an adapter in the gift box.

Or you can keep it simple while still turning it up to 11 with the Marshall Kilburn II Bluetooth Portable Speaker. Befitting its brand, the “stout-hearted hero” weighs in at five and half pounds and boasts the loudest output of anything in its class, while providing more than 20 hours of portable power with a single charge, $199.99 at

Maybe your music maven is a purist with a throwback bent who loves only vinyl. Help them keep their prized albums clean with a Boundless Audio Record Cleaner Brush, perfect as a stocking stuffer at $15. But don’t give the leash without a puppy — there are many music box sets on offer this year.

Jason Isbell marked a decade since his breakthrough solo release Southeastern with a quadruple-vinyl, triple-CD edition that has the remastered studio LP along with a live version and demos of every song, with special packaging, $79.99 at The seemingly endless flow of Beatles music and the final drop of so-called new songs from the Fab Four continues with a repackaging of their Red 1962-1966 and Blue 1967-1970 albums, with a total of 21 previously unreleased tracks, $69.99 at

Wanna feel old? Green Day’s Dookie is turning 30 and the Berkeley punk stalwarts’ first big release has the deluxe treatment, with a six-LP (brown vinyl, natch) box set that includes a bevy of tchotchkes to go with outtakes, demos and live takes, including four songs from their notoriously mud-splattered Woodstock ’94 set, $121.32 at

Dolly Parton answered her induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame by inviting a big chunk of its membership (and Kid Rock) to work on Rockstar, her first rock ’n’ roll record. She even reunited the remaining living Beatles, along with Peter Frampton and Mick Fleetwood, for a version of “Let It Be.” It’s available as a four-vinyl album box set for $59.98 at

There is no shortage of books for the music fan. For superfans of the aforementioned Ms. Parton, give Behind the Seams: My Life in Rhinestones, a fashion-focused autobiography that peeks into the singer’s closet and is packed with more than 450 color photos, $25 at

To (extravagantly) mark the 60th anniversary of Beatlemania for your favorite fan, give 1964: Eyes of the Storm, a collection of photos taken by Paul McCartney with his 35mm camera from the end of 1963 through early 1964, the years when The Beatles blew up into an international phenomenon and altered the course of music history. It’s $77.79 at

For those growing misty-eyed for the early days of Nirvana, Pearl Jam and other flannel-shirted rockers, Mudhoney guitarist Steve Turner’s Mud Ride: A Messy Trip Through the Grunge Explosion covers the evolution and growth of Seattle’s music scene, from DIY club shows to its Big Bang, which removed most hair metal bands from the earth. $28.79 at

One of the latest classic rock memoirs is My Effin’ Life, from Rush bassist, keyboard player and singer Geddy Lee. It’s filled with anecdotes of his time with the prog rock power trio, along with personal stories of growing during World War II, with a grandfather who was murdered during the Holocaust. Novelist Michael Chabon praised the “warmth, care, artfulness, hard-earned wisdom and … gently skewed humor” in his book. $24.99 at

It’s always a good idea to keep things local. Here’s a thought: The next time you attend a show at The Shaskeen, Penuche’s, the Press Room or Strange Brew, pick up a CD and pay it forward by giving it to a loved one who’s unfamiliar with the performer’s music. That’s the most effective way to put cash in an artist’s pocket.

Of course, there’s always merch. Roots of Creation, one of the busiest bands around, offers a huge selection of T-shirts, caps, pins and posters at their website. Sepsiss, the female-fronted heavy metal band that just won another NEMA, has a line of T-shirts calling attention to the insidious practice of pay to play, where clubs force acts to buy tickets to their own shows and re-sell them for payment, along with other forms of financial exploitation. Available at

A few musicians have side hustles as artists making very cool stuff. Singer-songwriter Dan Blakeslee, who played his first main stage set at the Newport Folk Festival this year, sells line drawings (also available as T-shirts) at Nick Lavallee, front man for Manchester power pop band Donaher, runs Wicked Joyful, making bespoke action figures and apparel like the Devil Church Explorer Club hoodie or a Taco Tour at Tender Town T-shirt, at

Featured photo: Behind the Seams: My Life in Rinestones by Dolly Parton

The useful gift

Kitchen presents you can buy

One or two labor-intensive sincere gifts are doable in a holiday season, but if you’re trying to come up with something nice for each night of Hanukkah, or good stocking stuffers for an entire family — who has time to knit all that? Plus, sometimes it’s just nice to get good stuff.

The following are some gifts you might consider for the serious cooks or drink-makers in your life. Most of them are reasonably priced stocking stuffers. At least one is a blowout extravagant gift. All of them are genuinely, how-did-I-ever-get-by-without-this, useful in the kitchen. Prices are approximate..

Microplane grater, about $1

If you’ve ever wondered how TV chefs manage to zest an orange without making their kitchen look like a war zone, or put fancy chocolate shavings on a cake, this is ho. This is a wood rasp that has been adapted for kitchen use. It is ideal for grating fresh nutmeg.

Silicone baking sheet, $10 to $15/pair

How would you like to never grease a baking sheet again? Silicone baking mats used to be imported from France and were mostly for Very Fancy People. Now they are really inexpensive and — dare I say it? — life-changing. Nothing sticks to these bad boys — not cookie dough or granola or even homemade peanut brittle. They last for years and are tough enough to stand up to any heat an oven can put out, though sadly not a charcoal grill, which I found out the hard way.

Oxo Steel Angled Measuring Jigger, $10

I own about a dozen jiggers for measuring ingredients for cocktails. It was only over time that I realized consciously that I have one that I keep coming back to, over and over. I’ll find myself interrupting a dishwasher cycle to fish it out, rather than use a different, perfectly fine jigger in the cabinet in front of me. This Oxo jigger is angled to allow you to see exactly how much you are measuring to within a fraction of a fluid ounce, without having to crouch down to eye level. And it has a spout. It adds a little element of precision and elegance to your drink making.

Reconditioned blender — Vitamix, BlendTec, etc., around $300

By far, the most useful kitchen tool I use on a weekly or often daily basis is a good blender. It makes smoothies and shakes of course, but also hummus, whipped cream, pie fillings and even ice cream. A top-of-the-line blender can set you back $700 to $800, but the high-end manufacturers often sell reconditioned used models. Mine is a reconditioned red Vitamix named Steve, who is pretty frustrated at how seldom I use his very highest setting, which I suspect could turn a chair leg into bark mulch.

2 in 1 stainless steel whisk egg beater & instant thermometer, $15 to $20

I don’t know if you’ve ever been stirring something on the stove, waiting for it to hit a very particular temperature. For several years I found myself thinking that someone should invent a whisk with an integrated thermometer, before I actually thought to check online to see if anyone had. They had.

Digital kitchen scale, $25 to $30

Every time I save a recipe I convert the amounts from cups to grams. It makes my baking more accurate, and I can add ingredients directly to the pan or bowl and tare (zero) out how much weight I already have in it. An inexpensive digital scale will measure in several different units — grams, ounces, etc. — and is accurate to a tenth of a gram. It will last for years of robust cooking and make you look like a badass in the kitchen.

Featured photo: Silicone baking sheets

Homemade, delicious

Gifts for when you’ve run out of gift ideas

Not to blow my own horn, but I am an excellent gift-giver. I am thoughtful, I listen carefully when people tell me what kind of things they like and what their favorite memories are. I’m creative. Probably eight out of 10 times, I knock it out of the park.

I realize this makes me something of an outlier; most people have one or possibly two solid gift ideas in a given holiday season, then they find themselves emotionally exhausted. If you are feeling a little gassed-out creativity-wise this holiday season, here are two suggestions for food and drink gifts that are affordable and quirky and probably won’t be put into a closet somewhere.

Geographic cookies

You have probably never thought too much about cookie cutters, but you can buy them in almost any shape, including any state or province you can name.

Manitoba? Boom! Six dollars on Etsy. West Virginia? Shazam! $7.99 on Amazon.

You know that lady at work who’s really nice, but you don’t really know anything about her, except that she grew up in Toledo? Give her a plate of Ohio sugar cookies, with a mini-M&Ms glued more or less in the area of Toledo with melted chocolate. Did your family go on vacation in Chicago this summer? You can get the state of Illinois, or the skyline of the city.

Thoughtful, edible, and you’ll only be out a couple of hours of your time and maybe $10.

Roll-Out Sugar Cookies

Based on the King Arthur Roll-Out Sugar Cookies recipe, available at, which they credit to blogger Amanda Rettke. (As opposed to the several other sugar cookie and sugar cookie-adjacent recipes they have; baking for someone gluten-free or paleo? They have that too). It’s a very large recipe — three sticks of butter, five cups of flour — and I like that it has many of the ingredients listed in grams as well as cups. I halved it, made a batch of cookies to share at work and still have dough in reserve. The original recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of almond extract, but I have replaced that with Fiori di Sicilia, a King Arthur flavoring they describe as having bright citrus and warm vanilla flavors and that makes the cookies taste like a creamsicle. Be careful with the measuring; I spoke to a King Arthur recipe developer months back and she said too heavy a hand with Fiori Di Sicilia will make everything taste like perfume.

  • 12 Tablespoons (170 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup (198.5 grams) of granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon King Arthur Fiori di Sicilia
  • 2½ cups (300 grams) all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder

Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and yolk one at a time, beating after each addition.

Slowly add the extracts (with the mixer on low) and mix until combined, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Sift together flour, salt and baking powder.

With the mixer on low, slowly add to the butter mixture and mix until just combined.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours (or overnight).

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment.

Roll out dough to 1/4 inch thick and cut out cookies. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until they start to turn golden on the edges and the center doesn’t look moist.

Bottle of pre-mixed cocktails

Depending on whom you’re giving it to, booze is always a good call.

Find a nice bottle. It could even be an empty liquor bottle that you were about to put in the recycling. Wash it out and remove the label.

If it’s a paper label, soak the bottle in hot water and scrape the label off with the back of a butter knife. If there’s any glue residue left behind, a citrus-based cleaner like Goof-Off will take care of it. Martha Stewart suggests using a hair dryer to soften the glue. Once, I had a really nice bottle but the label had actually been painted on. I soaked it in vinegar overnight, and it came right off. I imagine nail-polish remover would do the same thing.

Before you remove the label, write down how big the bottle is ― how many fluid ounces or milliliters.

Find a cocktail recipe that you think your friend would like ― A Peanut Butter and Jelly Sour, for instance:

  • 2 ounces Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey
  • 3 ounces Manischewitz Concord Grape Wine
  • 1 ounces fresh squeezed lemon juice

Normally you would shake this over ice, then pour it into a glass and drink it. But this time we’re going to do some math. (Don’t worry ― there aren’t any exponents or variables involved.)

How many ounces of ingredients go into one drink? 3+3+1=5. Five ounces.

Remember your empty liquor bottle? How much did it hold? I’ll bet it was 750 milliliters, wasn’t it? That’s equal to about 25 fluid ounces, or five PB&J Sours. Multiply everything by five (10 ounces, 15 ounces and 5 ounces) and use a funnel to pour it into your nice bottle. Screw the cap on ― or put a cork in it, if you’re fancy ― give it a shake, and you’re off the hook present-wise for another year. You don’t even have to wrap it ― just write a tag and tie it on with rough twine, and you’ll look classy.

Ideally the recipient will ask you to stay and drink it with them. And maybe eat some cookies.

Featured photo: NH sugar cookies. Photo by John Fladd.

Holiday gifts for the gardener 2023

Give the kids a wheelbarrow and a shovel

Once again it is time to find the perfect gifts for your loved ones. Gardeners are easy to shop for because there are so many good things to shop for, and they will probably be pleased with whatever you choose. As a shopper I always try to support local, family owned businesses — they support our community and I want to support them when possible. Let’s take a look at some ideas.

Think about buying tickets for you and your gardening friend to a special garden or perhaps one of the spring flower shows. This will allow the two of you to have some time together and to get some ideas about what you both can do in your gardens. One of my favorite gardens is Bedrock Garden in Lee, New Hampshire. This garden was developed by plant guru Jill Nooney and her husband, Bob Munger, over a 25-year period and recently achieved 501(c)3 status as a nonprofit. Not only does it have a fabulous collection of plants; Jill is a sculptor and welder who has created art that is displayed in the gardens. This is truly a gem of a place and worthy of visits. Suggested donation of $15. See their website for schedules.

Another garden I love is Saint Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, New Hampshire. Augustus Saint Gaudens was a world-known sculptor who lived and worked there in the early 20th century. The well-maintained formal gardens and grounds are enhanced by his fabulous life-size (or larger) bronze sculptures. The grounds are open year-round and the galleries are open from Memorial Day weekend through Oct. 31. Admission is $10 and is valid for seven days.

Of the spring flower shows, the Connecticut show in Hartford is probably the biggest in New England, and well worth a visit. It will be Feb. 22 to Feb. 25 in 2024 and although tickets are not yet on sale you can make up a nice card inviting your gardening buddy to go with you.

Garden tools are generally a hit. On my second birthday I was given a child-sized wheelbarrow, a watering can and a shovel, all of which helped form me as a life-time gardener. Most garden centers sell good-quality tools for kids made of metal, not plastic. See what you can find for a small person in your life.

Adults like tools, too. For 20 years now I’ve had a Smart Cart, a well-balanced two-wheel cart. The frame is made of airplane-grade tubular aluminum and the 7-cubic-foot body of heavy-duty plastic. It comes either with bike-type wheels or smaller, fatter wheels capable of traversing wet areas more easily and carrying heavier loads. I chose the wide wheels, which make the cart rated for 600 pounds. The narrower wheels are rated for 400 pounds. I’ve never had a flat tire and the cart has served me well. The bin pops out if you want to wash a dog in it or carry home manure in your Subaru. It is not inexpensive but worth the investment.

My favorite weeder is the CobraHead weeder, a single-tine, curved hook that teases out roots with ease and precision. It has become an extension of my body — I use it for planting, weeding and more. About $29 and available not only online but also from good garden centers and seed companies everywhere.

Although there may be no better mousetrap to invent, amazingly there is a new design to the shovel, one called the Root Slayer. It is all one piece of steel; it has a straight leading edge that comes sharp and stays sharp. The edges are serrated and able to slice through roots like a hot knife through butter. Great for planting in the woods or near trees. I still use my regular shovel or spade for digging in my garden or filling a wheelbarrow with compost. But if I want to plant a tree in a field, it is great for slicing through sod. I use it for dividing big clumps of daylilies and other tough perennials. It’s available at good garden centers.

I know most of you probably keep track of garden events on your phone — things like when you planted lettuce seeds or when your delphinium bloom. I don’t. I like an old-fashioned journal I can write in with a pen. Blank books are readily available, and some companies even sell special garden journals. Gardening is a slow and thoughtful pastime and lends itself to the handwritten word.

If you know that your gift recipient starts seeds in the spring, or plans to, you might consider getting an electric heat mat as a gift. They considerably speed up the time needed for germination of weeds in the spring, So, for example, corn seeds can take two or three weeks to germinate in cold, wet soil but will pop up in three to five days when on a heat mat. Of course you then have to transplant the seedlings, but that is not bad for a small patch. I generally use a planting flat with 98 cells for corn and transplant them when they have leaves 2 inches tall.

If deer are a problem, some garlic-oil clips will add some protection in winter for your tasty trees and shrubs. I’ve had excellent luck with them, specifically with a brand called “Plant Pro-Tec Deer and Rabbit Repellent.” They come in a package of 25 for about a dollar each and seem to last all winter. They are advertised as working for six to eight months. Of course, depending on how hungry the deer are, they may not be 100 percent effective.

Seeds are great gifts and serve well as stocking stuffers. If you save heirloom tomato or flower seeds, you can package up some of your favorites for a friend, along with a good description. And you can give a nice houseplant, particularly one in bloom. But most of us already have all the houseplants we need.

Lastly, books are great gifts for gardeners, especially now, in winter, when we have time on our hands. If I could select just one book, I’d pickEssential Native Trees and Shrubs for the Eastern United Statesby Tony Dove and Ginger Woolridge (2018, Imagine, Bunker Hill Studio Books, $35 hardback). I’m totally behind the movement to plant native plants to support our birds, pollinators and wildlife and this book will answer all your questions — which plants are attractive to deer, salt-tolerant, good for poor soils and much more. It has excellent photos.

Enjoy picking good gardening gifts as you play Santa this year. Your loved ones will love you even more.

Henry is writing just one gardening article per month this winter. You may reach him at PO Box 364, Cornish Flat, NH 03746 or by email at

Featured photo: I’ve had this Smart Cart for 20 years. Photo by Henry Homeyer.

Handcrafted gifts

Where to find one-of-a-kind gifts

This holiday season, go for gifts that make an impact by choosing local artwork and handmade crafts.

Year-round venues provide a selection of handcrafted items, from decorative to functional, made by local artisans.

Handmade gift shops

Currier Museum of Art gift shop (150 Ash St., Manchester, 669-6144,, open Wednesday and Friday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The League of New Hampshire Craftsmen Fine Craft Galleries (

Concord (36 N. Main St., 228-8171, open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Hooksett (530 W. River Road, 210-5181, open Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

Nashua (98 Main St., 595-8233, open Monday through Wednesday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

Meredith (279 Daniel Webster Hwy., 279-7920, open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.)

Locally Made

Salem (99 Rockingham Blvd., Salem, 890-7141,, open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.)

Merrimack (80 Premium Outlets Blvd., Merrimack, 377-7610,, open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.)

Nashua (Pheasant Lane Mall, 310 Daniel Webster Hwy., Nashua, 598-9140,, open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Manchester Craft Market (Mall of New Hampshire, 1500 S. Willow St., Manchester,, open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.)

Spriggs Shoppe (Twiggs Gallery, 254 King St., Boscawen, 975-0015,, open Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.).

Holiday art exhibits and markets

Seasonal markets and exhibits feature artworks and crafts tailored for holiday shoppers, highlighting local artistic talent.

• Twiggs Gallery’s (254 King St., Boscawen, 975-0015, annual Sleighbell Studio holiday showcase is going on now through Dec. 16.

• The Craftworkers’ Guild hosts its annual Holiday Fair Shop at the historic Kendall House (3A Meetinghouse Road, Bedford). The fair runs through Wednesday, Dec. 22, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, along with an online shop and features a variety of items including seasonal decor, photography, fine art and prints, cards, gourmet treats, woodworking, fiber and fabric, stained and fused glass, mixed media and jewelry, all created by juried local artists and craftspeople. Visit

• The Two Villages Art Society (846 Main St., Contoocook) hosts its 2023 Winter Members Show and Sale through Dec. 23. The show features works from more than 30 member artists, including paintings, pottery, sculpture, jewelry and more. Gallery hours are Thursday to Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Visit

• The “Small Works — Big Impact” holiday exhibit is up at Creative Ventures Gallery (411 Nashua St. in Milford) now through Dec. 31 and showcases work in various media from more than 30 area artists, with most pieces smaller than 12 inches in diameter, making them ideal for holiday gifts. The gallery’s hours are Tuesday and Wednesday from noon to 4 p.m., Thursday from noon to 6 p.m., Friday from noon to 4 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Visit or call 672-2500.

• The Seacoast Artist Association (130 Water St., Exeter) presents “Big Gifts Come in Small Packages” during December. Artists are challenged to create affordable work, with each piece priced at no more than $100 to make for perfect holiday gift buying. The gallery is open Wednesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. Visit

Studio 550 Art Center Handmade Holiday Market (550 Elm St., Manchester, 232-5597, is open Dec. 18 through Dec. 23, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from noon to 8 p.m.; closed Wednesday and Sunday.

How to help

Food, housing costs & utilities bills are the big concerns

Karen Moynihan is the Vice President of Philanthropy, Catholic Charities New Hampshire, which provides a variety of services including food distribution through the New Hampshire Food Bank. See

What have you noticed about the community’s needs right now and over the last year?

We have more people coming to us looking for assistance than we have in the past — even more so than when the pandemic first hit in 2020 and continued into 2021. So people are struggling, and the primary reason is threefold: the cost of food has increased, utility costs in New Hampshire are some of the highest in the country, and the cost of housing. So people are having a hard time maintaining their monthly budgets when everything around them just keeps going up and up. We have more people coming to us for emergency assistance and really urgent needs. They’re really one paycheck away from disaster.

What items can people give?

There are two programs that can take donated items: We have a veterans program here in Manchester, Liberty House, and they have a pantry that provides food and clothing and gear. A lot of our veteran population in Manchester is homeless. So they need camping gear and warm clothing and things like that. They list on their website what their needs are for the pantry; those could change on any given day. The other program we have is out at the Seacoast, and it’s a transitional housing program for moms and children called New Generation. These moms and children are usually homeless, they don’t have a job, and they’ve experienced trauma of some sort. Many of them have left abusive relationships. They may come in with some addiction challenges. They may come in without a driver’s license or crucial documentation because they had to leave a situation quickly. The program works with these moms for about a year getting them back on their feet. … By the time they leave the program, they have a job, they have child care, and they have an affordable place to stay. Anyway, there is a thrift store on site that takes donations of all kinds, because when those women leave that program, they also need household items. So folks can donate household items or clothing to the thrift store. They need everything from children’s clothing to adult clothing to bedding to kitchen items, things like that. So that’s another wonderful way to donate either gently used or new items.

What can monetary gifts be used for?

Monetary donations allow us the flexibility to quickly deploy resources for the most urgent needs. Oftentimes we can keep people in their homes by helping them get caught up on a utility bill, or helping them with a car repair that they can’t afford because they’re going to be evicted if they don’t pay their rent. There are just so many enormous challenges that people are facing right now, and they are literally on the verge of losing the most important things — housing, food, medications.

Where are volunteers needed most?

We have one program here in Manchester that is in urgent need of volunteers. It’s called Caregivers and this is a program for seniors on low fixed incomes who are just slightly above the poverty level. These seniors no longer drive and they need help to be able to continue to live independently in their homes. There are two things that Caregivers does for this network of seniors: they do deliveries of food to them — every senior gets a delivery of food once a month — and we give them rides to doctor’s appointments or the grocery store, whatever their needs are. These volunteers are sometimes the only connection to the outside world that these seniors have. They often don’t have family or relatives nearby to help them, so this is a critical resource for them.

How can people find the right volunteering opportunity?

Visit the Catholic Charities website click on the “Get involved” button. This section lists various volunteer opportunities. Choose what inspires you the most. You can sign up or learn more about each opportunity directly through the website. If you have any questions or need guidance, you can always call our office and speak with our volunteer coordinator.

How to help

Here are some of New Hampshire homelessness and housing support charities.

  • Cross Roads House 600 Lafayette Road, Portsmouth, 436-2218,
  • Families in Transition 122 Market St., Manchester, 641-9441,
  • Family Promise of Greater Concord 79 Clinton St., Concord, 856-8490,​​.
  • Family Promise of Southern New Hampshire 3 Crown St., Building B, Nashua, 883-7338,​
  • Friends Program 130 Pembroke Road, Suite 200, Concord, 228-1193
  • Liberty House 221 Orange St., Manchester, 669-0761,
  • New Generation 568 Portsmouth Ave., Greenland, 436-4989,
  • New Horizons Shelter 199 Manchester St., Manchester, 668-1877,
  • Harbor Care 77 Northeastern Blvd., Nashua, 882-3616,​​
  • Marguerite’s Place 87 Palm St., Nashua, 598-1582,
  • McKenna House 100 S. Fruit St., Concord, 225-8610
  • My Friend’s Place 368 Washington St., Dover, 749-3017
  • The Way Home 214 Spruce St., Manchester, 627-3491

Featured photo: Liberty House in Manchester, a program of Catholic Charities. Courtesy photo.

Hometown son

Drew Dunn headlines Nashua Center

While it was being built, Drew Dunn would drive by the Nashua Center for the Arts and think about performing there one day. On Dec. 2, the 2010 Nashua High School South graduate will headline, the latest milestone in a comedy career that was quick out of the gate when it started 10 years ago and continues to rise.

“Nashua is my hometown,” Dunn said by phone recently. “I’ve lived in a lot of places, but it’s cool to be able to do this.”

Dunn’s easy-going demeanor and razor-sharp instincts combine with innate humor for a comedic style loved by both fans and fellow comics. The latest example of the latter is Dane Cook, who saw Dunn open for him in West Hollywood a few months back and was impressed enough to invite him on tour.

Connecting with the Boston comic was, Dunn said, “kind of super random.” Cook streams video games on Twitch, and Dunn’s dad follows him on the popular website. When Drew posted about the show on his social media, Dad messaged Cook. “He told him we’ve been big fans for a long time, we’re both from the New England area…. That got Dane to watch a few minutes of my set.”

The comic’s career has seen a steady checklist of successes. Playing the Johnny Carson Great American Comedy Festival in Carson’s hometown of Norfolk, Nebraska, was an early triumph, “the first time I got on a plane and did standup.” Dunn won the Boston Comedy Festival in 2017; later he went to the Pacific Northwest, where he lived in grade school, and took top honors at the month-long Seattle International Comedy Competition.

The biggest highlight since then has been hitting the road with Cook, which will continue next year. It included a stop at the Wilbur Theatre, which Dunn called “one of the last major venues in Boston on my checklist.” Overall, the tour is “the first taste of the next level of this business that I’ve had, and it’s inspiring. It makes it feel a little bit more attainable.”

Such glamorous highs are the result of an arduous journey.

“I’ve done everything from campground shows talking to people sitting in their golf carts in the middle of the day, to random breweries and stuff like that,” he said. Throughout, “I’ve learned comedy is a marathon…. Hard work adds up over time to be able to create moments like [the Nashua show], which makes it worthwhile. Building something and then sharing it, continuing to go from there, it’s a never-ending road, this whole standup game. I’m just happy to be on it.”

Dunn acknowledged other comics who helped him along the way, including early mentor Corey Rodrigues. “He always seemed a step or two ahead of me, so any time I’d be running into something new, he’d be a guy I’d hit up.”

Manchester comic Paul Landwehr, who’ll open in Nashua, is another. Dunn recalled working the door with him at Dick Doherty’s Comedy Den in Boston when both were starting out.

Amiability is key to Dunn’s success. “My business model when it comes to this whole thing is to just be funny and nice to everybody, because it’s more fun that way. So many comics get in this competitive mindset of trying to one-up each other — ‘Why is he getting an opportunity and not me?’ or ‘Why is she winning and not me?’ For me it’s always been us comics versus the crowd. If more people are seeing standup comedy, that’s a win for all of us.”

Dunn sees a rising tide in the regional scene.

“I think comedy in general, and particularly in Boston, is probably in a better state than it’s ever been,” he said. “I wasn’t alive in the ’80s and that boom, but comedy in general now, there’s more people watching and listening and going to live shows as far as standup goes than ever before in the history of time. To be a part of that … is just infinitely exciting.”

Drew Dunn w/ Paul Landwehr and Will Mars
When: Saturday, Dec. 2, 8 p.m.
Where: Nashua Center for the Arts, 201 Main St., Nashua
Tickets: $29 at

Featured photo: Drew Dunn. Courtesy photo.

Wish (PG)

A girl wishes upon a star and the star comes down to hang out in Wish, an underbaked mush of a fairy tale about the eternal struggle between security and liberty that also has the feel of a half-hearted Disney IP origin story.

Asha (voice of Ariana DeBose) is a 17-year-old living back in the once upon a time on the Mediterranean-y island of Rosas, which is ruled by King Magnifico (voice of Chris Pine), who founded the city-state years earlier with his wife Queen Amaya (Angelique Cabral). King Magnifico is a good sorcerer and he designed Rosas as a land where people of all backgrounds could come and live together in peace and safety under his rule — so right away you know he’s a villain. But this would be a real short movie if everyone else realized it, so the people of Rosas just think of him as a benevolent ruler who grants wishes. Every citizen gives Magnifico their wishes when they turn 18 — wishes being represented by a sort of glowy bubble — and he keeps them safe. Regularly, he picks one citizen to have their wish come true, which he accomplishes with his magic. In the meantime, the adult populace is not burdened by these wishes, the content of which they forget.

Asha is interviewing to be his apprentice and help him with his magic-ing. Perhaps she’s a little hopeful that doing this will help her 100-year-old grandfather Sabino (voice of Victor Garber) and her mother Sakina (voice of Natasha Rothwell) get their wishes granted. But when she sees her grandfather’s wish bubble floating around Magnifico’s wish bubble arboretum and asks Magnifico to grant it, he basically says “no job for you” explaining that her grandfather’s vague desire to create something that inspires future generations could lead to revolution or violence.

A dejected Asha later sings a song about wanting more for her people than All Of This and poof, a star appears. The star is a cute little blob of a thing that squeaks around and sprinkles glitter dust, giving animals, like Asha’s pet goat Valentino (voice of Alan Tudyk), the ability to talk and sing another song about how we are all made of star dust. Asha becomes determined to retrieve her family’s wishes — and eventually everybody’s wishes — so people can have the chance to make them come true on their own. As Asha’s friends observe of their 18-year-old buddy Simon (voice of Evan Peters), giving up their wish makes people a little less themselves, less whole.

Meanwhile, the magical light show caused when the star came to Earth has Magnifico worried that someone else is using magic and challenging his rule. He can’t figure out what’s going on with his own good-guy magic so he turns to a book of dark magic and also asking people to fink on each other to try to find this Threat to Rosas. He goes from being a basically benign dictator who is maybe a little too impressed with his own handsomeness to being a megalomaniac who won’t tolerate any dissent because one teen girl asked him a question.

Also, Asha maybe invents animation using the tiny-drawing-on-a-page-corner flipbook method?

We get a lot of information about the Wish — how it makes people feel to give it to Magnifico, how he cares for them, what he does with them when he gets his dark magic, why he is such a helicopter mom about people’s hopes and dreams. There is a general “Magnifico lost his birth family in a land riven with strife,” which is what pushed him to make a cheery dystopia. But there is a sense of “oh and also this” when it comes to story elements rather than a clear, streamlined story with clear motivations for Magnifico. Similarly, the movie is filled with general Disney Easter Eggs that often play as in-jokes and almost appear to maybe sort of build up to something — “and that’s how A became B” — but also don’t really. All the nods to Peter Pan and Bambi etc. (and all the visuals that feel like “remember that cottage from Sleeping Beauty? This isn’t that but hey made you think of it didn’t we?”) feel more like a fast food “100 years of Disney” promotional meal package than a real story. There’s a world in which Disney just creates a montage of discussion of wishes and dreams with clips from its movie library and achieves the same thing (that thing I think being the centrality of wishes and dreams to Disney stories) with more genuine emotion and brevity.

Wish feels like a movie that had some general ideas of what it wanted to do and where it wanted to go but had no clear idea how to get there and so it just filled in the gaps with “default Disney story” stuff. Likewise, the music feels very much like someone shoved Frozen and Moana into a food processor and this is the texture-less paste that came out. The songs here read as extremely first-drafty and forgettable.

All that said, my kids and other kids in a very full theater seemed to be mostly hanging in with this movie — perking up the most when Valentino the goat was in on the action (the line, which also appears in the trailers, that involves him saying he found a secret door with his butt got a big laugh). The talking animals do provide some nice moments of weirdness and I wish (ha) the movie had gone more in on that kind of goofiness than on creating something that feels more like a commemorative coin than a lively new story. C+

Rated PG for thematic elements and mild action, according to the MPA on Directed by Chris Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn with a screenplay by Jennifer Lee & Allison Moore, Wish is an hour and 35 minutes long and distributed in theaters by Walt Disney Studios.

Trolls Band Together

Poppy, Branch and the crew reunite for a caper winding them through the music of pop boy bands of the last 30+ years in Trolls Band Together, a perfectly cromulent hour and a half of kid entertainment.

Poppy (voice of Anna Kendrick), queen of the Trolls, and Branch (voice of Justin Timberlake), her frequently grumpy boyfriend, prepare for the marriage of Poppy’s good friend Bridget (voice of Zooey Deschanel) and Gristle (voice of Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Bridget and Gristle are both Bergens, who are larger and more monstery than Trolls and used to eat Trolls but now everybody parties together. As Bridget and Gristle say their I-dos, the ceremony is interrupted by John Dory (voice of Eric Andre), Branch’s long-estranged brother. Branch and his four brothers were once members of the boy band BroZone together but broke up after a concert went wrong when they tried to achieve the perfect family harmony. John Dory wants the group back together to give perfection another try as he thinks it will be the only thing that can break the diamond bottle their brother Floyd (voice of Troye Sivan) is being held in. Floyd was trollnapped by Velvet (voice of Amy Schumer) and Veneer (voice of Andrew Rannells), a brother-sister pop duo of plasticy-looking creatures. They are personally talentless but have devised a way of draining Floyd of his talent to make them seem like the superstar vocalists they pretended to be.

As Floyd was Branch’s kindest brother, he decides to join John Dory on his quest, eventually scooping up other brothers Spruce (Daveed Diggs), who now calls himself Bruce and runs a resort with his wife and many children, and Clay (voice of Kid Cudi) to rescue Floyd. Along the way, the gang comes across an old Bergen putt-putt course that is now home to a band of Trolls left behind in Bergen Town all those years ago when Poppy and her father, then-King Peppy (voice of Walt Dohrn), escaped. As has already been spoiled in some of the trailers, one of those Trolls is a fast-talking, quick-hair-braiding, high-energy Troll named Viva (voice of Camila Cabello), Poppy’s long-lost sister. Viva is excited to see Poppy again but does not know about or believe the news that Trolls and Bergens are now friends.

As with other entries in this jukebox sugarfest series, Trolls Band Together pastes together bits of boy band song elements — reaching back to Boyz II Men and New Kids on the Block as well as Timberlake’s own NSYNC, which delivers a new original song for this movie and all the moms seeing it who remember a boy band fandom of their youth. It’s cute, as the music always is in these movies, though this one doesn’t feel quite as tune-packed as previous entries. This movie also feels less about Poppy than previous entries, which focused on Poppy’s leadership or Poppy’s friendship with Branch. Here, she feels more along for the ride.

And that’s all fine. These movies aren’t Pixar-in-its-prime levels of story-telling and visual delight. But they are fast-moving, upbeat, silly and occasionally weird in a way that provides a nice little tart element to all this cotton candy. They are kid-friendly without being actively adult off-putting. B-

Rated PG for some mild rude and suggestive humor, according to the MPA on Directed by Walt Dohrn and Tim Heitz with a screenplay by Elizabeth Tippet, Trolls Band Together is an hour and 31 minutes long and distributed in theaters by Universal Studios.

Featured photo: Wish.

German-inspired Christmas

Amherst market riffs on the European market tradition

Last year Lindsay Buchanan, with the help of a committee of volunteers, put together a German-inspired Christmas market at the Amherst Village Green. This year the Amherst German Christmas Market will be on Saturday, Dec. 9, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“The point was to create a Christmas event for my community that would appeal to all ages,” said Buchanan, who was raised in Amherst. “Amherst puts on a really great Fourth of July and Halloween, and I just felt that we could use something for Christmastime.”

With a love for traveling and experiencing other cultures, she landed on the German Christmas market theme. The original German Christmas markets, she said, started during the Middle Ages when people in Germany would go out to buy supplies for the winter. Buchanan stayed true to the outdoor setting and incorporated other European aspects with German goods sold by vendors.

“Our committee works very hard donating their time and we still have a long way to go before we reach our vision,” Buchanan said. “Every year we learn more and make adjustments. … We plan to add more authenticity as the event evolves.”

While shopping is the focus of this event (Buchanan stresses it is not specifically a food event), those looking for some German eats find offerings including German classics such as brats and sauerkraut, potato latkes, currywurst (fried sausage with a sauce with curry powder on top), glüwein (a spiced German wine), lebkuchen (a German gingerbread), and much more.

There will also be a biergarten, live music including German tunes, popular music and Christmas classics, and an appearance from Santa Claus.

Find other food vendors listed on the event’s website,

Other market items include New England-made crafts and German decor and imports such as star lanterns and nutcrackers. Some of the most popular items include candle bridges, ornaments and smokers.

“Last year we received 8,000 to 10,000 attendees and we designed the event with the expectation we would receive about a third of that, so it was shocking and bewildering to see these really big crowds,” Buchanan said. “A lot of people [reported] they drove in from out of state, so it was much bigger than we could have ever anticipated. … We’re trying to make adjustments with the anticipation of a big crowd again.”

While the word “German” is attached to the title of the event, Buchanan highlights that this event is an American-European hybrid event that is not a recreation of major city markets in Germany, but is simply German-inspired, and that the Amherst German Christmas Market is an entirely volunteer-run nonprofit.

“It’s just so great that so many people want to see this event succeed and are helping to make it happen,” Buchanan said. “To go from just an idea to this huge thing, it’s hard for me to even comprehend. … We appreciate people’s patience and support. … The whole point is to have a good time.”

Amherst German Christmas Market
Where: Amherst Village Green, 2 Main St., Amherst
When: Saturday, Dec. 9, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Featured photo: Amherst German Christmas Market walkway. Photo by Lindsay Buchanan.

What Thanksgiving is all about

Theatre Kapow presents The Thanksgiving Play

By Mya Blanchard

We all know Thanksgiving for the turkey and pie and giving thanks, but what is at the real root of the holiday and how does that tie in with Native American heritage month and culture? This is the question four individuals face when trying to write an accurate and politically correct Thanksgiving play for elementary school children in The Thanksgiving Play by Larissa FastHorse. Theatre Kapow’s production of the play will be at the Bank of New Hampshire Stage in Concord from Friday, Dec. 1, through Sunday, Dec. 3.

“It’s a group of four people who come together to write and produce a play in honor of Native American Heritage Month and they realize very quickly that it’s difficult for them to tell a story about Native American heritage without having any Native Americans among their company,” said director Matt Cahoon. “The whole play is them trying to struggle with the fact that they don’t know what to do. They get very paralyzed by their own ‘wokeness’ for lack of a better word, and they [are] trying to do the right thing, and the right thing ultimately ends them up in several not right places.”

The four-person cast features longtime Theatre Kapow member Rachael Longo as high school teacher Logan, her onstage partner Jaxton played by Peter Josephson, Molly Litt as Alicia, and Joel Iwaskiewicz making his Theatre Kapow debut as Caden.

“I think one of the biggest challenges that we have is being OK with saying and doing some of the really awful and inappropriate things that they do,” Longo said. “We perform these school pageants that have actually … been written and used by different public schools in our country, and so the playwright took the text from the actual pageants and put it in for the actors to perform.”

Native American playwright Larissa FastHorse wrote the comedy in 2015. It is the only one of her plays to go to Broadway, which Cahoon says is likely due to its relatability.

“I think people [will] very quickly recognize themselves in some of these characters,” he said. “This kind of innate need to do the right thing, to be politically correct, to take care of each other and sometimes the ways in which we can tie ourselves in knots in an effort to do good. There’s a lot of comedy that comes out of that idea, that difficult conversations are difficult for a reason, and I think we get to laugh at these characters as they try to navigate [that].”

Theatre Kapow presents The Thanksgiving Play
Where: Bank of New Hampshire Stage, 16 S. Main St., Concord
When: Friday, Dec. 1, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 2, at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 3, at 2 p.m.
Cost: General admission tickets are $28 and $23 for students and seniors not including fees.
More info: Visit

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