Me, Sher, and Ad

Me, Sher, and Ad
Bro Adam and sis Sher, my rocks!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What Would Meryl Do?

As we end 2014, I wanted to share some wisdom I have learned from this past year. You will come across the worst in people. It is up to you to ignore it. It is up to you to rise above it. One of the greatest gifts of getting older is realizing that you do not need to be friends with these types of people. Move on, spend time with close friends and family, and stop wasting time on the others. Life is too short and too precious to waste. 

Help others as well. Do random acts of kindness. I have preached this before. It helps them and makes you feel better as well. I was getting a coffee this afternoon and helped a senior citizen struggling with the door into the convenience store. She thanked me and then went in to buy some lotto tickets. 

While in line, she apparently lost her money from the car to the store. I helped her retrace her steps and found it with her. She thanked me profusely and then asked if I wanted to adopt her. I said, "Only if you can cook well." We both laughed, wished each other a Happy New Year, and went on our separate ways. This is what life is about. It's about helping others, not tearing others apart. 

The actress Meryl Streep says it so eloquently. I will leave you with her words of wisdom:  

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Toys-R-Us Big Christmas Book Time!

I was flipping through the newspaper the other week and the Toys R Us Big Christmas Book insert fell out. I grabbed it and began thumbing through it smiling. Such different toys these days or maybe not so much.

I see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are still around. That Disney chick Elsa from Frozen is apparently really big (um, no kids here). Has Barbie had botox? My Little Pony also looks, um, odd, like there has been an infusion of Harajuku girls somewhere along the line. It is also comforting to see that Lego is bigger than ever. I'm also happy to see that NERF is still making questionably safe toys which could take out an eye if given to the child which has had too much caffeine or sugar.

Batman Colorforms
Remember back when your parents brought home the toy catalog each year before Christmas or Hanukkah? The excitement we would feel?  There were a couple out there I remember: the Sears Christmas Wish Book, the BEST Store Gift Book, and the Toys R Us Big Christmas Book with that giraffe, Geoffrey. Remember how you would just dream about the toys you could get from Santa or during Hanukkah?  I sigh and think of those times with fondness; the innocence of youth during the holidays.

Each year, around mid Fall, I remember my Mom starting to get the holiday catalogs. I would sit down with my pen and paper and begin making a long list of everything I wanted. Now I new I wouldn't get everything so through the power of marketing, this kid put the most important things up top.

I remember asking for over the years (and being lucky enough to get) a Captain Kirk doll, a Fonzie doll, Dungeons and Dragons stuff, Star Wars figures and toys, Hot Wheels cars (I wasn't a Matchbox kid), models,  board games, Spirograph, books, Micronauts, Fisher Price playsets, Ramagon construction sets, Loc-Blocs, Tinker Toys, Colorforms, Lincoln Logs, an awesome microscope set, a Grey's Anatomy Coloring Book, a dissecting kit, a camping knife, a junior back pack, 45 records then cassette tapes, and all manner of art and craft stuff.

Every now and then, we'd ask for an electronic toy or game. TOMY was the big electronic game manufacturer back then. We once got a Tomy Digital Derby Auto Raceway and a Tomy Blip pong style game. Adam also once got a Mattel eletronic football game. The electronic game Simon rose in popularity too, as well as a bunch of knock off type games.

Digital Derby!
There was the year we got our ColecoVision game set. Adam and I played with that for hours.  Just loved it. One year we got a Jungle Jim. Another year we got a ping pong table, And still another year we got a tether ball set. That was so big in the 70s and early 80s! I remember when we got our first VCR for the family. We never did figure out how to set that damn clock. :)

There were some duds as well. There was the year we got a Commodore 64, one of the first home computers. Didn't do much with that. I think we were bored with it after a couple months.  Home computers were just too difficult to figure out and yet too rudimentary back then.

Anyway, I thumbed through the toy catalog and remembered back to my holiday wish list writing. One year, Mom and Dad surprised us kids with it just seemed like miles and miles of wrapped toys under our Christmas Tree / Hanukkah Bush. Years later, Mom admitted she completely went over board that year and kept forgetting she had already bought stuff for us. It was a very good, very fun Hanukkah/Christmas that year. We didn't have another one like that and yet, that was OK. Every year was always a good year. I was a very lucky kid, never had to want for anything in the world, and as an adult, I get that and am completely thankful.

My heart goes out to those kids who may only receive one gift for the holidays or may not receive any at all. Donate gifts if you can, to a charity that accepts unwrapped gifts for kids. Let's give these kids a holiday that they can remember too.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

My 20 Favorite Holiday Songs

We all have our favorite holiday songs, those songs you can't wait to hear each year. They get you in the mood, they get you sad, they bring you up, and they put you in the spirit f the holiday season! There are so many versions of songs year after year by your favorite artists. This year, Christmas albums have been released by country star Darius Rucker, Broadway star Idina Menzel, comedian Seth McFarlande (YES, you heard correctly!), R&B supergroup Earth, Wind, and Fire. Okaaaaay. I may get the album by Darius Rucker to add to my collection. Earth, Wind, and Fire? Um, I'll pass.

From my favorites list, you will see I mostly love the classic songs performed by artists of years gone by.  I also love holiday songs sung in a retro big band, swing style. There are a couple of quirky ones such as "Father Christmas" by the Kings or "Christmas Wrapping" by the Waitresses. And still several others, like those two, are from the 70s and 80's which reflect my youth.  There are several sad ones but mainly happy uplifting ones. As many of you know, the holidays bring out every emotion.

Nestor the Long Eared Donkey
I had the list up to 30 but paired it down to my favorite 20 songs. Included are the videos of the songs or lyric videos from the website Youtube. The four honorable mentions at the end are grade school favorites. No list would be complete without including a photo of my favorite Christmas character, Nestor the Long Eared Donkey.

And for those  people still say I remind them of Hermey, the North Pole Elf who wanted to be a dentist, I don't see the resemblance.

Hermey the Elf


1. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"  - Judy Garland

This song brings up such sad thoughts over the holidays of how much I miss my Mom and other family and friends who have passed. The holidays are wonderful, but bittersweet. It reminds me that I can and will get through it. It's not easy. There are fun times, but also sad memories. May we never forget those that we lost over the holidays and cherish those that we still have.  The Frank Sinatra version is great too but I like this one as it has the original wording.

2. "Jingle Bell Rock" - Brenda Lee

I love the Brenda Lee version. I sang this waaay back in some elementary school Christmas show with my 5th grade class at Wenonah Elementary School.

3. "Feliz Navidad" - Jose Feliciano

My family and I were traveling through St. Augustine, Florida on our way to Sanibel Island when I first heard this song. I reminds me of those years I spent with my family in Sanibel Island over the holidays. We laughed so much because it kept coming on the car radio!

4. "Christmas Through Your Eyes" - Gloria Estefan

Another slower Christmas song. I remember my past holidays as a child, so happy and wide eyed. I am so nostalgic.

5. "No More Blue Christmas" - Natalie Cole

This is sad but has a positive message.

6. "Christmas Waltz" - Natalie Cole

I love the Christmas Waltz because it is so sweeping in its sounds and arrangement. I can just imagine waltzing to it ... if I could waltz. And even then, I'd still step on  your feet and make fun of the people dancing around me. Just a feel good uplifting Christmas song from years ago that many young people do not even know exists.

7. "Last Christmas" - Wham -

Brings back great high school memories. And we all know now George Michael was really pining after Andrew Ridgeley. Totally geeky dorky video. LOL  Nice hair George. If I remember correctly, I think I had the same hair style one year.

8. "Silent Night" - Stevie Nicks

Just truly amazing.

9. "Do You Hear What I Hear" - Whitney Houston

Such a great rendition of this song, R&B but not over the top. She totally does it justice, my favorite version.  What a voice and what a loss.

10. "Little Drummer Boy" - David Bowie and Bing Crosby

Bowie and BING!!! What an incredible duet. I am still amazed they sang together so well! Their conversation though was just a bit odd. LOL

11. "We Need a Little Christmas" - Glee Version

This song always puts me in a great mood. The original version was in the Broadway musical "Mame". I think this snippet from Glee is hilarious.

12. "It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" - Andy William

SUCH a classic!

13. "Happy Holidays" - Andy Williams

What can you say about Andy Williams! So uplifting and he puts you into the mood for the holidays. How can you not sing along?

14. "Father Christmas" - The Kinks

I love this song from 1977. I saw the Kinks when I went to Rutgers back in 1988. I was right at the stage and Ray Davies accidentally spit on me when he sang this song. Crazy disgusting memory huh? LOL

15. "Christmas Wrapping" - The Waitresses

Great 80s song. 

16. "Sleigh Ride" - Leroy Anderson

I always seem to hear this in department stores or elevators. I still love it though.

17. "Merry Christmas Darling" - Karen Carpenter

Anyone who knows me, knows I just LOVE the 70s. If my Mom could sing to me, I would imagine it would be Karen Carpenter's just lovely melodic voice, so soothing. I get emotional over this one, too. Makes me realize how much I miss Mom.

18. "Do They Know It's Christmas" - Band Aid

From the 80's again! The original just brings CHILLS to me. Bono is just haunting is this song. Even bluesy Boy George gives me goose bumps! I remember made Mom and Dad run out and buy me the 45 rpm single of the song.

19. "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" - Frank Sinatra

Great swing version by Ole' Blue Eyes.

20. "Let It Snow" - Michael Buble

Love Michael Buble's voice. He really could've been part of the Rat Pack.

Honorable Mentions: 

"Charlie Brown Christmas"

"Dominic the Donkey"

"Snoopy vs the Red Baron" - The Royal Guardsmen

"Jingle Bells, Batman Smells"

Hahaha, we sang this in 1st grade I think. Now I was at a Giant Supermarket last year and a little kid was singing this. His mother exclaimed, "Michael, stop singing that!" And I'm yelling down the aisle, "NO!!! Keep singing it!!! I had no idea kids were still singing this!" as I ran to her. They ran away from me. LOL.

Now I reserve the right to add to this list!  
What songs do you love and can't live without each year???

Friday, December 5, 2014

Thanksgiving Message 2014

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! I wanted to share with you some thoughts and pictures of my Thanksgiving trip up to Worlds End State Park. I went up with John and we stayed for 4 days/3 nights at a cabin up in the middle of Pennsylvania's Endless Mountains. It was fun, relaxing, and calming for the soul.

Our little cabin, Cabin #6
Snow anyone?
We traveled north the day before during some really bad weather. The Mid-Atlantic states were socked with our first bad Nor' Easter of the season. We even left early at 6:30 AM to avoid the incoming snow storm. Thankfully, we got out of Schuylkill County before the brunt of it hit the area. I heard afterwards that there were many accidents on our road after we left that morning. After we drove over a huge mountain just south of Numidia, the weather thankfully cleared for a bit. The mountain was pretty scary driving  with snowflakes falling as large as silver dollars.

Toasting the snow!
Driving past Bloomsburg up to the state park was clear though. It was actually a nice drive. Once we got into the cabin, the snow bands whipped around and hit Sullivan County. We unloaded the Jeep, started a fire in the wood stove of the cabin, and hunkered down for a bit.

The beautiful snow was too exciting to stay inside so we bundled up in our snow gear and headed out for a short hike up to the park ranger's office about a mile through the park. The snow fell heavily and whipped into your face but it was actually a lot of fun trudging through it. Later in the cabin, hot chocolate, marshmallows, reading, and a movie passed the time.

John hiking the World's End Trail
On Thanksgiving day we had a great breakfast of eggs and Spam (Yes Spam! I love it during camping!). We hiked through 5-8 inches of snow up the side of the mountain to the World's End Vista. I wore a bright orange ski jacket and red ski pants. John referred to me as the walking lighthouse. You couldn't miss me! If there were hunters in the area, they would have seen me a mile away. And if we needed rescuing, any helicopter flying over head would definitely see me. I'm always prepared just like a Boy Scout!

The fall and the slide
Can't breath! Wind knocked out of me!

Coming back down the mountain was a bit more treacherous. Many times we had to take little half side steps to avoid falling face first down the trail. And even then, we often fell flat on our backs, sliding down the trail 10 feet or so. At one point, I fell so hard, I got the wind knocked out of me and just lay there for a minute to catch my breath. And where was John? Helping me up? Nooo, he was happy to get out the camera and take pictures of me lying (feeling like I'm dying) on the trail.

Later that day, we ended up watching the Eagles trounce the Cowboys at a local B&B watering hole called the Sonestown Inn. The Inn had what looked like a great Thanksgiving platter but John and I looked at each other and said "Naaah."  He had the open faced roast beef and I tackled a 1/2 pound burger. This was after downing (and sharing) a dozen wings, pierogies, and onion rings. Hey, it was a long game!

One exploded turkey coming up!
The day after Thanksgiving, we had our a smokey turkey in the cabin. The cabin had an electric stove and since the turkey was already cooked, it just needed to be heated up. John did tell me one thing though, "It doesn't look pretty but I got it 1/2 off."
I said, "Um ... Why?"
"Because our turkey exploded in the smoker and the guy gave it to me for 1/2 off," he laughed.
I busted out laughing too. And the turkey did looked butchered by a serial killer but I gotta tell you it was soo damn good!

It was a great mini-vacation. We shopped the quaint little nearby town of Eagles Mere, smoked some cigars, drank some whiskey, hiked through snow, fell down the mountain, and ate an exploded turkey. Now that's an interesting Thanksgiving!

On the Loyalsock Creek