North Pole Air Mail

A while back, I posted about Ella mailing her letter to Santa thanks to our very cool neighbors. If you missed it, you can read about it here:

Well, Ella was extra excited to get her letter from Santa today in the mail!!

“Santa” wrote an amazing letter to the kids. Ella was so excited to open it up.

This is a simple reminder to me that there are still some very amazing people out there. I don’t know how many letters they received or responded to, but I think it is wonderful that they are giving so much of their time and energy to make children smile.

Thank you “Santa” for answering our letter and we’ll look forward to getting the reindeer food for the sleigh team!

Christmas Dragnet

I will be offering up a couple of my favorite Christmas songs as part of the Turntable Talk feature hosted by Dave at a Sound Day. My entry will show up on Saturday. You can read my entry here and on his site.

This post will also feature a Christmas favorite that many have never heard before. I wouldn’t consider it a Christmas “song,” but more of a “sketch.” I heard this many years ago on a “best of” collection from Stan Freberg.

Let me give you a little back ground. Stan was a was an American actor, author, comedian, musician, radio personality, puppeteer and advertising creative director. He was a master satirist and was recruited by Capitol Records when they launched their Spoken Word division in the early 1950’s. He had been doing voice work in cartoons in the 1940’s and began producing satirical records in 1951.

In 1949, Jack Webb debuted on radio as Sgt. Joe Friday on the program Dragnet. It was a huge hit and it was perfect for a satirical parody. In 1953, Stan’s first Dragnet release was St. George and the Dragonet – set in medieval days where a night is searching for a Dragon. The recording featured June Foray and the great Daws Butler – two of cartoon’s most famous voices!

Stan wanted to use the Dragnet theme (written by Walter Schumann) for his production. Capitol Records insisted he get the permission of Dragnet star and Jack Webb. Being a Freberg fan, Webb liked the idea, approved the use of the theme and allowed Freberg to use the same orchestra from the Dragnet series with Schumann conducting.

For Christmas Dragnet (also called Yulenet), Freberg once again played the “Joe Friday” character and Daws Butler was his partner Frank. This simple six minute recording always makes me laugh and always makes me smile. In a nutshell, it’s Christmas Eve and Joe and Frank are working the “holiday watch.” The story focuses on a guy named Grudge, who was picked up by the squad for refusing to believe in Santa Claus.

Even if you are not familiar with Dragnet, I think you will enjoy this. And you will always question what to call green onions after hearing this! Enjoy!

“This is the season ….”

2022 Holiday Photo Shoot

We were supposed to get some quick holiday photos last week. The day before our appointment, the kids were still under the weather. I made the call to our photographer and asked if we could either reschedule the session or put the money toward our future appointment for Ella’s birthday pictures. She graciously said that we could move the session to this week if that worked.

I wasn’t sure if this was a possibility because these were what she called “mini sessions.” Basically, it is an abbreviated session of about 15 minutes. For one fee, you get the session and all of the digital photos from the session. It was a really sweet deal and I am glad that she was able to move our appointment.

We’ve been to her studio more than once. When I walked in for our session, I was very impressed with what they did. They literally created an entire room right there. It was the perfect backdrop and the photos were just beautiful.

When we did Andrew’s first birthday pictures in October, Beth’s (our photographer) dog was in the studio. Roxie. Ella remembered her name! When we walked in this week, Ella was on the look out for Roxie. She asked, “Where’s Roxie?!” Beth was so impressed that Ella remembered the dog’s name and told her that she was upstairs sleeping (which seemed to be an acceptable answer).

Our plan was to just get pictures of the kids. Sam and I knew that there was always the possibility of Beth getting us in photos, too. So we both wore sweaters and were prepared to jump in. I’m glad we were ready, as she took family photos right from the get go.

There were so many great photos that were taken. The best of them will go on the Christmas card (if we have time to get them done).

Beth is SO fast! I swear, Ella just doesn’t like to sit still for pictures anymore. She is always on the go. The fact that she was still able to get pictures where it looks like she is sitting still just amazes me! She wasn’t on the couch for long.

You might be able to tell that she isn’t sitting still in the above picture. I was really trying to hold her in one spot for this and a couple other shots in the pose.

I wasn’t sure I was going to like this pose, but I really do. I may or may not have needed help getting back up after this pose.

Beth made sure to grab a few solo pictures of each kid. Ella loved the wagon.

Andrew in this little sled is SO cute!!

I think Beth took about 20 pictures of the two of them in the wagon. Most of them probably looked like Ella was choking Andrew, but there were a couple that really came out cute.

The thing that I was very happy about was that Beth got a photo of just Sam and I together. In all the time we have been together, we never really had a “professional” photo taken of us. We had a friend take some engagement photos of us to announce to friends and family that we were getting married. That friend takes photos for fun and she doesn’t own a studio or anything. They came out great and we loved them, but that was almost 5 years ago.

Beth was able to snap a couple of us before the kids were hanging around at our feet. I am sure she had to crop the kids out of the bottom of the photo, but I just love this picture.

Thank you to Beth at Enjoy the View Photography for once again capturing some wonderful photos!

The holidays have always been special to me. I am so very lucky to have such an amazing family to share them with. What do I want for Christmas? Nothing. I already have the greatest gift in the world – my family!

Taking a few “Elf-ies”

I admit my creativity level is not what it used to be. Thank goodness we have the Internet! Thank goodness for those who are more creative than I am!

With the addition of Twinkles, the Elf on the Shelf, there is now a nightly panic about what we are going to do with it every day. I didn’t think Ella would be into it as much as she is. She really loves looking for her every day. She doesn’t get the whole idea that the elf “reports back to Santa” yet.

I am not ashamed to admit that I have borrowed many of my ideas from the Internet. I have had some fun with it for sure. I am not to the point where I am going out to buy props or outfits for the thing yet. Maybe when Ella gets older, but not now!

Here are a few highlights of the past week –

Twinkles on her one horse “Olaf” sleigh…

I was surprised I had all the right (and enough) letters to do this!

I guess that there is an Elf on the Shelf cereal that comes out around this time of the year. The idea I saw had the elf popping out of that box instead. These Cheerios were stale, so we put the box and cereal to use…

This one is my favorite. I found some old wrapping paper and used it for a backdrop. I thought that guy by the camera just looked like a photographer. I also added a line of people waiting to get their picture taken.

Just over two weeks to go …..

NOT Eating Good in the Neighborhood!

It is my fault. Sunday night, I was going through some things and found a white envelope with my name on it. My radio name. I opened the envelope and it was a Christmas card from my old boss at WCRZ – Cars 108. I must have just returned to the station as she had written, “Glad to have you back as part of the team.” This was probably from four years ago. Inside the card were two gift cards. Two Applebee’s gift cards.

I turned them over and the area for the pin number had not been scratched off. In my mind, this means that I never used them. My first thought was that I would be able to use them to take my wife out for dinner on a date night. I had no idea how much was on each card, so I called the number on the back of the card.

Each time I tried to call, the call would not connect. I tried numerous times. I thought maybe it was something wrong with my phone. So, I decided to try to check the balance online. I typed in the numbers on the first card and entered the pin. The website stated that there was an “error.” I tried the second card and it did the same thing. I decided to try the number again. It still wouldn’t connect.

I decided to see if someone at the local restaurant could look up the balance. I called the local restaurant and they were happy to help. I gave them the numbers and the pin numbers of both cards. Both times I was told that nothing was coming up. I had to chuckle. Of course they couldn’t find anything.

According to all the Applebee’s sites, the cards never expire. I really find it hard to believe that our boss, who gave these cards to everyone on the staff, would have given us all cards that were never activated (which is what the restaurant suggested). If that was the case, I am sure I would have heard about it.

I have no idea how much would have been on the cards, I’m sure it was probably no more than $50. But it sure would have been a nice little treat to have found out that they were still good. I’m glad I didn’t take my wife there and find out as we paid that there was an issue with the cards.

A Worthy Sequel

I finally had the chance to watch the sequel to A Christmas Story. It was really a heartwarming movie. I enjoyed it very much.

There have been a couple “sequels” that have been made, but none of them came close to the original. They lacked something. They were very hard to watch. And don’t get me started on that “A Christmas Story Live” that was on TV a year or so ago…..urgh!

Peter Billingsley helped write the script, and many of the original cast all show up in this film. That, in itself, makes it worth the watch. Replacing Melinda Dillon as Ralphie’s mom is Airplane’s Julie Haggerty.

I won’t give away too much, because true fans of the movie will want to just watch and enjoy. The movie follows the now-adult Ralphie as he returns to the house on Cleveland Street to give his kids a magical Christmas like the one he had as a child, reconnecting with childhood friends and reconciling the passing of his Old Man.

I read one of the articles about the film before it was released. Peter Billingsley stated in it that the film was the perfect way to honor “the Old Man.” It truly is.

I worried that the movie would simply be a copy of the original. While there are plenty of nods to the original, they do not take away from the film itself. As you watch the end credits of the sequel there are side by side pictures of the original and the “nod” in the film.

This film has so much of what made the original a classic. These are established characters, who you connect with immediately. As you see each of the now adult characters, it’s fun to see what became of them.

What I really enjoyed was seeing how Ralphie now takes on the role of “the Old Man,” so to speak. It’s now his turn to make the holiday special for his family. At the same time, it is interesting to see a very complex side of Ralphie as he sorts through the feelings and responsibility now places on him because of the passing of his father.

What a joy it is to revisit the home on Cleveland Street! At times I felt like I could cry, and in the end I genuinely felt holiday happiness. It is a must see for any Christmas Story Fan!

I’m off to Higbee’s to visit Santa….

Under The Weather

We’ve had quite the run of germs at our house. First, Andrew had the runny nose, cough, and ear infection. Then Sam got a wicked sore throat that seemed to last for days. Ella has been congested, coughing, not really sleeping and fevers off an on. I have a nasty sinus infection with a cough. It’s not been pleasant!

No parent likes to see their kid sick. Ella has really had it the roughest. She is just miserable. Sam went as far as to say that Ella is like me when I get sick. She’s right. I don’t do sick very well. Ok, honestly, I’m a big baby. All I want to do is sleep. It’s not pretty.

We used real life as inspiration for Twinkles (our Elf on a Shelf) this week.

We were supposed to have some Christmas pictures taken this morning, but with all of us sick, we had to call and cancel. We’re hoping that we might be well enough to do them on Monday, so our photographer moved our appointment. Our fingers are crossed that at least the kids feel better by then.

Rest is best, so I think we’re all going to just hang in pajamas all weekend. Nothing wrong with that, right?

Happy 50th to A Golden Oldie!

1972 brought us many things, including:

  • The first episode of the Price is Right hosted by Bob Barker
  • Gas that only cost 36 cents a gallon
  • Nacho cheese Doritoes
  • Time Warner launched HBO
  • PONG!
  • Oakland A’s were World Series champs
  • Dallas Cowboys won Superbowl VI
  • The Godfather hit movie theaters
  • My baby brother was born

The story goes something like this – my mom and dad brought my brother home from the hospital after he was born and introduced us. My first response was “I don’t want him. Take him back!” And so begins the relationship of two brothers who couldn’t be more different.

Back in 2019, I asked my brother Christopher to write a little something for this blog. I went back and reread it today and found myself laughing again. It is worth sharing again.

Now that he has been older than me for 13 years (I’m stand on Jack Benny’s position that I am 39!), I wanted to find a special way to salute his 50 years on this planet. So, how about some photographic memories (in as chronological order as I can get):

I’d say the above photo is early 1973. He is obviously still too young to be that big of a problem to me.

This might be 1974. I’m not sure, but it seems like this may have been an outfit my mom liked me in. I think it is the same one I wore in a professional photoshoot.

Sure looks the same to me. Despite the terrible outfits, I love this picture of my brother and me.

Sesame Street was such a big part of our lives. I guess Chris really liked Big Bird. This picture cracks me up because I have mismatched PJ’s on! I may have to revisit this one for a Photo Flashback!

One of the first family photos I remember. We were at my dad’s work open house. Nice shirt, Chris!!

My mom made that ceramic Yoda for my brother for his birthday!

Christmas cheese! This might be the only picture of Santa with both of us. I could be wrong.

HA! We made these hats.

This was a Halloween costume I wore one year. Then they had some play at school and we recycled it for Chris.

I have posted that one before – fishing in Caseville! LOVE this picture – but hate my outfit!

Chris and I in matching shirts at my grandma’s house.

Terrible picture of both of us – but the look on his face cracks me up!

ANOTHER terrible photo!! Not sure about the ugly flannel shirts or our hair!!!

From my first trip to Columbus. I think this was the trip we had professional pictures of us taken for our folks. Thankfully, I cannot find those pictures!!

My aunt and uncle had a place on the lake and had a big picnic every year. Always loved going to them and it was always an added bonus when Chris was able to make it.

Best man at my first wedding.

A favorite photo of my brother, me and my dad – 2010

Again in 2013 – Christmas Eve I think

First anniversary trip in 2019 to Cleveland. My brother met up with us for dinner … somewhere in Ohio!

He’s quite a good Uncle to his niece and nephew. 2020

Family Photo shoot 2021

I have so many wonderful memories with my brother! We had a lot of fun growing up together. In recent years, we’ve become closer and I am grateful for that. I’m proud of his successes and am thankful that we are family. I wish you a wonderful day full of smiles and happiness.

Thank you for being such a wonderful friend, a support, and caring brother. Thank you for loving my family. Thank you for being such an amazing uncle. Thank you for taking us all to Disney (You are doing that, right?!)

Here is to another 50 years! Happy Birthday, Christopher. I love you, always!!

Too Many Streams

Money hungry. That’s what they are. Money hungry.

I remember a time when we had Netflix and Hulu and that gave us pretty much every thing we needed to watch movies and TV shows. That’s not the case today. So many “parent companies” are pulling stuff off Netflix to add to their own streaming platform and quite frankly, it ticks me off.

All the NBC shows are now on Peacock, all Star Wars, Pixar and Disney is on Disney +, and so on and so forth. We’ll guess what? I’m not paying for all of them! We’re barely getting by with all of the inflation, gas prices, and life in general! I cannot afford $20 a month here and $15 a month there. The cable bill alone is high enough! To add more streaming services would put us in one big financial hole!

What really angers me is that there are things that I would LOVE to watch, but can’t because there is no way to justify paying for another streaming service. Paramount + has The Offer, a series about the making of the Godfather. I would love to see it. HBO Max has the new Christmas Story movie, which I hear is great! My list goes on and on. I just cannot in good conscience pay for something that I will only use to watch one or two shows.

The TV shows I would binge watch, well, many of them I have on DVD. I can pop them in whenever I want to. It seems to be more worth buying them outright at $40 and watching them for years that to pay $20 a month and maybe not even get the chance to watch them. And when you have them on DVD, you get the bonus features that don’t show up on streaming.

Actor Jack Palance once said, “The only two things you can really depend upon are gravity and greed.” The fact that there are almost as many streaming services as there are cable channels makes me sick. I’m sorry greedy streaming company – you aren’t getting my money every month.

I suppose I will hope that the one or two things I want to watch on their platform will end up on DVD soon …

Rant over.

Bells Are Ringing and Clowns Are … Laughing?

My grandma was no Clark Griswold in the outdoor Christmas Decorations Department.  Inside, though, she used to really go all out.  Well, at least she did before she moved to her condo.

She had a large mantle along the fireplace that she decorated every year.  She had Christmas trees, reindeer, a Santa sleigh, angels, and more.  On both sides of the fireplace, there were cement “pads” (really the only way I can think to describe them).  She usually placed a small Christmas tree on each side and surrounded them with more trinkets.  I know I had pictures of just the mantle somewhere, but can’t seem to find it. However, you get the basic idea from this cheesy photo of my brother and me.

One of the trinkets was a plastic mouse that had hair on the head.  The hair made it look like one of those toy trolls.  It never made sense to me as to why she always had that in there.  I asked her one year and she explained that she had been sick or in the hospital one time and my folks sent her some flowers or a plant or something … from me.  The mouse was part of the bouquet and she kept it.  Sadly, it is one of the things that have disappeared and no one knows where it went.

As years went by, many of the same decorations were there. Note the Mrs. Santa Clause to the right of the Millennium Falcon box below. It always seemed to be out. This particular year, there was a set of shelves next to the TV. On top of it was her manger scene (behind my brother on the left). The silver star lit up above the baby Jesus. This may have been the manger set my mom made in ceramics, I can’t be sure.

For as long as grandma was in her house on Huntington, every Christmas she would hang these melted plastic decorations up on the wall. These were very popular in the 1970’s I guess.  She had Santa in a sleigh being pulled by 9 reindeer….all Rudolph because that was all they made.

Those plastic decorations were something we had at our house, too.  I remember the snowman, the Christmas tree, waving Santa, and the wreath.  I did a search online and found that there were quite a bit of them. There were even some made for Thanksgiving and Easter.

In her front room, there was usually her big tree (eventually it was the ceramic one my mom made for her) right in the center of the front window and some garland around pictures.  There might have been a wreath on the door, too.  We didn’t go in this room much.  It was the “fancy” room.  Most of the breakable stuff was in there. Here are my grandparents in there around 1967-1968.

Bells and Clowns

I’m not sure what made me remember this particular decoration, but it was one of two very annoying things that grandma brought out every year. It was a simple, clear, red plastic bell that played music. It didn’t look anything like the bell in the video below.

I tried to search for it online and I found something similar to the one grandma had, but it isn’t THE one. Grandma’s was just a bell with a Christmas light inside of it that lit up in synch with the electronic music that was playing. I found this clip on YouTube which is almost the exact same music.

The missing holiday favorite from the clip is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Grandma’s bell played it and when it did the Christmas light inside blinked like it was a strobe light. It always made my grandma laugh. It made us laugh, too, the first couple times we heard it. After that it got annoying. She would turn it on and you’d have to listen to the first 7 or 8 carols before Rudolph played. When it did, she’d crack up. It was obnoxiously annoying.

The second annoying “decoration” she had was this scary looking clown doll. Now, what this clown had to do with Christmas I will never know. It wasn’t even dressed in Christmas colors.

This ugly thing would sit somewhere near the fire place among the rest of the decorations. Throughout each of our visits, grandma would walk over, pick it up and press the belly. Inside the clown was a “laugh box.” It would laugh for 20-30 seconds and it would crack my grandma up.

You can see the pure joy on her face in the above picture. To a degree, the laugh kind of reminded me of how my grandpa laughed, so maybe that is why she loved it so much. Every video I found on YouTube of the clown laughing, it sounds speeded up. I did, however find a video of just the laugh box and it plays at the speed my grandma’s clown laughed.

Imagine hearing that 4-5 times during an hour visit! I was always glad when that clown finally got put away!

As annoying as they were, I’d give anything to be able to go back to the days of that clown and that bell! So many Christmas memories involved my grandparents. Whether it was my mom’s folks …

… or my dad’s folks ….

I’d put up with those annoying sounds for however long I had to – just to have a few more minutes with them again!