Pre-Holiday Weekend Wrap Up

It is hard to believe that we are just 4 days away from Christmas. Someone observed that time moves a whole lot faster in December if you are an adult. This is so true! As a kid, it seemed to crawl by as we waited for Christmas.

SNOW!

This weekend kept us pretty busy. We got about an inch of snow on Saturday night and when Ella woke up she saw the ground was covered. So after breakfast, the kids and I suited up in snow gear and went out to play in the yard.

It was fun to see Andrew all bundled up. He looked so funny trying to walk in his boots and snow pants. The snow wasn’t “snowman” ready, so we really couldn’t build one. But we did get to run around and throw snow at each other. He really had fun once he got over the “awe” of it. Ella? Well, she just loves to run and jump in the snow.

Cookie Time!

Our Elf on the Shelf, Twinkles, had the idea to decorate cookies this weekend.

She is obviously a Sam’s Club member!

The kids had a blast decorating them.

Ella had her “Bucket O Princesses” with her as she decorated hers. Andrew was eating them as fast as he decorated his …

Picnic

Yesterday, Ella wanted to have a picnic. So we put a blanket down in the living room, I whipped up some grilled cheese sandwiches, and they had a picnic.

Note the “Bucket O Princesses” are with her at lunch, too! LOL!

I probably should have thought about giving them applesauce pouches. That blanket needed a good wash after the picnic was over.

Say “Ahhhh”

This morning, when Sam got home, we had to take the kids to the dentist. Ella did ok, but there are things that she won’t let them do. Sam went back with her and I guess she started to freak out about getting an X-Ray. We will probably need to see a pediatric dentist who may be able to get her calm enough to get them. Andrew had no issues at all, He was a champ.

After our visit to the dentist, it was time for a visit to Santa. Ella was so excited to go see him. More on that in my next blog!

One Final Story

Last year my dad got us an Amazon Echo. You have to link it to an Amazon account, so I linked it to mine.

Sam and I decided that we were not getting each other anything for Christmas this year. I decided to get her something from the kids. So I took $20 I won on an instant lottery ticket and put it in the account I used for my DJ business (so she wouldn’t know) and ordered her something on Amazon.

She was standing by the fireplace yesterday where the Echo is yesterday. She see’s something that pops up on the screen.

She asks me, “What did you order from Amazon?”

“Nothing,” I said.

“According to the Alexa, you have something arriving Thursday that YOU ordered,” she says.

“Don’t worry about it!” I told her, hoping she would drop the subject.

She didn’t drop it and says, “We don’t have the money to spend. Did you put this on your credit card?”

“No. It’s not anything big. It’s something from the kids to you.” and I explained that it was from the lottery ticket money.

She finally drops the subject, until today.

“By the way, I know what you have coming from Amazon,” she slyly says.

I look at her flustered. “Every time I try to get you something as a surprise, something spoils it!”

She then says, “What made you think to get that?”

I don’t say anything. I told her to just act surprised when she unwraps in.

Then she laughs and says, “Yeah, I don’t know what it is. But I was hoping you would tell me by telling you I knew what it was!”

“Wife Trickery” at its finest!! Man, I almost told her what it was! Somehow I think she knows what it is anyway, but we’ll see.

Friday Photo Flashback

It’s time for another Friday Photo Flashback. As we get closer to the Christmas holiday, I picked another Christmas photo to look at. It is from 1974.

I found this on a hard drive. I am guessing that it is a scan that my brother did of some of the photos from my aunt. My Aunt Jodi and I are 4 years apart. This photo was taken on Christmas Day in 1974. My aunt and I are featured in the picture.

There are a few reasons I chose to feature this particular picture. First of all, I do not remember it. As I said, it had to be one my grandmother took. I don’t recall seeing it in an albums at my house, or in any batch of digital scans from my dad.

Next, it takes me right back to my grandma’s living room. Where the Christmas tree is, my grandpa’s rocking chair was usually there. Next to it, or on the wall next to it (which was a half wall as I recall) was where my grandpa kept his cabinet phonograph.

Those things were awesome! He had many big band albums, and one with Harry Belafonte singing in concert. He always played the song about a hole in the bucket or something.

The fireplace was a real fireplace as I remember. I may have only witnessed one real fire in it growing up. I recognize the red candle that is behind me and to my right in the picture. Grandma had that for at least a few years. I am four in this picture, but it is in the same spot in another Christmas picture from their house when I was 2.

I love the mess of open boxes and wrapping paper all over the place in the picture. It is a bit too blurry to tell what some of the toys in boxes are, but that army jeep was probably my gift. This may have been the year I got a GI Joe Doll. The GI Joe came with a small hand grenade. This must have been years before anyone worried about kids choking on things, because it was quite small. It was so small that my brother stuck it in his nose and it got stuck! I know that required a trip to the ER to have it removed! The more I think about it, he may have stuck it in his ear, I don’t know.

UPDATE: My brother was able to zoom in a bit on the picture and told me that the box behind me is actually a Weebles set! Sure enough, here is the box!

I’m not a fan of the buzz cut that I am sporting, but it was a favorite haircut of my folks. I had them often. I also don’t know what to make of the outfit I am wearing. Wow! The 70’s sure had some crazy patterns on pants! Even my aunt’s pants look like something you’d see on an old golfer.

I really have no idea what my aunt is handing me. Of course, the way we fought as kids, she might be taking whatever that thing is away from me. Is it a snake? Is it a dinosaur? Is it a fish? I really cannot say. I don’t remember that thing at all! I’m smiling, so I must have thought it was cool.

The crocheted shawl my aunt is wearing has GOT to be something my mom made. If I were to make a wager, it very well may have been her Christmas gift from my mom. Mom loved to crochet and made a lot of things for family. She made me some sort of sweater vest one year. When she was into ceramics, she made something for every one. When she was making fabric painted sweatshirts, everyone got one. Because the pattern, I would certainly think that the shawl is my mom’s handiwork.

You will also notice that on the tree, right behind my aunt is a crocheted diamond ornament. My mom made hundreds of those ornaments. One year our tree was full of them! Want proof?

The other thing I notice in the picture with my aunt and me is the garland. It seems like garland was a necessity for Christmas for my mom and grandma. It is wrapped around the tree, which is where you’d expect it, I suppose. But you see the lone strand hanging down along the wall by the fire place? Right there between the tree and the melted plastic Santa? I can almost bet that it is strung along the top of the fire place.

I stopped writing and went to my hard drive to see if I could find a picture of the garland. Sure enough, a couple years earlier, here is my aunt and I in front of the same fireplace. There along the wall – is the garland!

…and that same red candle!

At least I don’t have a buzz cut in that picture!

Oh to go back and watch those moments …

This Or That?

I’ve seen a couple bloggers I follow post this in one way, shape or form. I thought it would be a quick and fun thing to do. Two options are presented – you have to pick one. You are supposed to tag someone else to answer the questions, but I won’t do that. Feel free to chime in with whatever you want in the comments, if you wish.

UPDATE: After being tagged by Dave and Lisa (and seeing their responses), I thought I should go through and maybe expand on my brief answers).

Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?

Christmas Eve has always been the bigger day in my family for as long as I can remember. I’m not saying Christmas Day is not as important, but Eve was just always the bigger celebration. We spent every Christmas Eve with my paternal grandparents. It was the Italian side of the family and there was always plenty of food, desserts and family.

We’d have an early dinner (and graze throughout the remainder of the night), and the adults would play pinochle while us kids played with toys, watched videos, or played video games. I would say many of my favorite Christmas memories stem from those Christmas Eves!

Real or Fake Tree?

I have never had a real tree. I know they smell wonderful, but the upkeep of them and the fear or a fire starting has me liking the fake one. When visiting family or friends with a real tree, I always thought they looked great. I was often wowed by the size of some of the trees.

The tree we have at our house now was left by the previous owner. Sam has been using it every year. It has lights on it already, but there is a short in the wires. So we just string a bunch of lights on it separately. For as old as it is, it still looks very full. We talked about getting a new tree this year, but once this one was up, I remember thinking it still looks good.

Snow Globe or Snowflakes? 

I think snow globes are nice. We have one that plays music. However, nothing beats real snowflakes falling. I have always enjoyed watching it snow. There is something peaceful about it. Even when it is really coming down, I still find it calming. Unless, of course, I am driving!

Sledding or Ice Skating? 

I tried to ice skate once. Once! I can’t do it. I can’t roller skate either. I love sledding. I love taking the kids around on a sled. There is a small hill near us that I can’t wait to take them to.

Before my divorce, we lived at the end of a cul de sac. When they would plow our street, they always just pushed it all to the end. This made a wonderful hill for the boys to sled down. There was also a big hill at one of the parks that we would go to and sled.

I need to go buy a good two person sled this year so I can pull the kids around on it, or ride down a hill with one of them in it with me.

Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?

Egg Nog hands down. I know a lot of people hate it, but it has long been a favorite of mine. I have blogged about this before, but my grandma used to by this instant egg nog in a pouch and make it. My brother and I loved that!

One year I found a custard egg nog that was absolutely delicious. I wish I could find it. It came in a container that looked like a nutcracker. The only thing I cannot do is low fat egg nog. There is something about it that tastes different.

Photo Taken In Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Do It Yourself Gift or Store Bought Gift?

I guess it depends. Gifts that were made by my kids will always mean more to me than store bought gifts. Either one works, as long as there is some though involved. My wife is the best gift giver and always seems to be able to find just the right gift for me. I wish I had that talent! I don’t know that my gifts to her, no matter how much I thought about it, are as good as the ones she has gotten for me.

Something Red or Something Green?

This is a stupid question. Christmas colors are red and green. A co-worker said “Green can be St. Patrick’s Day, so you have to pick red!” I don’t really know why you have to pick one at all. They go so well together.

Giving Gifts or Getting Gifts?

Personally, I think there is more joy in giving them than getting them. I have told my wife many times that I don’t need anything. I never really understood why my dad would say he didn’t want anything when I was a kid. Today I understand. While it is nice to receive a gift, I just get more joy out of actually giving one to someone.

White Christmas or No Snow? 

White Christmas without a doubt. I think that snow just adds to the magic of the day. There is a certain sadness that I get when there is no snow on Christmas. I’m happy with just a dusting, or even flurries. There just has to be a little snow. I really don’t know how people in the south deal with it. When I hear “Let it Snow,” “Winter Wonderland,” or “White Christmas,” I immediately picture snow on the ground. Do they even play those songs in Texas or Mexico? LOL

Colored Lights or White Lights?

I think in certain situations white lights (or any other single color) can look very pretty. However, there is something about having the variety of colors that seems more festive to me.

I recently took the kids to Menards and walked through the Christmas decorations aisles. There are trees that look very nice with all one color – blue, green, or white. I am not sure I could do my tree that way. Perhaps I would do outdoor decorations that way, but on the tree they just have to be multi-colored.

Celebrating at Home or Celebrating Away From Home?

There is a similar question that asks whether you would rather host Christmas or go visiting. There are perks to both. I love being at home in PJ’s while the kids open gifts. I love being able to have breakfast and just watch them enjoy the day. At the same time, celebrating with family at a get together outside of the house is just as fun. Hosting is a bit much for me – too much responsibility.

Opening Gifts One at a Time or Opening All At Once?

We have always done them one at a time. I think it is important to see the receiver’s reactions to the gift they get. If everyone is opening all at once, you miss so much. Besides, I’m a picture taker. I like to capture reactions to gifts. One at a time makes that a whole lot easier. I also think that opening gifts one at a time allows the rest of the family to be joyful for you and what you received.

Gift Wrap or Gift Bags?

I suck at wrapping. I always let Sam do it. If I was responsible for wrapping – everything would be in bags! I think there is something to be said about a beautifully wrapped present under the tree. Wrap it is.

My mother was an amazing gift wrapper. I remember how she’d measure the paper on the box, skillfully slid the scissors along the paper to cut it, and used minimal amounts of tape to wrap something. My kids used to hate gifts I wrapped because I was using a LOT of tape. The corners were never perfect, the paper was never tight around the box, and it really was a shoddy job when I was the wrapper.

Wrap master – I was not.

Angel or Star Topper?

I am not sure we ever had an angel on the top of our tree. It was usually a star or no topper at all. Now, we have this cute snowman that sits on the top, which I really like a lot. I saw somewhere online a snowman topper that makes it look like the snowman is stuck in the tree. That would be very cool. I also saw on Facebook an ad for the Abominable Snow Monster from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer that you can put on the top of the tree. I’d get that too!

Wreath or Garland?

I don’t even know how these two relate to each other. My mom used garland all the time around the tree and would string it up on the walls and such. It’s pretty, but we don’t use it. I think a wreath can be very festive. I like them both.

We don’t have either at our house. The garland above isn’t the garland I remember. Mom and dad used to have gold or silver garland that was placed all over the house. Even little pieces of the stuff wound up somewhere. It seemed to be every where in the house.

Santa Wraps Gifts or Santa Leaves Gifts Unwrapped?

Growing up, gifts were always left unwrapped from Santa. The wrapped gifts were from mom and dad. I kinda like that. I know know why my folks were always so tired on Christmas morning. They were up the night before putting toys together! There were plenty of nights we didn’t get home from my grandmas until way after midnight. This freaked us out because all kids think that Santa comes at exactly midnight. If my dad had a dollar for every time he told us, “Don’t worry, Santa will come!” he would be a rich man!

Matching Pajamas or Ugly Sweaters?

As corny as it sounds, I think it can be very cute to have matching PJ’s. The kids had matching jammies for pictures. I think if we had extra money, we’d have bought matching ones for Sam and I. Ugly Sweaters are a party thing. I have one and I plan on wearing it to every ugly sweater party I every attend. LOL I need to get my money’s worth.

Cash or Gift Cards?

This depends. I know my son wants a video game this year. I can’t afford to buy it for him, but I will get him a gift card towards it. I think many folks would love cash, but I usually use any cash I get to pay bills. Not very Christmasy. “Hey, Pop. Thanks for helping me with the electric bill this year!” LOL

Mariah Carey or Michael Buble’?

Mr. Buble’! I love how he has brought back some of the great standards. I only really like the one Mariah Carey song, and they play it so much now it just drives me crazy. Buble’ has many great takes on holiday standards. He’s no Bing, Frank or Dean, but he still is one that I enjoy listening too!

Gloves or Mittens?

Gloves! I never cared for mittens. I never felt like my hands worked properly in them. LOL!

Grinch or Charlie Brown?

Charlie Brown! The Grinch song is over played. There are so many reasons why Charlie Brown gets my vote. Linus’ speech tops the list!

It was pointed out to me that the Grinch does come around and loves Christmas much like Scrooge does. True – but Charlie Brown still wins this battle.

Turkey or Ham?

Neither! On Christmas, it is always ravioli for me!! It’s a Christmas Eve Tradition!!

There were many other choices, but I think that is enough for now.

How would you answer “This or That?” Do you have two choices you’d like me to answer?

Feel free to offer up yours …

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!

Merry and Bright

Before Thanksgiving, there was a perfect 70 degree day.  That was the day I should have put the Christmas lights up outside.  I didn’t.  Thankfully, I took advantage of a breezy 50ish degree day and was outside rigging up the lights.

After I finished, the following conversation took place between my wife and me:

Sam: Uh, what’s that big bunch of wires wrapped to the post?

Me: So, there was a strand of lights where only half were lighting up. Those are the ones that didn’t light up!

Sam: That really looks bad

Me:. No one’s gonna see those from outside. Especially in the dark!!

Man logic. 

I was not about to go through bulb by bulb to check them.  (I actually swapped out the first bulb that was out, but when it didn’t work, I was done with that!). And I certainly wasn’t going to buy an entire new strand of lights!  I had already gone through the countless strands and replaced those bulbs that were physically broken.  That took enough of my time. 

So behind a post, there is a bunch of bulbs wrapped together … And out of site from anyone looking at it from the front.

These don’t work!

When all is said and done, it looks good at night!

Side porch.  Lit up and festive.

I really need to do more in the front of the house.  I always feel like it’s not enough.

Front porch

The ground was already hard, so I couldn’t get the stakes in for the large Christmas bulbs we usually put out.  So their absence already makes it look “half done.”

I really need to get a big ladder. We don’t have one. I’m sure I could probably borrow one from a neighbor, but I never ask. I would love to do up along the roof. Those icicle lights would probably look good and can’t be that hard to hang.

Maybe next year.

Holiday Recycling Project – The Year Without a Santa Claus

In December of 2019, I took part in The Happy Holidays Blogathon. For that event, I chose to write about one of my favorite holiday specials – The Year Without a Santa Claus. This special is obviously a favorite for many other people, too. I say that because every year since I posted it, it has been one of the Top 10 most read blogs on my site.

For new followers, here is a link to that original post:

Recently, on Facebook, I was able to connect with Rick Goldschmidt. He is the official historian and biographer of Rankin Bass productions. He has written quite a few books about some of the beloved holiday specials as well as a book about all of them. I am currently saving up some money to get the 20th Anniversary Edition of The Enchanted World of Rankin/Bass.

In messaging back and forth, I saw that a soundtrack for The Year Without a Santa Claus was available. I received one from Rick with autographed photos of Snow Miser and Heat Miser. I popped the CD in my car and was blown away at the sound quality.

The great thing about this CD is that it not only includes the songs from the show, it also includes the background music. I loved every minute of it!! If you are a fan of this holiday special, you can inquire about getting a copy of the soundtrack, books, and more at the following website:

http://www.miserbros.com

Rick has been busy getting items out for Christmas, and I am sure that you can nab something for the Rankin/Bass fan on your Christmas list from the site.

Rick wrote a piece that is featured in the December issue of Remind magazine about Paul Coker Jr. Paul was the guy who designed some of the most memorable Rankin/Bass characters, including the Miser Brothers. It is on newsstands now and available for you to check out.

Thanks again, Rick, for the photos and soundtrack! Thanks for keeping the characters of these holiday specials alive for years to come!

Throwback Thursday – Favorite Things

Today, Maggie from “From Cave Walls” is hosting Throwback Thursday. You can read her blog here:

https://fromcavewalls.wordpress.com/2022/09/01/throwback-thursday-54-raindrops-on-roses/

She wants to know about our favorite things while adolescents.  She says: Pick any period of your adolescence and think back to all your favorite things. Feel free to elaborate as much as you want.

This week’s prompt is: Favorite Things

Pick any period of your adolescence and think back to all your favorite things. Feel free to elaborate as much as you want.

I am going to go with a time when I was in elementary school.

Who was your favorite relative? Not to play favorites, but who was the person you connected with more than others? Aunt, uncle, cousin, grandparent, or parent? Why were you closest to them?

I hate the thought of picking a favorite relative. I would say that I probably connected most with my dad’s dad. When my mom’s dad passed away, it was the first time I had ever lost someone to death. I realized that he wouldn’t be around forever, so I began recording his voice so I’d remember what he sounded like. The loss of one grandparent caused me to be closer with all my other grandparents.

What was your favorite TV show? Share a clip if you can find one.

I remember being in front of the TV to watch the Dukes of Hazzard.

What was your favorite book or favorite family story?

In fourth grade, I remember liking Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume. The little brother, Fudges reminded me of my brother.

What was your favorite, song, record, or album. Feel free to share a YouTube video of it.

I never listened to what my friends listened to. Very rarely was I listening to new music. I was always listening to oldies or stuff my dad was playing for me. I listened to a lot of Beatles music.

Who was your favorite teacher at that age? What grade were you in and what subject did they teach?

Mrs. Gallop was my fourth grade teacher. She taught all the subjects that year. She was a lot of fun.

What was your favorite subject (not teacher) in school?

In elementary school? It was probably reading. I loved to read.

Who was your favorite (aka best) friend? What things did you do together?

Jeff. He still is my best friend. We spent a lot of time causing trouble. We made a lot of silly recordings on cassette, played video games, played with Star Wars figures, walked around the neighborhood, ate at Wendy’s, etc. It seemed like we were always together.

What was your favorite way to pass the time?

Reading or listening to music

What was your favorite holiday? How did you celebrate?

Christmas. We’d spend Christmas Eve at my dad’s folks and Christmas Day with my mom’s family.

What was your favorite toy or possession? Doll, camera, radio, bicycle?

I had a silver metal cap gun. It looked like a real cowboy gun. I used it when we played cops and robbers.

Bonus: What was your favorite adventure? Family trip, amusement park, field trip, or vacation perhaps.

I loved going to Caseville with our family, but our trips to Mackinaw and Kings Island stand out too.

Friday Photo Flashback

Recently, I did a blog based on a writing prompt that suggested finding a photo and blogging about the memories that it brings back to you. I enjoyed doing it and thought I would try to do one every Friday. I’m not sure I’ll have enough photos to post, but we’ll see.

The above photo is on my brother (left) and me (right) in our old house in Sterling Heights. The photo is probably taken around 1976. If I had to guess it is probably shortly after Christmas.

It is very easy to focus on the main action in the picture. We are obviously pulling on Stretch Armstrong. I remember seeing ads for Stretch as a kid and asked for it for Christmas or my birthday. It was one of my favorite toys. What I found interesting was looking at the things outside of the center of the picture.

At the bottom is a yellow airplane. I recognized it immediately. In one of my early blogs I talked about the Fisher Price “Adventure People.” The plane is from one of those sets.

What I remember about those “Adventure People” is that eventually, their heads wouldn’t stay up. They always fell down to the chest.

To the right of the plane are some boxes. I wish I could make out what they are. They certainly look like they may be from toys or gifts, which is why I think this might be around Christmas.

Behind me in the picture is yet another “Adventure People” set. It was hard to make out, but I remembered it once I realized what it was. It is the FP Rescue Truck. If you look carefully, you can see the red “bucket” ladder in the picture.

Behind my brother is a book case. On the bottom shelf, it looks like there might be some of my dad’s school books to the right. To the left of those is some series of books with white covers. I’m not really sure what those are.

On the next shelf up is a series of blue books which I remember well. I cannot remember if they were from Reader’s Digest or World Book or some company like that, but they had all kinds of historical stuff in them. Some were about cars, some where about movies and TV, and others were about politics. I loved looking through those and looking at pictures of old movie stars.

On the shelves above that one I can see book bindings from some of my mom’s “beauty” books, cook books, a three ring binder, a couple Bibles, and paperbacks. I’m not sure why there is a green teapot on there!

On the bottom left there was a cabinet. I want to say that is where you could find some of the family photo albums. One of them probably held the picture that is the subject of this blog.

Above the cabinet door is a shelf that is loaded up with 12 inch Vinyl records. Even though I can’t see them, I can name albums that are on this shelf! They were the ones my dad played often. The Beatles Let It Be, Roy Orbison’s Greatest Hits, Elvis In Concert, The Best of Lenny Dee, and about 20 compilation albums.

On top of the albums, there are some loose gloves (suggesting winter time), and what seems to be VHS tape holder. I know that is not what it is, because we didn’t even have VCR’s at this time. If I had to wager a guess, those drawers are probably holding 8-track tapes. (My dad used to record his own for us to listen to in the car.) The Phonograph turntable is probably on the shelf just above those albums with two speakers sitting next to it.

As I look at this picture I wish I could walk through it! While I don’t recall the layout completely, I do remember that my room was all the way at the end of the hall. I know behind me in the picture is the hall closet, my parents room would be at the end on the right, the bathroom is also on the right (you can kind of see the counter with a bottle of what looks like hairspray on it), and on the left across from the closet – my brother’s room.

I vaguely remember things about that house, as I was only there for 6 years of my life. I would love to be able to walk back through it and just take it all in. I’ve probably forgotten so much about it.

It’s actually neat to look beyond what was being captured on film. I wish that these old photos were clearer, so I could really dive into the things in the background.

Christmas 2021 Recap

Another Christmas has come and gone. I hope that you had a Christmas full of wonderful memories! This Christmas was full of a lot of joy for us, but there were some things that left me sad. I will attempt to recap and keep it as happy as possible. Many of my Facebook friends have already seen these pictures, but that’s ok.

Thursday, December 23

After working the night before, I slept for a couple hours and went and picked up my son. His brother was working that night and was coming up after work so we could celebrate Christmas Eve Morning together.

My dad and Rose came over that afternoon. Neither had met AJ yet, so it was extra special to have them here. When then walked in, Ella ran to them SO excited. She was so happy to see them. She loves them both so much!!

There is something that is so amazing to me to see my dad hold his grandchildren. There is a special light in his eyes. There are almost tears. It is so special. He always kisses them gently on the head and talks to them.

Dad and AJ

Ella was all about Grandma Rose that night! Grandma made her a Mickey and Minnie blanket, which she just loves. One of my favorite pictures from that day is the two of them snuggled up on the chair with her blanket.

Ella and Grandma Rose

My Dad, being the silly guy that he is, heard Ella saying some of the alphabet. He immediately thought of “Violent is the Word for Curly,” the Three Stooges short which features the “Swingin’ the Alphabet” song.

B A Bay, B E Bee, B I Bicky By …

So Dad had to sing it to her …

Dad’s chart was a bit off….

I was glad to get the chance to visit with them, and I am glad that three of his four grandchildren were there for him to see. Papa and Rose were very good to all my kids!

Dad and me – wish the lighting had been a bit better

Dad and Rose left around 7, and Dante’ called about 8 to say he’d gotten off work and was on his way. I was exhausted and was actually on my way to bed when he called. He asked me to stay awake, so I did. He came in and gave he the biggest hug. We had some leftover pizza, so I told him to dig in and not stay up too late!

As I crawled in bed, my heart was full.

Christmas Eve

I’m sure the day is coming when the kids will be up at like 4am to open presents! We were blessed that they didn’t wake up until after 8am! I had to laugh, though, because ever since we put the tree up, there has been a gate around it. It served two purposes. First, it kept that cat out of the tree and second, it kept Ella from pulling on the ornaments and the lights.

When she woke up and came out the the living room, she walked over the the tree and saw all the presents under the tree – and no gate. She literally just stood there – not really sure what to make of things.

Ella – perplexed

After a few minutes, Sam said it was time to go in and wake up the boys. They were already going to be leaving earlier than I thought (so Dante’ didn’t have to drive in the dark), so we wanted to get things going. We told Ella to go in and wake them up.

She ran into their room yelling, “Wake up, Bruh! Wake up, Bruh!” It was quite funny to watch my older boys stir in bed … all they wanted to do was stay asleep. Dante’ asked to sleep for another 30 minutes. I told him, “You’re sister isn’t going to wait 30 minutes and wants to open presents!” Against their wishes, they crawled out of bed and joined us in the living room.

Last year, we had to help Ella open her gifts. She wasn’t quite where she understood how to do it yet. This year, however, she was able to jump right in and rip open her gifts!

Ella – wearing the very cute PJ’s that Sam’s dad got for her

It’s neat to see how the various kids react to Christmas now. Dante is 19, so he’s very laid back. Dimitri is 14 and it depends on what he’s opening as to how excited or how much emotion he shows. Ella, she’s excited for everything. Andrew has no clue as to what is happening.

The boys

The boys are SO hard to buy for. They never seem to have any real ideas for me. Dante’ is kind of at the “gift card/money” stage. He’s happy with those. Dimitri really liked this golf game I had for the Xbox, so I made sure to get it for him to play at home.

Par for the course …

Ella, being the helpful big sister, helped open up AJ’s presents.

AJ watching sissy open gifts for him

Of course, I had to put together Ella’s basketball hoop, so she could slam dunk a few before dinner.

Two points!

After a hearty breakfast, the boys went into their room and played games for a while. Knowing that they were going to be leaving early, I made sure that dinner was done early. Keeping with my family tradition, I made ravioli with my homemade sauce. I made sure to send a jar home with the boys, as Dante’ loves it.

Personal note: I used a bit too much wine this time. I felt that it was sweeter than normal.

About 3, the boys had to leave to go home to their mom. Ella was napping when they left. When she woke up, I picked her up out of her crib and as we passed the boy’s room, she said “Bruh”? “Bruh”? It ripped my heart out. All she wanted to do was see her brothers! Sadly, I don’t think they really know how much she loves them and how important they are to her. This was the saddest moment of the entire weekend for me.

A Christmas Eve tradition for Sam and I has always been to do the Drive Through Holiday Lights display at Crossroads Village. For $10 a car, you get to drive through and see the many Christmas lights that they have on display. When the kids are older, we plan on going and doing the Christmas train ride, which is truly amazing, but for now, we just drove through.

When we arrived, we got Ella out of her car seat and let her sit on Sam’s lap as we drove through. She was so excited. As we got close to the lights, she’s yell, “Here we go, Mommy! Here we go, Daddy!” It was so cute. Sam made the comment that she loves seeing things through Ella’s eyes. This is so true! We’ve been through there every year, but this year was so much more exciting because of Ella!

Sleigh ride!

We thought about driving downtown Flint, which has some great lights, too. We decided against it, as it was getting late and the kids were tired. We went through out bedtime routine and got the kids to bed just in time for me to play Santa. I had a few things to put together so that they were ready for they kids when they woke up Christmas morning.

Christmas Day 2021

Sam wanted to be in the living room so she could record Ella seeing her presents, so I got her out of bed and asked Sam if she was ready. She said she was, so I sent Ella running into the living room. The video is priceless. The smile on her face is something I will never forget. We got her one of those Little People Jungle Rainforest things. It came with animals and makes noises and everything. It is HUGE and takes up a good part of the living room.

Here’s the monkey!

AJ’s Santa gift was a very cool floor chair. It allows him to sit up while on the floor and it’s a lot better than those Bumpo seats.

Sitting pretty

I love that both kids had “Santa” jammies for Christmas morning. Sam and I actually got matching PJ bottoms to wear that morning, too. AJ was wide awake and just taking in all the sights. I love this picture of him and Sam. What I love about it is that just above Sam’s right shoulder is a picture of Ella on her lap and in this picture AJ is on her lap.

One of Ella’s favorite gifts was a Leap Frog Tea Party set. The pot talks and it came with cups and cake.

Must be good tea!

I joked many times about having tea parties with my daughter. I am excited to say that we’ve had our first already and I am looking forward to the next one!

Yummy!!

It was daddy’s turn to help AJ open gifts. So I grabbed his stuff and we opened them up. I was as surprised as he was! LOL. Sam got him a very cool “Floor time” pillow with lights, sounds, and more.

Wow!! What’s this, daddy?

It made him like floor time a lot more….

Mesmerized

Before we all showered and got dressed to visit Sam’s folks, we attempted to take a family selfie. We have a camera that I could have set up with a timer and all, but with my cell phone, I could snap 5-6 pictures in the time it would take to get one on the camera. Good thing we went with the cell phone – because it only took us about 57 tries before we finally got this one.

Merry Christmas!

Since it was AJ’s first Christmas, we had to be sure to get a picture with him in his “First Christmas” outfit. Sam came up with the silly saying on the board and it made me chuckle!

Got him smiling and everything!

After the kids napped, we went to Sam’s folks for Christmas dinner. Sam’s mom put out an amazing spread with turkey, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, and so much more. I’m not sure why we didn’t get any pictures while we were there, and I am sad that we didn’t. We are so grateful for them and enjoyed family time together.

After we got home and got the kids in bed, Sam and I crawled into bed. Before I drifted off to sleep, I thought back over the many memories that were made and thanked God for the many blessings that He has given me. I am truly a lucky man.

December 26

Having the Christmas tree up was driving Sam crazy. Not because it was up, but because we literally had to move Ella’s toys out of that corner of the room. All of her toys were moved in front of the fireplace and it just seemed like we were always tripping over them. Long before Christmas, it was clear that on the 26th, the tree was coming down!

I spent the morning taking down ornaments, unstringing Christmas lights, folding up stockings, and putting them all downstairs until next year. Before I finished, there was one picture we had meant to get of Ella that we hadn’t gotten. So I hurried out to the garage and got the props ready before Ella and I walked the neighborhood. Here is the picture we had hoped to get earlier in the season ….

Hauling her Christmas tree

It’s back to work tonight for me, at least for a couple days. Looking back over this holiday weekend makes me smile. There are so many wonderful memories forever saved in snapshots that I will look back on often. Life is good. I am blessed.

Craving Christmas Cookies

I posted a quick Facebook status about this earlier today. I was surprised to see that it is something I have not blogged about.

Today, for whatever reason, I was thinking about one of the cookies that grandma used to make each Christmas. Among the many types of cookies she made were chocolate chip, oatmeal raising, sugar cookies, icebox cookies and the ones pictured about – pizzelles.

I am unsure if this was an Italian Christmas tradition or what, but she always made them for us around the holidays. In some Italian bakeries, and even at some grocery stores, you can find packages of pizzelles, but to me, they lack the “homemade” taste. I can tell these are mass produced and they just aren’t the same.

I believe I have grandma’s recipe at home for these. If not, my brother has it with her pizzelle maker. The pizzelle maker is literally an electric waffle iron, but for cookies.

I’m sure that my grandma’s maker is probably 30-40 years old, easily! If memory serves me right, the recipe was on the box, or maybe in the instructions. I did a brief search online before writing this blog and remember that some recipes were made with Anise extract, while others were made with vanilla extract. It has been so long since I had my grandma’s that I can’t recall what she used. She may have even used both.

I may have to eventually spend the $40-$50 and buy a pizzelle maker one day. This weekend I am going to pull out the recipe cards and see if I still have her recipe. Some of my friends on Facebook (and who are Italian) mentioned that they have their family recipes, so I may have to “borrow” one of theirs….

Here is one I found online:

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 8 tablespoons margarine, melted and slightly cooled
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons Anise extract
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

Instructions

  • Cream the butter, margarine and sugar together. Add the eggs and Anise and beat until the mixture is creamy.
  • Sift the flour and baking powder into the batter and mix until blended. If the batter is too thick you can add a tablespoons of water, or a little flour if it’s too thin.
  • Bake the Pizzelles according to the manufactures directions. Store in an airtight container.

MANGIA!!!!