Archive for the ‘presents’ Tag

2-26-2015 Journal – Goodbye X-mas!   Leave a comment

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‘Before’

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‘After’

I’m exhausted.  This morning I’m feeling exceptionally lazy and with little or no effort I could stay in bed all day. This is truly the downside to Christmas if there is one.

Yesterday’s celebration took a lot of thought and planning from both my better-half and me. It was worth every minute we spent preparing.  Everyone had a great time, received an abundance of gifts, and ate until they couldn’t eat on more thing. 

It all began with what I’m sure will become an ongoing Christmas tradition. Everyone received a goody bag and in the top of each bag was a can of Silly String.  It took just a few seconds for the adults to open the cans and let the strings fly. The grandkids weren’t familiar with Silly String and were pretty much covered with it before they could get their cans opened. It was the perfect way to set the tone for the day even though the cleanup took a little longer than we thought.

Two hours later the room was filled with torn tissue papers, ribbons, empty boxes, and a lot of laughter. As you can see Christmas is a messy proposition if done properly.

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‘I think there’s a kid under there somewhere.’

Then it was into the kitchen to complete the food preparations and to get that big fat bird ready to eat.  The meal went without a hitch and we all left the table fat, dumb, and extremely happy. As we vegged out in the living room it was time for viewing everyone’s favorite Christmas movie, A Christmas Vacation.  Since almost everyone in the family has the best lines memorized we could have turned off the sound . . . but we didn’t. Then began the continuous stream of funny and sarcastic comments about the movie which were endless.

I was one of the first to call it a day but my better-half wasn’t far behind. It was a great day for everyone concerned and I’m sure they all slept as soundly as we did.

I hope your holiday was as enjoyable as ours.  Now it’s on to New Years with all of it’s silliness. 

Hey! . . . someone! . . . where’s my coffee?

12-20-2015 Journal–A 3 Year Old’s Christmas Perspective!   Leave a comment

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I’m not sure how everyone else was raised to celebrate Christmas but for me it entailed much more religion than anything else. My late Mother was Catholic through-and-through which translated into sending religious Christmas cards, attending midnight masses, and donating time to local organizations involved with decorating  town areas. Being a kid I was unceremoniously volunteered to help with almost everything she did whether I liked it or not.

As we age things things tend to change a little and my approach to Christmas certainly did.  I was never all that interested in the religious portion of Christmas but I went begrudgingly along just to please my Mom until I reached the ripe old age of 13. Then I became what some people called, difficult.  I must have been way ahead of my time if what I’ve learned this week is any indication.

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My three year old grandson came to visit this week and it was the first time he’d actually seen our decorated tree. We’d been very busy wrapping gifts and there were a pile of them under the tree. I was sitting on the floor next to him when he whispered to me "Are those our prizes?" I told him they were presents for everyone brought here a little early by a busy Santa. He gave me a long sideways glance while he thought about what I’d said. He must have decided Santa was still a real possibility so the conversation turned right back around to the gifts under the tree. I was again corrected by the little guy with "Grandpa those are prizes not presents" and “can we open one.” I told him they couldn’t be opened until Christmas but he insisted one of them had to be for him so we should open that one. Being chastised by a three year old takes some getting used to but I persevered and again refused his request.

My first thought was who put the word “prize” into his head. Neither my better-half nor I would do it and I’m certain his parents wouldn’t do it either. That leaves just the woman who runs the daycare center and I’m positive she wasn’t responsible.  Who’s left? Just that small herd of little people who have nothing better to do all day than to play, fight, wrestle, nap, and tell each other the facts of life as translated from what they’ve heard at home. Some where along the way someone slipped in the word "prizes" and it seems to have stuck.

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There was no mention of Jesus, his birthday, the Magi, church or religion. It’s taken less than two generations to wean the kids from religion at Christmas to a more secular and materialistic outlook. I suppose in another two years we’ll be calling Christmas "Prize Day".  If you’re a good little boy/girl you win a prize but if you’re a bad little girl/boy you’ll get one anyway. We wouldn’t want you to feel like a loser.

5 SHOPPING DAYS LEFT

12-14-2015 Journal–Christmas Musings!   Leave a comment

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Ten shopping days left till the big day arrives. Time always loves playing tricks on us and even more so at this time of the year.  If we’re doing something we really enjoy the time flies by quickly but if it’s something we dislike it seems to drag on forever. That for me is Christmas in a nut shell.  The more tasks that we’re required to complete to celebrate the holiday causes time to speed up in a big way when we don’t think we can finish them all. Then time slows to a dead crawl as we wait for the final day to arrive after the tasks have been completed.

This week for me is all of that and then some. Within a few days the first of the visitors will begin arriving and that’s exciting right up until the time they actually get here. They’re excited as well but that feeling wanes in just a day or so. Then they start missing their regular life and routines and each day that passes makes those feelings grow. That’s when time begins to play it’s tricks.  None of us want the gathering to end so it feels like time is flying but all of us wish it would end to some degree making time drag on a little. It’s a real conundrum.

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‘It can’t be Christmas without a skinny Elvis picture.’

Believe me I’m not complaining, it’s just one of those weird facts of life we must deal with and appreciate at the same time.  I’m wishing right now that time would speed up so the festivities can begin. As a family grows and it’s members pursue their individual lives these holidays become more special. In most cases all of the participants make some sort of sacrifice to gather like this. We all need to acknowledge that fact and truly try to appreciate each other’s efforts. 

I’m lying here in bed, it’s 5 am, and I’m already excited to get today started but this effing waiting is brutal. My tasks are completed but the better-half is racing around the house in a swirl of wrapping paper, ribbons, and rolls of tape.  It’s actually fun to watch her but I’d better not be enjoying myself too much or there’ll be hell to pay.

MERRY CHRISTMAS – 10 MORE DAYS

12-12-2015 Journal–Christmas Weirdness!   1 comment

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It’s easy to get on a lengthy sentimental journey of sorts during the Christmas season but with this posting I hope to avoid that.  Christmas and all of it’s incarnations worldwide are interesting and strange to say the least. Here are a host of weird and strange Christmas factoids you may not be aware of but are true nonetheless.

  • Japanese people traditionally eat at KFC for Christmas dinner, thanks to a successful marketing campaign 40 years ago. KFC is so popular that customers must place their Christmas orders 2 months in advance.
  • Paul McCartney earns $400,000 a year off his Christmas song, which is widely regarded as the worst song he ever recorded. 
  • Mistletoe kissing originated with fertility rites. The hanging sprig is a very ancient symbol of virility and therefore anybody standing beneath it is signaling that he or she is sexually available.
  • About half of Sweden’s population watches Donald Duck cartoons every Christmas Eve since 1960 .
  • Mormon missionaries can only call home twice a year: once on Mother’s Day and again on Christmas.

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Don’t you feel bad for poor old Paul McCartney. He reaped only $400,000.00 a year for a crappy song. Keep the lucky bastard in your Christmas prayers.  And KFC for Christmas in Japan? That’s as weird as it gets.

  • Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen is the only record to get the UK Christmas Singles Chart Number One twice, once in 1975 and again in 1991.
  • Engineers designing the Voyager Space mission planned it to avoid planetary encounters over Thanksgiving and Christmas.
  • The US playing card company ‘Bicycle’ had manufactured a playing card in WW2. That, when the card was soaked, it would reveal an escape route for POWs. These cards were Christmas presents for all POWs in Germany. The Nazis were none the wiser.
  • The people of Oslo, Norway donate the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree every year in gratitude to the people of London for their assistance during WWII.
  • The Christmas Tree is a manufactured tradition. Victorian intellectuals  invented the tradition as part of a social movement to consciously reform Christmas away from its tradition of raucous drinking.

Hooray for Freddy Mercury and Queen. Their Christmas song just has to be better than McCartney’s.  The Victorians did us no favors so bring back  all that raucous drinking, please.

  • Christmas as a "day off" is a recent innovation. As late as 1850, December 25 was not a legal holiday in New England.
  • The Beatles hold the record for most Xmas number 1 singles, topping the charts in 1963, 65 and 67.
  • The highest-grossing holiday movie is 2000’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas, which has raked in $175m so far.
  • Hanging stockings comes from the Dutch custom of leaving shoes packed with food for St Nicholas’s donkeys. He would leave small gifts in return.
  • There is no reference to angels singing anywhere in the Bible.

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No angels singing in the Bible. Isn’t that just a giant kick in the ass? Personally I don’t think there was much singing at all in the Bible. People were too busy begatting and killing to have time for singing.

  • Jesus was probably born in a cave and not a wooden stable, say Biblical scholars.
  • In 1999, residents of the state of Maine in America built the world’s biggest ever snowman. He stood at 113ft tall.
  • The holly in a wreath symbolizes Christ’s crown of thorns while the red berries are drops of his blood.
  • Jingle Bells was the first song broadcast from space when Gemini 6 astronauts Tom Stafford and Wally Schirra sang it on December 16, 1965.
  • Astronomers believe the Star Of Bethlehem, which guided the wise men to Jesus, may have been a comet or the planet Uranus.

I’m glad to see the state of Maine making the list. Although how proud can you be about a giant snowman. Snow is about all we have to offer except for a few billion pine trees.

  • Santa Claus has different names around the world – Kriss Kringle in Germany, Le Befana in Italy, Pere Noel in France and Deushka Moroz (Grandfather Frost) in Russia.
  • In Britain, the best-selling holiday song is Band Aid’s 1984 track, Do They Know It’s Christmas?, which sold 3.5 million copies. Wham! is next in the same year with Last Christmas, selling 1.4 million.
  • US scientists calculated that Santa would have to visit 822 homes a second to deliver all the world’s presents on Christmas Eve, travelling at 650 miles a second.
  • Despite the tale of three wise men paying homage to baby Jesus, the Bible never gives a number. Matthew’s Gospel refers to merely "wise men".
  • There are 13 Santa’s in Iceland, each leaving a gift for children. They come down from the mountain one by one, starting on December 12 and have names like Spoon Licker, Door Sniffer and Meat Hook.

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Another misquote from the Bible. Are you shocked? Not me.  And thanks to all of those scientists for taking the time out of their busy work day to compute those figures.  Get a life guys.

TWELVE SHOPPING DAYS LEFT

10-09-2014 (Sarcasm On) Merry Christmas!   Leave a comment

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We’ve reached mid-October and I’m starting to see indications of that holiday freight train that is rumbling full speed towards us. I was tasked with an errand last night that required me to pickup my better-half who was attending a wedding of a co-worked in a town north of here.  Darkness had fallen and our trip home took us through a number of neighborhoods and small towns. We were within a quarter mile of home when I spotted something that sent a cold shiver down my spine . . .  a lighted Christmas tree in front of a neighbor’s home. These neighbors are the newest members of our little community and are folks who love to celebrate each and every holiday with decorations of all sorts hanging from trees, shrubs, and anything else that doesn’t move too much.  It can be cute but also it’s also more than a little annoying just like that tree was last night.

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During some of my shopping  forays in recent weeks I’ve observed the expected Halloween and Thanksgiving craziness but Christmas rearing it’s ugly head this early in October is ridiculous. Having worked for many rears for retail companies I understand the management mentality in getting the jump on competitors.  It just seems they’ve all picked up some of the more bothersome bad habits of the king of all retailers, Walmart.  They seem to think that anything that Walmart does automatically become the final word in making money.  Having spent six months in a Walmart management training program allows me to proclaim that Walmart is just as screwed up as any other company.  Their saving grace secret is their size.  When you’re as big as Walmart it’s much easier to  hide your screw ups and bad decisions.

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I have a sneaking suspicion that Sam Walton is probably spinning in his grave after watching what has gone on with his company.  On my first day at Sam’s Club I was handed a paperback book on the life and times of their founder Sam Walton.  I was ordered to read that book immediately and was questioned heavily on it’s contents throughout the training period.  Almost all of the training tapes that were in use were tapes made by Walton himself who at the time had been dead for more than ten years.  I was being trained by a dead guy in Walmart’s lame attempt to brainwash me into their world of retail. Just before my graduation from that training program I was on my way to work and wishing I wasn’t. Ten minutes after I arrived I walked into the General Manger’s office and resigned. I walked away and never looked back. They only succeeded in making me unhappy, miserable, and just a little crazy. I’ve never regretted my decision.

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This isn’t a rant just about Walmart but a general disappointment with the cynical approach taken by almost every retailer. I think we can thank Wall Street and the Harvard Business School for a lot of these issues. The stock market virtually requires companies to meet expectations regardless of the methods used.  The Harvard MBA’s that I’ve been involved with over the years were all young bean-counters of the worst sort.  They’d gut a company, fire any number of employees, cut benefits, just about anything to help meet those Wall Street projections.  People are just numbers to them and are treated accordingly.  Is it any wonder things are the way they are.

So after saying all of that I hope you’re prepared for the avalanche of Christmas nonsense headed your way.  Ten glorious weeks of Santa Clause, presents, endless TV commercials, and a hit to your wallet that will be larger than ever before.  Oh yeah, I recently heard a nasty rumor that once upon a time Christmas had something to do with religion.  How stupid am I?

12-25-2013. Journal Entry – Christmas Day   Leave a comment

Well, another Christmas has come and gone.  It’s late and the last of the family and friends have headed home.  The day started early with my better-hale preparing some of her family traditions for Christmas morning.  She makes a batch of cinnamon buns covered with lots of sugary icing.  That and a large cup of hot coffee will definitely get your heart started.  The grandson and his mom and dad arrived in late morning requiring the platter of shrimp to be unveiled and devoured.  We all gathered in the living room around the tree for a time  chit-chatting about this and that.  It was obvious to me that everyone was just going through the motions until they could dig into the pile and open their gifts.

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“The Aftermath”

As you can see an hour later and the room looked like Santa had shown up and then exploded.  It took almost as long to clean up the debris as it did shopping to buy the stuff in the first place.  The cat and grandson had a great time rummaging through the piles of wrapping paper and boxes seemingly more interested in that stuff than the gifts themselves.  Kids!!!!  Cats!!!!

Another hour has passed and everyone appears thrilled with their gifts so we snack a little more waiting for the next group to arrive.  Our two visitors from northern Maine have finally arrived with tales of the previous day’s ice storm and the fact that most people up north are without electricity.  It’s one of the hazards of living in Maine and those storms can be brutal.  The last time we had one here we were without power for almost a week and a half.  It’s difficult to sleep in a cold bed wearing a parka, gloves, and a tassel hat. It’s hard but we did it.  The pictures taken during that storm are locked away where no one can seem them.  We looked god awful.

After our new visitors had a beer and a few snacks the bowling tournament on the X-box began.  I was able to avoid all of that because of my leg injury so I was the official photographer.  Everyone had a ball with my better-half taking home the winners trophy.

Then it was my turn to cook and to fed the hoard with a decent meal.  A honey-baked ham, rice, Brussels sprouts, and corn took care of everyone’s hunger pangs.  It was followed later by delicious apple and pumpkin pies.  Then after digesting for a while it was back to the X-box for a few rounds of darts which I also avoided by using “cleaning up the kitchen” as my excuse.

After loading up the cars they were off for the night leaving us at least two days of clean up.  All in all a successful holiday gathering with a fun group of people.  The better-half is scheduled for work at 5:00am and her son is flying out at 9:00am.  Unfortunately none of us will be getting enough sleep tonight and we should be zombies all day tomorrow.

I hope your day was as enjoyable as ours.  Merry Christmas!

12-01-2013 Useless Christmas Factoids   Leave a comment

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Here’s Our Tree!

The end of November signals the start of all the normal Christmas insanity that most of us complain about.  Shopping, crowds, traffic jams, annoying music, and people everywhere with their hands extended looking for money.  It makes me happy not to be a religious person because if I were, I’d be really pissed off and upset.  The Christmas tradition in this country has slowly morphed into a typical American greed-fest.  I thought today I’d forward along a list of thirty factoids about the holiday from a few countries around the globe and many from the United States.  Some are crazy and others just a little bit interesting.  Enjoy them and hopefully they’ll spark some of that good old Christmas spirit from when you were a kid.  I threw that photo of our tree in just to let you know I am participating regardless of how much I complain.

  • Puritan Oliver Cromwell outlawed Christmas celebrations and carols in England from 1649-1660. The only celebrations allowed were sermons and prayers.
  • The people at Reynolds (aluminum foil) make a substantial amount of money selling foil during the Yuletide season. It has been confirmed that at least 3000 tons of foil are used to wrap turkeys annually.
  • Warning: Christmas shopping may be hazardous to your health. If you are an avid Christmas shopper statistics have concluded that you will be elbowed at least three times while shopping. Ouch!
  • Sending Christmas cards is still the in thing to do around Christmas time. Americans on average send out 28 Christmas cards to friends and family yearly, and guess what, it’s certainly not in vain either, most will receive 28 for the same period.
  • Christmas is a great time to exercise. You will walk an average of five miles between the parking lot and stores, however, don’t let this give you a false sense of security, most people still gain those pesky Christmas pounds despite this.
  • Bolivians celebrate Misa del Gallo or “Mass of the Rooster” on Christmas Eve. Some people bring roosters to the midnight mass, a gesture that symbolizes the belief that a rooster was the first animal to announce the birth of Jesus.
  • In Poland, spiders or spider webs are common Christmas trees decorations because according to legend, a spider wove a blanket for Baby Jesus.
  • Alabama was the first state in the United States to officially recognize Christmas in 1836. Oklahoma was the last state the declare Christmas a holiday.
  • The Germans made the first artificial Christmas trees out of dyed goose feathers.
  • Each year more than 3 billion Christmas cards are sent in the U.S. alone.

  • All the gifts in the Twelve Days of Christmas would equal 364 gifts.
  • In A.D. 350, Pope Julius I, bishop of Rome, proclaimed December 25 the official celebration date for the birthday of Christ.
  • According to the Guinness world records, the tallest Christmas tree ever cut was a 221-foot Douglas fir that was displayed in 1950 at the Northgate Shopping Center in Seattle, Washington.
  • The traditional three colors of Christmas are green, red, and gold. Green has long been a symbol of life and rebirth; red symbolizes the blood of Christ, and gold represents light as well as wealth and royalty.
  • According to data analyzed from Facebook posts, two weeks before Christmas is one of the two most popular times for couples to break up. However, Christmas Day is the least favorite day for breakups.
  • Contrary to popular belief, suicide rates during the Christmas holiday are low.
  • The world’s largest Christmas stocking measured 106 feet and 9 inches long and 49 feet and 1 inches wide. It weighed as much as five reindeer and held almost 1,000 presents. It was made by the Children’s Society in London on December 14, 2007.
  • Christmas trees usually grow for about 15 years before they are sold.
  • President Teddy Roosevelt, an environmentalist, banned Christmas trees from the White House in 1912.
  • Each year there are approximately 20,000 “rent-a-Santa’s” across the United States. “Rent-a-Santa’s” usually undergo seasonal training on how to maintain a jolly attitude under pressure from the public.

  • Christmas wasn’t declared an official holiday in the United States until June 26, 1870.
  • Oklahoma was the last U.S. state to declare Christmas a legal holiday, in 1907.
  • In 1962, the first Christmas postage stamp was issued in the United States.
  • Christmas purchases account for 1/6 of all retail sales in the U.S.
  • Because they viewed Christmas as a decadent Catholic holiday, the Puritans in America banned all Christmas celebrations from 1659-1681 with a penalty of five shillings for each offense.
  • Because of their pagan associations, both the holly (associated with the masculine principle) and the ivy (the feminine) and other green boughs in home decoration were banned by the sixth-century Christian Council of Braga.
  • There are two competing claims as to which president was the first to place a Christmas tree in the White House. Some scholars say President Franklin Pierce did in 1856; others say President Benjamin Harrison brought in the first tree in 1889. President Coolidge started the White House lighting ceremony in 1923.
  • There are approximately 21,000 Christmas tree farms in the United States.
  • The first printed reference to a Christmas tree was in 1531 in Germany.
  • Approximately 30-35 million real (living) Christmas trees are sold each year in the U.S.

ENJOY THE SEASON

12-06-2012   Leave a comment

Well, today’s the big day.  We’ll be on the road to Maryland in just a few minutes.  I’ll be posting today and tomorrows entries now since I won’t be able to blog while traveling.  I certainly hope that I’m able to do so after my arrival in Maryland and I may finally get a chance to blog with the new IPad. This holiday visit coupled with my better-half’s Mom’s birthday bash will surely jump start the Christmas season for us both.

I’m patiently awaiting the arrival of our house sitters and their dogs.  A few further instructions and the house is theirs for a few days.  I only hope their dogs don’t piss off my cat too much or he’ll be hell to live with when we return.  He not real good about change especially when dogs are involved.

The weather reports are looking good for the trip and the likelihood of snow is slim. I’m also taking a new route to avoid New York City altogether. That will mean more actual driving and less time sitting in those NYC perennial traffic jams.

We should arrive back home late Sunday nite, knock on wood. Have a great weekend and the countdown to Christmas is now eighteen.

Posted December 7, 2012 by Every Useless Thing in Just Saying

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