Archive for the ‘Christmas’ category

National Lampoon Christmas Vacation

December 9, 2021

Nothing like getting into the Christmas spirit by watching Chevy Chase. The gags never seem to get old.

We watched Christmas Vacation last night. It is available on Amazon Prime. We always love to see Cousin Eddie show up in his broken down motor home.


January 2, 2020

Well, another Christmas is in the history books. We had lunch with Mary over in Long Beach, then dinner with the family at our place. Dinner went great until it was time to clean up the dishes. Luckily the problem didn’t happen before dinner.

We discovered that the kitchen sink was very much clogged. We thought that our plumbing problems were done with after pushing a snake down our bathroom toilet. The toilet was doing great, kitchen sink not so much.

We decide to hold off on running the dishwasher. That could have made things much, much worse.

I tried using the plunger. No help. It just pushed the water down in left sink right back up in the right sink.

Called the plumber this morning. Plumber came industrial grade 30’ motorized snake. He checked with neighbor upstairs to see if they had problems. No answer.

At any rate, all cleaned out. Back to normal. Plumber told us that Drano, etc aren’t much use on an established clog.

My New Gadget

December 26, 2019

This Christmas I got a new electronic gadget called a “Nixplay”. It is an electronic display for one’s favorite pictures. It connects to your WiFi and you can upload your favorite pictures. Then it cycles through all of your pictures 10 seconds each.

There is an app for your iPhone or other smart device that is used to select pictures to send to the device. You can also adjust setting to your liking. Set the time spent on each picture, for instance. You can set it to shut off at night.

This is the 10” version (measured from corner to corner). It runs about $150 and be had at Amazon and other retailers. There is 13” version that of course costs more money.

It’s pretty easy to setup. Plug it in, connect to your WiFi. Then download the app from the app-store, then pair with your nixplay. Then start selecting photos. Takes about 10 minutes

You can adjust settings to auto off/on, it can display current time on lower right corner.

Christmas Cards

January 9, 2019

I declare that the Christmas card season is about over. Yesterday, I received what I expect to be the last card for the season. So it is time to review what happened.

This year I sent out 130 Christmas letters to friends and family spread out across the country. About half are in the Los Angeles area and the other half in the Boston area. Then add a few odd letters to people in North Carolina and Florida.

In 2017, I sent out about 175 letters. This year I spent a great deal of effort trimming the list down to 130. So how many did we receive? Well as best I can count we received a little over 30 cards, letters and holiday pictures. My goal has been to reach out to the people that we have known over the many years.


I don’t understand why the cards received is so much lower than the number sent. We love to hear how people are doing. As you can see in the pictures above, we love to post the cards in any available space around out kitchen and dining room.

So my question for my readers. Do you send out holiday/Christmas cards/letters? If not, why not? If yes, why? Perhaps $.50 each for postage might be one answer.

Christmas Letters

December 10, 2018

2018-12-10 10.57.10Every year at this time I write a Christmas letter. I have  been doing it now for about 20 years. I have most of the old letters saved in a directory on my computer going back to 1999.

I got the idea of writing the letters from Paula’s mother who did a Christmas letter every year. I felt that just doing cards was boring. I felt like writing to folks about what has happened in our lives, but doing it on each card was too much work. So I started our Christmas letter.

This year it will be going to about 125 of our nearest and dearest friends all over the world. One year I emailed the letter to most of our friends, but felt that was  boring.

Last year it went out to about 180 people. This year, I decided to pare the list down a bit. Getting a bit pricey at 50 cents per stamp.

So here’s my process. First, I save pictures over the course of the year and put in a Christmas 20xx file. I select pictures that might be good for the letter.

In mid November, I start reviewing the mailing list. I check for addresses. I check for deaths in the families. I don’t want to commit the faux pas of sending a letter to John and Jane Doe when Jane died during the year.

Beginning in early December, I start writing. Add pictures, then print and submit to editor in chief (Paula) who makes suggestions and corrections to my spelling and grammar.

Then log in to Amazon and shop for paper and envelopes. This year I have way more than I need. Extra paper and envelopes go into a bin for next year.

Next, print labels. I found an app on iTunes App Store that does a great job of printing labels. Click here for a pointer to the app.

Next, start the print run. Invariably, I run out of ink. This year is no different. Ran out of color cartridge. Ordered from HP. Should be here today. Once I have the ink installed, continue printing. HP offers free overnight shipping for ink cartridges. Good deal.

At this point, I hand off a handful of letters to Paula for people that she wants to add a personal note, maybe 20-25 out of 125.

Finally fold and stuff into envelopes and put on address and return address stickers. Finally add postage and drop into the mailbox.

If you don’t want to wait for the mailman, click here for your own copy.

Merry Christmas

December 25, 2017

nativity_Antoniazzo[Note: This was supposed to be published last night. I screwed up.]

So today is Christmas Eve. We managed to get Mary out of bed, dressed and off to church for Christmas Eve Service. We seem to be getting her into the habit of going to church on Sunday’s again. Everyone were happy to see her and greeted her. She had a smile on her face. No grumpy for Christmas.

Tomorrow will be a quiet day for us. Our son and his family are up in the Bay Area visiting Theresa’s family.

One of the things that I like about Christmas is how everything slows down and comes to a brief stop. Shops close early.  Roads seem to empty of drivers. Seeing LA with out traffic is downright eerie.

So we went back to the Gaffey Street Diner for brunch after services. We met a new server last week named Tina. She took good care of us again today. I gave her a good tip that kind of floored her. That’s a good way to spread cheer.

So finally, I thought I would include one of my favorite bits of Christmas poetry. Here in its entirety is Clement Moore’s “Twas the Night before Christmas

Christmas_treeTwas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house, Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse; The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,While visions of sugar plums danced in their heads; And Mama in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow, Gave the luster of mid-day to objects below; When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick. More rapid than eagles his coursers they came, And he whistled, and shouted, and call’d them by name:

“Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer and Vixen,”On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Donder and Blixen” To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall! “Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky; So up to the house-top the coursers they flew, With the sleigh full of toy and St. Nicholas too:

And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof. The prancing and pawing of each little hoof. As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound: He was dress’d all in fur, from his head to his foot, And his clothes were all tarnish’d with ashes and soot; A bundle of toys was flung on his back,

And he look’d like a peddler just opening his pack: His eyes how they twinkled! His dimples: how merry, His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry; His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath. He had a broad face, and a little round belly, That shook when he laugh’d, like a bowl full of jelly:

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, And I laugh’d when I saw him in spite of myself; A wink of his eye and a twist of his head, Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread. He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, And fill’d all the stockings; then turn’d with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose, And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose. He sprung to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle:

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight. Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Merry Christmas to all!


Happy New Year

January 1, 2017


Well, how’d that happen. Here we are in a new year. Nice, new and spiffy.

So first, an update on Mary. She continues to do well. We celebrated the new year last night with a bottle of champagne. I asked her if she thought she would make it to a new year? All I got was a shrug and a meh. Mary had a half a glass of the champagne. Paula and I finished the rest of the bottle. Didn’t want it go to waste. Sure was tasty.

We continue to be watchful of her condition. Yesterday, she had a nasty dry cough. So Paula gets out here trusty stethoscope and takes a listen to her lungs. That cough could turn into pneumonia in a heartbeat. If Paula were to take her to urgent care, yesterday would have been the day to do it. Urgent care closed today, so she would have to do the ER. But there were no sounds of pneumonia so never mind.

We have a follow up scheduled with her neurologist in a couple of weeks to discuss her recent MRI. We’ll see how that goes.

So this morning, Mary was up at her usual time at about 9 am. Instead of her usual oatmeal, Paula cooked her a scrambled egg. Paula offered her toast. Mary says, “What kind?” Well we have either sour dough or rye. She then says I don’t like either. I tell her that she doesn’t usually eat bread so we don’t get the kind of bread that she likes. She was looking at me with her “Why can’t you read my mind?” look. So, white bread is on the shopping list.

We asked her this morning if she wanted to go to church. The answer is still no. It seems that her mind gets stuck into regular routines. She will go out to get her hair washed and set at the beauty salon. She will go with us to OES meetings. But she won’t do church or Bible study on Wednesday. She uses her dizziness as an excuse, but I think there is a hidden issue that either she won’t or can’t verbalize. So Paula goes to church on Sunday, while I watch football (How about those Patriots?). And I go to the Bible study on Wednesdays. So what will I do once the football season comes to a close? Right, baseball is right around the corner. Spring training starts end of February. Woo-Hoo! Go Red Sox.

2016-12-31-18-47-47So we had an early Christmas with Mike and his family. They were heading up to the SF bay area to visit some of Theresa’s family, then to Reno for fun in the snow. It was fun to watch video of Jonathan taking his snow boarding lesson. He still hasn’t quite figured out the brakes yet. The kids seem to be enjoying the snow.

Starting in January, we are going to start scheduling regular caregiver visits so that Paula and I can get out for a date. Dinner and a movie or something similar. We will initially start doing it every other week and see how that works.

In other news, work continues on our condo complex. They are working on redoing the planters that are in the court yard between units. The planters are being reworked with plants that deal better with drought conditions. They are also working on resurfacing the upper walkways. Roofing is also being replaced. This means that weekdays can be pretty noisy and sometimes dusty. Here are a couple of before and now pictures.


But we have had rain on and off the past few days. We really need the rain. We got about 0.5″ yesterday. All work has stopped. That means it is now blissfully quiet. Alas, the rain just delays the work. Probably will restart on Tuesday with a vengeance.


December 15, 2016

So last night we all went to the family Christmas party at LA Harbor Lodge #332 in San Pedro. Dinner would be described as kid friendly. ie. we had grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. Mary was a bit confused at the selection of food. But never mind we all ate what we were served.

Second part of the festivities was the puppet show. The kids always like this.


2016-12-14-19-50-59Our grand-kids missed the first parts but made it in time for the visit of Santa. They were at another Christmas party for the kids. The kids have more Christmas parties than we do.

All of the kids dutifully lined up for a moment with Santa. So here’s the funny part. Jonathan, who is five, had no problem with going to talk with Santa and he was rewarded with a small gift. He understands “Mug for the camera”.  Sarah, who is two, would have none of it. She wasn’t going sit on the lap of the big scary guy dressed in red. When Jonathan was two, he wouldn’t do it either.

So then little Sarah discovered that Jonathan received a toy from the big guy in red, she was not happy. Where’s my toy? Kids were all worn out. Kids and grownups were getting grumpy. Time for all to go home and to bed for a long winter’s nap.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.



December 14, 2016

2016-12-13-11-00-40Once last letter about Mary before Christmas.Today was a busy day. On the docket was the Assistance League Christmas Luncheon at Michael’s Tuscany Room in San Pedro. Up late last night working on Paula’s agenda for the event. Then when I was about to print the thing, I found that I was out of paper. All I could find was a package of fancy paper. It would have to do. Finally got to bed.

I had my alarm set for 0600 to get Paula and I up and ready. Mary had an appointment to get her hair done at 0830. So I get up and head for the bathroom to take my morning meds and relieve myself. The light in Mary’s room was on. WTF? We had early hair appointment because Paula had to be at the restaurant at 1000. It seems that she had got up earlier and got dressed and went back to bed. How much earlier, I do not know.

My job was to go to the local Costco in Torrance and pick up the two sheet cakes that Paula had ordered last week. I also picked up a couple of bottles of Bombay Sapphire Gin and some computer paper while I was at it. It turns out that getting to Costco 15 minutes before opening is a good thing. You get a decent parking space.

Well, Paula got her to the restaurant on time. Got her to the ladies’ room to do her business. Then got her seated. Then Paula got her a glass of White Zinfandel. All is well. One of the ladies across the table offered me a glass of wine from their bottle of Chardonnay. Why certainly I said. Nice way to ease the stress of the morning. Nice meal. I had some salmon. Very tasty. They had some tasty bruschetta for an appetizer. Also, tasty. We try to ask her if she had a good time. Apparently, this time she did. She saw some people that she knew.

I had to leave at 1:30 pm to go to my dentist appt to get my teeth scraped. So I missed the entertainment. We both pulled into the garage at about the same time. Enough fun for today. Sleep late tomorrow.


Christmas Letter 2016

December 8, 2016

mehihe_xmasSo the first batch of Christmas Letters were mailed today. This batch was about 75 or so letters. This batch required no hand-written input from Paula. So off they go.

I first started this annual project almost 20 years ago. I got the idea from Paula’s mother who sent out an annual letter. Paula wanted to hand write all of her Christmas cards. But I like the idea of doing the letter. The trade-off was that Paula would do a written addition to the letters that she wanted to send.

So here’s my process. Throughout the year I gather potential photos to include. I start writing the actual letter in November. I try to cover all of the high points of our year, including where we have traveled, what our kids are up to, etc.

Now that I’m retired, I have plenty of time to work on the letter. Back in the day, I wouldn’t even start on the project until the day after Christmas during the Holiday corporate shutdown.

My goal is to get it on one double-sided piece of paper and leave enough space on the bottom for Paula to write something. I sometimes use a smaller font to fit everything in.

Concurrently, I start working on the list. As of today, there are 135 people on the list. Last year, it was at about 120 or so. It seems that having sets of friends both on the West Coast as well as the East Coast has helped push the number higher.

Then, I procure the paper and envelopes.The last couple of years, I got them from Amazon. I prefer a light background with not too much art work. I try to get envelopes and paper to match. Some years I have just got colored envelopes. It’s getting so that there is hardly anything that you can’t get from Amazon.

This year I tried to streamline the process a bit. I created  a “Xmas-Letter” group on my iPhone/iPad contact database. Each person that I wanted to send a copy got added to the group. Then I used a new app called “Label Printer” (Click for link in the Apple app store). There’s a free version that one can use to try it out.

So labels get printed. First, check with Paula on whether the list is complete. One last edit of the actual letter. Paula gets the last look before I start the print run. Check the ink cartridges for sufficient ink. Nothing so maddening as to start running out of ink half way through the run.

So by December 1, it’s time to start folding and stuffing into envelopes and putting labels and stamps on them. Then I sort them into two piles, ones that require input from Paula and those that do not. The ones not requiring input get sealed and mailed.

It’s interesting to look back at my Christmas years gone by. The early ones from late 1990’s are crude by comparison. I added clip art but not pictures. My PC at the time (a Gateway desktop, remember them?) was crude by comparison to today’s laptops. Getting pictures on to the page took a good bit more effort. One year, I tried sending pictures only by email. Bad move. I will never do that again. I believe that our friends enjoy getting reading the mail, especially seeing as it isn’t a bill.

So without further ado, here is the pointer to this year’s letter. Download if you like or wait for the post man.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.