THE POLISH SOAP OPERA and THE VAMPIRE BROTHERS

Ok, for starters, you have to know my family is a bit strange. There was a time I thought the things we did were normal, but my wife assured me that “no, normal people don’t do the things you do.” So with that said, I’m going to share a Christmas tradition my brother and I started. But the more I think about it, it’s something that was started well before we were even born.

When we were kids, there was this cassette tape floating around our house. It was a standard blank cassette tape from Radio Shack. Written on the label were the simple words “Soap Opera.” It wasn’t just a soap opera though; it was the Polish Soap Opera. The Polish Soap Opera was a tape my mom, dad, and uncle made when they were in their early 20s, sometime before my parents got married (that’s right, they knew how weird each other were and still got married). It was the story of Stash and Stella who were Polish mushroom pickers. Yes, you read that right. The story was a total of 5 minutes and half of it was fake commercials. It was ridiculous and made no sense to me, but it was pure gold!

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THE ART OF THE CARD

We love receiving cards in the mail at Christmas time. Seeing pictures of everyone’s families, the well-wishing notes, and the words of encouragement for the New Year to come. We like it all. We also like creating our own family card each year too. That’s one tradition we kind of fell in to, but cherish. There have been plenty of years when we were too busy traveling, moving, or just down right tired, but we always came through with something.

Aya loves the written word. I think it’s one of her love languages. Cards are important to her. They always have been. She has every card or letter she has received since she was in elementary school. I’m not joking. Moving back and forth between US and Japan, that’s how she stayed in touch with her friends. So for as long as I’ve known her, Christmas cards have always been a big deal for her.

When I was a kid, my dad was into photography. He had a fairly fancy camera, and he even had a dark room where he developed his own photos. There were a few years when he had a big idea for our family Christmas card. This was in the days long before Photoshop and Shutterfly. So all of the editing he did was in the dark room or was just set-up with the camera. I remember thinking these cards were the coolest thing! When Aya and I had kids, those ideas of doing something different were transferred to me. Continue reading “THE ART OF THE CARD”

2018 NEW & NOTEWORTHY CHRISTMAS ALBUMS

It’s no secret, I’m a total Christmas music junkie. It used to be a weird thing once upon a time, but with people starting to play Christmas music a few days after Halloween now, I’m not looked at as the weirdo I once was. And with music being as accessible as it is now, finding new and different Christmas albums isn’t as challenging as it once was.

My brother and I used to rummage through rows and rows of CDs at Best Buy. And then we started looking though pages and pages of Christmas albums on Amazon. Anything worthy we scored was brought to Thanksgiving dinner and shown off with great pride. But now with iTunes, it’s becoming easier to do deeper searches for Christmas albums that aren’t in the pop charts. For example, this year I found a great jazz group called B3 Kings  with some fantastic arrangements, and this guy Andrew McAuley with a new take on the Charlie Brown Christmas music. But those aren’t current albums. I wanted to scour the internet to find what good and unique albums that were released this year.

There are heaps of pop singer Christmas albums, smooth jazz, and reworked compilations with Frank Sinatra released every year. It’s usually all the same stuff. The same arrangements of the same songs, just with a different singer. Once in a while, someone does something unique and catchy enough that and it enters the Christmas music collective that we will come to enjoy (or be annoyed with) for years to come.

Ingrid Michaelson, Jessie J, Eric Clapton, Pentatonix, Lauren Daigle, Diana Ross, William Shatner(!?) and even The Monkees released Christmas albums this year. Most of these are decent. They are nice, but not awesome. I kept poking around and these are my top releases for the 2018 season. Continue reading “2018 NEW & NOTEWORTHY CHRISTMAS ALBUMS”

AIN’T TOO PROUD TO DANCE

Chloe attends an all Japanese pre-school. And while it’s incredible to watch her develop a second language and get to experience her Japanese culture, it often sends me out of my comfort zone. I could easily just do drop-off and pick-up and nothing more, but I’m determined to not be invisible and be the involved parent I want to be. I have been involved, but sometimes it’s not always in ways that I would expect, or prefer. I don’t know if it’s a Japanese custom, or just-at-this-school custom, but the school likes to have a group of parents from each class to “perform” for the kids at the holiday party. That’s how I found myself doing a synchronized dance about rice with a group of moms at the holiday party.

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TOP 10 NOT-SO-TYPICAL CHRISTMAS ALBUMS

Now that Thanksgiving is over and we are well into December, I have dropped my Grinchy attitude and have full-on embraced the Christmas spirit. Well, at least I’ve been jamming the Christmas tunes. In my last Scroogy post, I confessed my weirdo-ness and love for Christmas music. And in the spirit of Christmas I thought I’d share my top 10 favorite albums (in no particular order) that you’ve maybe never heard of. I cherish the Charlie Brown Christmas, and love Harry Connick Jr., Frank Sinatra, Mariah Carey and all the other favorites you’re familiar with, but they won’t be on this list. There are tons of weird and ridiculous albums out there, but these are a few unique ones that I genuinely enjoy and are part of our family holiday soundtrack.

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