MY FUNNY VALENTINES

Valentine’s Day at school was always a beacon of light in the middle of a long dreary winter. Winter break had ended long ago and spring break seemed so far away it was pointless to get excited about. We were in the daily doldrums of cold bleak winter weather, battling illness sweeping through the school, and of course, boring school work. Sheets of hand-outs and work-packets, or as my teachers called them; dittos. Dittos for us to complete math problems and practice our perfect cursive handwriting. But for one day, one day in the middle of the darkness, for at least an hour, we had Valentine’s Day.

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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”

CUPCAKE BOUQUET

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week! Every year, the PTA at my kids’ school has big plans for this week. Each day they decorate the teacher’s lounge with a different theme. Since the school is a Japanese immersion school, they alternate between both Japanese and American themes. Last year, I was on the American culture day team. Can you say hot dogs and potato chips? But this year, the themes were different. Each day was based on a different season and holiday, and I was assigned to the Valentine’s Day theme.

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