Category Archives: holidays

Christmas Was A Beach

Here’s me being WAY romantic

I know this is late and I know what you’re probably thinking, how can Christmas be a beach? Did you magically change it from a holiday to a pebbly or sandy shore by the ocean? And the answer would be no, no I did not. I did, however, leave the freezing, snow-capped mountains of Utah with my family of three to join an extended family of over 20 in one beach house just 30 feet from the sunny, wonderful beach and the freezing, no-less wonderful ocean. Usually leaving a wintery wonderland during Christmas would feel like an abandonment, a betrayal, but not this year. It could not have been more Christmasy and it was one of the best vacations I have ever had.

Why Was This One Of The Best Vacations Ever?

There are a lot of reasons this was a fantastic trip. I will not bore you with all of them, just most of them. For one, it was great to have all my siblings (except Chris who is in Bahrain…yeah I don’t know where it is either) and their spouses and kids crammed in one house—it was chaotic but for that very reason, fun. I liked the small Christmas tree on a shelf, mountains of presents scattered everywhere, gross leftover sweet and sour soup (that only my dad liked) in the fridge from the first night’s Chinese food, sodas lined up like soldiers on the kitchen counter, noise, new born twin babies crying, toddler cousins all dressed in similar jammies laughing, and me constantly breaking up the fight or fit started by my daughter, who despite being one of the best kids ever can also be quite the bodag.

Present time!

twins

New born twins, Benjamin and Thomas!

It was a very memorable ambience in an unforgettable setting. The beach was literally a five second walk away and even though the locals thought we were crazy, that didn’t stop us from swimming and boogie boarding everyday. To be honest, the water was no colder than it was in August, and after you’d been out ten minutes you were num to it, so you could fight on, catching an occasional awesome wave, no feeling in your toes, all the way to the shore. It was great.

The most attractive stance ever (me on left). Thanks Grandpa Marshall

We had a volleyball/badminton net right next to our beach house. We had many an impromptu game, but the most memorable of all was America VS. Brazil. A group of Brazilians approached us, challenged us, played us, and we walked away victorious. It was a game full of laughs, language barriers (my cousin Chase kept speaking to them in Spanish), and a lot of fun.

There was the Home Alone Marathon where Ryan, my older brother, was again crowned the victor of Home Alone Trivia and my sister-in-law April was crowned the most recent winner of the Home Alone quote contest.

Christmas morning. Grandkids and grandparents.

There were the gifts the kids loved. Claire with the teepee my beautiful wife finished making her a couple nights before. And then there were the Ninja Turtles PJs that I thought Claire would love—after opening them, we asked her if she wanted to wear them, she just said no. Her and all her cousins had PJs with different princesses on them, so I don’t blame her. (She’s wears her Michelangelo PJs now).

Princess PJs with cousins and aunt.

There was Rinda trying out surfing for the first time and loving it, and looking natural as she did it. She was surfing. I saw her. She was also crashing and getting enveloped in massive waves, but she was surfing and she was happy.

The babe and the waves.

There was my family’s gift to my dad: an authentic Indian headdress (my dad’s been known to dress up) and the photo of him wearing it, sitting in front of Claire’s teepee.

Chief Wanna-Hawk-A-Loogie.

Truth be told, there were a lot of things, but the number one reason this vacation was SO incredible was that it was simple. I know, I know. Getting people from all over the country to San Diego, existing in one small space, avoiding contention is not simple, but once we were there, it was. We didn’t try to cram too much into the time we had. There were options presented everyday but almost always we chose to hang around the beach house so we could hit the beach. If we got too tired or too cold, we could just go back and relax with a bunch of people we like being around.

We walked the boardwalk (whatever it’s called in the west), saw sea lions, ate plenty of nearby Mexican food, and so much more. Beach, house, beach, house. No stressful or long days away. It was miraculous. Oh, and Claire, with her cousins to convince her, actually got in the water and loved it, and Abigail, her cousin, who wouldn’t step off the beach towel previous to this trip for fear of the sand decided playing and covering her entire body in sand was a fun, good idea.

Oh, did I forget to mention: it was in the 70s the entire time! Heaven my dear Watson, heaven.

The Moral Of The Story

Needless to say, the moral of the story is this: food, fun, good people, that’s a recipe for a great time. Thanks mom and dad for putting this trip together (and paying for the beach house) and thanks family for being family.

Until next time.

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The Worst Christmas Song Ever

I need to talk about something serious. With the exception of my two-year-old daughter Claire, who this year has joined the ranks of those who love and constantly listen to Christmas music during the holiday season, I am the biggest Christmas music lover I know.

Many do not share my sentiment. In fact, you may be a grinch who hates that Christmas music even exists and that it blasts triumphantly through the cheap speakers of every supermarket and mall, but not caring a button about the complaints and whining and christmas-ruining of Scrooges like you, I shall continue to talk about the sounds of the season.

My Tradition

I start listening to Christmas music November 1st, and I don’t mean occasionally. At work it’s constantly playing on Spotify. If I am in the car, the radio station with “long sets” of “holiday favorites” is on and being sung along to. If I have time at home, yup, you got it, I am listening to Christmas music.

I listen to all types of Christmas music—classical, instrumental, religious, jazz, pop, R & B, operatic…. I could go on forever baby.

spotify:track:17oy9DhHqTmdNRwV1E5fKz

To get you through this post, I have shared some great Christmas songs along the way

My favorite Christmas music artists are, but are not limited to, Harry Connick Jr, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Johnny Mathis, James Taylor, Mariah Carey, Sufjan Stevens, Bright Eyes, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Andy Williams, Jim Croce, The Carpenters, Weezer, The Robertsons, Elvis Presley, The Irish Tenors, Michael Buble, James Brown, Boys II Men, Gene Autry, Johnny Cash, Nat King Cole, Brenda Lee, Perry Como, John Lennon, John Denver, The Muppets, She and Him, The Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, Burl Ives, Wham… and this is only a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my Christmas time playlist.

If you ask me, I can confidently tell you the best version of every Christmas classic.

spotify:track:604DTaRINInOPt26OBBNU6

So, it’s fair to say that I have heard a lot of Christmas music. I have listened to so many wonderful tunes and have been shockingly disappointed by how bad some Christmas albums are, even some by my favorite artists.

spotify:track:7FFeHKYv7Cj4haT4wqOpQg

The Worst

But enough context, let’s get to the meat of this post, the reason I titled it “The Worst Christmas Song Ever.” Everybody has a Christmas song they cannot stand, even us Christmas music lovers. For my mom it’s Paul McCartney’s “Simply having a wonderful Christmas Time.” For my wife, it’s any song sung by Josh Groban. I like Paul’s song and Josh’s album, but whatever.

Christmas Shoes

Many argue that “Christmas Shoes” is the worst Christmas song ever. They’re right that it’s not a good Christmas song. It’s contrived, overplayed, and obnoxiously sung. That being said, it’s not the worst Christmas song ever. I’ll even admit, the first time I heard it the message did come across as valuable (if you can get beyond the “he was dirty from head to toe” moments), even if it was delivered in such an annoying way.

Speaking of Christmas Shoes:

Mary Did You Know?

I submit that another song, with an equally valuable message, is worse than “Christmas Shoes.” “Mary Did You Know” is an awful Christmas song, especially when sung by a breathy, over-dramatic man. I cannot listen to it. Even I, the holly jolly Christmas music man, must change the station if it comes on. But it is NOT the worst Christmas song ever.

Bruce Springsteen

The worst Christmas song ever, the one stations insist on playing again and again, every year, the song that’s like fingernails on a chalkboard, sand in your teeth, sunburn on your shoulder is Bruce Springsteen’s idiotic live version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” I hate it so much. It takes hours to get started and then it just simmers as Bruce obnoxiously throws around contrived banter with his band mates and then the audience; and it’s SO long.

So Christmas music lovers everywhere, even you haters, boycott that song. Refuse to listen to it. If that doesn’t work, call your station and tell them they’re doing a disservice to humanity by playing that most odious of tunes.

Merry Christmas Everyone

Please tell me why I am wrong in the comments. Let me know what you think the worst Christmas song ever is. More importantly, tell me about your favorite Christmas song.

My next post will be about essential Christmas reading, so tune in!

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Yes, I’m A Fan Of Harry Potter

English: Coat of arms of Hogwarts school of wi...

Rinda surprised me with a gift: The Unofficial Harry Potter Cook Book. So awesome. I had admired it a number of times at Barnes and Noble and had even expressed desires to drink Butterbeer, eat Cauldron Cakes, and devour Pumpkin Pasties (not those kind of pasties)—now I can.

The gift wasn’t for a special occasion, but as it’s connected (even if unofficially) to the Harry Potter world, it’s a perfect Fall, Halloween, and early Christmas gift. My wife knows her man. (Now I need to stop sucking at surprising her… maybe this was a hint).

The cook book has paragraphs explaining where in the series the food was mentioned or consumed, and even goes over the history of the cuisine. I cannot express how excited I am to try the many desserts, the fruit and meat pies, the treacle tart!

Harry Potter Is Important To me

Few pieces of fiction have meant as much to me as Harry Potter. I know, you’re thinking, really? And my answer is… really.

There’s something about the friendship, magic, humor, history, school (Hogwarts), food!, the combined efforts to fight evil in Harry Potter (and so much more) that makes it a fun, but also important, and even invaluable read.

Don’t Disregard Fiction

I can’t help but get annoyed when someone disregards the series because “it’s for kids,” or “I don’t read fiction.” If it’s for kids, good, we’re all children, read it and learn something. If you don’t read fiction, start. The human imagination, its ability to perceive the imperceivable, to assign meaning, to find value, to appreciate life’s wonders, is one of our great abilities; don’t put it on the shelf or use it sparingly, only with “true” stories. Truth does not require a historical document. Sometimes all it needs is a reconciliation between understanding and experience, something that can occur, and often does occur, vicariously.

With Food I Can Transcend

To be honest, I won’t mind if cooking and eating dishes from Harry Potter brings me one step further into the magical world created by J.K. Rowling. I wish it were a real world. What a dream it would be to disapparate and turn up in The Burrow; to have Mrs. Weasley invite me to sit down to dinner and dessert with her family and her guests (she always has guests); to finish a bounteous meal and then just sit together in the front room, too full to speak, with only Celestina Warbeck’s “A Cauldron Full of Hot, Strong Love” playing on the wireless to interrupt our stupor.

Yeah, I’m a fan.

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Halloween Decorations = The Secret To Happiness

I once wrote a post that essentially said, life is more exciting, even happier, if you have something to look forward to. Traditions, even the smallest ones, play a large role in setting the stage for joyous experiences.

The Difference Between Grown Ups And Kids

Busy adults push events and moments out of their minds until they crash down upon them; but not kids, kids are pros at anticipation. If they know a summer trip to the lake is around the corner, they’ll prepare physically and emotionally—swim trunks and plastic boats will be carefully set aside and memories of water fights and sunburns will splash around in their mind.

Remember, One Secret To Happiness Is Remembering

I believe the secret to happiness (of all sorts) comes down to remembering. So, have something worth remembering and remember it! Halloween is a little over a month away. Many adults, even those that don’t get excited for Hallow’s Eve, might say, “look, with all the stores, magazines, and advertisements attacking me with orange and black, it’s near impossible to forget Halloween!” Touche. But not forgetting and remembering are two different things.

I know my birthday is in January. I don’t forget that. I do, however, forget to remember what my birthday used to mean… means. When I take the time to remember, my birthday becomes so much more fun and well, meaningful.

Halloween may be silly, but do you remember how exciting it was for you as a kid? Your parents let you play dress up in the streets, you got to knock on random doors, and for some reason, they all handed out free candy. AWESOME! And let’s not forget the activities at school, the parties, the hayrides, etc.!

What if you no longer trick or treat? What if you have no children candy beggars to take around the neighborhood? It’s still Halloween, October, fall! You’re not dead. Eat some candy, bake some apples, make a pumpkin pie, tell ghost stories, watch Halloween movies, throw a party, have a Halloween themed dance or talent show—even if it’s just with a few friends. And for crying out loud, wear a costume, one that you’ve been thinking about for at least a couple of weeks. I admit, I am the worst at this. I always end up throwing a leather jacket on and saying I’m a greaser. Lame. Not this year.

Skull salt and pepper shakers on top of an awesome table-cloth. Good purchases Rinda!

Decorate, Decorate, Decorate

If you can’t get in the mood for Halloween, if you just can’t get excited, decorate, decorate, decorate! Everyone knows that decorations are great for pumping kids up, but they can be great for big people too. Throw some fun decs around your house and you’ll soon see how it helps you—even Ebeneezer Scrooge—feel festive. And throw them up early! For example, there’s no reason that Birthday decorations should only be set up the day of a birthday. If you want a kid (or an adult) to get really excited for his/her birthday, talk about it months before, set up decorations the week of, and then do something super special the day of. Your child’s (or weird roommate’s) eyes will glow.

It’s the same with Halloween. Fill your house with celebration, pumpkins, skulls, skeletons, Monster Mash on repeat, the scent of pie and candy, etc. Do that, and your dreams of a happy, exciting Halloween just may come true.

*If all you can do is stay at home and be grouchy, don’t be one of those houses that shuts all their lights out. Hand out some candy, good candy, not peanut butter taffy, and watch how excited the kids get when you drop it into their plastic pumpkin or ratty pillow case.

Now, tell me something AWESOME you’re doing this Halloween so I can copy you!

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