Tag Archives: christmas

Max Factor

Christmas day is almost here so Marcela and I wanted to get a Christmas picture of jolly ole St. Max for the blog today, especially for Ela. Marcela had a little flashing hat. The funny thing is that he didn’t even try to take the hat off.

Aside: The pictures are taken with my new Curve, which for some reason takes better pictures than the old one.

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Saturday Top 5: Christmas Activities

For me, Christmas is a time to reflect on the previous year, to be with family, and to think about other people. It really is the most wonderful time of the year to me. I know that for many of you, it is the toughest time of the year because of hurt and loss. Just remember that the true meaning of Christmas is Jesus. He took on a robe of flesh and lived a life filled with temptations, rejection, and physical pain that we could live. These are the top 5 activities at Christmas time.

Honorable Mention
Listening to Music – Regardless of what you may think based on previous posts about bad Christmas songs, I enjoy Christmas music. I like everything from old tunes by Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole to soft Celtic Christmas to rockin Mannheim Steamroller and Trans Siberian Orchestra. I even like country Christmas songs.

#5. Christmas Dinner – We usually do a Thanksgiving redux at Christmas, but sometimes we have something different. The best part of Christmas dinner is just being with family at the table. My mom’s cornbread stuffing is pretty dern good too!

#4. Light Seeing – One of the Christmas traditions is to drive and look at Christmas lights. The Johnson family has several favorite spots that we have been visiting for years. We always take a thermos with spiced apple cider, hot chocolate, or some other tasty hot beverage. Unfortunately, getting cold weather at Christmas is like playing a slot machine. You pull the handle and just settle for whatever you get.

#3. Christmas Movies and TV Specials – 3 or 4 times a week for the past several weeks, Marcela and I will sit down to watch a Christmas movie. I don’t really prefer one style over another. I like the serious tear-jerkers, the silly love stories, the family specials, clay-mation or cartoon, and the goofy comedy Christmas movies. They’re all great!

#2. Christmas Plays – Dramatic Christmas presentations, Cantatas, and living Christmas tree type presentations are great fun. The plays by the kids are great as are the more professionally arranged church plays. A really well done Christmas play has a way of transporting you in mind to the birthplace and time of Jesus to view the representations of his humble birth, Mary’s obedience and faithfulness, and Joseph’s loyalty. I really love the nativity scenes best.

#1. Giving – I really do love to make Christmas a time to give both in service to others and in gift giving. It’s so neat to see the look on someone’s face when they receive something that they were not expecting.

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Yule Thoughts

  • Another Christmas movie is under the belt; this time it was Christmas Vacation.
  • So far we have seen Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, Home Alone, Elf, The Christmas Shoes, and Christmas Story.
  • On our list of “to see” we have Scrooged, Scrooge (A Christmas Carol), It’s a Wonderful Life, and Miracle on 34th Street.
  • I like sappy family Christmas movies, clay-mation and cartoon Christmas movies, and I like goofy Christmas comedies.  I can’t really say that one is more preferred over the other.  It depends on my mood.
  • I have a couple of things I need to pick up today or tomorrow for Christmas gifts, but thanks to my wife I don’t really have much to do.
  • Marcela has purchased and wrapped nearly everyone’s gift already.
  • We do not yet have a full sized Christmas tree.  We have a couple small ones, but not the big one.  I am not sure if we are going to at all.
  • I am still enjoying Christmas music around the clock.  I don’t have the Pandora thing going yet, but I do have my Mannheim Steamroller, Trans Siberian Orchestra, and various other Christmas favorites of mine playing all the time.  I also have a radio set to 93.9 for 24/7 Christmas tunes.
  • I also plan on making our annual trip to the Clot family Christmas house in Pinecrest.  We usually grab some spiced apple cider and walk around looking at the Christmas displays that this kind family puts up every year for the community to enjoy.
  • We have been going to visit the Clot house for so many years that I cannot even remember how long it has been.  Sometime in the very early 90’s if I am not mistaken.
  • Global warming is really kicking up some winter storms, record lows, and snow storms across the US.  One bonehead was quoted as saying that the rapid cooling shows just how much global warming is accelerating.  Huh?
  • I guess my next thoughts will be on Christmas day.  So until then, Merry Christmas!

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Wednesday Quotable

Todays quote is from the movie “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”. When the Griswolds finally locate that perfect tree, in reflecting over the moment with his frozen crew, Clark makes this classic speech.

The most enjoying traditions of the season are best enjoyed in the warm embrace of kith and kin. Thith tree is a thymbol of the thpirit of the Griswold family Chrithmath.

-Clark W. Griswold

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Saturday Top 5: Trans Siberian Orchestra Christmas

The Trans Siberian Orchestra (TSO) is a stadium rock band with a classical twist. As a matter of fact, the name of the band is a reference to the Trans Siberian Railroad which connected several cultures which were isolated from each other.  TSO bridges classical music with rock and roll which are otherwise totally isolated. They are most famous for their renditions of Christmas classics and Christmas originals. Their albums also tell a story. I love this band! Last year, my mom took Marcela and me to see TSO in concert up at the Bank Atlantic Center in Ft. Lauderdale.  I had such a good time.  Naturally Marcela did too.  She introduced me to this group almost 5 years ago.  In the concert, they had a 40 foot hydrolic lift with fire shooting from the side as a guitarist and an electric violinist performed atop.  They had explosions, lasers, and tons of incredible musicians piping some of my favorite Christmas tunes as well as other classical tunes they have not even released yet.  These are my top 5 TSO Christmas songs.

#5. Mad Russian Christmas – This is your basic Heavy Metal medley of Tchaikovsky’s Nut Cracker Suite.  Off the album “Christmas Eve and Other Stories”, this is one of the most layers songs they do, because it takes you from a deep dark serious rock to a light happy dance kind of rock, all while serving up the Christmas favorite Nut Cracker songs you love.
#4. Wizards in Winter – This is a TSO original instrumental of “The Lost Christmas Eve” album which was used in several popular internet videos with synchronized Christmas lights.  Very happy and very rock!  It has a few bars from Tchaikovsky’s Nut Cracker like many of their songs.

#3. Wish Liszt (Toy Shop Madness) – This track is from “The Lost Christmas Eve” album, and bounces around sometimes as my favorite TSO song.  It is a reworking of the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 by Franz Liszt.  It has one of the coolest call and answer/dueling guitar and piano pieces in music.  This was my favorite from the concert I was priveledged to see last year.
#2. Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 – This medley of “Carol of the Bells” and  “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” off the Lost Christmas Eve album is by far their most popular and recognizable Christmas song.  The NFL loves to use this song as one their themes for pre game music, and for good reason.  This song will knock you out of your socks like a LB hitting a WR.  It’s the story of a lone Cellist playing forgotten Christmas carols in war torn Sarajevo.  The song structure starts with beautifull Christmas bells leading to an exciting opening romp and ends with one of the most climactic finishes of any rock song I have heard.

#1. Christmas Canon Rock – There were two versions of the Christmas Canon on two different albums. This one is the more rocked up version and seems to have more of an emotional and heartfelt sound. It starts off smooth and moves into a great heavy metal rock groove. “On this night, on this night, on this night, on this very Christmas night!”  The guitar solo on this song is so classically heavy metal/hair rock.  This internet version does not have the killer solo on it unfortunately.

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Bottom 3: Christmas Presents

If any gift is given with sincerity, then there is really no bad gift. But, there are times when I look back at a gift I’ve given and ask myself,”What was I thinking? That was a bad idea.”

Here is my list of the three worst Christmas gift.

#3. The Iron – I’m not talking about a great set of irons for that avid golfer in the family; I’m talking about the Rowenta that shows your wife what you are really thinking about at Christmas. The iron is representative of so many other items one could give, like a mop, a vacuum cleaner, or a new container of Tide concentrated laundry soap.

#2. The Chia Pet – “Makes a great gift!”. Yea, maybe for an aspiring young gardner who lives in a high rise apartment building. Seriously, are the clapper, chia pet, and garden weasel type items really purchased and given as gifts?

#1. The Reindeer Christmas Sweater – I think everyone gets a gift like this every year. It’s the gift that never gets worn out, but not because it’s durable; it’s because it never gets worn. It’s the special Christmas red or green sweater with a reindeer, a Santa, or snowman on the front. This gift is also represented by the Christmas tie, Christmas socks, Christmas mug, Christmas beanie, and Christmas underwear presents.

Remember, context is everything. So if Aunt Edna gives you a hand made sweater, she put a lot of time and effort into that gift. And if little Johnny picks out a cute gadget gift that really HE wanted, you have to receive that gift in the spirit it was intended, with love and thoughtfulness. And if your wife or mom give you a new pack of socks, maybe she’s trying to help you out because you’re a bum who will wear the same pair of socks until your toes pop through the front.

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Saturday’s Top 5: Christmas Movies

One of the fun parts of the Christmas season is watching the great Christmas movies. These are my favorite Christmas films. I am revising my previous list on Thursday’s thoughts.

Honorable Mention:

Scrooged – This is a modern and hilarious re telling of the Christmas Carol with my favorite comedic actor, Bill Murray. His snarky arrogance fits perfectly for the twist that is needed to portray Frank Cross (the Scrooge character) as an ambitious man who has lost touch with what is really important in life, love.

#5. Home Alone – This movie humorously pointed out the value of family, second chances, and need for paint cans and beebee guns to make booby traps for bad guys. How can you dislike this flick?

#4. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – There is a tradition in my maternal uncle’s family of watching this movie every Christmas. It really doesn’t get old. Poor Clark just wants to do something great for his family, but it always blows up in his face. This time it’s Christmas as he dreams of adding a pool to the house with his Christmas bonus money. Even though he has successfully created a non-nutritive cereal varnish that keeps the flakes crispy in milk for a longer time, he gets a “Jelly of the Month” subscription because the company’s cutting back.

#3. Scrooge aka A Christmas Carol – I like the 1951 Alastair Sim version best, but I also enjoy the remake with George C. Scott. The 1951 version was so great because the transformation of Ebeneezer Scrooge was so visibly evident when he changed following the visits by the ghosts.

#2. A Christmas Story – It’s a little dark and wierd, but funny and true. It captures the way kids are just so desperate for that one perfect gift that will make their life complete. I guess the reason I liked this movie so much was I enjoyed the quirkiness of the family and the real way that the story was conveyed. Ralphie just had to have that Red Rider BB gun. Better be careful, you’ll shoot your eye out.

#1. It’s a Wonderful Life – This is not only the best Christmas movie, but one of the greatest movies of all time. James Stewart was one of the great actors of all time and was on target as a desperate man truly unaware of his impact on those around him. This tale is moving and has a charm that is completely gone in modern movie making. I can relate a little to George Bailey’s feeling that everything is crashing in and being worth more gone than here. Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.

Of course, this is the part where you try to convince me that Miracle of 34th Street, Jingle All the Way, or Elf should have made my list. As always, my list is correct and complete.

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