Gift Ideas for Those Who Have Everything

by Bob Sparrow

It has been said that the ‘holiday season’ is a month of incredibly intense craziness and stress interrupted by a few brief moments of joy.  I’m not sure who said that, maybe it was me, but part of that craziness and stress comes from trying to figure out what to get that person who ‘has everything’, and once you’ve figured it out, where to find it.  As always, we’re here to help relieve some stress by providing you with some ideas of unique gifts that not only will make that ‘special someone’ sit up and take notice, but mark you as a unique gift-giver . . . or a crazed, eccentric nutcase.

usb2This first item is for that person who thinks ‘everything’ is a flip phone, a Brownie camera and an eight-track cassette player, who you’ve been trying to bring into the new millennium for years, albeit kicking and screaming.  Yes, it’s a typewriter, but with an attached monitor and a USB port, – it’s like training wheels for cyber-phobics.


This next item is for that person who thinks they have the perfect coffee mug, with a picture of (fill in the blanks) and the words mug‘World’s Greatest (fill in the blank).  Not so fast!  Fellow workers will be wiping tears of laughter from their cheeks and those in the coffee klatch will be flushed with envy when they see that brown liquid swirling in this porcelain  mug.  One lump or two?


And while we’re on the subject of bathroom humor, here’s a towel that is sure to please those who have been confused about which end to use to wipe their face . . .  and other parts.  Color coordinated.

50 Shades

Fifty Shades of Chicken is for that chef on your list that has every cookbook ever printed, except this one!  This completes the study of the Big Three Bs of cooking: Baking, Broiling and Bondage.


If your ‘person who has ‘everything’ is fairly mindless, OK, completely mindless, then they’re going to really enjoy the yodeling pickle.  Don’t you wish you would have invented it?

soapSoap for Christmas?  Yes, but not just any soap, this is soap with a beer scent; and who doesn’t want to smell like beer?!


putterThe ‘Potty Putter’ is for that golfing nut in your group that just can’t get enough of the game.  Ideal for the crapy golfer!


vest2ugly There’s no guarantee that your man will look like these two hunks in his new Christmas sweater or vest, but isn’t it worth a shot?  Only comes in XL and XXL.


To ensure that we are politically incorrect to both parties, we’re offering that political junkie on your list the option of using either of these toilet tissues.  Get both for the independent or fence-sitter!  Let the good times roll.

H tp        DT tpSince most of these items are on-line (like who would actually carry this stuff in a store!?!!) you still have time to order now and make someone’s Christmas special.

Hope this helps


The Holiday ‘Season’ Schedule

by Bob Sparrow


Creamed Onions – YUCK!

When I was growing up, back when the earth was still cooling, there was no such thing as a ‘Holiday Season’ – there was Christmas. Thanksgiving was when Jack, Suz and I, had to get ‘slicked up’ and go to our aunt and uncle’s house and eat creamed onions and turkey that was cut so thin that it only had one side. New Year’s was a non-event that meant Christmas vacation was nearly over and we’d soon be headed back to school.

Things have changed a bit since then; with the coming of television, the ‘Christmas Season’ was created and subsequently commercialized.  More recently, with the advent of political correctness, the ‘Holiday Season’ was born, to make sure we weren’t excluding anyone from the season’s buying bonanza.


Unoffensive holiday symbols

  The way I see it, it’s a five-game ‘season’ where first, everyone gets on their game uniform for the ‘kick off’ at Halloween, followed by Veteran’s Day (which apparently is a non-league game), then into the meat of the schedule with Thanksgiving and Christmas and concluding with the ‘finals’ on New Year’s Eve.

So let’s look at the ‘season’, game-by-game.


Cheery Halloween mask


How it started: It was originally an ancient Celtic religious celebration where they would bless and convert Pagans.

What happened? We took the religion out of it and now we just try to scare the bejesus out of kids with ugly masks and scary movies, while we bless and convert non-diabetics to diabetics with a sugar over-load. The American Dental Association also thanks you!

Veteran’s Day



How it started: In 1919 Armistice Day was created marking the end of World War I on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour. In 1938 Armistice Day was declared a legal holiday and in 1945 it was changed to Veteran’s Day to recognize and celebrate all veterans.

What happened? Years ago Veteran’s Day was just a scrimmage, but fortunately, it’s become a little more celebrated in recent years, possibly due to the numerous conflicts we’ve put our brave men and women in armed forces through, but it’s still no Halloween! Personally, I’d eliminate Halloween and put greater emphasis on this holiday by having kids dress up like veterans and seek out service families and veterans to ask if they can help them in any way. Schools could ask their students to write a letter to someone in the armed forces to thank them for their service, but don’t count on it replacing the sanctity of Halloween anytime soon.



“Sorry about taking your land”

How it started: The Pilgrims wanted to celebrate a bumper crop year as well as show their benevolence toward the Native Americans, specifically the Wampanoag tribe, by inviting them to a feast and tossing them a drumstick after they vanquished them and took their land. OK, maybe they didn’t just take it; they did give them $24 worth of beads and trinkets for Manhattan. Subsequently the Wampanoag tribe suffered an epidemic, thought to be smallpox brought over by the English, which helped them establish their settlements. Years later, the King Philip’s War resulted in the deaths of 40 percent of the tribe. Most of the male survivors were sold into slavery in the West Indies, while many women and children were enslaved in New England.

What happened? Well, wouldn’t you continue to celebrate such a joyous occasion? We do, with a feast of turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce and pies of various fruits and nuts on Thursday and when the ladies realized that the men were spending the rest of the weekend watching football, they said, “Ladies let’s go shopping!” and thus ‘Black Friday’ was created. But even with its calorie-busting meals, football overload and guerilla combat shopping, Thanksgiving still has the redeeming quality of bringing families together – and that’s a good thing!



Remember Christmas?

How it started: The first recorded date of Christmas was in 336 AD (No, I wasn’t there!); a few years later, Pope Julius I officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on the December 25th.  Although with shepherds in their fields at the time of the birth, it probably wasn’t in the winter at all.

What happened? Because this is the big cash cow of the season, the decorations and carols start in late October and continues through New Year’s Eve and beyond; it’s the ‘Big Game’. Yes, it’s been commercialized almost beyond recognition, but if you work at it, you can still find or better yet, create the ‘spirit of Christmas’, by helping those less fortunate or just experiencing a young child’s unbridled enthusiasm when they see that Santa hasn’t forgotten them. So work at finding the ‘spirit’ this year, as Vince Lombardi once said, “Giving isn’t everything, it’s the only thing!”  OK, maybe I made that up.


When do you want the new year to start?

New Year’s Eve

How it started: The year had to end sometime!

What happened? When the year really ends is a long story involving various calendars, but suffice it to say that historically a bunch of politicians and church folks have moved the start of the year around since the beginning of time, mostly just to suit their purposes. So don’t get too fixated on December 31st as the end of the year, it was originally the vernal equinox (around the end of March) and it could go back there if it will make someone some money or get someone elected.  No matter what the date, it’s always the time of year when we lie to ourselves about improving our lives ‘next year’ with some unrealistic resolutions.

This Thursday will mark the halfway point in the season, so relax and enjoy the ‘halftime show’ – it’s usually at the ‘kid’s table’.

Happy Thanksgiving!

2015 Reviews, Previews & Predictions

by Bob Sparrow


The Eagles backstage – me, NOT!

–  For me 2014 started here with the discovery, or rather the re-discovery, of The Tape’ – a mysterious offering from dearly departed, best friend, Don of Saudi Arabia, which has turned into an allegorical journey in search of . . . ? More discoveries are coming in 2015.

  •     –  Last year’s backstage cocktail party with the Eagles turned out to be more of a nose-bleed seat and a hot dog in the balcony, but their music was still magical.

–  I watched a car salesman, beaten and bloody, slink into his manager’s office with his tail between his legs as Linda drove away in her new 2015 Chevy Yukon

–  In 2014 I learned that Samoans, by any other name (even one as misleading as Caramel deLites) are still my favorite Girl Scout cookie, although I understand I’ll be paying more for them in 2015 – what a surprise!

carly scott

Missing woman turns into a homicide

–  The case of missing Carley Scott, to which I was introduced by a hitch-hiker I picked up on the ‘Road to Hana’, turned into a homicide when Carley’s jawbone and burned clothes were found by police. Ex-boyfriend, Steven Capobianco has gone from a ‘person of interest’ to being charged with murder.  Trial is set for sometime in 2015.

–  An economic forecast: I predict that 2015 will find Reverse Mortgages moving Forward.

–  Independence Day (not the 4th of July!) revealed our founding fathers to be just as quirky as some of today’s politicians, which is no easy task!


Trekking the Himalayas

–  If my adventure to South Africa in 2013 was the ‘Trip of a Lifetime’, then my adventure in Nepal and the Himalayas last year was the ‘Trek of a Lifetime’ – it was a spectacular journey! I’m glad many of you could join me vicariously through my daily posts. I am now frequently asked, “Hey, where are ‘we’ going next?” Stay tuned.

–  It wasn’t as foreign, but just as beautiful – that’s the trekking through Glacier Nat’l Park, Yellowstone, and Alberta, Canada and our visit to neighbors the Nelsons at their second home on Flathead Lake, Montana this past summer. You’re all probably wondering if after our encounter in Jackson Hole, WY, if Sandra Bullock will ever leave me alone . . . more on that later.

2014-07-24 20.08.47

Is she still stalking me?

–  Earlier this year, while making a fool of myself at some of our ‘local’ tourist spots like Venice Beach, the Western White House and the Queen Mary, I missed my induction into the University of Utah Athletic Hall of Fame – it’s just as well, it turned out that they had plenty of ‘red shirts’ to clear the dishes and sweep up after.

–  Twenty fourteen concluded with a tribute to, and a debate with, my favorite sister, my favorite writing companion and simply one of my favorite people on this planet.  If you’re a regular you know she writes so well from the heart, while I tend to write from somewhere around the elbow, but whatever your preference, I predict much more of the same coming from us in 2015.

–  A big thank you to our regular readers in 2014 for enjoying our writing enough to encourage us to keep on doing it. Truth is, we’d probably do it anyway, but you need to know that your comments, your ‘sharing’ and your subscriptions make it a labor of love for us. Thank you so much!


Bob & Suzanne wishing you an adventurous 2015!

If you’re not already a subscriber, we encourage you to become a ‘bird watcher’ in 2015 and follow and ‘share’ our adventures and observations.  That’s at least a resolution you can keep!

Hope you make 2015 matter.


By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

The Poma remnants

The Poma remnants

Well, another Thanksgiving has come and gone.  Which means that I’m spending today cleaning out the refrigerator and wondering why I bought so much food.  There is something about Thanksgiving that must make my “starvation gene” kick in.  I buy groceries like we have had nothing to eat for months and end up with enough food to feed an army.  Unfortunately, with only six of us in the house, we end up being a very well-fed army.  Or, as our daughter said this weekend, we are in a “poma”.  That is a hybrid word she coined on Thanksgiving night as we sat watching football in a  stupor – a combination of pie and coma.  It aptly described our mental and physical states.  And that was before the 49ers played so badly that the owner apologized to the fans. Maybe the players were in a poma too.  But no matter how bad we felt, we were still better off than the people who ventured out to shop in the newly formed “Thanksgiving Day Sales”.  I want to go on record that I am totally against the stores opening on Thanksgiving Day.  Can’t we still have a holiday that celebrates food, family and football without Target and Walmart getting involved?  The stores all claimed that the early opening times would avoid some of the mayhem from past Black Friday sales when so much pushing and shoving took place.   Hmmmmm…let’s just re-cap how that little experiment worked.  For your reading pleasure, here are some of the highlights from the “new” Black Thursday:


  • In Romeoville, Illinois a policeman was dragged from his car in the parking lot at Kohl’s by a shoplifter he was trying to apprehend,

    At least there are no knives in sight

    At least there are no knives in sight

  • In Las Vegas, a man was shot in a Target parking lot when two men accosted him and tried to steal the HDTV he had just purchased,
  • In Virginia a man was stabbed in the knee with a knife after two men got into an altercation over a parking spot,
  • In Carlsbad, California a man was stabbed in the stomach at the entrance to a mall, ostensibly jockeying for position to be the first to get his hands on a brand new TV.
  • At a Houston Walmart people were trampled and fights broke out when shoppers laid down on Samsung TV boxes to “reserve” them.  (I actually had to laugh thinking about the genesis of that shopping strategy:  “Okay, I’ll go get the Game Boy and Barbie Doll, you go heave your body over the Samsung box until I come around to pick you up.”)

The most telling of the “Black Friday” incidents occurred in Nanuet, New York, where two Costco employees began fighting in the men’s room before the store opened and one of them stabbed the other with a box cutter.  You can only imagine the conversation that preceded their tiff.  They were most likely fighting over which one of them had to go out and face all of the fruitcakes that were lined up at the store entrance, waiting to get their hands on a bargain-priced electric potato peeler or a jumbo container of gouda cheese.

Clearly, the goal of the new opening hours on Thursday did nothing to stem the violence – or stupidity – of the shopping public.   But I suspect that the big stores will open again on Thanksgiving next year because I just read that the extra hours translated to record profits for them.  It seems hard to believe that we might become nostalgic for the “good old days” when people were just pushing and shoving.

As for me, I’ll stick with Cyber Monday, where traditionally people shop from their employer’s computers so they can take advantage of the fast T-1 lines.  Not to mention the added benefit of looking like they’re working furiously on their computer when in reality they’re perusing the latest Best Buy ad.  Even though I am now retired, I still like looking at the deals available today.  And I have the extra added benefit of safety – I am fairly confident that neither my husband or Dash the Wonder Dog will stab me while I’m shopping.

Turkeys, Indians and the ‘4 Fs’

by Bob Sparrow

2 turkeys

Tom & Giblets

As followers of the blog know, Suzanne and I alternate writing each week, and for the previous two years, Thanksgiving has fallen on her week, which is a good thing, because she’s so good at writing appropriate holiday blogs.  I, on the other hand, tend to see things through lenses that are just a little warped. So rather than focusing on the ‘Three Fs’ – Family, Food and Football, like I should be, I’m wondering about things like if the turkeys really know how much their lives are in jeopardy this time of year.  I know turkeys aren’t real deep thinkers, after all they’re the birds that go outside during a rainstorm, look up, open their mouths and drown, and though they won’t be invited to a Mensa meetings anytime soon, even they must wonder why they’re being fattened up this time of year and why their friends keep disappearing. “Say, whatever happened to that nice couple, Tom & Giblets?”

I’ve also been thinking about the first Thanksgiving. It was in 1621 (No, I wasn’t in attendance). Due to a record harvest, the pilgrims invited the local Indians for a feast. The pilgrims were waiting for a reciprocal invitation the following year, but none was forthcoming. Why? We’re not exactly sure, but if we examine the recorded description of that first repast we can find some clues as to why the Indians were not that excited about inviting the pilgrims back to their place for dinner.

1st T

“No, you can’t sit at the table, but you can have seconds on the pie.”

First, the Pilgrims and the Indians didn’t speak the same language, so there wasn’t much ‘small talk’ going on between them at the dinner table, like, “Don’t you think the goat tastes a little gamey?” or “Have you started your Christmas shopping yet?” Secondly, the Indians were in the habit of bathing regularly; conversely the English pilgrims took a bath once a month whether they needed one or not. So no matter how good the roasted wart hog might have smelled, the odor from the pilgrims hung over the festivities.  A third factor may have been that the first invitation probably didn’t indicate a dress code; the English pilgrims, who were accustomed to dressing formally for dinner,most likely wore hats, waist coats, ruffle ties and buckle shoes and were probably aghast when their native American guests arrived barefoot and in loin cloths.


“I think I’m getting screwed here, but we’ll give you all these beads for Manhattan.”

Whatever the reason for the hiatus between feasts, it is assumed that during that first dinner there was some conversation amongst each group separately regarding the disposition of Manhattan, as the famous sale of that island took place just five years after that first Thanksgiving. I can see the pilgrims huddling together over by the pie tray, trying to see if they could gather enough beads and trinkets to equal $24, which is what they wanted to offer to purchase Manhattan. On the other side of the table, the Indians were having a very different conversation that may have ended with something like, “White man is trying to ply us with ‘fire water’ so they can take advantage of us, but I don’t think we even own Manhattan, so if they’re willing to give us $24 for it, I say we take it and run.”

I have some other random Thanksgiving thoughts, but with six in-law houseguests coming in this week, perhaps I better focus on the ‘Three Fs’, make that the ‘Four Fs’, I’m adding Firewater.

Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, filled with all the ‘Fs’ you can stand.



By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

GratitudeIt’s getting to be that time of year … when we blow right past Thanksgiving and start hanging the Christmas or Hanukkah lights. Traditionally, of course, before Target and Walmart took over the holidays, Fall was a time for people to take stock of their lives and give thanks for their blessings.  A friend recently told me about a holiday tradition that I thought it was quite ingenious:  at every holiday dinner each person must say what they are grateful for, using the first letter to spell out the holiday.  So in other words, their dinner gets a lot colder at Thanksgiving than Easter.  I never was a faithful viewer of the “Oprah” show but watched it enough to know that she encourages people to keep a daily journal listing everything that they are grateful for that day. Heck, I can’t do anything every day except brush my teeth and eat, so keeping a Grateful Diary is out of the question.  The concept, however, is intriguing. So this week I decided to combine the two ideas and in that spirit create a GRATITUDE list for the season.


G – Girlfriends.  Where would I be without them?  Together we laugh, we cry, we hack our way around a golf course, and we create.  They are, in short, my sanity.

R – Relatives.  I have a wonderful family and I know I’m very lucky that we like and love each other.  NOT ONCE  have  we had to have police intervention at a family gathering.

One of my more subdued friends

One of my more subdued girlfriends

A – Alan, my husband.  He gets me through good times and bad … and loves me even when I don’t have any make-up on.

T – Tea.  Sometimes there is just nothing like a good “cuppa” to get me through the day.  And since I discovered FOAM at Whole Foods, it’s even better with that piled on top.

I – Inspiration.  I am surrounded by very imaginative women who are artistic and talented in ways I never will be.  But they inspire me to improve whatever I am doing.

T – Time.  Somehow it seems I never have enough of it.  How did I ever work? Now I love it when an appointment gets cancelled.  There is nothing like the gift of TIME !

U – Unburdened.  As I’ve gotten older I no longer feel like I “have” to do stuff.  I now say “no” when I feel like it.  This is probably why older people are deemed “cranky”.

D – Dash the Wonder Dog.  Duh.

Dash, The Wonder Dog

Dash, The Wonder Dog

E – Elusiveness.  I am a literal thinker (I’ve taken the test on Facebook to confirm this) but I love that big parts of my life are elusive.  When you think you no longer need to try new things – and fail – life becomes too predictable.  It’s always good to have something beyond your grasp – like losing 10 pounds.

That’s my list for this year.  Next year it could be something entirely different although I suspect that, with good behavior,  Alan and Dash will be on it. Although Dash really is the only “shoe-in”.    As word games go, I thought this was a good exercise to go through.  I may even try the holiday version for Thanksgiving (family members, be warned!).  I still don’t think I’ll ever be disciplined enough to do a daily Gratitude Diary, but it sure feels good to stop once in a while to take stock in all of the things, and especially the friends, that make life good.

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving.  As for me?  I’m off to think of a word that starts with “T”.

When Did ‘Independence Day’ Become the ‘4th of July’?

by Bob Sparrow


Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin

Ahhh, the 4th of July – warm weather, baseball games, parades, old glory flying, fireworks, barbecues and beer. Who doesn’t love that? The neighborhood I live in has made this day a very special one from the time our kids were very small. We’ve had parades where the kids decorated their bikes in red, white and blue streamers. We’d go to the local school grounds and taught the kids to play softball until the year that they taught us. We’d play horseshoes and go swimming. We’d barbecue burgers and hot dogs, have a few cold beers (not the kids!) and when it got dark we launched some fireworks.

We thought it was the perfect 4th of July, and it probably was, but it wasn’t the perfect ‘Independence Day’. Nary a word was spoken about the courage of George Washington, the eloquent writing of Thomas Jefferson, the legal leadership of John Adams, or the many talents of Benjamin Franklin. And with all the media we’re surrounded with today, I’m betting that you don’t hear much about these heroes this week as we prepare for what is suppose to be a celebration of what these, and many other courageous men and women, did to create this incredible country.

It’s curious how we’ve personified virtually every other holiday we celebrate with characters, from Father Time to Santa Claus, but we’ve actually taken the Independence‘characters’, our Founding Fathers, out of our Independence Day celebration and relegated it to just a date.  It would be like instead of calling it Christmas, we’d just call it ’25th of December’, or instead of Easter we’d call it the ‘first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox’; OK, maybe we’d keep that one as Easter.  Independence Day is many American’s favorite holiday, but it’s because of the aforementioned activities not because we spend much time recalling and recognizing the deeds of the truly amazing people who founded this nation.

I suspect part of the reason for our lack enthusiasm over celebrating as the victors of the Revolutionary War, is that we don’t see England as our enemy anymore. In fact, they are, arguably, our strongest ally, but back in the day, they were not so very nice to us and they were particularly pissed when we told them to take their taxes and tea bags and put them where the sun don’t shine.


King George III

King George III, king of England at the time of our revolution, was a particularly annoying bastard – you can read some of our grievances with him in the actual Declaration of Independence, which, by the way can be printed on two typewritten pages – sans signatures. Maybe this year, you could print it out and read it during the barbecue, preferably before ‘beer thirty’. You might also mention that our Founding Father’s were not only courageous, but were very intelligent and interesting people. To wit:

–       George Washington, who is the only US president never to run for president, was elected twice by a unanimous decision of the Electoral College (He got every vote!) – popular vote was not used in those days. As president, he refused to be paid. But, he was also the richest president in history, with total assets in excess of $500 million in today’s dollars.

–       Thomas Jefferson publicly opposed slavery, even though he owned slaves his entire adult life and had 5 children with his slave, Sally Hemings.

–       John Adams died on the same day as his rival Thomas Jefferson on July 4th, 1826, the 50thanniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

–       The multi-talented Benjamin Franklin could speak 6 languages: French, German, Italian, Spanish, Latin . . . and English

–       Our first secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton was shot and mortally wounded by Vice President Aaron Burr in one of the most famous duels in American history.

–       Patrick Henry, an attorney, had many people who had nothing to do with a case visit his court hearings just to hear him speak; he was that good of a public speaker.

–       Benedict Arnold, the famous traitor, was a General in both the American and British armies – some say at the same time.

I hope you all have a great 4th of July, but I also hope that you also make it a great ‘Independence Day’ and remember those who, nearly 240 years ago, gave us the freedoms that we so enjoy to this day.



By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

New yearsI operate under the illusion that I am a fully functioning, rational adult.  That could be the root of my problem.  Here I sit, two days before the new year, convinced that 2014 is going to be a GREAT year.  I’ve polled a few of my friends and their sentiment is exactly the same – they all are looking forward to 2014 with great optimism and hope.  We will NOT have any of the problems we experienced in that nasty old 2013, no sir.  2014 will be perfect.

What is it about human nature that we completely suspend reality at the beginning of each year?  We forget that life’s road is bumpy and that each year brings with it some amount of problems and worries.  Heck, at our age, every doctor’s appointment holds the possibility of being a life-altering event.  And we forget that the world around us (especially in a year with mid-term elections) can be a very hard place to find comfort and joy.  So this year, in an effort to be more grounded, I am not making any resolutions that are high-minded or completely unrealistic. I’ve decided to make some resolutions of what I won’t do in the new year.  Here’s a sampling:


1.  I will NOT exercise every day.  Every year I say I will and every year I fail.  One year I made it all the way through April.  That year was 1966.  Ever since then I can’t even get through the month of January without sitting on my butt for hours eating Doritos and watching TV.   So this year I am setting myself up for success – I vow to exercise when I feel like it.  Hopefully that will be something more than once a week but I’m not making any rash promises.

2.  I will NOT eat healthy every day.  Although I do consume more than my fair share of kale salad and green smoothies, I hate that I feel guilty when I eat something resolutionswonderfully sugary or packed with carbs.  So…in 2014 I pledge to do my best, keeping in mind that there were probably several women on the Titanic who in their last moments thought, “Damn!  I should have had that chocolate cake!”

3.  I will NOT get organized.  This year I bought one of those P-Touch label makers.  I set up a color-coded filing system and labeled every folder.  Then I made labels for a bank of  switches so I finally could distinguish between mood lighting, overhead beams and the window shades.  Perfect.  But then I took it too far – I labeled the hair dryer, the spice rack and the toaster.  My husband never stayed around me long for fear he would end up with a label.  So in 2014 I will not attempt to organize.  Instead, I will seek professional counseling for what is obviously my OCD problem.

4.  I will NOT watch Duck Dynasty, Honey Boo-Boo or Miley Cyrus.  This one is pretty easy because I don’t follow those people now but since they are constantly on the news I shall vow to avert my eyes when they appear.  Also, in 2014 I will not be Keeping Up with the Kardashians.  Except the whole “Bruce Jenner wants to be a woman” thing.  I met him once in 1977 at a cocktail party and he was the very essence of manhood and virility.  So watching him get his Adam’s Apple shaved and wear women’s undergarments could hold a certain fascination that will prove irresistible.

I think these resolutions are sufficiently low.  In fact, I’m feeling confident that this year I will accomplish all of my goals. Optimism runs rampant today because, like many of you, I look at January 1st as a fresh beginning. My slate wiped clean of any problems, with only great possibilities spread out before me in the coming 12 months.  Today I believe that all things are possible.  Today I believe that the new year will bring contentment, good times and I will finally be able to discard my “fat clothes”.

Here’s to a wonderful 2014 to us all.  May your year be filled with good health, good friends and good times. And may all of your resolutions be fulfilled – no matter how low you set the bar!   Happy New Year!!!!

2014 Jahreswechsel, Neujahr


By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Pop, near 80 years old, still making magic

Pop, near 80 years old, still making magic

There are many annoying things about Facebook but every once in a while it has a redeeming feature:  reconnecting with old friends and long-lost family members.  Such was the case with us this year.   We were fortunate enough to find three cousins with whom we’d lost touch.  Or maybe they’ve been avoiding us.  In any event, we’ve had fun exchanging old family photos and sharing stories.  Our cousin, Tracy Nutting Sanborn, reminded me that one of her favorite holiday traditions was our dad’s Christmas morning ice cream fizzes.  Or as he called them, “The Good Fairy Fizzes”.  In any event, in the spirit of the season, I am sharing a bit about the fizz and Pop’s famous recipe.

First, it’s important to understand that Christmas Eve at our parent’s house was always a rollicking affair.  Mom put out a buffet spread mid-afternoon and people began to arrive in droves.  Tons of their friends plus dad’s cousin and his family were there every year.  As we kids got older our friends would escape their sedate family gatherings to party at the Sparrow house.  There was always lots of laughter, joking, singing, and a virtual river of alcohol.  Somewhere in there we always opened our gifts.  Because we needed to get to some religious service at midnight, you ask?  Au contraire.  It was because the next morning our paternal grandmother, along with Tracy, her parents and her siblings would arrive for Christmas breakfast.

Now that I am older I look back on that tradition and think our parents were out of their minds.  The last of the Christmas Eve guests generally didn’t leave until the wee hours of the morning.  And then promptly at 10 o’clock, our relatives would arrive for breakfast.  And this was no Chinet paper plate or Red Solo Cup affair.  For some reason our mother was a bit intimidated by our grandmother.  Even after 30 years of marriage and, I might add, producing three spectacular grandchildren.  So we had to haul out the Wedgwood china and the good silver every Christmas morning.

Your authors, Christmas Eve 1971

Your authors, Christmas Eve 1971

Just imagine for a moment our mom, probably with a bit of a headache and definitely with too little sleep, up at the crack of dawn to make a three course breakfast.  Our dad, always the peacemaker in the family, tried his best to help but honestly, anything even remotely near the kitchen was not his strong suit.  So one year, after tasting an ice cream fizz at a friend’s house, he decided the drink was just the ticket to liven things up on Christmas morning.  He said he put his own “spin” on the recipe, which I think means that he added just a pinch more gin.  Whatever he did to it, the result was magic!  Suddenly, after just one glass of Pop’s Ice Cream Fizz, the world (and in particular, our mother) was in a happier place.  So as a public service, just in case you find yourself in need of some Christmas cheer, here is Pop’s recipe:


Fill a blender 1/4 full with ice cubes

Add 6 jiggers of gin

Add 4 scoops of French Vanilla ice cream

Add 1 small bottle of soda water (the size you get in a 6-pack)

My brother Bob adds an egg so the white adds some froth, brother Jack doesn’t add an egg.  Personally, I’d add it just because you can then claim it’s a protein drink.

Just blend it well and – voila – you have a concoction sure to put a rosy hue on everyone and every thing!

Our mom served them in a wine glass with a dash of nutmeg.  As we got older we would conspire with Pop and ditch the wine glass for  a chilled beer mug from the freezer. Saved having to go back for seconds…or thirds.

We hope you and yours have a very happy holiday season and if you find yourself getting just a bit Scroogy, try Pop’s Ice Cream Fizz.  It’s a Christmas miracle.




By Suzanne Sparrow Watson mashed potatoesLast summer, in the bright sunlight of August, our 10-year-old grandson looked me squarely in the eye and said, “Mimi, at Thanksgiving don’t forget the cranberry sauce and the mashed potatoes.  Especially the mashed potatoes.”  I have no idea why he thought I might forget these staples of our Thanksgiving feast, but for him to mention it months ahead of time means it’s pretty important to him  So that makes it pretty important to me.  The thing is, I think mashed potatoes are the hardest part of preparing Thanksgiving dinner.  I’m usually in the throes of making the gravy and getting all the side dishes in the oven and then in the middle of this frenzy I have to mash the darn potatoes.  I’ve been stressing about this over the past few weeks and combing the internet for mashed potato recipes that I can make ahead of time.  But I worried that the potatoes would get mealy or dried out if not prepared at the last minute. It finally dawned on me that I was giving this far more thought than it deserves –  if mashed potatoes are my biggest worry, I’m a pretty lucky person.  So I turned my attention to my Thanksgiving “grateful statement”.  Like a lot of other families, before we dive into the bottomless pit of calories that is Thanksgiving dinner, we each have to say what we are grateful for during the past year.  I have one rule:  you can’t say you’re grateful for your family, your friends or your health.  Those are things that should be appreciated every day.  So I began to think about what I might cite as being grateful for this year. Of course, Dash the Wonder Dog is the best thing that happened to us, but since I think of him as family that eliminated him from contention.

As if on cue, the next week two of my former teammates at Bank of America posted pictures and stories on Facebook of their latest volunteer trips and I knew I’d found my “grateful statement”.  While the rest of us loll on sandy beaches or go skiing at beautiful resorts, Evan Boido and Mike Clement spend their “vacation” time in parts of the world that are most in need of their kindness and expertise.  I don’t know about you, but I’m very grateful that there are such people in the world, so in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m going to tell you a bit about them.

Evan Boido was accepted as a member of Global Volunteers ( several years ago.  Their mission is to engage short-term volunteers on long-term projects to create, nurture1385378_3565115021953_107721808_n(1)  and sustain the wellbeing of the world’s children so they can realize the full promise of their human potential. They send volunteers to the poorest areas of the U.S. and around the world.  Evan accepted an assignment in Romania, caring mostly for orphaned infants and toddlers with physical or mental disabilities at the Barlad Children’s Hospital.  As you can imagine, this could be heart-rending work but Evan dives into each mission with enthusiasm and a sense of purpose.  Over the past few years she has made a huge difference in the lives of countless children.  The staff of the hospital try their hardest to care for the children but they are over-whelmed.  Without the efforts of Global Volunteers such as Evan, many of these children would languish in their cribs with little individual attention.  This past trip Evan brought along her niece, Shannon (pictured right with one of the children) to make it truly a family affair.  Evan has gotten to know and love many of the children over the years – she is overjoyed when one is adopted and crestfallen when one succumbs to their medical problems.  As much as the hospital gains from the Global Volunteers, I know that Evan gains even more from the time spent with “her babies”.

MikeMike Clement just returned from the Congo, where he serves on the board of  the Christian Medical Institute of the Kasai  (  Their mission is to provide quality health care and health care education in that part of the Congo, the most impoverished nation on earth.  The most frequent health issues include kettle burns, oil burns, accidents requiring amputations, child malnutrition,  and fistula care. The hospital is proud of the fact that they have made strides in health for newborn children and their mothers through education and access.  But the hospital is consistently short of medicine and is in arrears with its finances since most of the indigent poor cannot pay for their medical services.  Mike, who is a communications consultant, goes once a year to the hospital to help develop strategies for fund-raising and to advise on how to keep their staffing levels within their budget.  As you can see from the picture (left), he also spends lots of time with the children.  This photo of a little boy, with his hand holding on to Mike’s shirt, says it all.  Despite their differences in culture and living circumstances, a unique bond is created when a good-hearted person reaches out to help a small child .  I have looked at countless pictures of Mike’s trips to the Congo and they all depict the locals with joyful and grateful faces, but also an unimaginable level of poverty and squalid living conditions.  And yet Mike describes these trips as “soul healing”.

So this Thanksgiving I will worry less about my lumpy mashed potatoes and spend more time being grateful that the world has people in it like Evan and Mike and the organizations for which they volunteer.  I hope that you have such people in your life as well and I wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!