Big Island – Photos & Travel Tips

by Bob Sparrow

Six at sunset

As those who have been there know, landing in Kona at Keahole Airport on the Big Island of Hawaii is like what I imagine it would be like landing at Jurassic Park International Airport while the earth was still cooling.  Black lava dominates the landscape all around the airport and you wonder if there is really any civilization down there.  But indeed, there is.

Linda and I were invited, along with Jack & JJ Budd, to Chuck & Linda Sager’s timeshare at the Hilton Grand Waikoloa.  We arrived at the complex’s tiki bar just in time to watch the second half of the 49er-Viking game.  While the outcome pleased this life-long Niner fan; Linda, a Minnesota native and avid Viking fan, was not that happy, but looking forward to a week in Hawaii seemed to assuage the pain of the loss.

Showing rain everyday, except the day we’re leaving!

Typically, the colors of the Big Island are a mix of azure blue skies reflecting a sea-foam green ocean, contrasting with uneven natural black lava outcroppings against a variety of lush verdant golf courses, but this week Mother Nature had another color in mind . . . gray.  The weather for the week showed rain every day.  It’s no secret why Hawaii is so green!

But we were going to have fun anyway, and as usual, the weatherman was wrong, in fact aside from our first round of golf at Kalani Country Club (previously known as the Big Island Country Club) in a light rain, we never really experienced much precipitation.   Even in the rain, Kalani was one of the most simply beautiful courses I’ve played – because it’s ‘out of the way’ in the mountain and it was raining, hardly anyone was on the course so we played as a six-some – a most enjoyable welcome round to the Big Island.

As a ‘travel blogger’ of sorts, I feel an obligation to share some of the things learned on this trip; so following are a few travel tips.

Kona Country Club

1st Travel tip: Golf – If you come to the Big Island to play golf, forget the expensive ‘named’ courses like Mauna Lani and Mauna Kea (we played those and we all got across the ocean on the beautiful 15th hole at Mauna Lani and the 3rd hole, from the tips, at Mauna Kea: Big deal!) and play Kalani and the Kona Country Club (south of Kona) – great lay-outs, ocean and mountain views, less crowded and much less expensive!

2nd Travel tip: Food – Breakfast was mostly in with all of us enjoying Jack’s smoothies, some delicious bagels, some cheese eggs and some Kona coffee – although we did find some delicious banana pancakes at several locations, which I would recommend.  Lunch was usually late after golf at places like the beach at Mauna Kea Hotel which is looking a little tired these days, Tommy Bahamas in Mauna Lani, or at ‘On The Rocks’ in downtown Kona.  We BBQed a couple dinners at our condo and went to Roy’s for a nice dinner, where we met Wayne Newton.  But the best travel tip on food is making sure that you find the Malasadas truck parked along the main highway and stop and get a Portuguese doughnut or 12.  Eat them while they’re hot, they are delicious!

‘On the Rocks’ Kona

Wayne Newton asking to join the Monday Knights

 

 

 

 

 

Hot Malasadas Truck, where Jack & Chuck found a couple of tomatoes

 

 

 

3rd Travel tip: Entertainment – If you like magic and comedy, you will love the Kona Kozy Magic & Comedy Show in the Mauna Lani shopping center, next to Tommy Bahamas.  It’s a small theater, probably no more than 30 seats; we were six of about 12 people in attendance that night.  He is very funny, he does some great magic and gets the audience engaged.  You can have dinner next door at the Pele Wok restaurant like we did and bring your own alcohol to his show – I think we brought in a case of wine.  A very entertaining evening

Final Travel tip: Drink – If you’re planning a trip to the Big Island in the near future and like wine, you should plan on bringing your own, as we depleted the island of most of its supply while we were there.

No trip to Kona is complete without a visit to the spectacularly gigantic Kona Waikoloa Hilton Hotel, which we visited on our last evening there and watched a beautiful sunset – yes, the weather was clearing up just as we were clearing out.

Sunset on our last night at Waikoloa

A special thanks to Chuck Sager, who knows this island like the back of his hand and was able to get us to all the roads less traveled by most tourists.

 

GEAUX JOE!

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

If you’re like 30 million other Americans, you will be watching the College Football Championship game tonight between LSU and Clemson.  It is slated to be one of the most exciting playoff games in recent history – both teams are undefeated and have stand out quarterbacks.  Hopefully it will live up to the expectations.  But aside from the thrill of who will win the Championship, many people have found a different reason to take interest in the game – LSU’s quarterback, Joe Burrow.  In this age of bad-boy athletes where the headlines shout of domestic violence, gun shots, and cheating scandals, Joe Burrow is the soothing balm that reminds us of just how good college sports can be.  This one person, in one night, brought dignity, kindness and generosity to the forefront.  His story bears telling and re-telling.

Joe Burrow hails from one of the most impoverished areas in the United States – southeast Ohio.  His hometown is Athens, a part of Appalachia that has yet to see significant benefit from the soaring stock market and lower unemployment rate.  Joe is a product of the local high school and was heavily recruited upon graduation.  He attended Ohio State, where he red-shirted, obtained his BA in Family Resource Management, and then with two years eligibility remaining, decided to transfer to a school where he could get more playing time.  In May 2018 he signed on with LSU and their charismatic coach, Ed Orgeron.  The rest is history.

Fast forward to December 14, 2019.  Burrow was one of four finalists for the Heisman Trophy and, in a surprise to no one, he not only took home the trophy but did so by a wider margin than any winner in history, securing 93.8 percent of the possible points.   That alone would make him stand out in anyone’s book.  But it’s what he did next that swayed hearts and minds.  In his acceptance speech he not only thanked the usual people – his teammates, parents and coaches (including those from Ohio State), he took the opportunity of being on the big stage to remember those who have not been as fortunate as he.  Mid-way through his speech he said the following: “Coming from southeast Ohio, it’s a very impoverished area. The poverty rate is almost two times the national average. There’s so many people there that don’t have a lot. I’m up here for all those kids in Athens and Athens County that go home—not a lot of food on the table, hungry after school. You guys can be up here too.” He was crying, and I’m guessing anyone watching cried right along with him. It was a thoughtful moment – surely one to make everyone who ever had anything to do with this young man feel proud.  His dad commented the next morning that he received over 500 texts and the overwhelming majority of them congratulated him on Joe’s thoughtfulness, not the piece of hardware he’d won.  But it’s what happened next that highlights the positive impact just one high-profile athlete can have.

The following morning, Sunday, December 15th, Athens High and Ohio grad, Will Drabold, was so moved by Joe’s speech that he decided to set up a fundraiser on Facebook for the all-volunteer Athens County Food Pantry with a goal of $1,000.  By the end of that first day he had collected more than $50,000.  Major media outlets picked up on the story and by Monday morning, the total donations surged to $80,000, which happens to be the annual budget the Food Pantry.  By Tuesday, December 17th, the fund had collected more than $350,000.  Drabold raised the goal to $500,000 – why not shoot for the stars?

On Wednesday, at a local middle school, a teacher played Burrow’s Heisman speech for her students. When they finished watching the speech, she said she saw “a lot of bug eyes, like, Wow, he’s talking about us.” They sat down to write letters to Burrow. One of the boys in the class turned this in:
Dear Joe Burrow,
Thank you for showing me and other children that no matter where you’re from or your life story, if you work hard you can achieve greatness. Also, thank you for giving back to your community. You have inspired me to not be embarrassed by my life story and work hard to achieve my goals. Again, thank you very much.
The student signed his name, and under it wrote: “Just a kid from Southeast Ohio.”

On Friday, December 20th, donations to the food bank were close to $450,000.  Joe Burrow, meanwhile, accepted another token of his hard work and dedication that day – his Masters Degree in Liberal Arts from LSU.    By Sunday the total for the Food Bank topped out at more than $475,00. Karin Bright, president of the food bank’s board, was asked about the affect of the fundraising on the organization – “I truly hope this opens a conversation across the country and we finally address the issues of hunger and food insecurity in this country. We’re better than this. People in this great country should not be going to bed hungry. And for Joe Burrow to put such a personal face on it—his classmates at Athens, he knew, were going hungry. And he remembered that at this momentous time in his life.”  She said the funds that have been raised are a sacred trust, and will ensure that it is allocated with utmost respect for those who gave it.

As of this morning, game day, the total donations are $503,211.  I don’t know who will win the game tonight, but I do know that Joe Burrow has already made more of an impact off the field than on it.  Yes, thousands of people in Athens County will be less hungry this year, but really, all of us have been given a gift from this upstanding young man.  He has lifted our spirits, caused us to remember that the American people are generous and kind.  He provided a shining example of what college athletes can be.  Joe Burrow is not just a kid from southeast Ohio – he is an inspiration to us all.

So for tonight’s game I say, Geaux, Joe!

 

Wine Down to 2020

by Bob Sparrow

(The first part of this blog was accidentally posted last week as I made the first of many errors to come by putting 2019 in place of 2020.  Sorry to those who read the first half, but I encourage you to finish it, you might be surprised at the ending)

South Coast Winery – Temecula

I will drink no more . . . or no less.

I will lose, wait, no I’ll win

I will exercise . . . better judgement about exercising

No, this blog will not be resolutions that will vanish like a dog’s dinner by the end of January or about resolutions at all.  It’s about wine . . . sort of.

In spite of being born and raised just miles from America’s greatest wine region, Napa-Sonoma, I am no oenophile and definitely not a ‘wine snob’, although I will admit to often remarking, “I am too old to drink cheap wine.”  Which is why my trip to the Temecula wine region some 20 years ago was most disappointing – really bad wine.

Temecula Creek Inn

Fast forward to this past New Year’s holiday when a group of neighbors planned a trip to the Temecula wine region.  We would be staying at the Temecula Creek Inn, playing golf there and  . . . wine tasting.  It sounded like fun, except for the wine tasting.  I figured I could bring a couple of bottles of ‘good’ northern California wine and not have to drink the swill from Temecula.

I was not alone in my opinion of Temecula wine; wine experts from all over the world were rating their wines as too sweet, the aromas funky and lacking in complexity and flavors like those found in Napa or even Paso Robles.  In fact, some reviews of the Temecula wines said things like, “flavors that were not all that appealing – they smelled like burning tires or rotting cabbage.”  So the region, which consists of 33,000 acres about 85 miles southeast of Los Angeles, became known for bachelorette limo tasting tours and sub-par wine.

So, if you get invited to go wine tasting in Temecula . . . Go!

Yes, you read that right, go.

Glassy Winged Sharpshooter

Mark my words, as someone who wouldn’t have made the short trip to Temecula to taste wine if they’d sent a limo for me, there has been an amazing turn-around not only in the wine being produced, but in the atmosphere created in the 40+ wineries located there.

How was this dramatic turn-around made?  It’s complicated and includes everything from pH factors to the glassy-winged sharpshooter! The sharpshooter is a bug that was responsible for destroying 40% of the vineyards in the Temecula valley in the 1990s, which made the vintners start all over by solving the pH problem as well as creating proper vine balance and better irrigation practices.  They also planted more Italian, Rhone and Spanish varietals which are better suited to Temecula’s Mediterranean climate.

Balloons over Temecula vineyards

I don’t pretend to know anything about what I just wrote, but I tasted the wine and found my favorites, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Super Tuscany, all very good; Chardonnays and other whites were also very tasty.  It’s not Napa or Paso Robles, but it’s much improved and they’ve done a great job of making the wineries and tasting rooms aesthetically, well, wine country-like .  Additionally, unlike most other wine areas in California, Temecula allows restaurants at its wineries.  The main ‘wine trail’ in Temecula is Rancho California Road where you can find most of the major wineries as well as some beautiful homes in the surrounding hills – it’s really become a pretty classy area.  You can get a ‘bird’s eye view’ of it all via hot air balloons, whose colorful canopies populate the morning Temecula sky.

So the new year for me began with an unexpected pleasant surprise – hopefully a harbinger of things to come for us all this year.

CELEBRATE 2020 – EAT GRAPES, POUR LEAD, DROP A POTATO!

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Well, here we are again, ready to ring out the old and ring in the new.  Personally, I’ll be glad to ring out the old since it did such a good job of ringing me out this year.  But hope springs eternal for 2020.  There is something inherently optimistic about a new year.  This year we also get the double whammy of anticipating a new decade.  To get us in the mood for New Year’s Eve I researched some of the more unique ways people celebrate the new year around the world.  Trust me, after reading about some of the customs you’re going to feel a whole lot better about your stale bottle of champagne and Cheetos.

The 12 Grapes of Luck – In Spain and some Latin American countries, one New Year’s tradition is to eat 12 grapes, one for each month of the coming year, to secure prosperity. Here’s the challenge: you need to eat one grape with each bell strike at midnight. I think this would be a whole lot easier if we could drink our grapes in a nice Chardonnay.  The likelihood of me choking on a grape is quite high with this one.

Pouring Lead – Who doesn’t want to know what the next year might bring? In Germany, people melt small pieces of lead in a spoon over a candle, then pour the liquid into cold water. The bizarre shapes from the lead pouring (or Bleigießen as it’s known) are supposed to reveal what the year ahead will bring. If the lead forms a ball, luck will roll one’s way, while the shape of a crown means wealth; a cross signifies death and a star will bring happiness.  It kind of puts a whole new spin on “get the lead out”.

Scarecrow Burning – In Ecuador, people build scarecrow-like dolls of politicians, pop stars, or other notable figures to set them alight. Burning the año viejo (old year) is meant to destroy all the bad things from the last year and cleanse for the new.  You can see the potential here, right?  Is it possible to build a scarecrow that exactly replicates Washington DC?

Round Food, Round Clothes, Round Everything – In the Philippines, the start of the new year is all about the money. The locals believe that surrounding themselves with round things (to represent coins) will bring money or fortune. As a result, clothes with polka dots are worn and round food is eaten. I think this one is right in my wheelhouse.  After all, cake and cookies are both round.  By this measure I should be Bill Gates by now.

Tossing Furniture – “Out with the old” is the motto in Naples, where people toss everything from toasters to fridges off their balconies. Getting rid of old possessions symbolizes a fresh start in the new year. To prevent serious injuries, most locals stick to small and soft objects for their throwing tradition, though it’s still a good idea to watch your head should you travel there.  Nothing like being hit on the head by a refrigerator to put a cramp in your Italian vacation.

Animal Spirits – Rural Romania is steeped in tradition. New Year’s Eve celebrations include mask dances and ceremonies about death and rebirth. Dancers dress up in furs and wooden masks depicting goats, horses, or bears, then dance from house to house to ward off evil spirits. The dance of the bear is the most popular. According to pre-Christian folklore, if a bear enters somebody’s house, it brings prosperity, health, and good fortune.  Yeah, tell that to all the people at Tahoe who have “entertained” bears in their house.

The Potato Drop – With less tradition but more high-tech, the people of downtown Boise will welcome the new year by dropping a giant spud from the sky. More than 40,000 spectators turn up to see the internally lit, 400-pound “GlowTato.” Frankly, my husband and I love Boise and have been visiting there for more than 30 years.  Lately it has been overrun by Californians escaping the taxes and high housing prices and it has changed dramatically.  I think the Potato Drop is a “jumping the shark” moment for this formerly low-key town.

Personally, I’ll be sitting in front of a fire eating a great dinner and watching the Utah Utes beat the Texas Longhorns in the Alamo Bowl.  It may not be exciting but it beats getting hit on the head with a Barcalounger.

Bob and I would like to wish all of our subscribers and readers a very happy and healthy 2020.

 

Christmas – All Quiet on the Western Front . . . for a Day

by Bob Sparrow

In the last three weeks we’ve given you a) some crazy gift ideas, b) some little-known and less care about Christmas’s in other parts of the world and, perhaps most important of all, we’ve given you c) the recipe to Dad’s Christmas Ice Cream Fizz.  Yet, Christmas isn’t here yet, so this week there’s more Christmas stuff that could possibly help get you into the Christmas ‘spirits’.

The Pooper

We’ll start with what I have found to be the  most ridiculous way that Christmas is celebrated. The Catalonia region of Spain (around Barcelona) is known for its somewhat unorthodox wooden toys and statuettes. El Caganer (which would roughly translate as The Pooper) is one of them. A mysterious figure that insists on pooping wherever he’s placed; this dwarfish, leering figure is part of any Christmas stall or arrangement of figurines. He’s even placed in Nativity Scenes. – and they blamed that smell on the cattle in the manger!

Getting a fruitcake this Christmas?  As it turns out, the rumor that there is only one fruitcake in the world and it just keeps getting passed around, is true.  It’s fairly common knowledge that hardly anyone actually enjoys eating this holiday loaf, but because of its great significance in the All American Christmas, each year many hosts are forced to smile falsely and pretend to be elated at receiving this baked good that can crack a kitchen counter top.  This cake, containing all kinds of fruits and nuts, is derived from the British “Christmas Cake” but has roots in Roman times. Perhaps that Roman fruitcake is the one that is still circulating.

There are all kinds of Christmas traditions and stories from all around the world, but the one that is most sensational and heart-warming to me, is the one that took place in Belgium during WWI – the ‘Christmas truce’.

Meeting in ‘No Man’s Land’

On December 24, 1914 it began when German troops began to light candles and sing Christmas carols and the British soldiers would either join in from their own trenches or start singing their own carols.  Then, certainly without permission from high command, a German messenger walked across ‘No Man’s Land’ to broker a temporary cease-fire agreement.  Soon troops from both sides walked bravely onto ‘No Man’s Land’ and met, talked and exchanged food, souvenirs and cigarettes with one another.  They even played a game of football (soccer) which the Germans won 2-0.  It should be noted that the British got revenge when the Germans lost the war.  The British also won the ‘rubber match’ when Germany was defeated in WWII.

While this event was the first of its kind and certainly the most publicized, nearly 100,000 British and German troops participated in a ‘Christmas truce’ that year all along the Western Front.  In fact, there are similar stories of this same thing happening on the Eastern Front.  As expected, the commanders from both sides were not happy with this fraternization and soon put an end to ‘peace on earth, good will towards men’.

It is so sad that the great message in this story seems to have been lost in history.

The entire staff here at ‘From A Bird’s Eye View’ (OK, just Suzanne and me) hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season and a happy and healthy new year.

JOY TO THE WORLD (WITH A SPLASH OF GIN)

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

        A jolly man indeed

 

Christmas is a lot like golf.  We have visions of greatness and perfection but the reality is often closer to a bogey.  Some years maybe even a double bogey.  As we get older the holiday season can be more difficult, remembering those who are no longer with us or who we no longer see.  I think many people become sentimental about Christmases past when life seemed simpler. Personally, when I’m in the midst of the Christmas fray I long for the Christmases of my childhood when all I had to do is show up. No shopping, wrapping, cooking, cleaning – just act excited about the gifts under the tree.  I say “act” because there were a lot of years when I found my gifts in my mother’s not-so-secret hiding place and knew exactly what I was getting.  Mostly what I miss are the fun family gatherings, laughing and enjoying each other’s company.  There are people who are lucky enough to live close to their families, thus avoiding the packing and mailing of gifts and – worse yet – traveling to see loved ones, but they are becoming fewer and farther to find.  I hardly know anyone anymore who doesn’t deal with some sort of hassle or drama around the holidays.

Which is why this is a good time to reflect on those things in which we can take joy and perhaps be a bit kinder to one another.  It’s often said that we never know what problems people have from looking at the outside.  I’m sure we’ve all known people who appear to “have everything” and yet in reality have significant problems.  And that includes the person who cuts in line at the supermarket or honks their horn in traffic.  Maybe they’re just jerks.  Or maybe the holiday season is particularly difficult for them – the loss of a loved one, illness, a lost job – seem magnified right now.  Throw in all that’s going on in the world, and life can become a bit overwhelming. Which is why a little kindness can go a long way in making someone’s day just a bit better.

In my effort to be a bit more kind I don’t have to look far for an example.  Our dad was the kindest man I’ve ever known.  Coupled with his hysterical sense of humor, he was a force to be reckoned with.  He was in his element at Christmas, with his children gathered around him and hosting friends and family.  I miss him all year long but most especially this season.  So in his memory, I once again provide you with his famous Christmas Ice Cream Fizz recipe.  He served it every Christmas morning and it gave a roseate hue to the entire day. We share his recipe in the hopes that it might help you all enjoy the holidays just a bit more.  After all, ice cream and gin – how kind is that?

POP’S CHRISTMAS ICE CREAM FIZZ

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 positive spin on everyone and every thing!
Our mom served them in a wine glass with a dash of nutmeg. As we got older we conspired with Pop and ditched the wine glass for a chilled beer mug from the freezer. Saved having to go back for seconds…or thirds.

Wishing all of our subscribers a very happy holiday season! Cheers!

Rudolph’s Medical Issue, A KFC Xmas and Other Holiday Curiosities

by Bob Sparrow

Santa’s High-Tech Sleigh

Now that you’ve been given those great gift ideas from Suzanne’s blog last week, I thought I’d continue that December Christmas theme with some little-known and less-cared about Christmas facts.

I really shouldn’t have even put my name on this one, since my search of the topic this week sent me to Roger Highfield’s book, The Physics of Christmas: From the Aerodynamics of Reindeer to the Thermodynamics of Turkeyas well as humorous comments on the book, from Amsterdam marketer, Alexandra Libina.  Highfield’s book raises questions that I’m sure you’ve all pondered; such as, Can Reindeer Fly? Why is Santa Fat?  Why is Rudolph’s Nose Red? How Does Santa Manage to Deliver Presents to an Estimated 842 Million Households in a Single Night?  If you’ve struggled with some of these conundrums, here finally are some answers . . .

  • Is Santa pretty much the same all over the world?  No, in Holland, Sinterklass (the Dutch version of Santa Claus) arrives from Spain, not the North Pole, and his helpers are not adorable hard-working elves, but rather (now politically-incorrect) black-faced boys and girls who can steal your kids if they misbehave and bring them back to Spain, which according to the Dutch is a severe punishment. Travel tip: Don’t take your kids to Holland for Christmas.

 

  • How does Santa deliver all those toys all over the world in one night?  The number of children and households in the world would indicate that Santa would have to make 842 million stops on Christmas Eve, traveling some 221 million miles.  Given the different time zones, Santa has 36 hours to deliver all the gifts and thus would have to average a speed of approximately 650 miles

    Santa relaxing after a time-warp Christmas Eve

    second.  It is less than the speed of light, therefore theoretically possible, but extremely difficult, particularly for a chubby old man.  So how does he do it?  He ‘stretches time’ like a rubber band, which actually gives him months to deliver gifts while only a few minutes pass for the rest of us.  Just believe!

 

  •   What’s the the most popular time for couples to break up?  Couples are more likely to end their relationship two weeks before Christmas and two weeks after Valentine’s day, during the spring break. Christmas Day, however, is the least favorite day for breakups.  So if you can make it through this week, you should be good . . . at least until after Valentine’s Day.

 

  • Haven’t you always wondered what the Japanese eat for Christmas dinner?  Probably not, because the percentage of Christian people in Japan is close to zero, but due to a post-WW II ad campaign every Christmas, kids and grown-ups head to the closest KFC to enjoy some fried chicken – the closest food to turkey that you can get in Japan.  Chopsticks lickin’ good!

 

  • Is it sacrilegious to substitute an ‘X’ for Christ when writing Xmas?  No, it does not take the “Christ” out of Christmas, no one is taking “Christ” anywhere. In the Greek alphabet, the letter X (“chi”) is the first letter of the Greek word for Christ.  Yeah, it’s all Greek to me too.

 

  • Why is Rudolph’s nose red? The original Rudolph did not have a red nose, as red noses were seen

    Female or Castrated? (the deer not Santa!)

    as an indicator of chronic alcoholism and no one wanted him to look like a drunkard.   Quite simply his red nose is a result of a parasitic infection of his respiratory system.  Another seldom-known fact is that Rudolph’s original name was Reginald.

  • Is there a gender issue with the Santa’s reindeer?  Possibly, since most of the reindeer names are masculine and it is a known fact that male reindeer shed their antlers in the winter, so Santa’s team is either made up of all females or castrated males.  There’s a cheery Christmas thought.

 

  • How did Christmas cards help our POWs? Bicycle, the U.S. playing card company, manufactured cards to give all the POWS in Germany during World War II as Christmas presents. These cards, when soaked in water, revealed an escape route for POWs. Colonel Klink and the rest of the Nazi never knew.

 

OUR ANNUAL USELESS GIFT GIVING GUIDE

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Well, here we are…it’s Christmas shopping season again.  This year the panic over what to buy those you love (or simply tolerate) is compounded by the fact that it’s a short shopping season.  Compared to last year, there are six fewer days to find the perfect gift.  Or any gift.  Which means that we here at From A Bird’s Eye View are here to help with our annual Useless Gift giving guide.

First on the docket is something that is just the thing for your next dinner party – Red Solo Cup Wine Glasses.  Sometimes it’s hard to find the right balance between formal and “we’re glad you wore a shirt at the table” casualness.  For those who can’t quite decide whether to break out Grandma’s crystal or stick with a backyard BBQ theme this is the perfect solution.  They are also known as Redneck Wine Glasses.  They hit the right note between fine dining and ripping open a bag of salad.

The next find is simply genius – Snittens – The Original Snot Mittens.  How many times have you been skiing when your nose begins to drip like a faucet?  There’s a reason the ski resorts have Kleenex boxes everywhere.  No one wants to see frozen snot.  Enter Snittens – mittens that are specifically designed to keep your nose dry.  In fact, they advertise that the mitten absorbs 28x its weight in snot and tears.  The palm side is designed for tears, while the backside mops up snot.  It was 37 degrees this morning when we took Dash the Wonder Dog out for a walk and believe me, I could have used some Snittens.

Next is a gift for the man who is embarrassed by his physique.  Maybe he’s been working out at the gym this year and is a little wary of meeting up with the rest of the family of flabby butts.  The solution?  The Dad Bod Belt.  All he needs to do is slip this on, maybe get a Redneck Wine Glass, and he’ll fit right in with the rest of the family.

 

The next gift is perfect for the animal lover on your list.  Maybe not your average cat or dog person, but instead someone who has chickens.  The Chicken Harness is a solution to … well, I don’t know what, but imagine the poor chicken owner looking longingly at his or her neighbors who can take their dog for a walk.  Now with this invention they can join in the fun at the dog park.  The manufacturer claims that it is easy to take on and off (I would hope so because no one likes to tussle with a chicken), washable (again, self-explanatory) and a conversation starter.  I would think so.

I am a klutz.  I am constantly bumping into walls and dropping things on my feet.  I’m not hinting or anything but the Bubble Wrap suit is right up my alley.  Made from real bubble wrap and fastened with Velcro, it is easy to slip on and off and protects you from injury and general clumsiness.  It has the added attraction of providing entertainment for those people who find it fascinating to pop bubble wrap.  Of course, that defeats its protective qualities but could keep a grandchild entertained for hours.

Finally, speaking of grandchildren, for those of us who have little boys in the family there is seemingly nothing more hilarious than when Grandpa teaches them the old “pull my finger” trick.  Well now that sentiment can be part of your cherished holiday celebration with the Pull My Finger Santa.  I’m tempted to say that this will keep the grandkids in stitches but frankly, and speaking from some experience, I think Grandpa is the one who finds it so side-splitting.  Whatever.  If people are laughing at family celebrations the source doesn’t really matter.

I hope this practical guide to the impractical lessens your holiday shopping stress.  We strive to be helpful.

 

 

 

This Week in History

by Bob Sparrow

Following are historical happenings that took place this week; some, more interesting than others, but all more interesting than what I did.

1582 – Eighteen-year-old William Shakespeare marries pregnant 25-year-old Anne Hathaway.  Just like the question about his authoring all those plays, it was speculated that the baby was Christopher Marlowe’s.

1826 – Jedediah Smith is the first white man to cross the Mohave Desert, leaving from the Great Salt Lake in Utah and arriving in San Diego.  He would have made it in less time, but stopped in Palm Springs to play two rounds of golf and get a massage.

1842 – Ada Lovelace, daughter of poet Lord Byron and English mathematician, was the first computer programmer. She is chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbag’s (the father of computers) mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. Her notes on the engine include an algorithm to calculate Bernoulli numbers. This is recognized as the first algorithm intended to be carried out by a machine, making her the first computer programmer.

Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio

1914 – Joe DiMaggio, real name Giuseppe Paolo DiMaggio, Jr. was born.  Only player in major leagues to be selected to the All-Star Game in every season he played.  His 56-game hitting streak in 1941 still stands today!  Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?

1921 – Comedian Rodney Dangerfield was born and as Rodney recalls, he was so ugly that when he was born the doctor smacked his mother.

1931 – Tommy Allsup was born.   Allsup was the lead guitarist in Buddy Holly and the Crickets and was touring with Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and J.P. ‘The Big Bopper’ Richardson when he lost a coin toss with Valens for a seat on the plane. The plane crashed, killing Valens, Holly, Richardson, and the pilot, while Allsup was a survivor of ‘The Day the Music Died’.

1940 – Brothers Maurice and Dick McDonald start McDonald’s hamburger chain, with some stale buns, a dried out pickle and a small tasteless patty of meat.  Everyone loved it!

1952 – First 3-D movie, Bwana Devil premiers. The audience was required to wear special Polaroid viewers. The movie Bwana Devil was based on a true story about two man-eating lions who would drag railroad construction workers at night from their tents and eat them.  I’m guessing it wasn’t a musical-comedy.

1976 – Buffalo Bills running back, O.J. Simpson ran for 273 yards in a game against Detroit and he’s been running ever since . . . presumably in search of the real killer

1992 – IBM debuts the “Angler”. It combined a mobile phone and PDA allowing the user to make and receive telephone calls, facsimiles, emails and pages. It also included a calendar, address book, notepad, maps, stocks, and news – the first ‘smart phone’.

End of Planet of the Apes

1993 – Anna Nicole Smith, real name, Vickie Lynn Marshall or Giuseppe Paolo DiMaggio, Jr., American actress, model, Playmate of the Year. At age 26, she married 89-year-old billionaire J. Howard Marshall.
Quote: “I’m sick of being accused of gold-digging. It just so happens I get turned on by liver spots.”

3978 – Astronauts land on a mysterious planet ruled by apes – the calendar on their spacecraft, as seen in the movie, Planet of the Apes, read November 25, 3978.

2019 – Bob Sparrow went nowhere, did nothing and had no interesting observations to put in the blog.

THANKSGIVING WITH THE PILGRIMS… A SHAM?

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

   The real First Thanksgiving -in Jamestown

I am a Masterpiece Theater junkie.  I think I’ve watched every program they’ve broadcast, from the divine Upstairs, Downstairs to the questionable Press.  One of my favorite contemporary series is Jamestown.  It so fascinated me that I decided to do some research and read a bit more about it.  So I bought the book, Marooned: Jamestown, Shipwreck, and a New History of America’s Origin, by James Kelly.  Not only was it an exciting tale of intrigue, human behavior and the founding of our current form of government, it contradicted just about everything I learned in school about America’s “first” colony. But wait a minute, wasn’t Plymouth Rock the site of our first colony?  I’ve been eating two pieces of pumpkin pie for years as a tribute to the Pilgrims’ founding of our nation.  Well, according to Mr. Kelly – not so fast.  Turns out, like a lot of history, the story of the Mayflower settlers vs. those in Jamestown was colored by the fact that winners write the history books.  So, if like me, you might be interested in the following fast facts.

  • In 1606, King James I granted a charter to a new venture, the Virginia Company, to form a settlement in North America. They referred to the entire Atlantic Coast as “Virginia”, named after Elizabeth I, the “virgin queen”.  Perhaps the most mileage anyone has ever gotten out of being a virgin.
  •  Three ships set out from England that fall with 100 settlers, all men.  The group was fairly evenly divided among “gentlemen”, who had no clue about how to do anything useful, and “commoners”, who at least knew how to swing a hammer or plant a field.  They landed in May 1607 at Chesapeake Bay and soon discovered the flaw in their plan – half the group was completely useless except for bickering and jockeying for power.  Finally, they elected one of the sea captains, Christopher Newport, to head the governing council.
  • In the summer of 1607, Newport headed back to England with two ships and 40 crewmembers to give a report to the king and to gather more supplies and colonists. Those 40 crewmembers were all “gentlemen” because the “commoners” had discovered by then that they were really considered indentured servants by the Company and had no rights at all.  The settlers left behind suffered greatly from hunger and illnesses like typhoid and dysentery.  They also lived under constant threat of attack by members of local Algonquian tribes, most of which were organized into a kind of empire under Chief Powhatan.
  •               The beautiful Pocahontas

    It was at this point John Smith, rose as the leader of the remaining settlers and forged a relationship with the Chief and his daughter, Pocahontas.  Pocahontas saved Smith’s life when he was a captive of the Algonquians and their relationship was the basis of a peaceful decade of trade between the settlers and Native Americans.  You remember all those pictures you saw in textbooks of the “first” Thanksgiving in 1621?  John Smith was actually the one who broke bread (okay, it was corn but you get the idea) fourteen years prior to that.

  • By 1619, Company officials and investors wanted to make the colony at Jamestown permanent. Bringing over more English women, particularly women of an elevated social position, seemed to be the solution.  The belief was that the presence of marriageable women would make the men work harder, invest more of themselves in the colony, and improve the poor quality of life that discouraged many settlers from making Virginia a permanent home.  And, might I mention, they added a bit of common sense to the mix.  If you watch the Jamestown series on Masterpiece, this is the time frame in which it is set.
  • In 1619, the colony established a General Assembly with members elected by Virginia’s male landowners; it would become a model for representative governments in later colonies.

              Captain John Smith

I could go on and on but by now I know you’re weeping with boredom.  Let me just finish with this – why do we celebrate the Pilgrims each November rather than the settlers of Jamestown?  As I mentioned at the beginning, it is in large part due to the old adage, “the winners write history”.  Jamestown, in the form of John Smith and Pocahontas, became part of southern culture.  John Smith wrote a book, General History, about his experiences but by the mid-1800’s  Northern scholars, mostly from Massachusetts, began attacking Smith’s credibility.  In the 1840’s the well-written description of the Mayflower settlement, Of Plimouth Planation, was discovered and was mass produced in 1856.  Thanksgiving was first celebrated as a national holiday in 1863, as a day to thank God for the advancing army and navy of the Union.  The Union victory gave New England a decisive moral advantage for the next several generations as no one was going to look to the South for a story about America’s birth.

 

I hope this peaks your interest a bit in Jamestown.  Or not.  I understand not everyone is as interested in this stuff as I am.  There is so much to discover in this story but even if you don’t read any more about it you might toast those poor souls who founded Jamestown next Thursday.  It’s as good an excuse as any to have another glass of wine.