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!

 

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.

 

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!

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

HAPPY NATIONAL “COLOR THE WORLD ORANGE” DAY!

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

I’m going to guess you were unaware that today is National Color the World Orange Day or that last Saturday was National Deviled Egg Day.  Really.  I wasn’t aware of it either until I saw a random post on Facebook about it.  Had I known I would have whipped up a batch to snack on.  Or not – they’re a pain in the neck to make and by the time I load in heaps of mayonnaise I’m not sure the nutritional value is all that great.  But it dawned on me that we seem to be celebrating some obscure item or event every day.  Turns out, there actually are “National Day” calendars that will keep you up on date on what you should be feting on any given day.  As one might expect, some days are better than others.  National Cupcake Day, for instance, beats the heck out of National Sauerkraut Day.  Frankly, I have enough trouble remembering the real holidays, you know, like President’s Day and Labor Day, without throwing deviled eggs into the mix.  But I find this time of year when I have already been bombarded with Christmas decorations everywhere I go, perhaps a little diversion isn’t a bad thing.  So here are some upcoming “days” that might be worth marking on your calendar.

November 14th is National Family Pajama Day. Frankly, I think the timing of this day is a bit suspicious.  After all, lots of families buy matching pj’s for Christmas and ordering them mid-November allows for delivery before the Christmas Tree goes up.  I suspect the pajama industry is behind this one.  November 22 is National Cranberry Relish Day, followed by Eat A Cranberry Day on the 23rd.  I think someone didn’t reach too far to come up with those “celebrations”.  Perhaps the “day” that makes the most sense is November 27th – National Tie One On Day.  It is celebrated each year on the day before Thanksgiving.  Anyone who has ever hosted Thanksgiving with battling relatives or, worse yet, people with 87 different food allergies/requirements needs to go into the holiday with as much fortification as possible.  Speaking of which, November 28th is not only Thanksgiving Day this year, but according to the “day” calendar it is also “National Turkey-Free Thanksgiving Day“.  What the hell is the point of that?

For those of you who work, November 30 is National Stay At Home Because You’re Well day.  The theory is if you’re feeling well then you should play hooky from work and go do something enjoyable.  My dirty little secret is that I used to do this every July. I highly recommend it.  As we swing into December you’ll be happy to know that December 1 is not only National Pie Day but, not so coincidentally, it’s National Eat a Red Apple Day so you can knock out two celebrations in one.  December 8th is National Time Traveler Day and I suspect there are many of us who would like to time travel our way right into the middle of January.  December 13 is National Make Friends with a Pathologist Day which they recommend observing by making friends with a pathologist or a coroner.  Sounds a little creepy to me. For those of you who watched “Seinfeld” you’ll be happy to celebrate December 23rd as Festivus – the holiday for the rest of us.

December 30th is National Bicarbonate of Soda Day, which seems like it ought to be observed either the day after Thanksgiving or New Year’s Day, but hey, I’m not the one making up the calendar.  In fact, the whole “day” calendar thing seems a bit goofy to me  I’m sure the trade groups are behind most of them.  So I’m going to go on celebrating the traditional holidays and give a nod to just one of the “days” – August 26th is National Love Your Dog Day.  Now that’s something worth celebrating!

 

 

MY BROTHER IS IN A FOG

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

 

Yes, it’s me again.  My brother has a good excuse for being absent this morning.  In fact, one could even say he has been in a fog.  This past week he was playing a special role –  Father of Groom. His youngest child, and only son, Jeff, got married over the weekend.  It was a fabulous affair but I’m not going to provide any spoilers.  My brother will be back next week with a full description of the festivities and pictures of the highlights.  Instead, I’m going to follow up on my post of last week because several of you (okay, maybe it was three) asked me for recommendations for the British shows I’m streaming in lieu of the news.  I’ll start with some of the ones I’ve already watched and then provide the results of my research on the subject.  Fair warning:  everyone has different tastes.  For example, Fleabag on Amazon’s Prime Video ran away with the Emmy awards.  I watched two episodes and just couldn’t get excited about it.  So, for better or worse, here are my recommendations.

  1. Downton Abby (Amazon) – This is first because it’s so obvious.  You need to watch this if you are at all interested in English lifestyles and good acting.  There’s a reason it was renewed for six seasons and now is a feature film.  It has some unexpected twists and the high-arch eyebrow of Maggie Smith’s tart observations.
  2. Victoria (Amazon and PBS) – This is still a current offering from the PBS Masterpiece Theater program, with Season 4 due out this winter.  But you can catch up on the first three seasons on Amazon.  Again, great history and the bonus of getting to see Victoria’s Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Dash, for whom my CKCS was named.
  3. The Crown (Netflix and HBO) – Just when you thought this series couldn’t get any better they announced that the delightful and very talented Olivia Coleman is going to take over the role of Queen Elizabeth and the quirky Helena Bonham Carter will play Princess Margaret in the next season.  I can’t wait!
  4.  Broadchurch (Netflix) – speaking of Olivia Coleman, she co-stars in this murder mystery that carries on over three seasons.  Well worth watching.  In fact, I recommended it to a friend and she thanked me for it.  So…you’re welcome.
  5.  The Fall (Netflix) – hurry up if you want to watch this because it goes off of Netflix at the end of October.  Like Broadchurch, it is a three season series that continues the same storyline about a mass murderer in Belfast throughout all three seasons.  Okay, not exactly light viewing but it stars Gillian Anderson and she is reason enough to watch.
  6.  The Great British Baking Show (Netflix) – I needed something a little joyful after watching The Fall so what better to turn to than this wonderful show that features 12 bakers each season vying to become the best baker in Britain.  After all, there is cake involved.  Lots of cake.  The contestants are engaging and it’s actually interesting to compare desserts across the pond from what we typically serve here.  The first few seasons featured the lovely Mary Cherry (yes, that’s really her name) but frankly all of the hosts and comedians they feature on the show have been terrific.
  7.  Sherlock (Netflix) – This program aired on PBS for a few years but now you can stream all four seasons.  The plots are always tricky, as in hard to figure out, and Benedict Cumberbatch is so fun to watch.  There are rumors about a Season 5 – let’s hope so.
  8. Poldark (Amazon) – Again, this is a Masterpiece Theater program that is currently showings the fifth and final season on PBS, but you can catch up on the first four seasons on Amazon.  The series takes place in Cornwall and the stunning views of the cliffs and countryside alone make it worth watching.  The story is very compelling – good guys vs. bad, poor vs rich, workers vs dandies.  WELL worth watching.
  9. Call the Midwife (Netflix) – For a wonderful throw-back show you can’t do much better than this  The series starts in the 1950’s, featuring midwives in East London, still riding bicycles to their appointments and delivering babies at home.  This show is also still current, with the latest season taking place in the mid-60’s.  It is fascinating to follow the progression of societal norms and maternity practices, not to mention hairstyles and music, over that decade.

I could go on keep going but I do want to get to some of the shows that came up in just about every result in my research for “best British shows to stream”.  So, here they are in no particular order:  The Bodyguard (Netflix), A Very English Scandal (Amazon), Peaky Blinders (Netflix), Lovesick (Netflix), Happy Valley (Netflix), Luther (Netflix), The IT Crowd (Netflix), Father Brown (Netflix) and Doc Martin (Acorn).  

Finally, if you want to skip back to this side of the pond and feel good about yourself, Netflix offers Nailed It!, an American take-off on the British baking shows.  The contestants are shown a lovely dessert drawn from the impossible-to-replicate photos on Pinterest and then asked to create it.  There are three seasons ready for streaming and it’s worth watching for the humor and to see just how out of touch people are about their baking abilities. Honestly, by the end you’ll feel so much better about your lopsided birthday cake.

If you have any recommendations please share them in the “Comments” section here.  After all, we’re going into an election year and we need to get prepared.

 

ALL THE NEWS THAT’S FIT TO SPEW

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

I met up with a friend at the gym last week and as she was whirling away on the stationary bike she tried to find an unbiased news report on one of the five TV’s in front of her.  “Where do you go to get unbiased news”, she asked, as she swiveled between CNN, Fox and MSNBC.   “Sesame Street”, I responded, “it tells me everything I need to get by in life”.  I was only half-kidding but it is a subject I’ve been thinking about in this increasingly divisive atmosphere we’re in.  As my brother correctly pointed out last week, we are Presbyterians so we don’t wade into the political fray in this forum.  However, I will observe that every network seems to have camped out on one part of the divide or the other and they’re all getting richer for it.  The networks obviously pander to their audience, grasping for ratings and ad revenue at the expense of our edification.

 

I know I’m not the only one who is disgusted by the news coverage.  Sure, I could watch C-SPAN all day long but that smacks of being a bit too nerdy, not to mention my tolerance for windbags is at low ebb right now.  I consulted my friend, Google, and found several charts that basically tell us what we already know – a few organizations (mostly print) try for impartiality, but most fall into either left-or-right leaning, and then there’s a whole category on the bottom of both sides that is garbage.  So, where DO we go?  I found a website, allsides.com, that provides articles on the same subject by left, center and right leaning print media.  That seems like a whole lot of reading for me.  I’m trying to think of a subject that would interest me enough to read three articles about it.  Outside of the Food section, I couldn’t think of one.   One could always go to mediabiasfactcheck.com but there are a LOT of ads and it’s a bit distracting.  Snopes, of course, has been the go-to for figuring out internet and Facebook claims but there are wide-ranging topics one has to wade through, such as today’s top question: Can the snakehead fish survive on land?  I’m sure that’s of great interest to the snakehead fish, but I venture it’s of limited interest to everyone else.

What I really long for are newscasts that present information in a factual way, and then have really smart people debate the issue in-depth so that I can sort through the facts and form my own opinion.  For those of us of a certain age, we can recall the 60 Minutes segment, Point/Counterpoint featuring Shana Alexander and James Kilpatrick.  It was good old-fashioned sparring over a new topic each week and was always good entertainment as well.  So good, in fact, that it spawned the Saturday Night Live parody of it featuring Dan Ackroyd and Jane Curtin.  Its seminal line may have been, “Jane, you ignorant slut”.  Mark Shields and David Brooks do a political point/counterpoint on the Friday night edition of The PBS News Hour, but somehow, it just isn’t the same.

The upshot of all this is I barely watch the news at all anymore.  I read a bit and try to vary my periodicals so I get different opinions.  I’m saving my TV watching for Netflix.  I just looked up the 20 most popular British TV series, many of which have multiple seasons available for viewing.  The advantage of the British shows is that you get to hear that glorious accent and there aren’t any references to American politics.  I’m hoping these shows will keep me occupied though the 2020 election. If not, there’s always BritBox.

 

 

 

FROM HEAVENLY TO HELOISE

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

              What we’re missing

I hope you’ve all recovered from my brother’s trip to Italy.  It sounds like it was truly the trip of a lifetime and I’m so glad we could go with him on the journey.  I had hoped to take you along this week on our trip to Mammoth Lakes but, alas, my husband had a small procedure on his calf that prevented us from going.  So, the picture you see here is from our trip a few years ago just so you can see what you’re missing.  Actually, I was okay with cancelling our trip since I’m still on a mission to re-do every room in the house.  I have entertained myself this whole, long, hot summer by buying things and moving furniture around.  Neither Dash the Wonder Dog nor my husband are quite as entertained by this as I have been, what with their stumbling into things in the night and having to sniff out new napping spots.  I let you guess which one is doing what.

Sun Valley Escape

In any event, all my staying home and working on the house these past few months has produced some “Aha!” moments that I thought I’d pass along.  After all, we here at A Bird’s Eye View pride ourselves in providing lots of useless information just to add more clutter to everyone’s already overloaded memory.  The first product I found this summer is a game-changer for anyone who loves to hang, and then re-hang, pictures.  A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to get some great shots of our trip to Sun Valley and decided to blow about 10 of them up into canvas prints.  I also have a little room we use as a library where I had hung numerous family photos.  In my frenzy this summer I decided everything needed a new home but that left me with lots of little holes in walls.  I know, I could use Command strips but I once had a picture fall from one and ruin a baseboard so I’m not a fan.  Enter a little miracle worker – 3M Patch Plus Primer 4-in-1.

The four components of it are: spackle, primer, putty knife and sander.  YES!!  All in one tube.  You simply put a drop cloth down in case you’re a klutz like me, squeeze the tube to place a little of the spackle/primer in the nail hole, smooth it with the other end of the tube which is creatively fashioned like a putty knife, let it dry for a few minutes and then sand it with the end of the tube cap (which is covered with sand paper).  I was nervous the first time I tried it, but by the third hole I was walking around the house looking for things to spackle.  I repaired nicks in baseboards (see above comment about Command strips) and dents in door moldings.  It was like crack cocaine – nothing escaped my 4-in-1.  Then I broke out the paint cans and touched up when I’d spackled and – voila! – good as new.  It so far exceeded my expectations and was so simple to use that it made we wonder why more companies don’t come up with great products like this.  I’m thinking maybe the painter’s union wouldn’t like this because it certainly cuts into the amount of times you have to call in the reinforcements for nail holes.

The second product I found this summer is the Rock Doctor Cleaner and Polisher for natural stone .  I think I’ve mentioned that we had a travertine dining table sanded and resealed a couple of months ago so while I had the guy here I asked about doing my granite counter tops.  He told me he wouldn’t take my money (already I liked this guy) and referred me to the Rock Doctor brand of products.  Both Home Depot and Lowe’s carries it so it’s easily available.  I’ve been using it ever since and my countertops are as good as when they were new.  Ironically, you have to wipe down the counter before you use the cleaner, which to me is a bit like cleaning before the cleaning person comes, but I guess it’s to eliminate anything that might scratch the surface.  The Polisher sprays on like car wax and then you buff it in the same way – brings back memories of when I used to keep my car in better condition.

Anyway, those are my handy tips from the summer.  It’s not Italy.  Shoot – it’s not even Mammoth Lakes.  But I can guarantee that you won’t have holes in your walls or dull stone and that’s worth something!

SUR-PRISE, SUR-PRISE, SUR-PRISE!

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Wedding anniversaries are something to be celebrated. Those of us who are married recognize that making it through another year of love, fun, in-laws at Thanksgiving and arguments about who should take the garbage out is something to be celebrated. This past weekend brother Bob and his wife, Linda, celebrated their 40th anniversary and the best part is, they didn’t have to plan a thing. In fact, they were the honorees at a surprise party planned and hosted by their three children, Stephanie, Dana and Jeff (and their respective spouses, of course). Linda’s sister, Starlet and I flew in to add to the surprise. And believe me, it was a real surprise because unbeknownst to them, we planned on staying at their house for the weekend.

FUN neighborhood group with bad boy Marc Webb

I admit, I was unaware of the traditions associated with a 40th anniversary so I consulted with my friend Google and, as usual, learned just how ignorant I am.  Turns out, the traditional gift for a 40th anniversary is a ruby. It was chosen because of its deep, rich color and symbolism of devotion and passion for life. WOW…I couldn’t think of a more perfect description of Bob and Linda. They are both curious, fun-loving, optimistic and enthusiastic about all that they do. As you can see from the photos, they (and their friends, I might add) really know how to have a good time. When I think of them, I conjure up images of people who really know how to take a big bite out of the apple. After the initial shock, and fortified by a little libation, they laughed, joked and enjoyed the evening as only they could.

Dana, Jeff, Stephanie – three FABULOUS kids!

Another traditional 40th anniversary gift is a party. Well…this one was one for the ages. The three kids did a fabulous job of organizing, decorating and planning down to the smallest detail. The decorations were right out of Pinterest and the photos kept everyone reminiscing and laughing all night. It’s rather humbling to look at photos of yourself from 40 years ago. There were just a few of us who were at their wedding and we kept squinting at the pictures, marveling at when we had either more hair or tighter skin. But one thing that remained the same is that Bob and Linda were fun-loving and family-oriented then and they have kept that ball rolling for 40 years. The fact that their children threw the party tells you everything you need to know about how beloved they are and what terrific and supportive parents they have been.  And don’t even get them started on the grandchildren unless you have an hour or more to spare.  Heck, even the sonogram photo of their grandson-in-waiting was drooled over.  That boy doesn’t know how great he’s going to have it.

Which leads me to the third piece of a traditional 40th anniversary gift – a family portrait.  I’m not sure a photo can capture just how special this family is but hopefully you can see by the smiles on their faces how genuinely happy they are to be together and share such an incredible, amazing bond.  Though much has changed in the world over the past 40 years, Bob and Linda have remained steadfast in their devotion to each other and their families. So…a toast to them and wishing them more decades of love, fun, exciting trips and good friends.

There is no more fun family than the Sparrows so for your entertainment I’ve posted a few of the family photos from the event.

The wonderful Sparrow family

 

Linda and three of her bridesmaids – Chris, me and Starlet

An historic year!

Haven’t we all felt like this at some point?

 

 

 

 

 

The older generation!

CAKE!

 

Always laughing!