By Suzanne Sparrow Watson


Thank you, NCAA!

Thank you, NCAA!

Last year I wrote about a Scottish New Year’s tradition – Hogmanay – that I assumed no one still living celebrated.  So it has been startling to see more than 200 people from around the world have Googled the event and were directed to our blog site.  Heck, I don’t pretend to be the Emily Post of Hogmanay but apparently there is not a lot of resource material on how to celebrate New Year’s like a true Scot.    So it got me to thinking that maybe this year I should shine the light on other obscure new year celebrations from around the world.  After all, in the U.S. the NCAA has taken care of our celebration by kindly scheduling the two semi-final BCS bowl games on New Year’s Eve.  Personally, I’m not a fan of going out on New Year’s – or staying up until midnight for that matter.  I’m thrilled that on Thursday night I will don my formal sweat pants,  start a fire, open a bottle of wine, order a pizza and watch football.  But in case you’re interested in doing something a little more exotic, we here at “A Bird’s Eye View” offer up the following suggestions from around the world.

Jump in to 2016:  In Denmark,  people celebrate December 31 by climbing up on chairs and at the stroke of midnight, they leap off of them to signal their “jump” into the new year.  I don’t know about you but I’ve been at many a NYE party where climbing on the furniture was de rigueur but that was 30 years and 30 martinis ago.   At this age I have visions of my friends struggling to even get up on a chair, much less jumping off one.  Heck, they have had broken hips and torn ACL’s taking their dogs for a walk.  Perhaps all of the climbing and jumping should be left to young Danes with strong bone structure.

Talk to the Animals:  In both Belgium and Romania, farmers start the new year by talking to their animals.  What separates the sophisticated Belgians (who really should be focusing on their chocolate) and the crazy Romanians is that in Romania they believe that if the animal communicates back then it portends bad luck for the year.  I don’t want to seem critical here but I think that if you perceive that your cow is talking back to you, bad luck is not your biggest problem.

A flea marketer's delight

A flea marketer’s delight

Re-decorate:  In South Africa, it is a new year’s tradition to throw old furniture out the window on January 1.  When I first saw this photo it reminded me of our old neighborhood on “bulk trash day”.  It’s amazing what people throw out – and how little of it is still on the street after the midnight raid of Ebay enthusiasts.  In any event, for those of you who wish to re-decorate but are getting some resistance from your spouse, you can just throw everything into the street on Friday and claim that you are channeling your inner South African.

Eat, Drink, and Eat Again:  In France, the beginning of a new year is marked by eating a stack of pancakes.  Not those leaden “All You Can Eat” type down at the Waffle House, but light, fluffy cakes that melt in your mouth.  I eat a stack every Sunday at our local café so I guess I will be right on trend this week.  In Estonia, they celebrate January 1 by eating as much as they can  – they refer to it as “Eating in Abundance Day”.  Quality is of no concern, they are driven by the sheer quantity of food they can consume in a day.  Given that as the criteria, I think I’ve been celebrating Estonian New Year’s for the past month.

They could fight for the WWF

They could fight for the WWF

Duke it Out: Finally, my favorite tradition – the Peruvian fist fight.  Every December in a small village they celebrate the Takanakuy Festival, whereby residents engage in fist fights to settle their differences.  Brilliant!!  Seriously, how many of us have wanted to haul off and slug somebody when they’re being annoying?  Just this morning in the grocery store there was a woman who trailed me around the store speaking on her cell phone in a loud voice about her lawsuit against her employer, her daughter’s no good boyfriend, and on and on.  Despite several dirty looks from those around her (mostly me) she persisted.  Now if I lived in Takanakuy, I could have simply given her a good jab to the left jaw and no one would have blinked an eye.  It’s probably just as well we don’t celebrate this tradition, it being an election year and all.  Things are dicey enough.


I hope this has gotten your creative juices flowing on how to celebrate New Year’s.  Whether you choose to watch football, gorge, jump off a chair or talk to your dog, my brother and I wish you and yours a very HAPPY year ahead.




The Night Before Posting

by Bob Sparrow, with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore, author of The Night Before Christmas


‘Twas the night before posting and I had not a clue,

Should I write more of Christmas or the year that is new?

My head’s filled with carols that are driving me crazy

My shopping’s not done and my blog thoughts are hazy.

No travel this month or adventures been on

And I’m wondering if the creative juices are gone.

Could it be all the food and the drink I’ve consumed

That’s dulled all my senses?  This week’s blog is doomed!

Then a Grinchy idea popped into my head,

Instead of some prose, I’ll do rhyming instead.

This will be cinchy was my first lazy thought

I started to write; and discovered it was not!

I remembered back when our subscriptions were low

When we tried to rhyme news that most readers don’t know.

So I still didn’t have any subject to write,

No people or places to shine a bright light.

Suzanne wrote last week of our holiday caper

And I stooped to hawking some Trump toilet paper.

What I now look to ponder is the day Christ was born

And the glee of a child on a bright Christmas morn.

And looking to others to help where we can,

To enjoy peace on earth and good will towards all men.

Of families that gather by a warm Christmas fire

And pray that our leaders will lead and inspire.

To thank all who serve, those brave women and men

Whose Christmas with family they’ll miss once again.

To share Christmas joy in the time that you spend,

For nothing replaces our family and friends

So to briefly conclude what I wanted to write,

Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night.


From our families to yours, Merry Christmas

and a Healthy & Happy New Year!



By Suzanne Sparrow Watson


A sentimental Christmas memory

A sentimental Christmas memory

This past weekend I celebrated an annual tradition – putting up Bob’s Christmas Birthday Tree.  Yes, today is brother Bob’s birthday and like most kids who had the misfortune to be born around the holidays, his birthday usually morphed into a birthday/Christmas celebration.  In his case, his birthday was the day our mom chose to put up our Christmas tree each year.  So really, between getting screwed out of a proper birthday party and being a middle child it’s really a wonder that he didn’t develop a twitch.  This year as I put up my tree I thought about a friend’s comment last week – that she hated the holidays because it brought back such sentimental memories.  This time of year does make us miss those who are far away and especially those who have shuffled off this mortal coil, but I guess I have the opposite reaction.  I admit not all Christmases are created equal, but I love that the holidays cause me to pause and reflect on the special ones I’ve had over the years.  One of my favorites is of the year our daughter came home from her freshman year in college.  We made plans to attend Christmas Eve church services followed by dinner at a swanky restaurant, but as the hour approached we all decided it was too much effort.  Instead we donned our jammies, ordered Chinese takeout and watched “Christmas Vacation” on TV.  Now THAT was memorable – we still laugh about it todayAnd of course, some of the best Christmases were spent watching our grandsons when they were toddlers, racing out on Christmas morning amazed  that a tree that had been barren the night before was now laden with intriguing boxes and bows, confirming their notion that Santa Claus really DOES exist!

Singing, as usual

Singing, as usual

My fondest memories seem to be of “coming home” to our parent’s house for Christmas.    I pondered that this weekend as I was putting the Santa Claus with the fake nose and glasses on my tree (somehow it always reminds me of Bob).  As I think back, Christmas seemed so easy then.  Our mom did all the planning, shopping, wrapping, cooking, serving, and I’m embarrassed to say, cleaning up.  Like a lot of young adults, college and our careers took us in different directions, but most Christmases we gathered at mom and pop’s and immediately began to act like little kids.  We laughed, drank, ate, drank, sang, drank.  On Christmas Eve mom would put out a large buffet and around 5 o’clock friends would begin to arrive to share in our “spirit”.  Usually those spirits flowed until the wee hours of the morning, and then our parents would arise on Christmas morning to prepare for the arrival of our grandmother, aunt, uncle and cousins for brunch.  Our father often commented that he felt like “a hippopotamus in three feet of mud” on Christmas morning.  But mom would always put on a spread and Dad would fix his famous Christmas Ice Cream Fizz*.  Again, we kids were of minimal help.  So of course I think about those years as fun –  I didn’t have to do any of the work!

A jolly man indeed!

A jolly man indeed!

This pattern held true for many, many years right up to my favorite Christmas memory.  In 1981 we gathered once again at mom and pop’s house –   Jack left his restaurant in Tahoe for a night, Bob and Linda came up from Orange County and I made the one hour trek from the East Bay.  It was a Monday – I remember that because we had Monday Night Football on and Don Meredith kept singing “Turn Out the Lights”.  For whatever reason, we were more giddy than usual that year.  Then at some point after dinner someone suggested that we serenade the neighborhood with Christmas Carols.  GREAT IDEA!!!!  Mom didn’t approve of our shenanigans and I’m sure had images of being run out of town.  But the rest of us grabbed another drink and off we went.  Now you need to know that Bob and Linda actually performed professionally at that time and are both great singers.  Jack and I can carry a tune.  As for Pop…well, let’s just say that dad had more gusto and enthusiasm than actual talent.  But he was an extremely good judge of character so he knew which neighbors would find us amusing and which might throw old shoes at us.  So off we traipsed, arm in arm around the neighborhood singing our hearts out.  Most everyone laughed, some gave us cookies and some even offered to refill our glasses (which was really not necessary at that point).  We sang for about an hour, which I think is how long it took us to run through our Christmas Carol songbook.  Then we collapsed in gales of laughter at home.  The next morning, sure as rain, Pop was up making us his Christmas Ice Cream Fizz.  We didn’t know it at the time but it would be the last Christmas we would spend at mom and dad’s house.  The next year Bob and Linda were expecting their first child and from then on, when we could, we gathered at their home in Southern California.  But I’ll always remember with fondness the rollicking good time we had that final year.

Hopefully you have some wonderful memories that sustain you during this holiday period.  If so, consider yourself lucky.  And finally not to be forgotten – please join me in wishing a very happy birthday to my very special brother.  Hopefully he won’t have to put a tree up today.

*As a special gift to our readers, once again this year I am providing the recipe for Pop’s Christmas Ice Cream Fizz.  Trust me, it will make that time you have to spend with your brother-in-law that borrowed your lawnmower and/or $5000 much more bearable.


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.

Pop, near 80 years old, still making magic

Pop, near 80 years old, still making magic

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