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Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Feast of the Bald Eagles

It was a beautifully sunny day, so we took a long walk along the lake shore, out to Higgens Point to watch the bald eagles feasting on the kokanee salmon that are dying after spawning. Never mind the temperature of 28 degrees. It felt plenty warm to us.


Monday, December 28, 2009


Everything You Want

I hope your Christmas celebration was a memorable one.

Ours turned out to be surprisingly cheerful. It was just what we needed after the recent funk brought upon us by the passing of our cat Milo.

In fact, it was his brother Basil who provided the merriment, dressing up like jolly old Santa Cat on Christmas Eve. With his twinkling eyes and merry dimples, it was hard not to smile when we saw him, in spite of ourselves.

Okay, maybe it was my daughter who dressed him up. And maybe he was more like moody old Grumpy Cat. But we still laughed.

Grumpy, or Santa, sampled the egg nog and nibbled at the cookies, then left some presents under the tree for us all.

The morning came like they always do with kids. Way too early. But the joy of Christmas was on their faces, and that was enough to wake me up. Soon a small mountain of shredded wrapping paper was forming in one corner of the room.

After presents, we enjoyed a tasty lunch of ham, potatoes, green beans, glazed carrots, salads, and pumpkin pie.

It was all very good, and pleasing, and healing.

And it was almost perfect.

At the end of the day, I asked my daughter, "Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas?"

She replied, "No. I wanted Milo to not be dead."

Ah well, she knows that couldn't happen. But her heart was right where it should be at this point.

Other than that, our Christmas day was peaceful and happy. What more could you want?

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Yes, It's Christmas

Brand new video from The Hipwaders. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Christmas At Disneyland

Nobody does Christmas quite like the Disney theme parks.

And there's no place I'd rather be LESS at Christmas time than at Disneyland. The crowds are beyond maddening. It's like a Black Friday Wal-Mart on speed.

Luckily, Disney begins draping the park in Christmas decor on Nov. 1st. We were there that very day last month to watch the transformation.

Even if we weren't ready for the jingling bells and decked halls, it was still rather fun and festive. Besides, pretending comes easy when you're in Disneyland.

To all who read this blog:

Wherever you are, and however you celebrate, have the happiest of holidays!

Sunday, December 20, 2009


The Year Without A Christmas

It's going to be hard to muster up the usual festive Christmas spirit this year.

On Thursday, we took our cat Milo to the vet after he started showing signs of weight loss and weakness. The diagnosis was kidney failure. The vet told us the end was coming fast and that we should consider having him put to sleep.

This was all too sudden for us, and I held out some hope that the vet might be wrong.

After receiving subcutaneous fluids and a B12 shot, Milo was at least comfortable enough to come back home with us. By Friday night, though, it was clear he was deteriorating. He had no strength in his back legs, was refusing to eat or drink, and could do little except lay in his bed.

Saturday morning brought the first outward signs of pain, as he contorted his back and gasped for breath. None of us wanted to see him suffer, so we said our tearful goodbyes before my wife bravely took him to the vet.

My son is taking it particularly hard. Milo was his sleeping companion for the past four years, always patiently waiting in his room each night while my son brushed his teeth and went through the bedtime rituals.

That cat wouldn't sleep with anybody else. And he always took the same spot at the end of the bed. But as soon as I said goodnight and turned off the lights, Milo would curl up next to my son's head, purring loudly in his ear like a fluffy orange sound machine.

After a few hours, usually around midnight, he would come into my office and jump into my lap, watching me type away on the keyboard and offering an occasional meow as criticism. I always looked forward to these nightly visits, really the only time of the day when he would sit quietly with me for a long period of time.

Milo was just a cat. But for us he was a special part of the family for 13 years. He and his brother were our babies before we had real ones. Milo was a quirky, stubborn, lovable fur ball whose absence is now very clearly felt.

It's going to be awhile before my heart is clear of the Death and Sadness that visited us this weekend. With only five days before Christmas, it looks like this season might be a wash for me.

But for the kids, I'm going to fake it. I'll wear my Santa hat, pour huge mugs of egg nog, put a cheery smile on my face, and sing along with Michael Caine in The Muppet Christmas Carol.

Mostly, though, I'll be missing Milo.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Be Happy With What You Have

My daughter was so eager to make a snowman after our first snowfall of the season last week, she didn't mind working with what little material she could find.

She's resourceful, I'll say that.

Luckily we've had a lot more snow over the past few days, and she can now build to her heart's content.

Monday, December 14, 2009


The Winners Take It All

It's time to declare winners of the three giveaways from the past few weeks!

The randomly picked winners have the next few days to send me contact information so we can begin the process of mailing out your prizes.

The Kitchen Kid Apron
Courtesy of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board

Mike D.
Brimful Curiousities

Christmas Music CDs


You'll find out which CD you won when you open the envelope!

The Hachette Holiday Books Set

This was a popular giveaway... 27 entries! And the three winners are:

Jana S.
Sue M.
Darcy B.

Thanks to everyone who entered these contests. It was genuinely fun for me to offer them to you. Oh, and I'm not done yet. But you'll have to tune in after the holidays to see what other goodies I have to give away.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Cool Christmas Music For You

It's that time of the year when the holiday music goes on heavy rotation in our CD players and iPods. If you're like me, you add a few discs to your collection each year. Here are four kids' CDs that will make fine additions to your roster of cool Christmas tunes:

  • The Hipwaders - A Kindie Christmas
    The Hipwaders have always been inventive and unique. Their fresh take on Christmas includes all original songs, written by lead singer Tito Uquillas, and performed in their usual jangly indie rock style. There are some new holiday classics on this disc!

  • Danny Adlerman, Yosi, & Kevin Kammeraad - ...And A Happy New Year
    This is just a fun group of guys singing a fun mix of holiday favorites and originals. A bit of folk, rock, and pop, you can tell from the easygoing style and laughter that these three had a good time making this CD.

  • Various Artists - Putumayo Presents A Family Christmas
    The Putumayo World Music label has always stood for high quality, and they don't disappoint in this wonderful collection of festive Christmas songs. Highlights include Martin Sexton's "Holly Jolly Christmas" and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy's spirited "Is Zat You Santa Claus?"

  • Paige Stroman - Christmas Lullabies To Create Memories
    Perfect for the quiet times this season, Paige Stroman keeps it mellow as she sings the old favorites, like "Away In A Manger," along with five new tunes. A beautifully produced CD, this one sounds great all the way through.

You can find all of these CDs at online stores like The Pokey Pup, iTunes, and Amazon. Or click on the links in the above descriptions to get to the artists' web sites and buy directly from them. I encourage you to check them out!

Disclaimer: Two of these CDs were sent to me by the artists for review.

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009


Let's Get Jiggly With It

The highlight of our visit to the San Diego Zoo was probably when the kids got to brush and pet a rhinoceros.

Now that's something you don't get to do every day. I think they'll remember it for a long time.

The rhino enjoyed it too. His skin looked dry and itchy, but it was surprisingly supple and sensitive to the touch.

We found out those lines on his body are simple folds of skin, not the hard armored plates that I had always imagined. I don't know why I've always thought that about rhinos. Probably because I never had the chance to touch one before.

So I gave his folds a good jiggle just to clarify my newfound knowledge.

Laying hands, and brushes, on a wild animal is quite the experience. One which I highly recommend.

Just be sure there's a foot-thick steel bar between you and the creature you are jiggling.

Sunday, December 06, 2009


Huge Holiday Book Giveaway

I promised you a holiday book contest.

Hachette Books is offering up another huge giveaway.

It's so big, my little blog couldn't contain it, so I had to create a separate site for all the details.

To enter, you'll be emailing me directly. So, please don't comment on this post, unless you're one of those unfortunate overseas readers who isn't eligible for the contest, because it's only open to US and Canadian residents, and you'd like to grumble about it.

Again, click here for the Huge Holiday Book Giveaway, look over the offerings, then email me from that page.

As for my previous giveaways, here are the winners of the Clone Wars DVD. Yes, two of you are getting a DVD. Picked at random:

mamaJD and Jeff (from the View From The Cloud blog)

Please contact me with your mailing addresses!

Tomorrow I'll pick three winners for the Kitchen Kid aprons.

Will this giveaway madness ever end? Yes, it will. But not soon.

Friday, December 04, 2009


Kids Apron Giveaway

It's definitely beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here with the various contests.

I've reviewed and given away some very cool books, DVDs, and CDs lately, but here's something that's hot. Or at least it might be if you're standing near the oven.

The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board contacted me about their new Kitchen Kids brochure, a free 16-page downloadable PDF file that should motivate and inspire children to explore their creative culinary sides.

And to further help your kids feel comfortable in the kitchen, the Milk Board is offering readers of my blog three free kid-sized Kitchen Kids aprons.

So, come and get your hot, but very cool, aprons!

This contest is easy. Just leave a comment telling me you want that apron for your kids. That's all.

Don't forget to also download that booklet of kid-friendly recipes.

And check back in to my blog this weekend for a huge Christmas book giveaway from Hachette Publishing. Plus, a Christmas music CD contest!

I told you it was looking a lot like Christmas around here.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


What Big Teeth You Have

I didn't even have to ask my daughter to pose like this at Universal Studios. She thought of it before I did.

It was the funniest thing to her to be gobbled up by the giant fake shark.

My son has the same strange sense of humor. Over my shoulder, as I took this picture, he said, "Too bad it's not real.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009



I love a good slice-of-life documentary, and this one looks like fun. The movie follows four babies at different locations around the world, from birth to their first steps.

It doesn't hurt that the filmmakers picked "Perpetual Self" by Sufjan Stevens to feature in the trailer.