Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top 10 Looking Back Favorite People, Places and Things I Have Seen in 2011

1. The crew that I took a European Whirl Trip with in May 2011.  We had never met any of the people on this trip before.  This collection of characters spans over 5 continents, 6 countries and 3 states in the USA.  We traveled along several rivers in Europe, crossed the English Channel together and rode long rides in between destinations together on a bus driven by Enzo. We saw some of the most spectacular sites this world has to offer.  We had a glimpse.  We were a united, cooperative group led by Simon says.  I wish that opportunity on every one.  I feel blessed by the experience.

2. Unfortunately, I was remiss and did not take a photograph but I had the opportunity to attend a party on December 30th and get together with some old friends from my past, some that I have not seen for over 30 years.  It is a good thing to know that sometimes those circles reconnect.

3. The Royal Wedding may have been all the buzz in London this past year but we missed it by one week. I am quite impressed with the royal couple, over 1 million pounds were contributed to the Royal Wedding Charitable Gift Fund and distributed to 26 charities personally chosen by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.  London as a whole treats all its guests with the royal treatment, they are a most friendly lot and speak our language.

The English Channel however, had my eyes wide. Funny thing about this photograph, I took it because this guy looked so relaxed and I thought to myself, he knows how to travel.  He turned out to be our guide throughout the remainder of our trip through Europe.  Each day we were able to count on his direction and follow the steps that Simon said. I had no idea how important this man would become to the success of our trip.

4. An ordinary landscape along the highway in Belgium.  I was mystified as soon as I saw it.  I was reminded of the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh and could see the colors he put to canvas. They just shout out at you, it was a lush yellow carpet of flowers.

5. Being trusted by Hanz and handed over the reins to steer the horses and wagon in a small village in the Alps on a beautiful sunny afternoon in Switzerland.

Being invited to Hanz's home for wine, homemade cheese and dessert made by his wife was also special.

I also made my international debut as a singer in Lucerne, Switzerland, my 15 seconds of fame.  I remain a one hit wonder.

Yodel Lay Hee Hoo

7. Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore or the Duomo, an extraordinary church in Florence, Italy a town that was once home to some of the most famous names in art and architecture.

8. The Basilica di Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross) is a rather ordinary looking church in Florence, Italy until you are told that it is the burial place of some of the most illustrious Italians, such as Ghiberti, Alberti, Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, Foscolo, Gentile and Rossini, thus it is known also as the Temple of the Italian Glories (Tempio dell'Itale Glorie). Then it becomes aglow with spectacular.

9. The Fort Worth, Texas cattle herd drive, here they come....

and here they go.

10. Seeing the sparkle of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France in the evening after a cruise down the Seine River has a very special feel to it.

It has been a very good and blessed year!

Top 10 New Year Superstitions and Traditions

1. Kissing at midnight to ensure those affections and ties continue throughout the next twelve months.  Failing to do so could cause a year of coldness.

2. Black eyed peas on New Year's Day will attract general good luck and financial good fortune.

3. Eat pork because cows stand still, poultry scratches backwards and pigs root forward, move forward into the new year.

4. Do not do laundry on New Year's Day lest a family member be washed away.

5. Making loud noise at midnight scares all the evil spirits away.

6. If the wind blows from the south there will be fine weather and a prosperous year ahead, from the north it will be a year of bad weather, from the east famine and calamities, from the west plentiful supplies of milk and fish but the death of an important person.  If no wind a joyful and prosperous year will be had by all.

7. Open all the doors at midnight to let the old year out.  He must leave before the new year can come in.

8. The New Year should not begin with debt, pay off all debts before the new year arrives. Checks should be written and mailed off before the first of the year.

9. Nothing is to leave the house on New Year's Day not even the garbage or recycles. If you allow something to leave you are opening the gates for loss through the year.

10. Lobster should be avoided on New Year's day because a lobster walks backwards and may result in a financial backslide.

Here is a link to a black eyed peas recipe you can find at I myself have never made it but it sounds good. Lentils are also said to be lucky. Opening a can of lentil soup is simple enough.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Top 10 Websites Visited 2011

According to Alexa in December 2011


Compared to the November 2010 list. There have been a few changes.

1. Google
2. Facebook
3. Yahoo!
4. YouTube
10. Craigslist traffic is ranked at 7,773,562 December 2011.  I have no idea what that means but it looks like I have quite a challenge ahead of me to get to the top. One blog at a time.

Happy New Year and thank you for reading my blog. I wish every one a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Top 10 Some of the Other Percents

1. Zillow, a real estate tracking company, reported that 28 percent of all homeowners currently have a home that is worth less then they owe.  This came out in May 2011. You can find different sources on the net.  I read it in a New York Life pamphlet.

2. An AARP Poll on saving and spending, In the past year, have you/your spouse or partner started saving more or cutting back on spending?  Yes, started to cut back 65 percent in both age categories (ages 25-49 and ages 50-plus).

3. Source: National Institute of Health. One study found that 90 percent of people with type 2 diabetes were vitamin D deficient. I read this in the Erickson Tribune.  I am still trying to qualify that number but was unable to find it on the NIH website.

4. Americans 48 percent say they've skimped on needed health care, including medications, to save money. Yet just 5 percent say their doctor talks to them about the price of prescriptions. Source: Consumer Reports National Research Center.  I read this in Parade magazine.

5. "Heroes" 20 percent of people who qualify as heroes because they helped a stranger in an emergency or took other selfless action.  I was impressed with this number found in the 2012 Farmers Almanac.

6. Step relatives 40 percent of adults that say they have a step relative. 2012 Farmers Almanac.  Imagine the numbers that don't even know.

7. Almost every day 71 percent of people who say they make the bed everyday or almost every day. 2012 Farmers Almanac.

8. Believers 71 percent of people who are "absolutely certain" of God's existence. 2012 Farmers Almanac.

9. In November, the number of job losers and persons who completed temporary jobs
declined by 432,000 to 7.6 million. The number of long-term unemployed (those
jobless for 27 weeks and over) was little changed at 5.7 million and accounted
for 43.0 percent of the unemployed. (See tables A-11 and A-12.) Found at National Bureau of Labor and Statistics website. The December numbers come out on January 6th.

10. Resolutions 40-45 percent of American adults make one or more resolutions a year.

The following shows how many of these resolutions are maintained as time goes on:

- past the first week: 75%
- past 2 weeks: 71%
- after one month: 64%
- after 6 months: 46%

People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don't explicitly make resolutions.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Top 10 It Ain't Over Yet All These Festivities Are Still to Come

1. Today, December 28th is the last day of Chanukah this year.  Happy Chanukah to all who celebrate.  I found a very good website that explains the customs celebrated during Chanukah for those who are interested. The content in this page is produced by, and is copyrighted by the author and/or If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you do not revise any part of it, and you include this note, credit the author, and link to If you wish to republish this article in a periodical, book, or website, please email

2.  Kwanzaa began on December 26th.  It is a week long celebration that honors the Afro-American culture and heritage. Each day follows the seven principles, Unity, Self-Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity and Faith.

3. The Twelve Days of Christmas begin on Christmas, December 25th also know as Christmastide. The Twelfth Night of Christmas is always on the evening of 5 January, but the Twelfth Day can either precede or follow the Twelfth Night according to which Christian tradition is followed.[1] Twelfth Night is followed by the Feast of the Epiphany on 6 January. In some traditions, the first day of Epiphany (6 January) and the twelfth day of Christmas overlap. It all sounds confusing to me but it is when my Christmas tree comes down.

4. The Times Square Ball is a time ball dropped each year during the New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square, Manhattan, New York City. The ball is made by Waterford Crystal[1] and electric lights is raised to the top of a pole on the One Times Square building at 6:00 pm[1] and then lowered to mark the coming of the New Year. The ball descends 77 feet (23 m) over the course of a minute, coming to rest at the bottom of its pole at midnight, and a sign lights up with the digits of the new year, as the ball's lights turn off. Fireworks are then lighted from the building to signal the arrival of the New Year. Toshiba's Times Square advertising screen directly below the ball counts down to midnight as well alongside several other billboards in the area, including the Budweiser and Coca Cola signs.
Every year up to one million people gather in Times Square to watch the ball drop, and an estimated 1 billion watch the video of the event, 100 million of them in the United States.

5. The Tournament of Roses Parade, better known as the Rose Parade, is "America's New Year Celebration", a festival of flower-covered floats, marching bands, equestrians and a college football game on New Year's Day (but moved to Monday if New Year's Day falls on a Sunday), produced by the non-profit Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association. The annual parade was first held January 1, 1890 in Pasadena, California. The maker of Wrigley's chewing gum, William Wrigley Jr.'s, stately Italian Renaissance-style mansion was offered to the city of Pasadena after Mrs. Wrigley's death in 1958, under the condition that their home would be the Rose Parade's permanent headquarters. Tournament House is the name given the former home where the organization is headquartered.[4]

6. The Mummers Parade according to dates back to 400 BC and the Roman Festival of Saturnalias where Latin laborers marched in masks throughout the day of satire and gift exchange. This included Celtic variations of “trick-or-treat” and Druidic noise-making to drive away demons for the new year. Reports of rowdy groups “parading” on New Years day in Philadelphia date back before the revolution. Prizes were offered by merchants in the late 1800′s. January 1, 1901 was the first “official” parade offered about $1,725 in prize money from the city. The Mummers parade is a celebration of the New Year but is serious business in Philadelphia. Parade results can be found at this link,

7. is a cool website where you can look up who is celebrating New Year's at what time around the world. Here is the link to Philadelphia, just in case you lose track of time that day another clue is usually the banging of pots and pans and or fireworks at the start of the new year.  The time and date link is universal.

8. Here is a fun link to one of my favorite websites New Year's superstition's.  I check this website all the time when I get one of those FW: emails that just seem to be far fetched.  Check out the link it has some interesting stuff.  I can't verify it is true though.

9. The NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic will be held at Philadelphia Citizens Bank Park this year on January 2nd. The Philadelphia Flyers Alumni will play the New York Rangers Alumni.

10. Many cities in the United States as well as around the world celebrate ringing in the New Year this wiki link mentions a few perhaps that are closer to home for you.

In 2000 for the new millennium, London constructed the London Eye Ferris Wheel.

and in Paris

Fireworks center around the Eiffel Tower.

In the UK (exception Scotland) clocks symbolize the transition that occurs at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, with the celebration in London focusing on the clock housed in the clock tower at the Palace of Westminster, recognized worldwide as "Big Ben".

You still have a little time to make your plans. I suppose there is a bucket list in here somewhere.

Pay safe the rest of your life is ahead of you Arrive Alive!!

Don't Drink and Drive

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Top 10 Movie Recommendations

Some of these movies are new and others came out early in the year, you may be able to catch the older ones on cable or rent. These films are in no particular rating order.  I think they all offer something unique.  I'm not a spoiler.

 1. The Artist is a silent film with a few printed words here and there but you can follow the film just from the actor's actions and reaction. It begins with a black and white introduction and from there transports you back in time before the talkies. After I saw this, I felt who needs words, especially some of the more off color words used in films today.

2. My Week With Marilyn is a film about Marilyn Monroe. Michelle Williams does a superb job playing Monroe allowing a glimpse into her life.  I don't like to jinx anyone but this has to be an Academy Award nomination for best actress. She was just awesome.

3. Midnight in Paris takes you to the sites and sounds of Paris through the lives of its great artists.  Who wouldn't want to go and experience that?

4. The Descendants is about decisions people make and how they affect the lives of others closely related and some not so close.  I thought it was interesting to watch how each character was affected by certain events and their response.

5. War Horse is based on a Broadway play.  I would love to see how they pull that off. Spielberg without a doubt can show the horrors of war like no other director in my lifetime so far but he also always allows you to see the human emotions of both sides.  For me the most pivotal moment in the film involved wire cutters.  I thought it was a very powerful scene.

6. The Ides of March is about politics and the lies people tell and the secrets they keep to get ahead.  Ryan Gosling has an award winning performance.  He got my attention.

7. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was a complicated film and I tried to follow it and become confused.  I still Soldier or Spy is.  One this one I think I need to read the book.

8. The Conspirator  is a true story of Mary Surrat hanged with conspiracy in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.  It is directed by Robert Redford.

9. Jane Eyre is a film based on the classic novel by Charlotte Bronte.  I have always been a fan of these classic period pieces.

10. Oranges and Sunshine is a unbelievable "how could that have actually happened in our lifetime" and I think the next week after I saw this film, the Penn State scandal broke.   This film is shocking and an embarrassment to two countries who have just recently released apologies for this cover up and they are not third world countries.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Top 10 Views Inside Saint Peter's Basilica - Vatican Treasures

The center focal point of St. Peter's Basilica is Saint Peter's baldachin a large Baroque sculpted bronze canopy, technically called a ciborium or baldachin, over the high altar of Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City, Rome, which is at the centre of the crossing and directly under the dome. Designed by the sculptor and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini, it was intended to mark, in a monumental way, the place of Saint Peter's tomb underneath. Under its canopy is the High Altar of the basilica.  The Papal altar, under the celebrated Canopy by Bernini (1633) was made of bronze taken from the Pantheon.

The Chair of Saint Peter by Bernini is a throne in which fragments of acacia wood are visible, which could be part of the chair of St. Peter, encased in oak and reinforced with iron bands. It sits behind and elevated behind Saint Peter's baldachin. Pope Alexander VII commissioned Bernini to build a monument which would give prominence to this ancient wooden chair. Bernini built a throne in gilded bronze, richly ornamented with bas-reliefs in which the chair was enclosed: two pieces of furniture, one within the other. On January 17, 1666 it was solemnly set above the altar. Two angels bearing the tiara and keys, symbols of the Roman pontiff's authority float above. At the base the two outer statues are figures of two Doctors of the Latin Church: St. Ambrose and St. Augustine; the two inner statues, with bare heads, are of two Doctors of the Greek Church: St. Athanasius and St. John Chrysostom. Februaury 22 is the celebrated feast day of the chair.

Bronze statue of Saint Peter facing the baldachin by Arnolfo di Cambio in the 13th century.

The Gloria takes center stage once you get a glimpse of the fantastic gilt and stucco. A host of angels are among rays of light and gigantic billowing clouds. In their midst is the precious window of Bohemian glass, divided into twelve sections as a tribute to the Twelve Apostles. It reminds me of a clock in sections. A brilliant dove stands out against it, the symbol of the Holy Spirit, the soul of the Church which never ceases to help and to guide.

The dome of St. Peter's Basilica was designed by Michelangelo. Many artists worked on the interior decorations. Along the base of the inside of the dome is the inscription of Matthew 16:18-19, in letters 8 ft. (2.5m) high:
TV ES PETRVS ET SVPER HANC PETRAM AEDIFICABO ECCLESIAM MEAM. TIBI DABO CLAVES REGNI CAELORVM (You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.... I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.)
Near the top of the dome is another, smaller, circular inscription:
S. PETRI GLORIAE SIXTVS PP. V. A. M. D. XC. PONTIF. V. (To the glory of St. Peter; Sixtus V, pope, in the year 1590 and the fifth year of his pontificate.)

The Pieta by Michelangelo was completed by Michelangelo when he was only 24 years old.  After a vandal defaced a portion of the Pieta (he, Laszlo Toth broke the nose off the Virgin Mary with the entire left arm at the elbow on May 21, 1972), the sculpture was put behind bulletproof glass for protection.  Also, the Pieta is the only work that is signed by Michelangelo. His signature is on the breast band that goes over Mary's shoulder. The Pietà's first home was the Chapel of Santa Petronilla, a Roman mausoleum near the south transept of St. Peter's, which the Cardinal chose as his funerary chapel. The chapel was later demolished by Bramante during his rebuilding of the basilica. According to Giorgio Vasari, shortly after the installation of his Pietà Michelangelo overheard (or asked visitors about the sculptor) someone remark that it was the work of another sculptor, Cristoforo Solari, whereby Michelangelo signed the sculpture.[2] Michelangelo carved MICHAELA[N]GELUS BONAROTUS FLORENTIN[US] FACIEBA[T] (Michelangelo Buonarroti, Florentine, made this) on the sash running across Mary's chest. It was the only work he ever signed. Vasari also reports the anecdote that Michelangelo later regretted his outburst of pride and swore never to sign another work of his hands. The sculpture was shipped to New York in 1964 in order to become the main draw for the Vatican pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair, where it was viewed by millions. I was very young but I was among the millions and I never forgot seeing it. I knew exactly what it was when I saw it again. When you see it, it becomes etched in your mind forever.  It is not only beautiful but it is also moving. The Chapel of the Relics also contains a precious Medieval wooden Crucifix by Cavallini (13th century).

The Baptistery chapel was designed by Carlo Fontana. The main altarpiece (1722) is from an original painting by Maratta (1698), which is now part of Sant' Mariadei Angeli. The gilded cover rests on a porphyry sarcophagus cover used by Emperor Otto II, and believed to derive from the tomb of Emperor Hadrian (Castle San Angelo). In the center is the baptismal font (fountain), still used on Sundays to administer the sacrament of baptism.

The Presentation Altar, painting by Romaneli and the mosaic altarpiece by Cristofari is the Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple by her parents.  Below the altar is the body of St. Pius X, the last pope to be canonized.

Crepuscular rays (sunbeams) are regularly seen in Saint Peter's Basilica at certain times each day. I never knew they had a name. I love when I see the rays in the sky. I have always called them the "Staiway to Heaven".

This bell is not inside the Basilica it is part of the Vatican Museum, I believe. I am sure it has a special story and history but I have yet to discover it.   If anyone knows its origin or history I would be most obliged. I do know that many churches still ring their church bells and hold prayers in the evening before holidays.  This bell may have been a participant. I now look forward to watching the Christmas Eve celebration in Rome, Italy at Saint Peter's Basilica.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Top 10 Classical Christmas Songs

You can click on any of the following links on Youtube and enjoy these classical Christmas song but if you want to feel the full impact of this music, go to on Christmas eve or Christmas Day and sing along, guarenteed one of these songs will be played and it will stir your soul.

1. Handel's Hallelujah Johann Strauss Orchestra and the Harlem Gospel Choir.

2. Adeste Fideles O Come All Ye Faithful Traditional Christmas Concert at Konzerthaus with the Vienna Boy's Choir.

3. O Holy Night Mormon Tabernacle Choir Typically I do not have much time for the harsh and negative comments made on youtube or anywhere else on the internet but I saw this one on this link and feel it bears repeating. Will you people please stop with the nasty religious bickering? It's a video about a group of people singing. If you are so riled up about nothing that you just have to scream at each other, there are THOUSANDS of videos on YouTube set up for back-and-forth between people just like you who have nothing better to do than stick your nose in other people's religious affairs. "They're not Christian because herpa durpa durp!" WHO CARES?!

4. Amen written by Jester Hairston sung by Sidney Poitier in the film Lillies of the Field one of the best renditions of the song I ever heard from a great film. Hairston wrote the song "Mary's Boy Child" in 1956, possibly the only popular Christmas song written by an African-American.

5. Ave Maria sung by Andrea Bocelli magnifico. It was written by Franz Peter Schubert.

6. Fantasia on Greensleeves by Ralph Vaughan Williams performed by La Sierra University

7. Joy to the World by George Frederic Handel  José Carreras, Diana Ross and Placido Domingo perform Joy To The World by George Frederic Handel as part of Christmas in Vienna.

8. Carol of the Bells Celtic Woman music  originally composed by Mykola Leontovych; original traditional Ukrainian lyrics are of pre Christian origin; English adaptation of text by Peter Wilhousky, 1936.

9. Hark the Herald Angels Sing music: Felix Mendelssohn, words: Charles Wesley, amended by George Whitfield and Martin Madan sung by Choir of Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland.

10. Silent Night Gregorian Monks

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Top 10 Answering Your Christmas Questions

1. Why are the stockings hung by the parents and not the children with care?  wiki says.....
A popular legend tells the story in this way.Very long ago, there lived a poor man and his three very beautiful daughters. He had no money to get his daughters married, and he was worried what would happen to them after his death. Saint Nicholas was passing through when he heard the villagers talking about the girls (town gossip). St. Nicholas wanted to help, but knew that the old man wouldn't accept charity. He decided to help in secret. He waited until it was night and crept through the chimney. He had three bags of gold coins with him, one for each girl. As he was looking for a place to keep those three bags, he noticed stockings that were hung over the mantelpiece for drying. He put one bag of gold in each stocking and off he went.

2. How did holly get into the holiday? The practice of putting up special decorations at Christmas has a long history. In the 15th century, it was recorded that in London it was the custom at Christmas for every house and all the parish churches to be "decked with holm, ivy, bays, and whatsoever the season of the year afforded to be green".[45] The heart-shaped leaves of ivy were said to symbolize the coming to earth of Jesus, while holly was seen as protection against pagans and witches, its thorns and red berries held to represent the Crown of Thorns worn by Jesus at the crucifixion and the blood he shed.

3. What are the popular colors used at Christmas? The traditional colors of Christmas are green and red.[50] White, silver and gold are also popular. Red symbolizes the blood of Jesus, which was shed in his crucifixion, while green symbolizes eternal life, and in particular the evergreen tree, which does not lose its leaves in the winter.

4. Why do people put candles in the window? Candles in each window are meant to demonstrate the fact that Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the ultimate light of the world.

5. If you get stuck under the mistletoe with someone you do not care for, are you obligated to kiss em?
According to ancient Christmas custom, a man and a woman who meet under a hanging of mistletoe were obliged to kiss. The custom may be of Scandinavian origin.[16] It is only a kiss you don't have to marry them.

6. Did the post office originate the sending of Christmas cards to drum up business and save the economy or did Hallmark start that? Christmas cards are illustrated messages of greeting exchanged between friends and family members during the weeks preceding Christmas Day. The traditional greeting reads "wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year", much like that of the first commercial Christmas card, produced by Sir Henry Cole in London in 1843.[67] The custom of sending them has become popular among a wide cross-section of people with the emergence of the modern trend towards exchanging E-cards. There goes more jobs.

7. Who is the true Santa Claus? A number of figures of both Christian and mythical origin have been associated with Christmas and the seasonal giving of gifts. Among these are Father Christmas, also known as Santa Claus, Père Noël, and the Weihnachtsmann; Saint Nicholas or Sinterklaas; the Christkind; Kris Kringle; Joulupukki; Babbo Natale; Saint Basil; and Father Frost.
The most famous and pervasive of these figures in modern celebration worldwide is Santa Claus, a mythical gift bringer, dressed in red, whose origins have diverse sources. The name Santa Claus can be traced back to the Dutch Sinterklaas, which means simply Saint Nicholas. Nicholas was Bishop of Myra, in modern day Turkey, during the 4th century. Among other saintly attributes, he was noted for the care of children, generosity, and the giving of gifts. His feast on December 6 came to be celebrated in many countries with the giving of gifts.[69]

8. Why do we chop down a live tree and bring it inside for a week or so and then just toss it in the trash? The Christmas tree is considered by some as Christianisation of pagan tradition and ritual surrounding the Winter Solstice, which included the use of evergreen boughs, and an adaptation of pagan tree worship;[52] according to eighth-century biographer Æddi Stephanus, Saint Boniface (634-709), who was a missionary in Germany, took an axe to an oak tree dedicated to Thor and pointed out a fir tree, which he stated was a more fitting object of reverence because it pointed to heaven and it had a triangular shape, which he said was symbolic of the Trinity.[53

9. What are some of the other popular decorations? Since the 19th century, the poinsettia, a native plant from Mexico, has been associated with Christmas. Other popular holiday plants include holly, mistletoe, red amaryllis, and Christmas cactus. Along with a Christmas tree, the interior of a home may be decorated with these plants, along with garlands and evergreen foliage. The display of Christmas villages has also become a tradition in many homes during this season. The outside of houses may be decorated with lights and sometimes with illuminated sleighs, snowmen, and other Christmas figures.  Driving around seeing the houses decorated I am starting to see that the snowman trumps Santa Claus as the most popular, penguins have a big presence and various characters including Santa Claus can be seen in a hot air balloon and carousels.  I am not sure what that significance is.

10. Here is an interesting theory about gift giving but who wants to hear this? One economist's analysis calculates that, despite increased overall spending, Christmas is a dead weight loss under orthodox micro economic theory, because of the effect of gift-giving. This loss is calculated as the difference between what the gift giver spent on the item and what the gift receiver would have paid for the item. It is estimated that in 2001, Christmas resulted in a $4 billion dead weight loss in the U.S. alone.[141][142] Because of complicating factors, this analysis is sometimes used to discuss possible flaws in current micro economic theory. Other dead weight losses include the effects of Christmas on the environment and the fact that material gifts are often perceived as white elephants, imposing cost for upkeep and storage and contributing to clutter.[143]

Most of the above information can be found at wikipedia "Christmas" search.

Without a doubt the true meaning of Christmas has been translated, manipulated and created to fit ones own belief and lifestyle.  Originally Christmas (Christ's Mass) was established to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the son of God, which the date is often disputed.  There absolutely is something very special about that day.  For me it is just after midnight.  If I am awake, I try to go outside and just look up and look around at the quiet and the peacefulness.  It is there, I call it believing. Everyone has to believe in something.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Top 10 People You Meet On the Street George W.

Imagine, you just finished a fabulous meal at a popular restaurant in New Hope, Pennsylvania and you have 15 minutes left on the meter and a 10 minute walk back to your car.

1. You are window shopping quite briskly as you cruise past the ice cream shop, and then you spot 'em...revolutionary soldiers, about five of them.  I have a very distinct reason now why I am hanging around outside waiting for them to come out.

2. Besides the fact that I am a blogger, for the first time in my life on my way to New Hope on Saturday, December 17th, I asked my husband to take a detour, just a block or two off our normal route and stop at Washington's Crossing. It was a pretty cold afternoon and I wondered how the temperatures were on the date of the official crossing.  I found George's tent.

3. Right next to the tent is a large barn structure and inside the barn are two boats that look like large canoes to me but they are actually replicas of the boats that Washington and his troops took on December 25th. The Durham boat was designed to transport products across the Delaware River and specifically requested by Washington during the American Revolution when he made the first surprise attack on the Hessian Troops on Christmas Day 1776.

4. I wasn't exactly sure where the crossing took place so I just took a picture of the river between Pennsylvania and New Jersey with the bridge in the background. Nor am I sure how wide the river was at the time compared to 245 years later. Both sides of the Delaware River where the crossing took place have been preserved, in an area designated as the Washington's Crossing National Historic Landmark. In this district, Washington Crossing Historic Park in Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania, preserves the area in Pennsylvania, and Washington Crossing State Park marks the New Jersey side. The two areas are connected by the Washington Crossing Bridge.[46]

5. I am sure however that this is McCockney's Ferry Inn, the tavern that General Washington and his troop's visited prior to the crossing.  It is the original building.

6. I could not believe my luck, the soldiers finally emerged from the ice cream store and I back tracked just a little and ask if I may take a photograph of them.  Being dutiful soldiers they all lined up for a photograph....except for one.  He stepped aside.

7. I questioned him, "Wouldn't you like to be part of the picture?"  He said, "No I don't need my picture taken", in an almost snippy, cantankerous fashion. He was dressed slightly different from the rest of the group so it would have been nice to have him too but I didn't push him and I took the picture of the rest of the troop.

8. We proceeded down Main Street and are now part of the brigade with who I was soon to find out was led by General George Washington.  My husband, he's so smart, recognized him from the uniform and he asked the general, "why are you dressed up tonight", "are you practicing"?

9. Yup, he spoke to General George Washington, eventually to be the first President of the United States just like that....the cantankerous guy. In a very dignified manner, George declared they were in uniform tonight to fire the cannon.  I'm guessing this is a normal thing to do in New Hope one week prior to one of the most significant battles and turning points of the American Revolution. I, now started conversing with George, doing a little name dropping, because you see I happen to have worked for several years with a American Revolution soldier who reenacts crossing that river every year as an officer. So I asked George if he knew him.  Here I go, questioning authority.  You would think I would know better.  He was very gracious and did not recall the name but offered his in return. We were now friends and he agreed to be part of the next picture.

10. "General Washington" proceeded to tell us that each year on December 25th, the crossing along with, and he shuttered to use this word. "theatrics" begin about 1pm.  He asked if we were attending.  I think if I agreed this leader would have put us in a boat, using any soldier he could get to win that battle.  We told him the event is definitely on our list but Christmas Day is a tough time to commit to.  He remarked, that some people are appalled that they actually reenact the event on Christmas, the actual day it took place.  Typically, 12,000 people attend this yearly event.  General Washington offered us a tip.  The second week of December there is a dress rehearsal doing the same exact thing that is done on December 25 and the crowd is far less in numbers, only a mere 3,000 people and he did caution, if you were to come on either of these days, just because it begins at 1pm, you should still arrive earlier.  The spectators begin to congregate around 10:30am to get into a good viewing area. We soon parted ways without much pageantry and I wished the general a good evening and a good crossing and he in turn wished us a good evening and a good holiday.

I guess the moral of my story is treat everyone you meet on the street with respect.  You never know who you are talking to and they may be on their way to making history.  I felt deeply fortunate to be walking along with such greatness even if it were 245 years later.  History is history no matter when you witness it.

God Bless America.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Top 10 Christmas Getting Into Trains

Christmas just seems to bring out the appreciation and fascination of trains.

1. Brandywine River Museum Model Railroad " A Brandywine Christmas" through January 8th. If you have never been to this museum it is worth the trip, great local artists and artwork, as well in our own backyard.

2. Santa's Paradise Express ended December 18th in Strasburg, Pennsylvania. A regular train schedule is opened  December 26th through December 31st.

Photograph of the cog wheel trains heading into the mountain that travel up and down the Alps in Switzerland delivering milk to the locals and affording tourists spectacular views as seem in the next photograph.

3. North Pole Express New Hope and Ivyland, Pennsylvania. I was just there this weekend, unfortunately I did not ride the train but I should have another interesting experience to share about New Hope later this week.

4. Ft. Worth, Grapevine, Texas Vintage Train.  This train runs from Fort Worth to Grapeview, Texas both great towns to visit if you are even in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.

5. Eight Engine Train Carrying Coal in the Allegheny Mountains. Yikes! Are there that many bad kids getting coal this year?

Train running along the Rhine River in Germany.
6. Pere Marquette 1225, the Real Polar Express (used partially in the movie) The Polar Express.

7. Minatur Wunderland World's Largest Miniature Model Railroad in Hamburg, Germany.

8. The Acela Express is Amtrak's high-speed rail service along the Northeast Corridor (NEC) in the Northeast United States  it can reach speeds up to 150 mph.

9. France with the V150 is the current world record holder in speed in the world on conventional rails with a speed of  574.8 km/h (357mph).

Heading for the train in Paris

Paris Trains
10. I would be completely remiss if I did not mention the London Underground. You can not properly travel around the city without the use of the Tube.

London Tube
Hanukkah begins at sunset December 20th and ends at sunset December 28th.  Happy Hanukkah to all those of the Jewish faith.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Top 10 Is This Time of Year Too Commercial?

(follow the links to some classics old and new)

1. I'd like to Buy the World a Coke ahhh those 70's.

2. Phillips Norelco Tis the Season to Upgrade and here's to the old Norelco in basic black and white.

3. Old Spice MANta Claus

4. Heineken "Open Your World"

5. N E S T L E S

6. Duncan Hines Turtle Brownies

7. Campbell's Soup

8. Hershey's Kisses

9. The Clapper

10. The Digital Story of the Nativity (there are several versions on Youtube I chose this link).

Do you think Christmas is too commercial or clever advertising?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Top 10 Christmas Songs and Artist's on Spotify

I am new to Spotify but I kinda like it.
search Christmas results in popularity.

1. Last Christmas Wham

2. It's Beginning To Look Like Christmas, All I Want For Christmas Is You, Holly Jolly Christmas,White Christmas(duet with Shania Twain) all the rest Michael Buble

3. Christmas Lights Coldplay

4. Have Yourself A Merry Little Chrismas, Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),Blue Christmas Michael Buble (again).

5. All I Want For Christmas Is You Mariah Carey

6. I'll Be Home For Christmas Michael Buble

7. Blue Christmas Elvis

8. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town Michael Buble

9. Jingle Bells Michael Buble featuring the Puppini Sisters

10.Santa Baby, Silent Night, Cold December Night, Ave Maria, Mis Desoes/Feliz Navidad (duet with Thalia) all the rest Michael Buble

This is not a personal preference or an advertisement for Michael Buble but it seems if he is not in your collection, you are missing something, Santa baby?

Don't throw the fruitcake but Justin Bieber came it at #27 with Christmas Love.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Top 10 Holiday and Festive Things to Do December 2011

1. Macy's Grand Court Light Show and Dickens Village 13th and Market Streets Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
 2. A Longwood Christmas the Garden Railway  transforms into the Christmas Railway through January 8th 2012.

4. Rose Tree Park Festival of Lights The trees will be lit nightly from 5:30 -9:30pm.

5. The Best of Yuletide Past at Winterthur 5105 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, DE 19807

6. A Brandywine Christmas Brandywine River Museum Railroad through January 8th.
7. Go ice skating at the Blue Cross River Rink. New Years Eve Party with Fireworks on the River!

8. Pennsylvania Ballet The Nutcracker at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

9. A Christmas Carol at the Hedgerow Theatre 640 Rose Valley Road, Media, Pennsylvania also playing at limited time as part of the Children's Series, A Winnie-the-Pooh Christmas Tail.

10. Have you gotten your tree yet? Is it decorated? Presents wrapped? Cookies baked?

The countdown begins...................................are finals over yet?

 Give yourself a round of cheer and enjoy the holiday season.

Additions : 
The Players Club of Swarthmore, Crazy For You through December 17th

 The Friends of Thomas Leiper House are hosting a Colonial Christmas Open House on Sunday, December 18th to celebrate the birthday of Thomas Leiper at his 1785 country home at 521 Avondale Road, Wallingford, Pennsylvania from 1 - 5 PM.

Upper Darby Performing Arts Center
December 16th,  Dinosaurs 7:30PM
December 18th, A Victoria Christmas 3PM

The Media Theatre The Sound of Music now thru January 15th and Jack Frost Saves Christmas thru December 24th in Media, Pennsylvania.

Voices of Christmas at Theatre Horizon at the Centre Theater in Norristown, Pennsylvania thru December 31st.

Disney on Ice at the Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania thru January 1st.
Independent Seaport Museum 2nd Annual Parade of Lights along the Delaware River December 17th in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The display can be viewed all along Penn's Landing.  The Buccaneers Ball is December 31st.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Top 10 Holidays These Are the Best Of Times and the Worst Of Times

1. Lets cut to the chase, there is the Thanksgiving meal.  Here is the rundown, turkey, mash potatoes, gravy, stuffing, corn, peas, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, cole slaw and of course the cranberry.  Am I missing anything? That is only because I could not jam any more on my plate. Dessert comes later and no photographs were available.  It went too quick!

2. A lot of "c" words and we all know that begins with calories but it is just one day right? But.... That one day can turn into a lifestyle if you are not careful over the next month.  There are lots of goodies coming into the house if you let temptation win.

3. Indigestion, stomach, acid,  gerd, the little purple pill. Luckily for me, I do not suffer from any of these conditions. The turkey does however, make me a little drowsy and want to take nap and I might miss an important inning of the football game. Yawn, I mean quarter.

4. This year and almost every year, since I know this is an issue, I skip the football game and remain in the kitchen.  After dinner, the women take over the kitchen and the men can have their football.  The kitchen is the happening spot.

5. This is undoubtedly the moment when I pause for a brief moment and think of those that are not with us for some reason.  Some years it is more noticeable then others. We have lost more but we have two honorary guests in the dining room at all times.  I am not sure if anyone notices but they are there, at Christmas we have elves.

6. I choose the kitchen because of other "c" words.  Number one, we clear the air and curse the calories.  Someone has to be blamed. Then comes the very best of the holiday, the "company and the conversation".

7.  The girlies gather round the kitchen table and drink the wine, no leftovers, and solve the world's problems.

8.  This year the conversation took an interesting turn, technology.  My sister-in-law has an IPhone, the latest and greatest.  This thing will do anything, she told us.  So you know women, we said, "prove it".  It was my turn and I said, What is my horoscope, am I going to have a good day? You are not just talking to yourself.  Well in a way you are but this person, place or thing you are addressing has a name, Siri. Forget the old Simon says now it is Siri says....

9. Siri lives in the clouds and it seemed I stumped Siri with the question.  Very quickly, he she or it started with an attitude.  Since it was my sister-in-laws phone, she was addressed directly by name.  Granted, we (wasn't me), were starting to have a little fun with the mechanism and when she couldn't come up with the answer immediately, we did a little razzing, we said "What are you stupid?", "Not smarter then a fifth grader huh?" "Computer got your tongue?" We were just having fun, wine makes you do that.  Siri went ballistic.  At first she kept repeating, I don't understand, I don't understand and then well, he she or it spewed out a big long message scolding us.  "Why are you talking to me like this?" A complete meltdown, we were in shock.

10.  Lesson learned, if you are going to talk to the clouds be careful how you phrase your question, you could hurt someones feelings.  Sorry Siri. I apologize, lets clear the air and clean our plate. It is a holiday and maybe it just wasn't a five star day for either of us.

Has anyone had any trouble with their IPhone and Siri?  I do not own a smart phone for obvious reasons. I am not sure we would get along. I just may be out smarted all the time.

Holidays are suppose to be about joy and happiness but inevitably something terrible or tragic happens to someone that is purely unexpected.  No one plans or sets out to hurt or harm anyone. It is truly sad when these events come around and it only leaves you questioning why. 

Why can't every one have a Merry Christmas? Is that answer in the clouds?

Special mention this Wednesday at "Live" in the Newsroom,  blogger at Cucina Chatter and radio host, Lorraine Ranalli and guests will be discussing "The Feast of the 7 Fishes".
I always wanted to be Italian at Christmas, just for the food.  Maybe this Irish lass can learn something. I am going to check them out and you might want to as well.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Top 10 Sounds of the Season

Do you hear what I hear?

1. Impatient people beeping horns, many times followed by flailing arms and unfriendly gestures.

2. Salvation Army ringing their bells for charity. Not many people seem to be listening.

3. Standing in line, "who's next?"

4. Christmas music is everywhere, to pressure, encourage or to soothe. More people appear to be singing, I am.

5. The crackling of the fire in the fireplace. I do not have a fireplace, I just imagine that one.

6. Snowplows driving up the street to remove the snow that arrived quietly overnight. They are coming.

7. Rustling of the wrapping paper and the slide of the scissors taking off on their own and you don't even have to cut the paper. You mumble where's the tape?

8. The clang of the cookie sheets as you place them down gently unless they are very hot, then it is more of a bang or BAM!

9. Doorbells are being rung more often. It may just be Fedex or UPS. It is a good time to get together with family and friends and turn down the hustle bustle. Just chillaxing. Ring my chimes.

10. Sometimes sirens are not a scary sound. They can mean Santa Claus is coming to town. This weekend and possibly next in neighboring towns, cities, townships and boroughs, the local fire department escorts Santa Claus up and down the streets to give all children the opportunity to sit on his lap.

Everyone beats to the sound of a different drum. These are just some of the things I hear this time of year.

How about you, what are you hearing?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Top 10 Lyrics by Lennon with Song Title

1. Please remember my life is in your hands....Woman.John Lennon

2. Love is touch, touch is love...Love John Lennon and Yoko

3. It's easy if you try. No hell below us.  Above us only sky....Imagine Herbie Hancock's The Imagine Project. Song: Imagine, featuring Pink, Seal, India Arie.

4. I was feeling insecure, you might not love me anymore...Jealous Guy Bryan Ferry

5. Chanting the mantra. peace on earth.....Mind games sung by Kevin Spacey

6. Why in the world are we here?  Surely not to live in pain and fear.....Instant Karma John Lennon

7. People asking questions, lost in confusion.  Well I tell there's no problem, only solutions.....Watching the Wheels Matisyahu

8. One thing I can tell you is you got to be free....Come Together

9. No one's to blame time flys so quickley....Just Like Starting Over Flaming Lips

10.  Let's hope it's a good one, without any fear....Happy Xmas (War is Over) Pavarotti, Domingo Carreras

Most of us know the lyrics and can sing these songs but it doesn't sound right unless John Lennon sings them.  They are all out on Youtube just search the song and you can hear John Lennon's voice.