The Lighter Side

Those Squirrely Squirrels

October 17, 2014

My backyard looks like a squirrel freeway at this time of year. There must be dozens of them scuttling about looking for nuts and busily burying them for the coming winter.

A lot of people think squirrels are a nuisance, but I enjoy watching them run from tree to fence and back again while I relax with a cup of coffee on a cool fall morning. Of course, the dog is always in hot pursuit. After all these years, he still hasn't figured out that he will never catch a squirrel, so he makes for some fine fall entertainment himself.

The one drawback to my squirrel-friendly landscape is that the little critters are constantly raiding my bird feeders. Luckily, I found some advice online and I've been able to squirrel-proof most of my feeders in one or two easy and inexpensive steps. Now the birds can still get at their seed, but the bushy-tailed thieves can't. And the added level of entertainment of watching the squirrels try again and again to reach the seed? Priceless.

Your "Squirrel-Friendly" Gift Guru

Princess Weddings

October 10, 2014

The Frozen wedding gown is here! Well, not exactly here yet. Disney Weddings unveiled the new "Elsa Gown" at Alfred Angelo's Bridal Fashion Week in New York City on Tuesday.

The strapless mermaid gown is embellished with jewels and features a flowing chiffon cape/train hybrid just like Elsa's. It's available in the traditional white or a lovely pale blue. It's absolutely gorgeous!

Elsa isn't the only belle of this ball. Wedding gowns inspired by Tiana, Belle and Rapunzel also debuted as part of Angelo's Disney Fairy Tale Bridal Collection. Still, like the movie ran away with big box office wins, the Frozen gown stole the runway show in a dazzling, snowy display. The dress will be available in January and brides everywhere just can't wait!

Your "Princess Brides" Gift Guru

Midterm Madness

October 03, 2014

Are you going to vote in the midterm elections next month? If you are, it seems you might be alone. Or close to it. Voters are expected to stay home in droves this year. Why? As one reporter said, the midterm "has been called 'the Seinfeld election,' because so much of the campaign seems to be about nothing." But this midterm republicans and democrats are fighting for control of the Senate. And that's not nothing.

Still, I get it. Maybe voters on both sides of the aisle are just tired of relentless attack ads and mudslinging and all of the other ridiculous political antics going on in Washington and their home states.

While it's tempting to stick my head in the sand and ignore all that noise, I will vote. I've voted in every election since I turned eighteen and I don't intend to stop now. Right, left or middle, I hope you vote, too. Why? Because November 4th is the day when American citizens can change things by casting our votes!

Your "Go Vote!" Gift Guru

KLM's Beloved Beagle

September 26, 2014

KLM, the Royal Dutch Airline, fooled the world this week with a brilliant advertising campaign starring possibly the cutest beagle ever. Sherlock, as the story goes, helps reunite passengers with lost items by taking a sniff of the object and then tracking the owner through a busy airport. If you somehow missed it, you can watch the full commercial here.

KLM had us all believing that they actually employed a dog in their lost and found department so when NBC revealed the truth, people were more than upset. KLM's Twitter page blew up with disbelieving outrage and the Huffington Post called the PR stunt, "another cruel lesson in how not everything is as it seems."

Maybe KLM will listen to some of their Twitter followers and "make it real." After all, beagles are known for their fierce intelligence and their amazing sense of smell so Sherlock could probably do the job. Besides, everyone knows how short-lived a television career can be -- after Sherlock's fifteen minutes of fame has come and gone, he might need a day job.

Your "Brilliant Beagle" Gift Guru

Grumpy Cat's Movie Debut

September 19, 2014

Who knew a crotchety kitty could become an internet sensation and a worldwide superstar? Grumpy Cat did it. MSNBC named her the most influential cat in the world, she's appeared in news and television shows around the world and she's even published two books. Now she's about become a movie star.

In the Lifetime original movie, "Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever," the friendless feline is living in a mall pet store. She has a sour outlook on life because she's always passed over by customers looking for a cat to call their own. But then she befriends a very special little girl -- the only person who can hear her talk. I won't spoil the movie for you by relating the rest of the plot, but suffice it to say, Grumpy Cat will get an opportunity to learn the real meaning of Christmas.

You can watch Grumpy Cat make her movie debut on Lifetime at 8pm (ET) on November 29. If you can't wait that long, you can always re-read her books or visit "The Daily Grump" online.

Your "One Cool Cat" Gift Guru

Is It Halloween Yet?

September 12, 2014

I guess it's time to start getting ready for Halloween. I know because my kids are already on it. They started dragging out spooky decorations and old costumes last weekend. The family room is full of boxes of spiders and ghouls and scary sound makers and the kids are full of ideas for this year's costumes.

My son is undecided. One minute he wants to go as a character from Duck Dynasty, the next maybe he'll be a "Walking Dead" zombie. But then he changes his mind again and he's looking at superhero costumes from "Guardians of the Galaxy." Or maybe Batman. I can't keep up so I decided to stay out of it.

My daughter is slightly less confused about her costume. She and her best friend are going as princesses from "Frozen." They just haven't decided who will be Anna and who will be Elsa. I think they might be arguing a little, so I'm staying out of that decision, too!

Your "Happy Halloween" Gift Guru

Happy Teddy Bear Day!

September 05, 2014

September 9th is National Teddy Bear Day! It's a day for bringing out, showing off and cuddling your favorite stuffed bear. I didn't know teddy bears had their own holiday and I also didn't know that the teddy bear is named after US President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt.

The story goes like this: At the end of a hunting expedition where President Roosevelt had found no game, someone brought out a baby bear and suggested that Roosevelt might want to shoot it. Roosevelt, a sporting man, refused. The incident later turned up in a newspaper cartoon, which inspired a New York toy maker to create a new stuffed animal, "Teddy's Bear." And the rest is history.

So on September 9th we can celebrate all the joy we get from our stuffed, fuzzy friends. And we can celebrate Theodore Roosevelt, whose refusal to shoot a helpless little baby bear inspired a toy that's given us comfort and cuddles for more than a hundred years!

Your "Hug A Bear" Gift Guru

The Smell of Sunshine

August 29, 2014

Baseball and summer go hand-in-glove so when the leagues -- big and little -- start to wrap up, you know summer is coming to a close. The Little League World Series is over but the pros still have a few weeks left before the Boys of Summer play their last game.

So we decided to take the kids to a ball game last weekend. It was one of those perfect days. The smell of freshly cut grass, dirt rising from the diamond and food from the concessions filled the air. We got great seats under clear blue skies where a foul ball might just land in one of the kids' at-the-ready baseball gloves. And the home team won.

At the end of the day, as we gathered our troops to head to the car, my daughter asked if we could come back again. "So you like baseball, eh?" I asked her. "It's okay," she said. "But I just like the smell of sunshine." I laughed, but then I realized she was right. If sunshine has a smell, there's no place like the ball park to breathe it in.

Your "Take Me Out To The Ball Game - Again" Gift Guru

The Ice Bucket Challenge

August 22, 2014

I'm sure you've seen the ice bucket challenge by now. Social media has helped the ALSA fundraising and awareness campaign reach stunning heights on the "trending" scale. And with help from some celebrities and lots of just plain folk, the campaign has raised over $41 million for the charity.

The challenge is this: douse yourself with a bucket of ice water on video, post the video to social media, then nominate others in your social network to do the same. People can either accept the challenge or make a donation to an ALS Charity of their choice, or both.

Now I'm somewhat of a fumbler when it comes to technology, plus my cell phone camera isn't very good. Not that it matters. I couldn't quite figure out how to post the fuzzy, half-out-of-frame, too-dark video selfie anyway so I just gave up on that part and made a donation to the cause. And now I'm challenging all of you! Grab your checkbook and/or a bucket of ice water and some towels and let's help the ALSA Ice Bucket Challenge get to $50 million!

Your "Brrrrrrrrr!" Gift Guru

Brain Games

August 15, 2014

My kids are like most kids -- big fans of video games. And their parents are like most parents -- struggling with even the simplest of gaming apps. Our kids will play a game for just a few minutes before they "level up" while it might take us days or even weeks. Truth be told, it took me a month to score enough points to figure out what "level up" meant.

I love games and puzzles and brainteasers and riddles. They're good for keeping your brain active, for sharpening problem solving skills and improving hand-to-eye coordination. I persevere with the apps because some are really cool, but I prefer the old school way of puzzling and gaming. Not because the gaming apps aren't fun or challenging, but because we typically play them alone, even when the whole family is gathered in one room.

Old school jigsaw puzzles and board games have a wealth of benefits missing from electronic gaming. Like inspiring creative thinking, since few are loaded with the "hints" that gaming apps offer. They also encourage players to work as a team to devise strategies and achieve goals, instead of racing from level to level alone. But the best thing about old school games is they bring the family together, not just in the same room staring at separate screens, but at the same table.

Your "Go Team!" Gift Guru