Thursday, November 20, 2014

Holiday Memories--The Sears Wish Book

Around the holiday season each year I guess I’ve mentioned to Stretch more than a few times about the old Sears “Wish Book” catalogs that we last century kids used to pore over hoping that we’d get at least a few of the toys/dolls/games that we circled and marked with stars and arrows and anything else we could think of to attract our parents’ attention when they flipped through the book.

Stretch came to me the other day and said that his friend Debby had sent him a copy of one of these catalogs and he couldn’t see what the big deal was. Did I really want one of these primitive computer-type machines and this weird-looking camera when I was a kid? I patiently explained that the book he got from Debby was actually a “century before last” catalog, not the ones I had as a kid.

To clear up the matter, I searched the Web and found a great site called where some nice folks have scanned copies of old Sears Wish Books in PDF format for us baby boomers to browse and enjoy. With a big thanks to them, I was able to show Stretch some of the fun items I enjoyed as a kid.

Stretch: So what kind of video/computer games did you have?

Me: Well, we had something called “Board Games.” Like this Barbie game I used to love to play with my cousins Melanie and Tess. Remember? Mel and I played this again when we visited her a few years ago.

Stretch: Oh yeah. I've actually been trying to purge that memory of you guys in the prom gowns after the game . . . Well did you have any realistic three dimensional games?

Me: Sure. There were these Disneykins/Tinykins. Gosh, Tess and I used to create all kinds of scenes and activities with these figures.

Stretch: So how about DVDs. Did you ever get DVDs for Christmas?
Me: Well, we had something a little different called a Viewmaster.

Stretch gave me one of those looks.

Me: But look, I did have something that was really exciting. My Dad bought me this telescope when I was about 9 or 10. We used to take it outside or set it up in the window when it was too cold to go outside. You could see the moon really clearly, the rings of Saturn, and great views of some of the constellations. My Dad loved anything having to do with space and he passed that fascination on to me.

Stretch: So, did you ever spot the constellation “Stretch” when you were looking through that telescope?
Me:  No, my life was a lot simpler and less “stretchful” in those days.
….to be continued

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Virtual Trip to the Zoo (in Stretch's world)

It couldn’t be a drearier November day here in the Northeast U.S. today. It’s been pouring rain since last night, and the cold dampness is seeping into every nook and adding to the gloom. I asked Stretch for advice on what to do on a day like today and he said if humans were smarter they’d do what bears do—hibernate.
I told Stretch that isn’t a good option for me. I was raised in a family where the prevailing philosophy was, “If you’re breathing, get out of bed.”

With a sigh, Stretch got up and asked me what I would do today if the sun was shining and it was 70 degrees and I felt good. The first thing that came to mind was one of my favorite outings—walking around the zoo. Well, fortunately for me, I happen to have an extremely spoiled sidekick who has his own zoo, and recently his friend Debby made him a book about the African animals in his zoo.
So he's inviting any of our friends who are feeling lowdown and grouchy in the rain/snow/cold wave sweeping across the country to come along on a virtual trip to his zoo and learn some fun facts that might just come in handy for trivia contests . . .

The average rhino stands only about 5 feet at the shoulder but weighs 5,000 pounds. (I think I need a bigger scale!)

Each zebra has its own stripe pattern like no other. (Are they sure a stripe pattern has never been repeated? How long have they been following zebra tribes around to make sure?)

Hippos can gallop 18 miles an hour and can eat 88 pounds of grass in one day! (Hey, that will save a lot of lawn mowing!)

Elephants have deep emotional feelings. (Maybe that’s why they never forget—so be nice to any you see.)

Giraffes have blue tongues. (Why not orange so they’d be color-coordinated?)

The Nile Crocodile accounts for over 200 human deaths a year. (It doesn’t say anything in this book about them eating bears, so I guess I’m safe.)

Wait a minute, my human sidekick is spouting off about something . . .

Stretch, I’m not sure about the accuracy of these facts from our friend Debby. I was just reading this other book she sent you about Prairie Dogs.

She says they’re “adorable, comical, soft and loveable.” That hasn’t been my experience. Remember those Prairie Dogs we met in Maine a few years ago?

Maybe we should forget the virtual zoo trip and just curl up with some hot tea from cousin Anne Marie and read a good mystery book . . .

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Canstruction 2014

This past weekend we took Stretch to view “Canstruction 2014.” For those who aren’t familiar with this event, every year leading architects and engineering professionals build sculptures out of cans of food in a contest where they receive awards such as “Best Use of Labels” and “Best Meal.” All proceeds from the event go to City Harvest and all the cans of food are also donated after the exhibition is over. Here are some of Stretch’s favorite displays:

The “Statuna of Liberty”—cute pun! (Winner: Best Use of Labels)

Isn’t this guy cute—“Hounding Hunger.” (Winner: Best Meal)

This peacock looks like the one I painted for “Draw a Picture of a Bird Day.”

“Give a Hoot about Hunger”

I really liked this subway station entrance, very symbolic of NYC.

 “Turn it Around” won the award for Structural Integrity. Wonder how they got the cans to stay like that?

Someone took a bite out of the Big Apple! (Jurors’ Favorite: Hungry to the Core)

Wonder what he’s thinking? Maybe he’s pouting because he only won an Honorable Mention award!

Hmmm. I wonder why they don’t want us to touch the cans? I mean, what would happen if a little guy like me just decided to climb up on that salmon sculpture over there?

OOPS! I think I’ve seen enough, time to scoot off home. 

I’ll just leave that sign up there so someone comes along and puts those cans back up.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day

On Veteran's Day we thought you might like to join us in a virtual stroll through our local Memorial Park dedicated to all Veterans. And perhaps as you do so, you could take a moment to say a prayer for those who are currently serving in our armed services, as well as a silent "thank you" to all who have sacrificed so much for us.
The "Walls of Honor" listing names of local Veterans.

Our family and friends will recognize one special name on this slab. (My Dad, William A. Gonski, U.S. Army WWII)

"Vietnam: Two clasped hands rise out of a map of Southeast Asia, rising above adversity, time and torment, to bear witness to a reality that only fellow Veterans could understand, yet all who see it will remember...Brotherhood.

The hands are bound together by dog tags, representing the tie that binds each and every Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, Coast Guard and Reservist who served."

Never Forget: Some gave all, All gave some.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog post for this important message: Thank you most sincerely to all who called, wrote, messaged or otherwise checked in with us during the past week to find out the results of our Halloween week marathon of medical tests.  We felt so surrounded by love and prayers, and truly blessed to have you in our lives. And we’re happy to report that all is going well and now we’re back to concentrating on more adventures to entertain our family and friends during the holiday season.
Since the whole country seems to be going pumpkin crazy this fall—is there anything they haven’t tried adding pumpkin to lately?—Stretch suggested we should do a pumpkin-themed blog post. I think he has the ulterior motive of a sweet treat resulting from this effort, but I still liked the idea so I agreed.

Actually, the idea for this post probably came to Stretch a few weeks ago when we visited the NY Botanical Garden to see the award-winning giant pumpkins they had on display.
Stretch:  2,008 pounds?! This guy would make a lot of pies!
Me: The sign here says the word “pumpkin” comes from the Greek word “pepon” meaning large melon.
Stretch: Well, they sure got the “large” part right with this one.

Me: Here’s the award winner for the largest pumpkin grown in North America this year, 2058 pounds. It says that a “proven” seed (one that consistently produces large offspring) from one of these giant pumpkins can be worth several hundred dollars.
Stretch: There must be several hundred seeds in these giants. Let’s see several hundred times several hundred equals a lot of stuff from e-Bay miniature sellers . . .

Me: Perhaps we should move on and stroll through the rest of the gardens.
Or maybe it’s time we headed home and did some baking, I have a great recipe for pumpkin cookies.

Stretch: I think this one heard you, he’s high-stemming it out of here.

Anyway,  here's the recipe for pumpkin cookies that we found on the Very Best Baking website:

Cookies and cocoa on a cold, rainy day—what could be better?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Stretch's Halloween

Stretch and his little friend Tiny are busy getting ready for Halloween today. We'll be spending tomorrow at the Monter Center where I’ll be seeing my oncologist to get the results of my quarterly tests, then undergoing treatment. So we'll be celebrating the day with our doctor/nurse friends. They wanted to know if I'll be wearing a costume--I told them I'm coming as a metastatic breast cancer patient. It doesn't get much scarier than that!

But that won’t interfere with the Halloween party Stretch has planned tomorrow night and you’re all invited.  He and Tiny took over the top of my fireplace as their party room and are busy setting up. (A special thanks to Stretch's friends Mitzi and Paul Van Dort who contributed many of the decorations you see in the background. You guys are the best!)

I told Stretch the head on the platter might be a bit politically incorrect this year, but he said in the good old American spirit of freedom, he's not letting any terrorists dictate that he can't have some Halloween fun. Besides, he said it's actually a tribute to our cousin Harold the bionic man who's having everything replaced except his head.

Looks like the little one may need some help reaching those bobbing apples.

One of Stretch’s little cousins is practicing playing “The Monster Mash” on the piano.

Joe bought the guys the awesome Halloween tree with ghost lights that have three functions—they can light steadily, blink or run. 

Is this bear spoiled or what?

And because so many have been asking what costume Stretch is going to have for Halloween, I let him and Tiny get a jump on their trick-or-treating. (Of course, Tiny is going as a clown, his favorite outfit.)

Since, as you’ve no doubt noticed, Stretch doesn’t care to be hindered by clothes, he chose a Groucho Marx persona for his Halloween costume.