My Top Ten Christmas Songs, Young Artists Edition, By Rich Paschall

From the time your Halloween pumpkin turned to mush on your front porch until now, you have been hearing Christmas music in the stores, on the radio and television and perhaps on your computer and mobile devices as well.  As we have noted on past Top Ten lists, the airwaves have been filled with familiar voices singing the same holiday hits to us that they have been singing for decades.  Of course, it is not Christmastime if we do not hear Bing, Perry, Andy and Nat crooning to us, but perhaps there are some newer artists who will earn a spot on the radio station playlist some day soon.

It is in this spirit that I come to you with another holiday playlist in hand.  I can see by the tired look on your faces, that you are ready for something fresh.  For this edition we have an eclectic assortment of original songs and holiday covers.  Before we get too carried away with Aunt Maude’s apple cider or Uncle Harvey’s Gluhwein, I have an honorable mention from talented producer, video editor, musician and performer Kurt Hugo Schneider (age 28).  Performing this “mash-up” of holidays tunes with him is actor, dancer, singer Max Schneider (24, and no relation) and Victoria Justice (23).  I will leave it to you to figure out how KHS pulls this off.  He really does not explain it at the end.

Now the weather outside might be frightful, but the following is so delightful, and since you’ve no place to go (because most stores really are closed), enjoy these tunes from the 30 and under crowd.

10. Christmas Must Be Something More, Taylor Swift (26) Released in 2007, this tune has not gotten the airplay of her rather uninspiring covers of “Last Christmas” and “Santa Baby.”

9.  A Wonderful Christmas Time, Demi Lovato (24)  The former Disney princess covers the Paul McCartney hit in a Disney Parade.  I guess that means Ryan Seacrest needs to make the introduction.

8.  Santa Tell Me, Ariana Grande (23) The former Nickelodeon star has made it big in television and film, as well as recording pop songs.  The Christmas video comes with a series of “outtakes” at the end.

7.  Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Sam Smith (24)  The typical presentation of this Grammy winning artist is perfect for this melancholy version of the bittersweet tune.

6.  Let It Snow – Baby It’s Cold Outside, Robby Word (19) and Alex G. (24).  It’s another holiday mash-up from Kurt Hugo Schneider, a master at the one-take video.  You can also wonder how they pulled off this one.

5.  Winter Wonderland, Alexander Rybak (30) The 2009 winner of the Eurovision song contest released an album of holiday tunes in English in 2012, Christmas Tales.  Not only did Rybak arrange and sing the songs, he is the entire string section on the recording.  The multi-talented artist was born in Belarus and lives in Norway.

4.  I’ll Be Home For Christmas, Sam Tsui (27)  Sam writes, arranges and sings on a large number of You Tube videos.  On this selection, he goes a cappella with a crew of Sams singing along.  Tsui has a Christmas EP so you can hear other familiar Christmas tunes as well.

3.  All I Want For Christmas Is You, Steve Grand (26)  This will be our non-traditional entry on the list.  Grand plays the piano as well as sings the familiar tune.  He is the featured character in the story being told, but how does it end?  You can find a link to another video on how they made this one on You Tube.  We have previously featured Steve as the “All-American Boy“.

2.  Mistletoe, Justin Bieber (22)  The Biebs scored a big hit with all the Beliebers in 2011 with this snappy tune.  The video has picked up over a quarter billion views and still going strong.  The radio airplay may have died down, but this song really deserves a place on the list.

1.  Pat-A-Pan, David Archuleta (25)  There were a lot of Christmas songs to choose from by the popular recording artist.  He has a full length album of Christmas songs.  He has performed on multiple Christmas television programs.  In fact, he was the featured performer on a Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas program on PBS.  That show received more ticket requests than any of their previous annual shows.  Find a half hour of highlights here.  I chose Pat-A-Pan from a different show not just because he sings to us in French and English, but also because it shows off the strength and clarity of his voice.

Entire You Tube Playlist:
Christmas Yet To Come
Christmas Present
Christmas Past



Marilyn had been doing battle for days with UPS and FEDEX about vanished Christmas deliveries. It was frustrating and not funny. Her frustration got to me too, since I can’t help fight this particular battle. It finally got sorted out, but it left us tired and not feeling any kind of holiday spirit.


Add that we have been intermittently under siege from “whatever is going around,”while trying to fend off another of the seemingly endless viruses that leave us feeling old and tired. Factor in the latest appalling, comic strip news from the president-elect. We are bummed out. Wishing the holidays were over before they had begun. Whether you celebrate or not, this ought to at least be a season with hope for a better New Year to come, but this one? Good riddance to 2016, but 2017 was not looking better.

Is there no silver lining? Anything to look forward to?


Bleak thoughts were racing through my head as I made a deli run to pick up a few items. I flashed a smile to the friendly lady at the counter. Civility is a requirement, even if I’m feeling down. She totaled up my purchases while I pulled out my debit card and started to hand it to her.

“Nope,” she said. “Not need, it’s all paid for.” indicating I wouldn’t need my card.


I looked around confused.

The gentleman standing next to me smiled and softly said, “Happy Holidays”.

I left the deli, a bit stunned, but smiling. Sometimes, the world surprises you. In a good way. Maybe there is hope after all.


Marilyn has been doing battle with UPS for two days about Christmas packages lost in transit. It’s been frustrating and not especially funny Abbott and Costello 48 hours for Marilyn. Her frustration gets transferred to me because I can’t help. It finally got sorted out, but it left us tired and not feeling that holiday spirit.


Add that we’re under siege from “what’s going around,”and trying to fend off another of the endless colds that leaves us grumbling and grumpy. Now, factor in the latest comic strip news from President-elect Orange Head. Not surprisingly, we are bummed out and wishing the holidays were over before they have entirely begun.

Is there no silver lining?


Bleak thoughts were racing through my head as I made a deli run to pick up a few items. I flashed a smile to the friendly lady at the counter. Civility is a must even if you’re feeling down. I pulled out my card and started to hand it to her.

“Nope, it’s all paid for”, she said, indicating I wouldn’t need my debit card.

I looked around confused.

The gentleman standing next to me smiled and softly said, “Happy Holidays”.

I left the deli, a bit stunned, but smiling. Sometimes, the world surprises you. In a good way.


It’s the season of so many things, but one of the biggest is shopping online. This is when we need packages to arrive on time. So, of course, this is exactly when they are most likely to disappear. I got three emails from UPS yesterday telling me three packages had been delivered to my “front door.” As soon as I saw “front door,” I knew it was trouble.

72-Front Path_11

Our front door is inside the gate where Bonnie and Gibbs are ever on guard. In order to bring something to the front door, they have to go through the gate with the big “BEWARE OF DOGS” sign … not to mention figuring out how to open the gate, then convincing it to actually open, which isn’t easy. We get lots of deliveries. It all gets delivered to the big red door alongside the driveway. We even have put a big table so if the weather is bad, they can put it up out of the snow or puddles.


NO ONE delivers anything to the front door. And none of the three packages actually arrived. Since most of this was stuff that was on super clearance or for use during the holidays, it was a depressing loss. UPS is the primary delivery service out here. There’s also the United States Postal Service (cheap, but good luck with that) … and FedEx which is usually good, but during holidays, erratic.

Officially speaking, these packages were delivered to our front door by UPS at 3:25 pm.

Uh uh. Not at the front door, either of the two side doors, or the door upstairs on the deck. Or at either of the gates or by the mailbox. Or alongside the shed. No packages. I looked. Garry looked. I looked again. Garry looked again. Nada. Nothing.

The red door by the driveway

The red door by the driveway

It could be that the delivery guy, being a holiday temporary employee delivered the package to the wrong house. It has happened before. Usually, that’s the end of it. We never see it again. We’ve gotten a lot of other peoples’ packages, but we are good neighbors and deliver them by hand to the proper house. Other folks are less honest or more lazy. Not sure which. Maybe both.

So I called United Parcel Service, alternatively known as UPS or brown because they dress in brown uniforms and drive brown trucks. FedEx is all red, white and blue and the United States Postal Service (USPS) drive white trucks and don’t bother with uniforms here. In the city, they still wear blue, official uniforms, though. In the country, we are grateful to get mail at all and are not picky about apparel.


UPS had no idea where the packages were. “Maybe some other family member picked them up?”

“It’s just me and my husband.”

“Have you checked …”

“Every door. Every gate. Ever inch of the driveway and up by the mail box. And the back porch. No packages.”

“The driver came back with no packages. He said they were delivered.”

“Well, he didn’t deliver them here.”

“We’ll call you back in less than an hour.”

The deck gate.

The deck gate.

I waited. And waited. So, I called again, this time with the case number. No one knew anything, but they would call me back in less than an hour. Repeat one more time. Still no information, but they would DEFINITELY call me back in less than an hour. No, really, they would call me back.

Meanwhile, I called Lands’ End and they said they’d send me a replacement coat and I called Amazon and they said they’d send me a new oven thermometer. There was another missing Lands’ End package, so I called them, again … only to discover that four of the six items I’d ordered were no longer available. Only one sweater and a pair of dress pants for Garry could be replaces. And he really needs those pants for the party we are going to next week. I agreed to give it one more day in the unlikely hope UPS would “find” the packages. Sometimes, they say packages have been delivered, but they haven’t really delivered them. They are planning to, but to keep their bosses off their backs, so they mark them as delivered early. I’m hoping this is what happened. Otherwise, one of my neighbors got an early Christmas bonus.

The back door

This morning, I woke to the phone ringing. It was the UPS driver. Yes, indeed, he delivered them to the people next door. The unpleasant ones who seem to feel we are not nearly good enough to be their neighbors. That must be why they kept our stuff. The drive thinks he can get it back. I have my doubts, but I appreciate him trying. Isn’t there a law about this or something? It’s really theft, in passive-aggressive mode.

From my point of view, the worst part of the deal is that the three clearance sweaters I ordered from Lands’ End are no longer available in either my size or color. Out of 6 items, they can resend just two. So they will replace two items, refund the other four, and collect the money from UPS’s insurance. It’s the original vendors who deal with the problems, replacing missing packages and then filing the endless paperwork to get their money back. Meanwhile, the neighbors have one lovely wool coat, a pair of men’s dress pants, five lovely sweaters, and a rather classy oven thermometer. Free.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Tis the season indeed, which is why I do all of my holiday shopping before Thanksgiving. It’s only the beginning of December and I won’t be doing anymore ordering until the holidays are over. This is as much holiday angst as I can handle.



For the past few years, there has been an increasing clamor to make everything shut down for Thanksgiving, supposedly so everyone can spend time with their family. Nice, well-meaning sentiment, on the face of it. Except for all the people who don’t have families with whom to celebrate. Or who are estranged from (or just plain don’t like) their family, what about them? Are you making their lives better? Do they want the day off? Did you ask any of them?

And then, there are Native Americans who don’t think celebrating the arrival of armed Europeans who would steal their land, infect them with diseases, and try in every way they could to murder all of them, is something to celebrate. Or the struggling families who count on extra money from working holidays to help them survive.


Everyone doesn’t celebrate the same way. Or want to. Some folks prefer to work holidays. They would rather work than sit around their empty rooms feeling left out of America’s favorite dinner party and maybe need the extra pay. Or they don’t like Thanksgiving, for whatever reason — and it is their right to feel that way.

I understand the sentiment, where it’s coming from. To me, it’s one more example of how we try to force everyone to march in lock step. As if we are all the same or at the very least, we all should be. Above all, we should want to be.

I would appreciate it if you righteous people would shut up already. This is a diverse country. That’s not just something we say during an election year. It’s a real thing. As a nation, we supposedly treasure diversity as much as any other freedom. So let’s leave a little room for people to express their differences as well as their similarities, shall we?

We do not all need (or want) to eat turkey. With or without gravy.


Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: 2016 Week 46

Thanksgiving is next week, but as far as the stores are concerned, Christmas is just one day later. And down at the dam, the last few leaves are clinging to the trees … except weirdly, some still have all their leaves. It’s a bronze and deep red time of year.

Buy your wreathes and turkey at the same time.

Buy your wreathes and turkey at the same time


The last red leaves of autumn

The last red leaves of autumn

The church seen from the river. I never realized you can see it from here because you can't until the leaves are gone ... mostly gone ...

The church seen from the river. I never realized you can see it from here because you can’t until the leaves are gone … mostly gone …