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Updated: 11/29/04

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Monday, 29 November, 2004

What a great Thanksgiving we had! Gary and I flew out to LAX on Wednesday evening - no problems with security lines or delays and we even arrived about 45 minutes early. We picked up a rental car and drove to the Hyatt in Newport Beach. I decided to cash in some of my Hyatt points, so the room was free.

We got up early on Thanksgiving morning and hit the road, arriving at Mom and Dad's around 9:00. We had coffee and a light breakfast while opening a few little gifts - some coffee mugs and valve stem covers for Dad's car, some Clie accessories for Mom and a few trinkets from Scotland.

The rest of the clan began arriving around noon. Ron, Pam and Mur, with Mark and Mary coming a little while later. Ty, Kyoko and Ray came and played in the yard. We had some delicious appetizers with wine and sparkling cider. We rearranged the table a bit and sat down for a Thanksgiving feast. The turkey was wonderful - very moist and tasty - with potatoes, stuffing, sweet potato souffle, gravy, cranberry salad, green salad with sugared walnuts and dried cranberries and home-made crescent rolls. We all ate (too much) and then had dessert - lemon meringue, cherry, pumpkin, apple and rhubarb pies and cheesecake. Wow!

After dinner, Ty and Kyoko left to head home, and others took naps. We played Yahtzee and talked. It was delightful. We left around 8:00 to drive back to Newport Beach.

On Friday we had breakfast and went to the Fashion Island Mall. Macy's was handing out little Early Bird Shopper Kits - a pad of paper, pen, handy wipe, energy bar, mints and a little bottle of water. Cute. We wandered around for a while and then met Laurie in the parking lot. We left her car there and drove up to stop at an anime store in Huntington Beach, then on to Downtown Disney for lunch. What fun!

We drove back down to San Clemente and picked up Bill and Lloyd and went to dinner at the Pier - our favorite! We sat outside and ate clams, soup, shrimp and salads. We stopped back at the Jensens and saw Merryl and her boyfriend, then headed back to Newport.

Saturday we went shopping at South Coast Plaza, arriving very early and having a bite of breakfast before the shops opened. We hit a few other stores in the area, looking for a new Nintendo player, finally having success in Santa Ana. Dad wanted to watch the USC-Notre Dame game, so we picked up groceries and Gary cooked dinner. Rolled, stuffed steak with garlic potatoes, green beans and a salad. Gary tried to get Mom's Clie and computer to talk to one another (without success). We said goodbye and headed back to the hotel.

Up early on Sunday and off to LAX to fly home. No traffic, only a half hour wait for security and the ticket agent gave us nice bulkhead seats with lots of leg room. The flight was smooth and arrived 45 minutes early! Miss Suki was delirious with joy at our return.

[All sorts of things to be thankful for!]

I have most of my Christmas shopping done already. Just a few more things to pick up. I had several things shipped to Mom and Dad's, figuring that they would arrive prior to our leaving, and I would be able to wrap them, but it looks like they'll just have a grab bag - or box in this case - and have to figure which gifts are for who.

At least I am not buying the entire "Twelve Days of Christmas" this year. Inflation being what it is, the cost of the whole shopping list - from drummers drumming to the partridge and its tree - has gone up about 2.4% over 2003's prices, according to PNC Bank, who calculates the annual Christmas Price Index:

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 29, 2004 – In 1984, after all the receipts were added up, the cost of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” would have set you back $12,623– the goods alone accounting for 62 percent of your total bill. Today, the numbers tell a different story. The total cost has climbed to $17,297, a 1.6 percent annualized increase over 20 years, but services now account for 74 percent of the index, indicating a steady rise in the cost of skilled labor while the price of two turtle doves and three French hens may be a little easier on your wallet.

Every year since 1984, PNC Advisors has provided a tongue-in-cheek economic analysis, based on the cost of goods and services purchased by the True Love in the holiday classic, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

The Christmas Price Index has consistently reflected changes in the economy and continues to do so in the 20th anniversary version. The 2.4 percent year-over-year increase in the index closely mirrors that of the government’s Consumer Price Index – a widely used measure of U.S. inflation. Not only is the high cost of fuel reflected in the cost to deliver a pear tree, but this year’s index also underscores the trend to outsource labor. Skilled labor mentioned in the song, such as wages for the dancing ladies have increased 5.5 percent annualized over 20 years versus the maids-a-milking, which have only seen a 2.2 percent annualized pay raise. In the broader economy, the outsourcing of less skilled labor is helping to keep those wages low.

“The Christmas Price Index reflects the changing economic mix in the U.S. away from manufacturing to a more service based economy,” said Jeff Kleintop, chief investment strategist for PNC Advisors. “The abundance of cheaper labor in countries such as India and China has resulted in pressure on U.S. manufacturers to outsource unskilled labor. As a result the cost of skilled dancers has steadily increased while the unskilled milk maids haven’t managed an increase in pay for their services in many years.”

As part of its annual tradition, PNC Advisors also tabulates the “true cost of Christmas,” which is the total cost of all of the items in the famous carol, including the repetitions. The price tag for the 364 items this holiday season is $66,334 up from $65,264 in 2003. The 1.6 percent increase pales in comparison to last year’s 19 percent increase, which may be due to lower consumer confidence this season according to Kleintop.

As in the past, most items are more expensive to buy over the Internet, primarily due to the cost of shipping, which continues to go up because of rising fuel costs.

PNC Index

I note that swan prices are the only ones to show a price decrease since 1984. Non-Internet swans, that is. The Internet swans are pricier.


I have tried - without success - to find Christmas Carols on CDs. Not just any Christmas Carols, mind you, but the old Firestone Tire compilation albums. Firestone used them as promotional items in the 1960s, and we had several of them. I can remember stacking them on the old record player - it had that distinctive smell of hot electronics - and listening to them all through the holidays.

The songs were often medleys of traditional carols, with many standards on their own. There were some notable stars in the Firestone line-up - Julie Andrews, Rise Stevens, Gordon MacCrae, to name a few - and I'm sure there are other versions of these songs that are just as good if not better, but I was hoping to find them for sale. No dice.

Not that I can't find the original LPs, but I have no way of playing them these days. [No, Mom, you shouldn't send your set to me.] I found several sets of them for sale on eBay and other sites, but I haven't owned an LP player in a few decades. From some comments made by others on the internet, it appears that the royalty issues involved with all of the various artists would have made a re-issue of the albums as CDs nearly impossible. Some of the original artists, like Vikki Carr and Julie Andrews, have issued their own Christmas albums, so I might have a listen to them and see if their latest versions will suffice.

[Won't be the same without the smell of the record player anyway.]

Quote du jour:

"Carols of gladness ring from every tree."

-- Frances Anne Kemble

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