No Gift Card Please

I need to be very careful as to how I word this blog post as to not come off as ungrateful or non appreciative. That is most definitely NOT the case.  So I am just going to come out and say it.. “I don’t want a gift card”.  I just celebrated my birthday and Christmas is upcoming and I do not want a generic gift card. Again to qualify what I am about to explain, I appreciate anyone who chooses to spend their hard earned money on a gesture solely to make me happy however I would like to challenge gift givers to take a few moments and put some thought into the gift. Of course there are occasions where a gift card is appropriate. If a person frequents a specific restaurant or establishment or you need to buy a gift for someone you don’t particularly  know too well then of course go that route. But if you are buying something for someone you know and love, to take the time to think about something they will enjoy rather then hand over a generic cred card sponsored gift card.

I have been accused of being a “great gift giver”. I don’t think I am that revolutionary or creative. I just put some real thought into the person, the lifestyle and with a little planning as well you can achieve that “oh wow” reaction as well. Here are a few of my gift giving tips and ideals I use that hopefully you can implement. Always the the mantra “It’s the thought that counts”.

Personalization- I love a gift that I can get with the persons name on it in some way. Especially for someone like me who does not see his name in the normal stock that is in the store. I especially like personalized items for children. It helps them recognize their name, letters and have a sense of ownership of an item.

Take notes- Here is a trick that takes some thought. If a friend or family member mentions something they like, some place they would like to go or somewhere they want to go then jot it down. Put it in your phone under their name in the contacts field. For example my Dad mentioned he loved a particular type of sugar free candy. I noted this under his name on my phone and now I have an instant stocking stuffer.

Another trick to get a sense of what someone likes, what their style is, what they like to eat or where they like to travel is to join Pintrest. This is a social media site that is like a virtual pin/bulletin board. Users “pin” their favorite things to their own personal board as idea starters, inspirations etc. You don’t have to actively participate however you can look at other peoples sites who are very into using it. This is a great way to get a sneaky look into what they like and therefore what may make the perfect gift.

Homemade items- for someone who is NOT capable of the aforementioned all is not lost. Check out the site www.etsy.com. It is all homemade items by people who have made a virtual storefront selling. You are supporting mom and pops and getting a hand crafted item all at the same time.

At the end of the day I must repeat that I appreciate and am flattered by anything given to me out of love and kindness. If you want to go above and beyond use some of the tips above and happy gifting!

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Concert Etiquette

As I get older, and yet another birthday is upon me next week I do most certainly notice certain tolerances have lessened. I hate to think someone in their 30′s has become salty or less patient as no one wants to be “that person”. I have however become more steadfast on my values and beliefs in which the way I live my life and consequently the way in which others live theirs. That is not to sound like I am the bastion of what is right and wrong and what is “should be” as I think everyone is on charge of their own destiny. However when your actions, behavior or shortcomings impede on my quality of life this is where my tolerance has gotten to a level where I cannot ignore and must address. This blog post will serve as your guide to attending a concert. There are certain rules depending on what type of concert you are in fact attending as the protocol for a symphony as opposed to a high energy metal show are different. However there are certain behaviors which are appropriate in general.

1) Watch the concert not your cell phone. You paid good money for your ticket and of course you would like to document your good time with video and pictures as well upload said items to your Facebook and Instagram accounts in an effort to social media brag to your friends that they are sitting home and you are witnessing glory. This is fine. My suggestion? One song. Yes pick one song to video. Then put your phone away. Watch the show through your own eyes not a cell phone. I recently attended a benefit concert. Tickets for the section in which I was sitting were priced at $250. For that high cost I would make sure I soaked up each ounce of energy in the show not view it though a 6 inch screen. Not to mention the woman sitting behind must have surely been filming a documentary as her cameras very BRIGHT flash was over my shoulder the entire show and constantly lit. I felt like a character from Touched By An Angel with Della Reese standing behind me ready to take m to heaven. It was distracting and unnecessary. Not to mention, I have YET TO SEE a great sounding and really clear video or picture capture from a concert. Most of the moments uploaded to You Tube as riddled with shaky hands, extraneous noise and barley visible figures in the darkness as a smartphone cannot work well with stage lighting. It is like taking pictures of fireworks. You do not get the same enjoyment of viewing a picture of the colorful explosion as you do hearing and seeing it live.

2) Sit or Stand. This is a tough one. I would suggest your best course of action is to follow the lead of the people around you. If your whole row or section is standing up and dancing then you really have no recourse or right to complain that you cannot see but rather join them  A concert is supposed to be a fun, exciting and good release of energy. Music makes people think, reflect and express as well as MOVE.  I personally have no problem with someone standing up in front of me if I am sitting as I think they should enjoy the show as they see fit however if the artist is signing a soft ballad, the whole venue is planted in their seats for you to be that rogue person standing is not going to win you any friends. Another course of action you can take is to do what I do; try to buy tickets for the first row of a section. That way you only have to worry about the people behind you not in front!

3) The maximum allowance to let you through the aisle for a bathroom or food break is one. Yes I will give you one polite pass. Anything beyond will result in an audible sigh as you pass or the knee swing in which I will not leave my seat but merely swing my knees to the side. The only exception to this rule is if you choose to make your trips BETWEEN acts at a show where there are multiple artists. Otherwise, “dont break the seal”.

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Think Pink

October is full of fall colors like orange, brown and black but another color is ever present as well; Pink. October is breast cancer awareness month and it is top of mind this time of year. Some quick facts from the National Breast Cancer Organization as to why this is something that could very well impact you either directly or indirectly:

  • One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.
  • Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women.
  • Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death among women.
  • Each year it is estimated that over 220,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,000 will die.
  • Although breast cancer in men is rare, an estimated 2,150 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and approximately 410 will die each year.

As dangerous as the Ebola virus is, as troubling the war overseas is chances are breast cancer is going to impact you more in lifetime. The difference in a diagnosis today as opposed to 30 years ago is a positive diagnosis is NOT a death sentence. As much as organizations push for early detection and screening there is also a message of survivor-ship. The number of woman who are beating the cancer and living healthy active lives is growing more and more. Below are some ways you can support the cause and show your support of awareness.

This Sunday in Pleasant Valley is the Miles of Hope community walk for  breast cancer walk at James Baird state park. The walk is 5k but there is also a shorter garden walk option as well. Join an existing team or create your own to do some fundraising. www.milesofhope.org

October is a breast cancer run in the Town of Cornwall. It is the Cornwall Color Run that is a 5k or 10k and is happening at town park. More info at www.active.com

The village of Warwick is holding Pink Friday on October 10th. The village merchants are open late for shopping, tastings, music, dancing, wine tasting, fitness demos, massages, a live DJ, tattoo and eyebrow threading and more. Click this link for the flyer here.

Saturday October 25th the town of Poughkeepsie will have a crafts show at the Senior Center on Abe’s Way. There will be a “Pink” resale boutique, authors, book signing, oncology nurses, tarot readings and a pumpkin celebration for the kids. The admission fee to the crafts fair is $3.00 and proceeds will go to the Miles of Hope organization. More info on this event via the flyer. Click here.

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Last Days Of Singledom

Its your last chance to dance…last few days of single-dom until you enter into wedded bliss. There are cliche activities that are available to all however more and more people want to think outside the box. It is also a good idea to keep the bride or groom in mind when planning what you are going to do to celebrate them and their upcoming nuptials. A lot of wedding parties plan what they would like to be doing on this night of possible debauchery rather then the personality of the guest of honor. Below are a few NON-traditional ideas for some brides and grooms. Enjoy the day or the weekend. It is about celebrating!

Mohonk Mountain House. There is a an expansive brunch and spa on site at this amazing resort in the Hudson Valley. If you are going to be pampered this is the way to do it. The brunch and spa is open to people not staying at the resort so it makes a day trip totally doable and an option. www.mohonkmountainhouse.com

The River Rose is a charter boat that leaves from the Newburgh landing. There are many themed charters including an 80′s night theme. It is an opportunity to get glammed up 80′s style with some loud clothing, big hair and big jewelry. Of course the bar on board makes it even better! www.riverosecruises.com

The Culinary Insinuate offers cooking classes for groups. Get your group together and tackle a cuisine that you have always wanted to learn. Afterwards crack open a bottle of wine and stroll the grounds. www.ciachef.edu

Vine Van Gogh- Put some red wine down and pair it with some red paint, add an instructor a canvas and your best friends and you have a solid evening. Vine Van Gogh has public parties and events listed on their website or you can book a private party at the venue of your choosing. Even if you have never picked up a brush before you can walk away with a great painting that you created. More info and examples at www.vinevangogh.com

Fishing- I had a friend charter a fishing boat for his bachelor party. I was a great idea as some people had never fished before but it it the kind of activity that doesn’t require a certain type of skill and is very social if everyone is waiting for a fish to bite. Bring some food and drink and board with the water in the backdrop and this is a great all day activity that is affordable if split among a group of people.

Give me a few ideas of your own…either unisex or something that a group can do together (become more a trend). Tweet me at @skyskymedia

 

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I Phone D Day

Today is the day. The Apple I Phone went on sale to the general public and lines are wrapped around the block. Apple has its loyal legion of fans who follow each and every update and release they make. It was only a year ago this frenzy was being witnessed for the I Phone 5 and now is the introduction of the 6 and 6 plus. Also to be released in early 2015 will be “wearables” such as an I Phone watch. Truly the gadgets we all saw in the cartoons when we were kids are coming to fruition. Here is a breakdown of the I Phone 6 and 6 plus.

Size matters? Well for smartphone screens there is the delicate line between a portable gadget and a table. Samsung was the first to release a quasi phone and tablet called the “Note”. I tested the note in the retail store and while I loved the size and ease of the touchscreen (coming from a Blackberry keyboard) the Note seems odd when you held it up to your head as a phone. It acted as a computer fine but you got the feeling you were Zack Morris from Saved By The Bell with a humongous phone up against your head. Apple has addressed the size issue by increasing the screen size on this latest release.  The I Phone 6 is a 4.7 inch screen while the 6s is 5.5 inch screen. A lot of users enjoyed the rich screen and display Apple offered but to have is in a small size didn’t make sense. Gaming apps have become so big and with that an increased display was necessary. One of  most familiar sights I’ve seen from my I Phone friends was a cracked screen display. There were rumors of  sapphire crystal to thwart cracking however that was just a rumor. They opted for the same Gorilla glass that their Samsung counterpart the Galaxy uses.

Improved power and holding of a charge has is another feature that Apple is proud of with this new release. There is a chip inside that makes use more efficient rather then sucking energy out for no good reason. It measured 250 hours on standby and 12 hours of talk time.Similar to its Samsung counterpart as well is a health feature that can track steps walked and account for different stairs and elevations in the environment. This integrates with a health app to allow you to measure distances walked and calories burned as well as overall physical activity.

Taking photos is of the most used functions of a cell phone today and Apple has stuck with the same quality rear camera but the front facing camera for the ever popular “selfie” has been improved. Also, as a marketing gimmick expect to see musician Katy Perry to appear in your camera roll as your first picture. Rock band U2 has made their new album available as well.

In the interest of full disclosure I am not part of the legion of Apple followers. I am a Galaxy Samsung Android user as I like to have a choice in the type of phone I buy rather then to be relegated to the Apple operating system. But there is no denying the loyalty of the Apple fans and I am sure the I phone 6 launch will be successful… that is until… dare I say the I Phone 7? Get on line now.

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Falls Best Bets

It is my favorite season of the year (well not technically but considering the mild summer we had I am going to fast forward a few weeks). Welcome to Fall in the Hudson Valley. This is the land of the “leaf peepers”. As someone who grew up on Long Island in a more nautical landscape I had no idea what was meant by that term until I moved here and witnessed it myself. The best view for leaf peeping (the color changes in the fall leaves) can be found by taking a hike up Mohonk Mountain of by taking a stroll across the Walkway on the Hudson. The views are breathtaking and if you can time it correctly the vision of colors is perfection. Log on to http://www.nyfallfoliage.com/ for a listing of approximate times to check out the changes. There are a number of activities to experience as well in the upcoming weeks Here are a few of my best bets.

Octoberfest at Bear Mountain State Park- It may only be September but Octoberfest has already started. Each Sunday from Noon until 6p you can enjoy German food, beer, craft vendors and live entertainment along the water at Bear Mountain State Park. It is a great event and the beauty and spacious nature of the park allows you to make it a full family day for picnics, throwing around the football or just hiking. The on site zoo is another option for the day. I have attended this event many times and have loved the environment each and every experience. One warning to heed is allow extra time for traffic. The roads are tight, narrow and don’t allow for a lot of cars at once near the traffic circle. Things get bunched up as the day goes on. Knowing a nice cold German beer awaits you makes it worth it. More info at www.visitbearmountain.com

Hyde Park Food Truck Festival- Some activities you wander upon by accident. Such is the case of the Hyde Park Food Truck festival. I was going to another event in Rhinebeck last weekend when i passed a parking lot full of people as well as colorful food trucks. I am used to seeing a food truck here or there or on a block in Manhattan but never a whole bunch at once in one place. It was a truck to truck paradise. I have come to learn the food truck festival (which also has children’s inflatable activities) happens the first Sunday of the month from June to October. That means there is only one Sunday left to sample this smorgasbord of food options. There was BBQ, Mexican tacos, crepes, sandwiches, seafood rolls oh my! Bring your appetite and check out more info at www.hydeparkchamber.org

 

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FOOTBALL WIDOWS

Ahhhh it’s here. The weather outside may feel like summer but the sport that screams colder weather has returned..FOOTBALL. Being a lifelong baseball fan a sport that is played 162 times a season, watching a game was an almost daily occurrence.  With football there is only one game a week so that one Sunday (also Monday and Thursday occasionally) is a social event. People host parties at their house, go to a local neighborhood bar to watch the game or even get in their car and listen on the radio while they go for a drive. My brother in law is from Buffalo New York but lives in Connecticut. Where could he find a bunch of Buffalo Bills fans to enjoy the game with in southern New England? With a little help from Google he found out there are certain bars where people of the same non local geographic origin meet and root for their home team.  There is a lot of fun to be had on Sundays for the football fan however there is one faction of the population that is left behind; the football widow. Yes, this is the friends and family members who do not share in the pomp and circumstance of the grid iron. They know better then to interrupt or persuade a football fan to alter their plans on a day. I know a fair amount of people who schedule their family errands and activities based on whether the game was a Sunday 1p or a Sunday 4p game. If it is a Monday night game the weekend is usually safe! So the question remains what the heck can these football widows or to be fair widowers, do while their partner is otherwise occupied? A few suggestions:

1. I am always attempting to see “this movie or that movie”. I just never seem to get to the theater to see a flick and usually have to wait until it comes out on DVD. Well this is an opportunity to have a specific movie plan each and every week. The typical flick with previews and popcorn and concession stand stops is a 2 to 2 1/2 hour commitment which is just under the length of a football game. Time your arrival and departure carefully and everyone can benefit.

2. If having company over is the tradition for game watching in your household and you do enjoy cooking, this is a great way to practice your skills and even experiment with some new dishes. No worries with failed experiments.. if enough beer is involved and the home team is winning your misadventures in the kitchen will not be noticed.

3. Get healthy. People are always saying they can never find the time to exercise. Daily exercise is best but if you can only do it once a week that is better then not doing it at all. Now that you have an extended window of time you can plan a hike, try a new routine or team like sport or just go for a very long walk.

4. Go to your local library and grab a book.  Reading for pleasure is another thing many people say this wish they could do if they had more time.  You can make a nice dent in a book with 3 hours of time on your hand.

Got more ideas?  Tweet me @skyskymedia

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A Challenge for the Ice Bucket Challenge.

If you have been scrolling your Facebook feed, chances are you have witnessed the very popular Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). In case you have been living under a rock, people are challenged by others to pour ice water over their head and then nominate three people to do the same, or else make a donation to ALS.

I was challenged by a co-worker and chose to make the $100 donation rather than get doused. The results of this viral campaign don’t lie. The ALS Foundation has exceeded expected donations by millions as opposed to other time periods with just traditional donation solicitations. This is all very important, and it’s good news.

I do not wish to damper these efforts or the money it has made for the charity. I just worry that it took a slapstick comedy action like dumping water on someone’s head to get the country motivated to take action. I know it is the end result that matters, and the end result has been positive, but I would like to issue a challenge myself. I challenge everyone who has participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge to take a few minutes in the next few months to do some research. Break out the laptop, Google and find a cause or charity that you can educate yourself on and have direct effect on.

Different things strike different chords with each individual. Have you lost someone to cancer? Do you know a child with autism? Do mistreatment of animals touch a nerve with you? If you cannot offer up money, you can always give the gift of time. Volunteer opportunities at a soup kitchen, food bank, local library or school are all options.

Make a difference in a way you see fit. It doesn’t have to go viral. If it does, great. If not, you know that you are doing your part. You are always going to be better at something that you are emotionally invested in as opposed to blindly putting your support behind the latest fad. I respect the Ice bucket Challenge, I applaud the Ice Bucket Challenge, but I challenge YOU to continue the giving and conversations once the Facebook news feeds and Vine videos stop and we as a society move on to the next newsworthy thing. Do you accept my challenge? Tweet me and tell me what you are doing @skyskymedia

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Comedy and Tragedy

I purposely waited a few days after the death of comedian and actor Robin Williams to jot down my thoughts as I needed to let it all settle. Williams has always been on my short list of pure genius. I would watch him in awe and with my respect as he could run the gamete of entertainment from stand up, movies, television or even the basic interview. My favorite Williams moments were those interviews where the reporter or morning TV anchor would simply say “Hello” and from their they were taken on a 7 minute ride inside the mind of  a master. The particular interview I will always remember was from the television show “Inside the Actors Studio”. Williams was on fire for 2 full hours. The highlight for me when he took a woman’s scarf out of the audience and went from character to character of improvisation turning a simple cloth into comedy gold. After Williams has a heart attack in 2009 he went on a stand up comedy tour. It was on my bucket list to see him live and in person and he did not disappoint. His topics ranged from politics, to entertainment, drugs, sex and rock and roll. His spin and commentary on things in life was unique, funny and most importantly thought provoking. That is the inner workings of the mind of a genius. His brain worked unlike no other.

There is a reason why comedy is paired with tragedy. The two go hand in hand in history and in life. Many comedians, people that make you laugh have another side to them. Some call it a dark side others say that comedians often suffer from a sadness and depression when off stage and are other people entirely when not performing. The media and pundits have been out in full force covering Williams suicide and among the positive remembrances has been a smattering of something very opposite. There have been some criticizing the celebration of Williams because his action of suicide was selfish. This is not an uncommon sentiment among the family and friends left behind after someone commits such an act. As far as we have come in terms of mental health however I am not sure we have come far enough. Depression is real. Depression is present. Depression is dangerous. There is still a stigma attached to this mental health issue and I think the thing people would be surprised at is the number of people who you NEVER WOULD EXPECT to suffer from it deal with it everyday. I am not a doctor, mental health expert nor anyone qualified to speak on medical issues but I would advise the all to treat each other with kindness and understanding. Creating a environment for loved ones to speak openly and honestly without judgment is key in  helping those who may be in  dark period in their life. Even if not visible you don’t know what someone else is dealing with. If you are the one suffering from depression, find someone to talk to. Even if it is an anonymous person, religious leader, hotline or whatever. An understanding ear goes a long way. Know that people care. Lean on the right people to get through it. Let their me more comedy in your life than tragedy. If you need help one option for resources is http://www.mhaorangeny.com/

 

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Green with……appreciation

I am sitting in my 600 square foot studio apartment, wearing my Old Navy shirt and shorts drinking the store brand coffee. And it is the perfect quiet morning. I am fulfilled and satisfied. Sure I love nicer things, sure i splurge in certain areas of my life and of course I dream of that big mansion with a boat in my backyard (because of course the mansion is a waterfront mansion).  Even with all these thoughts and dreams I am cognoscente  and fully appreciative of what I have. That is the brain of a 30 something year old I would hope. However I am concerned about the general tone of the messages put out into the media glamorizing glamour so much that it would make people, even those who think they aren’t impressionable feel “less then” or strive for the unattainable and suffer disappointment when its not reached. Even depression when they don’t “keep up with the Jones’s” .

Channel surfing the television shows I pass by are “Rich Kids of Beverly Hills”, “Million Dollar Listing”, “The A List”, “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills”.  There is a natural voyeuristic interest in a lifestyle that seems to be a dream and seems to be something you wish you were a part of. But with the sheer number of these shows on television makes me believe that as a whole Americans are unhappy with their lives and in order to be entertained they need to be shown a different lifestyle. It is the season premier of “The Rich Kids of Beverly Hills” this weekend. Last season, 95% of the show was over the top exploits but in order to have some sense of civic morality about 18 minutes of an episode was dedicated to a fund raiser benefit the “kids” held. Clearly not wanting to leave their comfort zone the benefit of course was held in Beverly Hills, god forbid they went to “The Valley”. The “REAL” Housewives franchise is a huge success for Bravo television. I am not sure I would consider any of the woman housewives. Yes they don’t go to a specific  place of employment everyday (most of them) but also they don’t take care of the home and children as housewives do. The real “socialites” of Beverly Hills would be a more appropriate title.

Even social media site Facebook has been linked to “depression” due to envy. While Facebook has many different uses, when truly broken  down it is more of a “brag book” to let your friends know your professional accomplishments, personal accomplishments, if your in love, if you look good, if your completed home improvements, or if you “checked in” from the a remote island resort. Intentions are often harmless but it does evoke certain emotions.

The key to navigating all of these messages being thrown at you is to stop and take moments to reflect on what truly matters and what makes you happy. It is OK to dream, wish and fantasize but remain grounded in whats real. A private jet to an island for a weekend is not real in most peoples lives. The unsolicited hug from your child at night is. Those are the moments to focus on.

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    For the past 14 years, Skywalker has been a fixture in Hudson Valley radio broadcasting. He hosts then most listened to radio show in the market; the 2p-7p drive home on WSPK K104.7 Follow him on twitter @K104sky Read Full
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