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A Very Special Jack Keenan Christmas – Episode 2

December 21, 2014

Hour 2 of the 2008 Jack Keenan Christmas Special – originally aired on December 24/25 2008, on Talk1300, WGDJ-AM, Albany NY. This hour’s guests:

  • NYS Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, serving NY’s 110th Assembly district
  • Jack Aernecke, former news anchor for WRGB (CBS6 Albany)
  • Greg Floyd, news anchor for CBS6 Albany
  • Old Time Radio Clip: Bing Crosby’s classic retelling of the Christmas story, “The Small One” (recorded March 1947)

Presenting this show to you is my tribute to the late Jack Keenan, who passed away in November 2014. He had always hoped his Christmas Special could have aired for that 30th year, and this is my way of honoring his wish. I hope you and your family enjoy listening to this show as much as Jack enjoyed making it (and as much as I enjoyed producing it).

A Very Special Jack Keenan Christmas – Episode 1

December 21, 2014

Hour 1 of the 2008 Jack Keenan Christmas Special – originally aired on December 24/25 2008, on Talk1300, WGDJ-AM, Albany NY. This hour’s guests:

  • Old Time Radio Clip: “Truth or Consequences” starring Ralph Edwards, aired December 20, 1947 on NBC Radio.
  • “Home for the Holidays” by crooner Perry Como (a guest on the 1992 Jack Keenan Christmas Special!)
  • Interview with Susan Arbetter, host/ producer of public radio program “The Capitol Pressroom”, and former host of “New York Now” on WMHT.
  • Interview with Ann Hughes, former Fox23 anchor
  • Old Time Radio Clip: “The Bob Hope Show”, featuring a sidewalk Santa played by Jack Kirkwood (aired Dec 26, 1950)
  • Interview with Julie Chapman, anchor on Time Warner Cable News (formerly Capital News 9)

Presenting this show to you is my tribute to the late Jack Keenan, who passed away in November 2014. He had always hoped his Christmas Special could have aired for that 30th year, and this is my way of honoring his wish. I hope you and your family enjoy listening to this show as much as Jack enjoyed making it (and as much as I enjoyed producing it).

The Jack Keenan Christmas Special, Now in its 30th Year

December 21, 2014

I’ve decided to use my blog to share a fond holiday memory with you all. I recently posted about my love of traditions, and my experience producing the Jack Keenan Christmas Special on Albany radio was a holiday tradition for me for ten years.

My friend Jack Keenan passed away a short time ago, just before Thanksgiving 2014. I met Jack in 1999, the year I started working as a producer for 810 WGY in Albany, New York. The Jack Keenan Christmas Special was a staple of the Capital Region airways on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for 29 years, the majority of which was spent on 810 WGY in Albany. The final two years of the show, 2008 and 2009, were aired on Talk 1300 WGDJ-AM Albany. The show had hundreds of guests over the years, but only one host. And let’s not forget the show’s one and only announcer for all of those years – Mr. Gil Roy, Albany radio stalwart who has worked more than 50 continuous years in radio.

Mr. Old Time Radio himself, Jack Keenan

Mr. Old Time Radio himself, Jack Keenan

I was lucky enough to produce the Jack Keenan Christmas Special for its last ten years, 2000-2009. My holiday seasons during those years were a frenetic flurry of celebrity interviews (we got to go inside the NYS Governor’s Mansion twice – to meet Gov. George Pataki and another time to meet Mrs. Silda Wall Spitzer – see photo at the bottom of this post), late-night editing sessions, and the off-air antics of Jack and Gil. It was never a dull moment in that studio, that’s for sure.

There was one year, 2008 I believe, where we had to make alternate arrangements for the show production: Jack had suffered injuries in an automobile accident, rendering him unable to drive and thus travel to the studio. The guests that Jack had booked, including elected officials, news anchors, and even Bishop Howard Hubbard, made the trip to Jack’s house where I had set up a makeshift recording studio in his dining room. Everyone joined together over several weeks to make it happen, because there was no way the Jack Keenan Christmas Special wasn’t going to air! Jack lived for that show, and I was proud every year to help him make it.

Jack was always grateful to the program directors at WGY and Talk1300 for allowing him into the homes of Capital Region listeners. He enjoyed “reminiscing” with old friends and local celebrities, who always enjoyed sharing their Christmas memories with listeners. 2009 was the last year that the show was able to find a home on Capital Region radio – a 29 year run. Jack always hoped his Christmas Special could get that 30th year on the air, and presenting this show to you here on my blog is my way of honoring his wish.

I will be sharing with you segments from the final two years of the show –  2008 and 2009. The segments are a wonderful mix of local Capital Region celebrities, clips from the Golden Days of Radio, classic holiday music, and lively banter between Jack and Gil. Each hour of the shows will be posted separately, so you are able to listen online or conveniently download episodes to your device using your favorite podcast app or reader. The episodes will be available shortly after this post is published. To subscribe to the podcast feed, please click here.

Click here to download my press release.

I hope you and your family enjoy listening to this show as much as Jack enjoyed making it (and as much as I enjoyed producing it).I’ll end this post in the way that Jack always ended his “Old Time Radio Theater” show on WMHT’s R.I.S.E:

“In the words of Radio Hall of Famer Red Skelton, good night and God bless.”

I’ll miss you, Jack. You were one of a kind.

Our visit to the Executive Mansion in December 2007. From l-r: Margaret Keenan, Mrs. Silda Wall Spitzer, Jack Keenan, me (Wendy Voelker)

Our visit to the Executive Mansion in December 2007. From l-r: Margaret Keenan, Mrs. Silda Wall Spitzer, Jack Keenan, me (Wendy Voelker)

Holiday Traditions

November 26, 2014

I love traditions.

But the truth is, my adult life has taken me so far away from my family, that maintaining our traditions has been difficult at best. My family seems to be the catch-as-catch-can variety: my sisters and their spouses are usually working on major holidays (please be thankful for your law enforcement officers), so we’ve held Thanksgiving dinners days, and sometimes weeks, after the fact. Christmas sometimes happens after the New Year, and birthdays are mostly relegated to Skype sessions where you get to watch your nephews open the presents that you shipped to them via UPS.

Even when I was a kid, distance separated my immediate family from my mom’s side of the family. My grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles were a three-hour ride north on the NYS Thruway. But we made the trip often.

Not my family. Not even close.

Not my family. Not even close.

On Thanksgiving, Mom and my sisters and I would pile into the car and head up to my grandparents’ house Albany (Dad very rarely joined us; he’s a dairy farmer and his work duties kept him home. A post for another time). The celebrations there usually involved a lot of yelling (Grandpa was quite a yeller), cousins screaming, laughing and running around the house, too many people crowded around a table in the tiny kitchen, Grandma leaving some side dish either in the microwave or in a pan on the stove, people talking over each other, food getting spilled on someone, not enough peas to go around (for some reason Grandma opened only one can of Le Sueur peas for 20 people), everyone asking for a flavor of pie that Grandma didn’t have. It was great.

Christmas was an exercise in cramming as much gift-opening as we could into one day. It started bright and early on Christmas Day, with my sister and I (I have two sisters, but the youngest is much younger than I am, and as such does not figure into my early childhood) waking up before dawn to see what Santa brought us. Our bleary-eyed parents consumed large quantities of coffee while Leanne and I feverishly unwrapped pajamas, pink boomboxes, braided headbands, hand-held arcade games, LifeSavers Storybooks, Strawberry Shortcake dolls, and whatever else was hot that Christmas season (it was the 80’s – the best time to be a kid). Then we’d head over to grandparents’ house just up the road (Dad’s parents) and open the presents waiting for us there. Those presents were less exciting, and usually consisted of clothes that were the wrong size, maybe some pajamas, and some other stuff I don’t really remember. Though, I do remember one year my Grandma bought me this purple velour jogging suit that was THE BOMB. I’m not even kidding. I loved that thing. Sorry, no pictures.

After that, Mom piled the two of us in the car (after yelling at us that we could only bring ONE NEW TOY EACH with us) and we drove up to Albany to enjoy Christmas of Chaos with that side of the family. The day was a repeat of Thanksgiving – yelling, screaming, eating – with the added bonus of opening gifts. It was a lot of fun, but Leanne and I could hardly wait to get back home and play with the new toys that Mom didn’t let us bring to Albany. Man, she was MEAN. Did I ever tell you about the toys she bought us but never let us play with? That’s a story for my Christmas post.

Anyway, my point is that we don’t really have any traditions anymore. Nothing is consistent. Sometimes we make it home, sometimes we don’t. I really miss having something predictable (even if it’s insane) to look forward to.

For a few years, before we moved to Ohio, Bob and I would have my family over for Thanksgiving dinner on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It was great – a houseful of people laughing and enjoying each other’s company, plus got to cook a mess of food and share it. There’s practically nothing I love more than that. Even when my brother-in-law rearranges all of the labels I carefully placed in my serving dishes so I know what goes where, and even when my *other* brother-in-law looks at my dish of cinnamon-sugar butter and shouts, “Why is there cat food on the table?” Even then.

But, the last three Thanksgivings Bob and I have had dinner at home by ourselves. It’s nice, but it’s not the raucous holiday of my memories. I hope I can find a way to bring a little more chaos back into Thanksgiving. It’s the missing ingredient.

Wow, this post got away from me. I wanted to post something positive, but I just made myself sad.

Anyway, I hope your Thanksgiving Day is wonderful – filled with food, family, and whatever traditions you hold dear. Me? I’ll be eating turkey, drinking a bottle of Gewürztraminer, and binge-watching Once Upon a Time. I guess you could say I’m starting a new tradition.

Which seems a little better than this:


“…smoking Camels with my meals and afterwards builds up a sense of digestive well-being.”


Quick Bites

November 18, 2014

So, I got an email this week, reminding me that my blog’s domain was about to expire and I needed to renew. I was confused for a moment – I have a blog?

If I had a nickel for every post I wrote that starts with “I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted….” I would probably be a semi-wealthy woman. Well, I’d have twenty bucks at least. My point: I go on hiatus a lot. It happens. No apologies this time, just a new post to amuse and delight you.

Ohio is still the same: cold, snowy, not all that exciting. I had a great summer working on a fundraiser event with some of the folks from the Cleveland Indians – lots of visits to Progressive Field and the Indians Executive Offices meeting and greeting. I never did meet any players or managers, but I have a feeling that’s going to change when I head out to Goodyear AZ for Indians Spring Training next March! I hope to bring home autographed baseballs from Mike Aviles (he and I share a hometown – Middletown, NY), Michael Brantley (Dr. Smoooooooooth), and Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber (#CyKluber). I am headed out there to organize some fundraising events for my company, which runs a camp for autistic children there. My job is a good job and it makes me happy, for lots of reasons.

Here’s a smattering of a few things going on in my world lately, made or experienced by me:

Flemish Carbonnade. I was watching an episode of “Diners Drive-Ins and Dives” (shut up) and my buddy Guy Fieri was visiting Cincinnati, specifically the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. One of the places he visited was “A Taste of Belgium”, which, as you might surmise, is a Belgian restaurant. Anyway, the chef prepared a traditional Flemish carbonnade – a beef stew made with Belgian ale and spices. Looked great, so I looked up a recipe on Saveur, and made it myself. It was quite good, what with all the warm spices, fresh herbs, and the flavor from the ale. I used Saison 1858, a farmhouse-style ale brewed by Brasserie Du Bocq. I am completely ignorant about Belgian beers, so I bought what I found at my store, not knowing what to look for. Saison 1858 might have been a little too hoppy, because the stew had a bitterness to it that I couldn’t really correct. I would definitely make it again, but I am hoping to get some suggestions on a less-hoppy Belgian-style ale to use. Help?

Carbonnade Collage

Vegetable Samosas. I’m always on the lookout for good vegetarian recipes, and recipes that can be portioned and frozen. This recipe from Cooking Light fit both categories. I made a bunch, along with fresh cilantro-mint chutney (also freezes well), and threw them in the freezer. It’s been nice having a quick Indian snack or dinner at the ready – I just pulled out how many I want, pop them in the oven for a few minutes, and acaraja! Almost as good as takeout.

Samosa Collage



Price Chopper Rebrands; Changes Name to “Olive Garden”. Well, that’s what it seems like. My opinion on the whole debacle is simple: ridiculous. I don’t have anything against a re-brand, but they chose the lamest name and their logo looks to me like it came from Olive Garden’s reject pile. And all these “conversations” PC execs are having with the public, taking questions and answering them with scripted canned responses? Methinks Jerry Golub doth protest too much. Ain’t nobody gonna call Price Chopper anything but Price Chopper, ever. It was easier for Hannaford, I think, when they rebranded/renamed, because they hadn’t been in the ALB market all that long at the time, and people hadn’t had the Shop n Save name burned into their brain by endless Can-Can Sale television ads that haven’t been updated in 15 years. Eh, I could go on, but I won’t. I’ll let you enjoy some commentary from one of my favorite #518 Tweeters:

Also, if one more person mentions Wegman’s, I will cut a bitch.

Why the hell have I not been out reviewing local restaurants? Because Bob & actually don’t go out to dinner all that much, and when we do we mostly go to our small local pubs for burgers and the like. Nothing exciting. Though – we do really enjoy the grub at Doogan’s, an Irish-type bar/restaurant. Good burgers, excellent Reuben sandwiches, and a decent beer selection. I’ve found a couple really nice brews there: Ithaca Flower Power and Rogue Farms Pumpkin Patch Ale. Good stuff. Last time we went there, we brought Bob’s dad and stepmom, and Bob’s dad ordered a Reuben sandwich served on two potato pancakes instead of bread. It was weird. Also: the servers wear t-shirts emblazoned with the phrase, “HOW YOU DOOGAN?”

Ohio, y’all.

We also like the food at Panini’s, a local chain that does burgers, etc. as well as what they call “Overstuffed Sandwiches”. Good lord those things are too big for a normal human to eat. We’ve never ordered one of those. What we do like to order is their burgers – and it was through them that we discovered Cleveland’s own Orlando Baking Company and their delightful pretzel buns. So good.

And yes, since you asked, the pizza out here is still very disappointing.

I’ve actually enjoyed a bit of the local culture. We’ve visited the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (meh), the Great Lakes Science Center (come visit – we bought a membership), a few Indians games (bought Bob club seats for his birthday and it was awesome), the Greater Cleveland Aquarium (sorta lame), the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton (zzzzzzzzzzz), the McKinley National Memorial (also in Canton, kinda cool, designed to resemble the National Mall), the Western Reserve Historical Society (they have an incredible antique car and aircraft exhibit – even met a museum docent who is a train enthusiast and we talked at length about ALCO and Schenectady), and Cleveland’s Little Italy (great food, and a GREAT Italian bakery – Corbo’s. Need to go back). So, I’ve been around a bit. Even visited Cincinnati (aka “Porkopolis”) for a couple days. Still TONS to see. Top of my list these days: A Christmas Story House, Playhouse Square, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Orchestra.

I better get busy.

Going Over the Side of a Building

July 10, 2014

Since I know there are many people who would throw me over the edge of a building if given the chance, I thought I’d make it easy for them and do it myself! 

First, a quick bit of background, for those just joining us. Bob and I have settled in quite well here in NE Ohio, including me finally landing an amazing job. I’m the new Events Manager for Hattie Larlham, a non-profit organization that provides care to children and adults with developmental disabilities. I work in the Development department, and I am officially a professional fundraiser, tasked with raising money through events. I am truly honored to work for an organization that does such meaningful work, and it’s wonderful to actually look forward to going to the office every day!

One of those events we’ve got going on now is called “Over the Edge”, where individual fundraisers work to raise enough money to earn a spot to rappell down the side of the PNC Bank building in Akron, OH. Funds raised support the work of Hattie Larlham. If I can raise $1500 before the event on August 30, I will be one of those lucky (?) people who will strap on a harness and a helmet, and make my way down a very scary-looking building. I’m looking at this as a way to be more adventurous, and to step waaaaaay outside my comfort zone to experience new things. Perhaps skydiving is next. But I’ll start with rappelling.

So, here’s where you come in.

I’m asking you – my loyal readers – if you’d be willing to help me achieve my goal of raising $1500, by donating to my fundraising page. Any amount – large or small – will help me reach my goal, and will support the incredible work done by Hattie Larlham. Want to know more about what Hattie does before donating? Click here

Want to just jump on over to my page and make a tax-deductible donation? Click here.

I’m also working on putting together a little fundraiser with my sister Kristen, who is an independent rep with Premier Designs, a direct sales jewelry company. She has offered to donate 25% of any sales made through me to help my efforts. If you’re familiar with Premier Designs, you know their jewelry is trendy, nice, and high quality. More on that little endeavor coming soon (we’re trying to figure out how people can view their catalog online). 

Thanks in advance for your generous donation. August 30 is only 7 weeks away, and I’ve only raised $200 so far. I’m quickly running out of time to reach my goal – please consider giving me a “shove” so I can get over the edge.

There’s a very good chance this whole thing will be live streamed – so you can actually witness my descent. I’ll keep you posted about that as well. But, I don’t go over unless I raise the $$$.

Here’s a funny little aside, courtesy of Bob: I was excitedly telling him of my plans to go down the side of a 22-story building on August 30, the day before our anniversary. He helpfully told me, “I guess I’ll hold off on making dinner reservations, then.” 



This Firecracker’s a Dud

June 23, 2014

Firecracker Red Label BackRecently, Heinen’s was running a special on wine, and I was intrigued. Mostly by the price, because I’m a cheapskate.


Memorable, yes. Delicious, not so much.

On first pour, I could detect a familiar scent, but couldn’t quote put my finger on it. It was not a typical fruity red aroma, so I was puzzled for a bit. Until the next night, after I’d made waffles for dinner. That aroma was pancake syrup! That’s an aroma that does not belong in red wine. Upon a re-read of the label, I now see the “maple notes”. This was definitely not maple. This was good ol’ Aunt Jemima.

Thick and syrupy, with an overwhelming pancake syrup aroma and flavor. Blech. Now I know why Heinen’s was trying to unload the stuff at a quarter of its original retail price. It’s awful. There should never be “natural flavors” or “caramel color” added to wine. Just terrible. Who is the winemaker? Willy Wonka?

It made me say, “WOW! This is awful”.

Another awful selection? Firecracker’s White blend. Tastes like pineapple-flavored corn syrup, accented heavily with Sweet Tarts. Just terrible. I want my $8.00 back (that was for two bottles). Not a bargain at all.

Firecracker REd






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