Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

Yes, I’m a day late… but better a late Festivus than no Festivus at all.

We did have it all yesterday, though. A Festivus miracle, feats of strength AND Airing of Grievances. See, I’ve complained often about the previous owner of our house and his inept construction technique. So, yesterday, Supportive Partner Woman (Decorator of trees!) was putting the finishing touches on the Pop Culture Tree when she heard a loud crash. She went to the basement to see if the heater had blown up, only to find no problems. She went back upstairs, heard another crash and looked in the garage. There’s where she found the source.

Thankfully the rake and Jolly Roger flag stopped the potential bad damage.

Thankfully the rake and Jolly Roger flag stopped the potential bad damage.

Seems that Former Owner Guy’s use of shitty materials had caused a bit of an issue in the garage. You know, it would make sense to attach a big shelf by using something more than drywall anchors and very short screws that don’t quite bite into the stud. But maybe that’s just me.

After the Feat of Strength

After the Feat of Strength

At any rate, SPW was able to manhandle the stored closet doors and heavy totes off the shelf after safely removing Mario the Super Honda from the garage without damage. That constituted the Festivus Feat of Strength. The Festivus Miracle was that no serious damage was done. The Airing of Grievances consisted of me colorfully and masterfully cursing the previous owner’s ineptitide and my desire to hunt him down and kick him in the junk with the Boot of Shame.

Mine is twice as big!

Mine is twice as big!

After all the fun was done, including SPW’s Feat of Strength (accomplished whilst wearing flannel penguin loungewear… no lie), I was able to rettach the shelving when I got home from work. It’s funny… you can see a bit of difference between the screws Captain Asstastic used and the type of screws that should’ve been used. They really weren’t that much more expensive. Or maybe he could’ve used an anchor rated for heavier weights, rather than a cheap one that’s best for hanging a picture.

The most important thing is that no one was hurt and everything was back in its place by the time SPW was home from work. I even got to use power tools. Woot!

This past weekend we attended a beer cheer event hosted by one of SPW’s co-workers. The basic premise was that each guest brought a six pack of something interesting, everyone sampled them, and at the end of the night, pretty much everyone went home with a new selection of brew. I also whipped up a pretty decent Cajun crab dip at 3:07 AM, because, as Jeanine says, there’s never a bad time for crab dip.

Festive Death Star!

Festive Death Star!

We also did up a batch of SPW’s granny’s cutout cookies. We were faced with a dilemma, though… we had really cool Death Star cookie cutters, but I couldn’t find the black sugar (from when we did Halloween cutout cookies. My answer? Festive Death Stars! I also made festive X-Wings, festive TIE Fighters, and festive modified Corellian YT-1300 freighters.

At any rate, I wish all of you a very happy and safe holiday season, whether you celebrate Festivus, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, or something I forgot to name. Check back next week for my take on the final Cinematic Titanic show and my New Years Resolutions.

As the major winter holidays approach, a few things come to mind. But before I get into those, I want to take a few minutes to thank all those who donated to my Avon Walk page. So, a huge thank you to Mike & Katherine, Mike & Mary, Mark, Mindy & Chris, April & Janet, Charlie & Joan, Candi, Jed & Maureen, Becky, Janet, Mary, Melissa & Nimesh, Rodger & Karen, Jim & Elena, Fred & Renee, Ann, Donna & Jim, and most importantly, my mom and sister, as well as Supportive Partner Woman (culinary creative genius!). I never thought I’d get to my original goal, much less triple that. It’s very humbling knowing that folks out there are willing to support me and believe in what I’ve accomplished.

And to think, in a little over two weeks, I’ll have that first 5K under my belt. Then all bets are off.

In the meantime, I’m focused on rehabbing Wayne. I saw the foot doctor on Thursday and Wayne is healing, just not as rapidly as I would like. That’s primarily due to the blister’s location on the bottom of my toe. Of course, when I first saw the doc about this toe, he was concerned about infection and prescribed a liquid amoxicillin. Now, I’ve had amoxicillin before and never had any issues, but the liquid stuff gave me a nasty drug rash that itched so badly I had to pay a visit to the Urgent Care. Thankfully it’s started to heal up already, because while Benadryl keeps the itching down, it puts me down as well.

Mmmm... chocolate caramel shortbread.

Mmmm… chocolate caramel shortbread.

So, we’re rapidly closing on the Christmas holiday. Once again, with everything going on, we are woefully behind. We don’t even have a tree set up. Maybe this weekend. We have managed to do some baking, however, and that’s gone rather swimmingly. I made my semi-famous chocolate chip cookies, as well as lepp cookies. SPW chimed in with spritz cookies, chocolate cookies, something that looks like a flying saucer with a Hershey Kiss in side, and her ever-evolving chocolate caramel shortbread. This year she baked the shortbread into a cup, made her own caramel and topped it with melted chocolate. A nice, bite-size portion. They are actually kind of cute, as well as yummy. I’ll try to pry a recipe out of her to post on here.

Other than that, I’m looking forward to the holidays and having a day off to spend with family.

I hope that you have a wonderful holiday season and I can’t wait to tell you all about my 5K experience.

So, after a long holiday weekend, I’m back to the grind. However, it’s a Tuesday that feels like a Monday, it’s raining and I’d still rather be off.

Got to go to Wegman’s yesterday and I saw that the price of truffles was up to $999.99/pound. I commented to SPW that even with that price, it’s still hard out there for a pig. We picked up another piece of Copper River salmon which I roasted on a wood plank. It turned out very good. I added a spice mixture called “Mural of Flavor” which I had received as a gift. It’s a nice blend for fish… gives it a nice bit of flavor without drowning out the taste of the fish. Special thanks to Lori and Matt for providing the spice… and the best part is that it’s salt-free!

See? That's not good workmanship!

See? That’s not good workmanship!

So, after a weekend of living in the Beasts, I’m thinking that I now worship at the altar of Brooks. My feet feel so supported and comfortable that I don’t even really notice the extra space at the toe of the right shoe. I plan on consulting with my foot doctor to see if there’s anything that can be put in there as a spacer, just in case. Apparently, SPW is digging her new sneakers as well. I did send my New Balance trainers back to the company, though… there’s a plastic lace guard on the 856 that broke after only two months of wear and the lace is digging into the leather. I emailed the company and they said they would send me another pair. It will be nice to have the trainers available for sessions in the gym and leave the runners for the roadwork.

Grandeur of the Seas showing fire damage

Grandeur of the Seas showing fire damage

In sad news, though, Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas suffered a fire over the weekend that resulted in the passengers being flown back to Baltimore. It was a really nice ship and we had a great time aboard her. It was sad seeing that pristine white hull with fire damage. Hopefully she will be repaired and back in service before too long. The good news is that there were no injuries reported and the ship retained full power and was able to make port in the Bahamas without too much inconvenience.

That about does it for today. Hope that you all had a safe and happy Memorial Day.

Song of the Day: Round and Round – RATT

I often complain about the generally crappy weather we have here in the northeast/mid-Atlantic region. Especially lately, where it seems that spring lasts all of about three days. We go from chipping icicles out of our undies to melting in a puddle seemingly overnight. There are a few days that make it worth it here and there, however… sunny days with a nice breeze and mild temperatures.

However, it’s the snow that I’d like to talk about. We get snow. Sometimes a lot, most times not, usually mixed in with rain, ice, sleet, and other unsavory stuff. This is a mixed blessing, though. It makes things look pretty and muffles a lot of the background noise, making it otherworldly quiet. Snow is also good for cardio. I know you’re not pounding a treadmill, but the bending, scraping, lifting, tossing of shoveling gets the ticker pumping. Like any kind of exercise, you have to be careful and be smart. I found the following tips on safe shoveling from Popular Mechanics and thought they were very appropriate:

Be careful when shoveling... it can lead to a heart attack.

Be careful when shoveling… it can lead to a heart attack.

1. Stretch first

Don’t be in a hurry to get outside. Stretch thoroughly using the same sorts of moves that runners, mountain bikers and other athletes use. Stretch your hamstrings, stretch your back, and stretch your shoulders. Then dress in removable layers, grab your shovel and resist the urge to fly at the white stuff just to get the job done. Pace yourself. Start slowly and ramp up to speed.

2. Don’t move snow twice

Before you even take your first scoop, decide where you’re going to dump the snow. Drop the first shovelful farther away from where you are standing, then dump remaining snow closer and closer to where you are. That way, the last scoops that you shovel are moved the shortest distance. Don’t block access to snow that needs to be removed by piling it up in a way that will force you to move it twice.

3. Move snow the shortest distance possible

Consider that everything from a driveway to a patio to a walkway is really a rectangle, and rectangles have a center point. Move the snow from the center of the rectangle to the nearest edge.

4. Clear cars first

Brush snow off cars then clear around the cars.

5. Do the foreground then the background

For example, to clear snow from a rectangle, first shovel a strip clear along the perimeter of the rectangle. Then, moving from the center to the edge, push the snow into the cleared area. Next, lift and throw the snow out of the area.

6. Maintain proper posture:

  • Use your leg muscles as much as possible – push snow when you can and use your legs to lift when you can’t push it.
  • Keep your back straight as you move from the squat position to the upright position.
  • Use your shoulder muscles as much as possible.
  • Hold the snow shovel as close to your upper body as possible.
  • Keep one hand close to the shovel blade for better leverage.
  • Don’t twist your upper body as you throw snow.

7. Keep hydrated

Take bottles of water out with you and keep them accessible, either in the car or on the front stoop or somewhere else convenient.

8. Rest frequently

Clearing an area by hand means that you may lift and carry anywhere from hundreds of pounds to tons of snow.

9. Be thorough but not fussy

The sun is relatively strong this time of year. Clear an area, spread de-icer if necessary and then let the sun do the rest. The fact is, any surface color that you expose in shoveling (gray, green, brown or black) will be far less reflective than a thick blanket of snow, and remaining snow will melt more easily from that darker surface.

10. Don’t overdress

You need to stay warm, but if you overdress you’re going to be soaked in sweat in no time. Dress in loose-fitting layers that you can peel off as you heat up.

11. Whenever possible, team up

Shoveling with a friend or neighbor is inherently more enjoyable than shoveling on your own. Plus, it’s quicker to get the job done with two or three sets of hands.

12. Go easy on the de-icer

Once the area is clear, all you need is a thin scattering of de-icer to keep it that way. If you’re scattering by hand, throw the salt, pellets or granules low along the ground so they bounce and roll into a uniform layer.

13. Whenever possible, get a head start

It’s easier to remove snow in thin layers than wait until all the snow is down to have at it. If it looks like your area is going to get dumped on, try to get out there and shovel it in several passes.

14. Maintain your equipment

The front edge of a snow shovel takes a beating. If it’s metal, hammer it straight when it gets bent; if it’s plastic use a utility knife to carve off the burr that forms on its end. Tighten a loose handle by driving a large hex head sheet metal screw through the blade socket and into the handle.

15. Stretch when you’re done

Stretch gently when you’re done and use an ice pack and ibuprofen to take care of inflamed muscles. Rest and remain hydrated.

Read more: 16 Cardinal Rules for Snow Shovelling – Popular Mechanics

In other news, yesterday was Groundhog Day. Yup… we have a holiday dedicated to a large rodent that allegedly can predict the weather.

Rodent. Weather. Gotcha.

philThere are many marmot meteorologists, perhaps the most famous is Punxsutawney Phil. Based in Punxsutawney, PA, Phil is the subject of all sorts of folktales. Like, for example, he’s 127 years old because every year he’s given a drink of groundhog elixir or some such rubbish. He does his weather bit in an area outside of town called Gobbler’s Knob. The other 364 days a year, he lives in a section of the Punxsutawney Library. Part of the wall is glass, so if you really want, you can walk by and gape at him as he sleeps, eats and does groundhog stuff.

Orphie looking a bit moth-eaten.

Orphie looking a bit moth-eaten.

Other “famous” groundhog prognosticators include Lancaster County’s own Octoraro Orphie. Now, Orphie is bereft of life, but apparently that doesn’t make much of a difference to the groundhog lodge people. Guess you get enough booze into them and Orphie will start dancing along with the pink elephants. Apparently the festivities include dancing the Groundhog Jig. I guess that’s what those crazy kids are calling it these days.

It made me wonder, though… how did the idea that groundhogs can predict the weather come about?

Like many things, it has its roots in ancient traditions. Apparently, the old weather tradition used a badger or sacred bear to make the prediction. The holiday began as a custom of the Pennsylvania German populations of southeastern and central Pennsylvania. Most of the modern traditions involve guys in top hats and free-flowing booze. It’s worth researching, and if you’d rather watch than read, check out the Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day“.

In the meantime, know that Phil predicted an early spring, Orphie predicted six more weeks of winter, and neither one of them is right very often.

Phil’s accuracy is around 39%.

But it’s an excuse to stand on a hillside in Punxsutawney, drink heavily and try not to freeze.

A Brave New Year

Posted: January 1, 2013 in Holidays, Lego, music

Happy New Year!

Yup… hard to believe it’s already 2013. It seems that it was only a couple years ago that we reached the millennium and I never thought THAT would happen. (For the record, I spent New Year’s Eve 1999 in the basement with a loaded rifle… I fell asleep and woke up about 12:15, saw the power was still on, so unloaded the rifle and went to bed)

It seemed a little strange, though to not have Dick Clark there. I know that he was in bad shape with the stroke and all, but the show is almost as old as I am, and it’s what I remember. The level of “talent” on that show has certainly gone downhill over the years. I’m not going to get into specifics, but if you really need AutoTune THAT much, well, you need some voice lessons.

This brings me into my annual (starting this year) list of celebs whose fame clocks really need to tick over from 14:59:

Taylor Swift
Carly Rae Jepsen
Anybody with a surname of Kardashian

I also wanted to thank everyone for the 5,600 hits last year. That’s pretty amazing for a blog that I don’t uber-promote. I appreciate everyone who takes the time to read and comment.

Here’s to wishing you all the happiest and most prosperous New Year you can have. I’m going to leave you with something done by someone I have to assume is a demented bastard with too much time on his hands.

Ahhh… holidays

Posted: December 22, 2012 in cold weather, family, friends, Holidays, music

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, or so sang the late Andy Williams.

In many ways it is. There’s usually a display of the best of humanity. Stories emerge of the layaway angel, or the anonymous donor who slips a rare coin or a large denomination bill into a Salvation Army kettle.

Sadly, though, many of these generous acts are overshadowed by the worst humanity has to offer. Even before the school shootings in Connecticut took place, Teh Interwebz was awash in stories of people brawling over women’s underwear at Victoria’s Secret storte in Sacramento or over phones at a Walmart. This has led to deaths, tramplings, even shootings in previous years. All to save that $20 off a PS3.

So, you have both the good and the bad. This blogger falls somewhere in the middle. I appreciate a good savings, but I do value life and limb over a $38 Blu-ray player. In addition, my time is far too precious to me to stand in line freezing my cojones off on Thanksgiving night.

I was trying to find a way to express the craziness of the season in a nice, neat package. I found this video:

It just kind of expresses the craziness of the season. Plus, it cracks me up.

I do love holiday music, though. I have an extensive collection of holiday music across all different genres. The song that sticks with me the most is Greg Lake’s “I Believe in Father Christmas.” It’s been criticized for allegedly being anti-Christmas, but I feel Lake is trying to speak out about what Christmas has become.

It’s more about the consumerism than the peace and forgiveness it used to be. Yes, when I was a kid I wanted nothing more than to get the cool stuff, but the older I get, it’s much more about being with family and friends and celebrating the year. The people who say that “we need to put more CHRIST in Christmas!” are not totally wrong, nor are they totally right. There are plenty of folks who celebrate a different holiday around the same time. Instead of making it all about one faith or another, make it about being the best person you can be. Do something good, make someone smile.

Make some memories, because all too often the people we make the memories with are gone too soon. If you’re estranged from a parent or sibling, swallow the pride and reach out to them. Life is too damn short for petty grudges.

I’ll close with these lyrics, because it’s very true:

I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave new year
All anguish, pain, and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear
They said there’ll be snow at Christmas
They said there’ll be peace on earth
Hallelujah, Noel, be it heaven or hell
The Christmas you get, you deserve.

Merry Christmas, my friends.

So, I’m writing this from Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter resort. As I sit here in the half light, the gentle sounds of Supportive Partner Woman’s breathing providing a quiet counterpoint to the hustle and bustle of families getting ready to hit the parks, I realize just how lucky I am.

I spent a lot of time the past few posts basically whining about life in general. I have it pretty good. I have a job, a loving wife, a roof over my head… Ad yes, I do have a few friends. It’s funny how things work out. That united by a common interest I am closer to people I’ve known for a relatively short time than I am to people I’ve known my entire life. I’ve met people in this community who aren’t in it for the right reason, but I’ve also met people who simply ooze character and class from every pore. They give back unflinchingly and always put others first, without fail. I’m proud to call these folks my friends and their friendship is something that I treasure.

So, on to the meat of the post.

Supportive Partner Woman (World’s Most Beautiful Pack Mule!) and I come to Walt Disney World around the same time every year. Not only to meet up with the aforementioned friends, but to get ourselves into the holiday spirit. There are many special events going on with a holiday theme, each of which serve to increase our excitement. There’s the Candlelight Processional, in which an orchestra and massed choir perform while a celebrity narrator recounts the tale of Christmas. SPW and I were fortunate enough to see it on Wednesday evening, and it does not disappoint. Our celebrity narrator was Neil Patrick Harris for the second year in a row… However, this year was actually dry, as opposed to the biblical rains of last December. The orchestra and choir was wonderful, as always, and well, here’s a video clip:

I hope that works… Using the WordPress iPad app is not something I do often. I usually write it in Pages, then just copy and paste it into WordPress.

One of the other points of the Disney holiday trident is the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. This event has some five million lights dancing to well known Christmas songs and is probably the one event that really gets me in the mood. SPW (Osborne fan!) and I had the opportunity, thanks to MEI and Mouse Fan Travel, to take in a private viewing of the lights last evening that was just amazing. I took a lot of video, none of which I’ve gotten uploaded yet, but here’s an example from last year’s Osborne Lights:

The third point of the trident is EPCOT’s nightly show called IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. Every year, the holiday season adds an extra five minutes of pyrotechnics accompanied by the Boys Choir of Harlem and a narration from the late Walter Cronkite. This really finalizes the prep for me. Just hearing the soaring music of the whole show as the lasers and fire and fireworks burst over the lagoon, topped off with the extra tag just never fails to send shivers up and down my back. I know that one day, the current IllumiNations will go away in the name of change, but believe you me, that will be a sad sad day.

At any rate, I have much more to tell, but suffice it to say that as of now, the feet have shown no blistering. This makes me very happy, especially considering the amount of walking we have done. The only wound is from the first day, when removing the protective moleskin also removed a tiny chunk of Wayne. A little NuSkin and gauze padding has worked wonders.

Well, I’m going to grad a shower and wake up SPW (Sleeps like the dead!) and we’re off to EPCOT for another day of fun and camaraderie.

More in the next few days!



Posted: November 23, 2012 in Cooking, family, Holidays

The family traditions of Thanksgiving are many and varied. As a youngster, we always went to my grandmother’s place for a turkey dinner. I loved my grandmother and miss her very much, but she was not a great turkey cook. That bird came out of the oven drier than the Sahara. You wound up needing to irrigate yourself like a personalized Tennessee Valley Authority in order to choke it down. I think, had the Camelbak been around at that point, it should’ve been part of the place settings. Things got to be too much, though, and we started a tradition of going out on Thanksgiving. This would be broken up when someone felt like hosting dinner, but we generally would choose a buffet and go to town.

Buffets/smorgasbords have their own special risks. Usually those risks involve eating way too much, but the other thing is that a lot of the food choices simply aren’t good for you. I’m kind of the expert in that kind of diet. Maybe I should make a weight loss video where a camera crew follows me around and then I exhort people to order the exact opposite of what I did order. That might work.

My sister-in-law’s oven roasted turkey

Seriously, though, there are ways to make Thanksgiving dinner somewhat healthy, even for dyed-in-the-wool carnivores like me. First of all, I know a deep-fried turkey tastes awesome. I get that… something about that oily juiciness sets it apart. However, it is possible to oven roast a turkey that will rival a friend bird in overall juiciness. I know this because my sister-in-law accomplishes this on a yearly basis. Her bird is perfectly golden brown every time. She claims the art is in the basting, but I’m pretty sure there’s a healthy dose of witchcraft involved as well.

The really weak link in the holiday meal chain is the potato filling. This stuff is like a food group all its own, and therein lies the issue. It is soooooo easy to just shovel that stuff on the plate and chow down. It was hard, but I only had one modest-sized helping yesterday, along with a spoonful of corn and some green bean surprise. There was also a huge salad made by yours truly, with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette (recipe below).

The dessert selection was stupendous… Supportive Partner Woman (better baker than I!) made a selection of her mom’s favorites, as it was also her mom’s birthday. She made a pineapple upside down cake, a birthday cake, and a pumpkin pie. And, since she’s awesome, she also baked a batch of sugar free cupcakes for me.

Of course, there’s the best part of Thanksgiving dinner… leftovers. Nothing like a pile of yummy, juicy turkey to make sandwiches. Or, you can just nuke some of that stuff and you have a lovely, well-balanced plate. That’s all you really need.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tablespoon crushed garlic
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
pinch of rosemary

Combine and mix well. Modify amount of oil is dressing is too vinegary for your taste.

Song of the Day: I Had a Memory – Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Currently reading: Poseidon’s Arrow – Clive Cussler