30 December 2009

Happy New Year (early)

Time to ponder what the last year has brought us. Lots of good & not so good news.
Still alive & kicking (actually made it to the end of the year without breaking anything).
Still employed.
Still have a roof over our heads.
We've been able to take a few trips.
Still owe way too much (but working on it).
Still need to drop a few pounds.
Along the way we picked up a new mutt.
All-in-all, I would count my blessings and consider this a pretty good year.

We are headed out to the country for the holidays to celebrate New Year's with family. Planning to camp out in the trailer with our club and will try our hand at blowing some stuff up (fireworks) and eating until we pop.

Good bye 2009! Hello 2010!
Have a safe and happy new year!

27 December 2009

Happy Returns!

I hope everyone got what they wanted (or deserved)!

We had a great time, in spite of all of my worries/challenges/tasks. We were able to celebrate the day not too early before the rest of the clan showed up. Lots of gift cards/trinkets, plenty of food and wine. Everyone was well behaved. I got a few new shirts/pants, a nice bottle of 15 year old scotch from son, a infared thermometer, a new cordless drill. Momma got a new camers, junior got a lot of orange gear along with some new attachments/accessories for computer. All-in-all, I consider myself very lucky/blessed. Was the dog's first Christmas with the family and he was very well behaved. Stuffed, but well behaved. As is typical with most Goldens, he is a real attention hound and will seek out anyone who will pet him endlessly.

One of our holiday traditions is to attend a concert or event of some kind (one of momma's goals is to instill some "culture" into her family). We have done the Nutcracker Ballet for a couple of years and the last holidays it has been the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. This year, I got floor tickets to the TSO but momma is not feeling up to it so I will take my son, girlfriend, and one of my nephews. It is a great show, but I think three years running is enough. Next year we will try something different (A Tuna Christmas?).
Here's to hoping the return lines ain't not too long and everyone has their receipts handy...

25 December 2009


It's Christmas!

The old days, everyone would be up at the crack of early, opening gifts and checking out the latest scores. Nowadays, junior has adopted the college student mantra and stays up until the wee hours and we sometimes don't see him until noon (or later). Gives me time to stuff the bird and finish wrapping some surprises. Long day ahead. We'll have our own celebration some time this morning with the rest of the extended family showing up later this afternoon. Let the feeding frenzy begin.

Merry Christmas, ya'll!

Fröhlich Weihnachten!

24 December 2009

Joyeux Noël

It's Christmas Eve!

Put down the credit card, quit looking for that last minute gift, log off the website, put away the wrapping paper, gather up the family and recall Christmases of old. Time to celebrate the season.

The last gift has been acquired. The turkey & ham are safe in the refrigerator. The pies are made, the dressing is being mixes up. Time to slow down and reflect upon the blessings of the season. Oh crap, I still have to wrap a bunch of stuff. Looks like a late night for moi.

Our tradition tonight is dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant and then midnight service at church. Even though it may be a late night, I am looking forward to the chaos.

I look back and recall last year was not as much fun for me. Having just lost our dog & busted up my shoulder, I was not in a real festive mood. Looking back over this year, I am grateful for the blessings we have. Health, continued prosperity, new dog. I am grateful for what we have been blessed with. I may not own the coolest car, I may not own the raddest TV system, I may not have the latest technological device, but I consider myself blessed nonetheless.

Here's wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas!

23 December 2009

Happy Festivus!

Time once again to gather round and celebrate the season of festivus!

Time to put up the fetivus pole and begin the airing of grievances.
Here's to looking for another festivus miracle!
Off to work for one more day before the break. Typical pre-Christmas mayhem/chaos.

20 December 2009


Still working on a few gifts, but narrowing the field. Enjoying the clear weather for a change. It's nice having a four day weekend again to catch up on the holiday chores/projects. I was finally able to get most of the leaves up out of the yard for the garbage guys to haul off. My two Arizona Ashes out front are still holding on to their final few leaves, but those should be bare by Christmas. The oak in the back yard is a stubborn old tree and won't shed until spring. Took care of junior's tires on Friday, but in the process of checking it out, I noted that the brakes are worn thin. Today's new holiday project: new brake pads.

I thought I might share something I've been making for years. I came across a really good recipe for Wassail many years ago. It's become a tradition around here for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. I made it a few times at the office for our department luncheons and still have people come up to me every November/December asking if I am going to make it again. Seems to have become my trademark. Since it is such a simple mix, I thought I would pass it along for anyone who cares. It is non-alcoholic, but very sweet. Some have suggested adding rum to "spice it up", but I have never tried. At one point, I actually got burned out on it after having to make it 5 times in a row one holiday season.


  1. Apple juice (64 oz)
  2. Cranapple juice (64 oz)
  3. Pineapple juice (32 oz)
  4. 5 cinnamon sticks
  5. 5 cloves

Combine the apple juice, cranapple juice, and pineapple juice into one large (36 cup) banquet-style coffee maker. Crush 5 cloves and break the cinnamon sticks in half and add into the brewing basket. Turn on coffee maker and let percolate until done. Serve hot.

As one might surmise from the juices, this is a fairly sweet concoction. Let is sit for a while and the whole house will smell of Wassail. If you let it steep a while, it tends to get stronger. IMHO, this tastes much better when it is cold & snowy outside. I typically keep whatever is not finished off in the refrigerator for days afterwards and reheat it. Again, you can add rum (or whatever your poison) to give it a "kick" but I tend to find it sweet enough. I will try to test it out this year with some Captain Morgan just to see if it improves the flavor.

17 December 2009

No Soup for You!

My streak is still intact! 9 Xmas dinner/luncheons, 0 prizes. Woo-Who!
I really didn't have any need for 2/4 round trip airline tickets or $250 to Academy or a $150 spa treatment.
At least everyone had a good time and pigged out on BBQ.
Now for some serious shopping. I'm thinking a new set of tires would be nice...

16 December 2009


Junior finally made it home around midnight last night. Of course momma is overjoyed to see him (while scolding him on starting out so late). Typical chaos. Poor old car looked was overflowing with his "important stuff" (computers, monitors, guitars, amp, clothes, etc.). It's nice to have the little hatchlings back in the nest, even if only for a little while.

Company Christmas lunch today. Another 2 hour eat-a-thon. Hoping to score one of the big prizes (round trip airline tickets) but given my track record over the past 9 years, I am not expecting much.

Been spending some time cruising the net in search of just the right gifts for my brothers. Found a site with lots of garden/outdoor stuff including door mats. This one struck me funny. It may wind up on my door step...

Life's never simple

More drama. Just what I need to enjoy the holidays.

Was hoping to coast tonight while doing some on line shopping, finish up some chores at the office, wrap some gifts for my buyers, get ready for another 4 day weekend, and prep the LZ for junior's arrival tonight. He was supposed to be home yesterday, but he stayed over another day in college to sign up for a course next semester and transfer the utilities on the apartment to his name. He woke up late and finally started south toward home around 1700 (5:00 pm for you nonregs). This is typical for him but it drives his mother nuts. Anyway, I'm sitting hear trying to enjoy my solitude before the swarm decends upon the home when I get the call. Remember - I only get called when it involves some expenditure or there is some technical problem. It appears he has a tire problem on one tire somewhere west of Columbus (small Texas town). He was stopped by the side of the road trying to diagnose the problem. I felt like technical support trying to talk him through the issue and figure out what the problem was. He was able to limp into a local gas station with lots of lights and open parking lot and finally see the problem (thrown tread). Now, if it were me, I'd cuss a lot and swap out the tire with the spare and limp on home. Junior is a whizz with computers and high tech stuff, but he is not as handy with auto repair and I was not comfortable with him trying to do this on his own. I have loaded up the truck with my tools & jack and prepared to head north, but he is a good 1.5 hours away. Fortuneately, a long time ago, I signed up for AAA roadside service for this very situation. I was worried that he might be way out of the range for a service call, but they have dispatched someone to go help him so I am hoping they can fix the tire and get him back on the road shortly.

Kids. So much joy, so much anxiety.
I'm already making plans to get a new set of tires on my day off.
- - - - - -
Corollary: AAA showed up at 9:20 pm, changed the tire, and he is back on the road. Should hit the doorstep in an hour. Glad to have AAA available. I am mildly surprised that they were able to make it out that far into the countryside, but then again, that is why I signed up with them.

If you ain't the lead sled dog, the view never changes...

15 December 2009


It's been a year since I lost Shadow. I've moved on. Been busy with family & work. We were blessed with another great dog (Grayson). It's funny how one mutt had such an impact upon me. Even now, I still miss his sorry little butt. Grayson is an excellent and loyal dog, but Shadow and I spent a lot of time together and I miss him. I think I spend a lot more time with Grayson because of some lingering regret. I have definitely taken a lot more pictures of the new dog than the last. Partially because I realised that I did not have as many shots of Shadow in digital format and partially because it is easier to document the changes as he grows.

I am not sure why I was so emotionally attached to him. We shared many hours on the trail together. I shared with him many things that I have never told with anyone else. Shadow and I had a good understanding of each other. He knew who the alpha dog was, he knew when to take care of business, he knew when we were going out of town, he knew when dad was pissed off (or watching football), and more importantly, he knew the adage: When momma dog ain't happy, no body's happy. The new guy hasn't quite gotten the lingo down, yet, but he is learning.

When it comes to kids and dogs, I sometimes regress in maturity and act like a kid (or so my spouse would claim). I used to make up dumb songs on a lark. One of the stupid little ditties I used to sing to him:

I've got a smile on my butt for you,
A smile that is always true.
I'm grinnin from ear to ear,
and it's showing on my rear,
I've got a smile on my butt for you.

I never claimed to be a lyricist...

In the meantime, I will eat a fig newton in memory of a great dog.

11 December 2009

Friday Follies

Off again!
I told ya that I had a bunch of vacation to kill. I have turned into that old guy at work that had so much vacation stocked up in the year that, come November, he wound up taking off every Friday through New Years.

Four day weekend ahead! Time to start some mega shopping. Hope to get the lights up today before it starts to rain (no snow :( ). I am trying to sign up for one shift to build some bikes at Elves & More. Of course the highlight of my day is that I am heading off to the doctor this afternoon for my annual physical (BOO-YA!). Nothing gets me more in the Christmas spirit like getting "up close & personal" with my internist. Should be ok, but it is kind of like taking the truck in for a service - you never know what they will find under the hood on those high mileage check ups (need a new set of shocks, tires need to be rotated, transmission's leaking). Nothing cheap or easy to fix. Not really looking forward to it but I want to get it done before the end of the year and the new deductible kicks in. I expect to have a follow up to a gastroenternologist for my heartburn - ANOTHER fun filled adventure to enjoy.

Confirmed that son is coming home next week. He called last night to pass along some good news. Now, keep in mind that my son doesn't really call me to chat. He typically calls me when there is some vehicle problem or some major change in his status (translation: $$$). But last night he informed me that he had entered the student lottery for tickets to the BCS Championship game on January 7th and he got picked! Was all sorts of fired up. Amidst trying to finish a project and study for finals, he was trying to figure out the logistics of getting out to Pasadena, CA and where to stay. Lucky kid.

Have a great and warm weekend and try not to ponder that there is only 14 days until Christmas!

Addendum: Doc gave me a clean bill of health. Ya gotta love those paper gowns with no backside to them. I'd like to meet the sadistic sob that designed them.

Sometimes you're the dog, sometimes you're the fire hydrant...

09 December 2009


Back in college, we had an old saying that if you do it more than twice, it's a tradition.

The holidays are full of all sorts of activities/tasks/excitement/traditions. As a kid, we always had certain traditions we did during that long stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Putting up a live Christmas tree, shoveling the driveway (multiple times), building our snow fort, my brothers and I trying to kill ourselves on the toboggan. Life was pretty simple back then (no video games, no cable, no internet).

As I "grew up" (the wife will challenge that premise) and struck out with my own family, we adopted new traditions. First, when we were stationed in Germany, my wife and I started our own traditions to celebrate the holidays. An oversized Christmas tree in a tiny apartment on the 4th floor (imagine the logistics), trips to the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, hot Glühwein, collecting lots of handmade ornaments/figurines.

When we moved back stateside and started a family, our traditions changed again. Since we were initially the most "mobile" (young married couple, no kids), we spent most of our holidays traveling to see family in Houston, Corpus Christi, or Oklahoma City. That is about the time we bought our first home and I started on my collection of Christmas decorations/lights to put up outside. My vision was for a single color (red) string of lights to encompass the entire house. In Dallas, there were whole neighborhoods that decorated in the same theme. We used to drive out to tour several of these neighborhoods along with the rest of the crowds trying to imagine that, one day, we'd be just as festive. There is one major subdivision in Fort Worth that every house is decorated in massive fashion and they even have to hire traffic cops to control traffic. Some enterprising youngsters sell hot chocolate along the route to make some coin. Along the way, junior joined the crew and we began our own set of traditions (buying a tree, decorating it together, touring some of the local neighborhoods for the light shows, going to visit Santa,etc.). Each year, the number and complexity of the ornaments grew. We continued to acquire new Xmas ornaments every year while continuing to display the old ones (still have 2 from my childhood).

Eventually, I found a new career in south Texas and relocated back to Houston. Some of our traditions followed as well, some new ones were started. Eventually, we caved and moved to an artificial tree (allergies) that I would put up every year right after Thanksgiving usually while watching a football game (required lots of patience, detailed instructions, and a fair amount of scotch to assemble). More ornaments, more holiday glitz, more displays. Monogrammed stockings for everyone (including the dog). Lighted garland, Nativity scene, wreaths. I was still maintaining the single light theme on the outside. I just like the old school C9 lights around the house, but it is hard to keep the lights burning/unbroken year after year. Normally, I buy a new string every year to replace the old burned out bulbs and keep the strings fresh. My son and I even got into a debate one Christmas over the colors on display (he wanted multi colors). We still tried to tour other neighborhoods to see the lights, but there don't seem to be as many as in north Texas. One house we have always gone to every year has been Roller Coaster Santa. A very creative guy has build a huge, handmade roller coaster track and with a 25 foot lift hill and a single car (small wagon) that makes the circuit. He loads up a Santa figure in the car/sleigh and sets it off on the track. Takes about 2-3 minutes to climb the hill on a chain motor and about 20 seconds to careen around the track and start all over again. Not sure how his neighbors feel, but on a good night, the line of cars will be backed up 3 deep in front of his house. We also used to go to the Nutcracker down town every year if I could get good tickets.

All that changed a few years ago. With junior off in college and engaged in other interests (aka girlfriend) and getting backed up at the office, my drive and motivation to put out all of the decorations has waned a bit. Some years, I put up the lights/tree right Thanksgiving. Some years, I have not been as energetic. Last year, with Shadow's passing, I didn't put up lights or the tree until the weekend before Christmas (my heart just wasn't in it). I did get the tree up last weekend, but have yet to get the lights up on the outside (still going red). Having the family at home helps boost everyone's spirit. I am trying to get in the spirit this year, but with all the various challenges this year, it may be a another week before everything is up and running. With one more year to go in college and given his proclivity towards the tech industry, I am afraid that Steve will land a job that is not close by (translation: out of state). NOT looking forward to those times. In the meantime, he is about finished with this semester and getting prepped for tests/finals. He should be home again next week in a flurry of clothes and boxes.

And, of course, I have yet to start Xmas shopping...

Deck the Halls!

07 December 2009

Back to work

Been off a week.

Did not get as much as I had hoped to last week due to a minor crisis, a funeral, and the mini blizzard. I did get the tree up yesterday but the outside lights are still in their boxes. Our brush with winter weather turned into a steady downpour yesterday and any hints of frosty the snowman turned out more like slushy. I did get a few chores done, but did not make any headway on the new floor for the breezeway. Front door is painted and carpets cleaned. Still need to fix the window in momma's car, but that will have to wait for next weekend. In the meantime, I am headed back to the salt mines. A week off from the job can leave me with a pile of projects/meetings that will take me a month to resolve. The only good news is that I have been monitoring the activities via e-mails and my crackberry so I know the headaches I need to tackle first. Oh, well, it beats shoveling stuff in Louisiana.

In all of our preparations for the upcoming holidays, we should take a moment to remember that today is December 7th. Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

Photograph from a Japanese aircraft of Pearl Harbor including Battleship Row at the beginning of the attack. The explosion in the center is a torpedo strike on the USS West Virginia

04 December 2009

Once in a blue moon (updated)

Temps stared out around 41 this morning and light rain. It's now 34 and the snow just started. Still too warm to stick, but temps are dropping. For once, I am glad to be home camped out on the computer drinking wassail and watching the traffic reports.
Looks like squirrel moving day. I have spotted 5-6 of the little tree rats scurrying out in my yard trying to pack it in before the freeze. Dog's going nuts trying to get at them.


Seems that somebody is happy with the snow...

03 December 2009

Frost on my cacti

Forecasters down here are projecting the possibility of snow tomorrow.

From the way the news crews are covering it and the city is going into massive preparation, you'd think that we were hunkering down for another hurricane. Typically, when the road conditions get dicey, they wind up shutting down school districts, closing businesses, firing up the sand trucks (hey, we only get to use them once every 10 years or so!).

I love my fellow Texans, but as I've pointed out before, a lot of them don't how to drive on ice/snow. I am not going to claim to be a seasoned veteran, but I've logged a fair amount of hours on winter road and have some experience handing lousy road conditions (driven on black ice on the Autobahn). Even with that experience, I am off this week (working on chores) and have no intentions of hitting the streets mañana. Although, I may keep any eye out for all of the shennanigins on the road.

Who knows what mother nature may bring?

02 December 2009

Home on the range

Back from west Texas.

Very long drive, tired. Weather was good, still trying bag that elusive jackalope.

The trip/weekend started out well, but I fouled up big time. I got a bit of a mess on my hands and I am seriously pissed off. No one I can blame but myself so I am in a very foul mood right now. I will get past this issue, but right now I am not in the holiday mood, but I am getting better.

It may sound morbid, but what helped raise my mood yesterday was attending a funeral for an old acquantance I worked with/knew for a long while. Harry was 58 years young (only 6 years older than me) and passed away suddenly while returning from Oklahoma visiting with his daughter and grandkids. Harry was a great man and the service was packed/oveflowing. As one of his close friends noted, with so many people attending, they should have charged admission. Most of the people attending were from my old company and, while we got talk on how everyone was doing, but it was a sad occasion to play catch up. I am in a quasi network of people who worked in one company that formed a close bond and it seems that the only updates I hear now is when people pass away.

It spite of my very sour disposition at the time, what sobered me up was that my problems, no matter how bad I make them out to be, pale in comparison to the loss of a friend/loved one. Life is way to fragile/brief to sweat the little stuff.

"Dance like no one is watching, love like you'll never be hurt,sing like no one is listening,and live like it's heaven on earth."- William Purkey