30 August 2012

Maine Mud Bug

The short version:  Long trip, great weather, sucky airports delays, good morning runs, ate too much, had fun, mucho tired.  

The slightly longer version:  Excellent trip, if not long.  I can honestly say I hate connecting flights.  The flight out was good but the layover in Newark went from 45 minutes to 3 hours.  My coworker and I had camped out in a bar next to the gate figuring to enjoy a few Sam Adams while waiting for the flight to Portland.  After a beer (or two) we head off to get something to eat (figuring it would be after 8:30 when we hit Maine).  When we finished up we wandered back to our gate only to find out they had changed the plane, changed the time, changed the gate.  Had to hike back across the Newark terminal to our new gate only to wait another 45 minutes for our new flight.  Needless to say, by the time we landed in Maine, I was pretty much fried.  We got to hotel around 2200 hours in no mood to explore or enjoy the area (aka find a bar).  


Waiting for a plane
The weather was gorgeous.  Clear skies, temps in the 50s.  Made for a great run in the morning.  Good trip, worked out well, got a chance to go into downtown Portland for some fresh Maine lobster.  I even got to play with a overly affectionate, beautiful Golden Retriever in the morning that was staying at our hotel (don't tell Grayson). 
More than a mouthful

Not a happy camper
Was a great trip.  The return trip was fairly uneventful, if not long.  They had a booth at the Portland Airport where you could buy your lobster to take home, in case you wanted a tasty souvenir.  

28 August 2012

Leaving On A Jet Plane


All my bags are packed I'm ready to go
I'm standin' here outside your door
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye
But the dawn is breakin' it's early morn
The taxi's waitin' he's blowin' his horn
Already I'm so lonesome I could die


So kiss me and smile for me
Tell me that you'll wait for me
Hold me like you'll never let me go
Cause I'm leavin' on a jet plane
Don't know when I'll be back again
Oh baby, I hate to go



I'm off again this morning heading east.  This time our destination is Maine (The Pine Tree State).  I haven't been to Maine in over 40 years.  Growing up in Jersey, we would do family camping trips up north in the New England area every summer.  I am hoping for some cooler weather and really fresh seafood.  I may even try some Maine lobster.  

Somebody's not happy I am leaving
  


26 August 2012

Slacker

The kids made it back home last night.  After traveling 13+ hours and crossing 7 time zones, they got in around 7:00 pm last night.  Happy to be home but worn out.  They slept in this morning and we took them out for lunch today before junior heads back to Austin.  We got to help them open wedding gifts and view some of the honeymoon pictures, but ran out of time.  As usual, Stephen had to unpack, wash clothes, repack before he heads north.  The only difference now is that he is sharing his time with his bride.  
Opening wedding gifts

Luna - their Aussie foster dog.  She's a bit skittish around men and was eyeballing me for a while but I won her over with my smile and charms

With everyone out there running in minimalist shooz, I feel like a slacker.  I haven't done a  real run for couple of weeks.  Normally, I will run during my lunchtime at work - it gets me out of the office, keeps me from those office lunches, and serves to bleed off some stress/steam from the daily grind.  I started this habit way back at my last job in the 90s.  The plant was out in the country, too far from the local town to go for lunch, no good options for fine dining (Dairy Queen does not count), and they had a nice work out room with 1st class showers.  I got into the habit of running a couple of miles at lunch, cleaning up and then getting some soup or salad at the cafeteria.  Since I hate running treadmills, I would run the local country roads/trails around the site.  I even made it a point to run in the middle of summer to "build up stamina" .

The new place has a gym and shower, so it allowed me to keep up the habit since I joined this place 10 years ago. I have even blocked my calendar during lunch to allow for a run.  But lately, I have been too busy to suit up and hit the streets.  I could blame it on the work load or all of the wedding hoopla, but that is just a lame excuse.  The last serious run I did was out in Paso Robles three weeks ago.  Beautiful run.  An early morning pre-dawn run with temps hovering in the mid 50s, little humidity, no wind.  Ran along the back roads around the hotel through several wineries, farms.  Definitely a zen run for me - one of those runs where you just want to keep on going.  Whenever I go on any of these supplier road trips, I make it a point to get at least one or two runs in.  Normally, my schedule is screwed up, I am several time zones out of sync, I am eating out way too much, jet lag is killing the knees, so it is sort of an obsession of mine to run whenever I go to a new place.  I've run along the California coast line with the sea lions, jogged alongside the Minnesota River in Mankato,  run through the fields of Hanau, Germany, cruised the country roads of Forrest Grove, Oregon, huffed up and down the hills of San Diego, run the beach in the Pacific Northwest, jogged the Mall at Washington DC between the Washington Monument and Congress.  In no way does this make me some sort of uber runner, I am just taking advantage of the trip to enjoy some of the local scenery.  Besides, it beats sitting in the hotel watching HBO or the local news.  Besides, it helps burn off some of those beers and dinners out with the suppliers.  Friday I finally got off my butt and hit the streets again.  My calendar was open (or so I thought) for the afternoon, so I laced up and hit the streets.  Pouring down rain when started out but it cleared out to leave a cooler, steamy run (mid 80s).  Good run, if not a bit muddy.  Of course, when I get back to the locker room, I have an e-mail from my boss asking me if I was coming to the meeting (sent 30 minutes before).     Good run, even if my legs don't appreciate it.  I have to remind myself that it is only 139 days until the starting gun.  I am off again on Tuesday on another supplier road trip and hope to get in some east coast running in this time while trying to avoid the lobsters. 

25 August 2012

The Honeymoon's Over

Literally.  As we speak, the newlyweds are camped out in economy seats enjoying some movie and eating lunch/dinner and trying to get some sleep.  Nice 9 hour flight back to reality.     

Homeward bound
We haven't heard much from the kids, as I would expect.  The occasional text message would pop up letting us know they are having fun (we're in Bergen, we made it to Oslo, view from their cabin in Aurland).


I am tasked for chauffeur duty tonight to pick them up when the land.  We're not sure if they will be up to opening wedding presents tonight or if they want to wait until tomorrow.  After a long day of travel, I expect they will be worn down.  On top of all of this, it is Stephen's birthday today (25).

19 August 2012

Technical difficulties

Been off line for a few days.  We lost the magic Friday night and were unable to access the net since a little while ago.  I did the normal diagnosis, reset the routers, called Comcast, had them reset the router, reclocked passwords, checked settings, checked the cables.  Bupkis.  The friendly, helpful, cheerful cable techy person (Susan) thought it was my router and said I needed a new one.  Not wanting to wait on a service technician come out on Tuesday, I unplugged the box and drove to the Comcast store for a replacement (done this before).  After a 45 minute wait in line (I think they get their service model from the post office), I got a new box that has the WiFi built in.  That means I no longer have to have a separate box for my wireless signal (HooAh!  One less piece of electronics on the desk!).  Brought it home, hooked it up and, drum roll please, still no internet.  At this point, I had to go check my supply of scotch and beer.  I attempted to futz with the set up for an hour or so and finally gave up for the night and sulked off to drown my sorrows in a movie.   I decided to tackle it again this morning and got on line with another tech operator (Ann) who sounded like she was talking from the bottom of a barrel.  After messing with the router for the umpteenth time, resetting the signal twice, I finally figured out that something must have mucked up my computer so I did a system recover/restore and Voilà! we have internet again.  I was even able to sync all our new mobile toys with the new router so we are now able to text/blog/e-mail from throughout the house (except the bathroom). Now I can go forth and play catch up on everyone's blogs and cyberstalk the kids.  

And speaking of the newlyweds, they are still exploring Scandinavia.  They've left Stockholm and headed west to check out a few fjords.  Junior left me his trip itinerary and I have Googled a few places and have to admit, I am mildly jealous.  Tomorrow they hare headed up the Flåm railway into Aurland for a few days.  I "borrowed" a few shots of the railway up into the mountains.  The Flåm is supposedly rated as one of the World's Top 25 Train rides with one of the steepest grades (for a normal gauge railroad).   



One of many waterfalls along the route

Flam Village
Aurlandsfjord
And they booked a couple of nights in a cabin in Vangsgaarden Gjestgiveri alongside the Aurland Fjord.  And I dare you to pronounce that name after a beer or two.     

16 August 2012

Keeping up

Ok, forgive me.  I know I was moving on, but I had to do just one more post about the wedding and the kids, although, it's kinda hard to call them kids now.  

I mentioned that most of the credit for the wedding goes to the moms and the kids.  A lot of that should rest on the shoulders of the bride and groom.  They planned the whole she-bang (with some guidance from the parents of the bride).  They did the research on caterers, DJs, photographers, florists, cake places, decorators.  I dimly recall all the hoopla around our small wedding over "ahem" 32 years ago.  Of course, the groom (I) was in Army training at Fort Knox at the time, so my input was fairly minimal.  Still, the kids put this whole thing together down to the minor details.  Decorations, floral arrangements, floating candles on the staircase, hors d'oeuvres, candy on the tables, sign in book, first dance, father-daughter dance, mother-son dance, bouquet toss, garter toss, dance selections, gifts for the parents, best man, maid of honor, ushers.  They handled it all with style and class.  Definitely a top notch operation.  For example my son got me a crystal beer mug engraved with Father of the Groom.  He even commented that one should never give a mug without something to fill it and he produced a limted edition of our local brewer's recent brew - St Arnolds Divine Reserve #12.  I've been looking for a few rare bottles since it came out two weeks ago and he was able to fill the bill.  I gotta admit I was floored.  

But enough about me and the wedding.  The kids are living it up over in Sweden.  When we flew over to Germany back in the 80s, the only means of communication we had was the German phone system to call home to let everyone know how we were doing (expensive and not as convenient).   Sometimes it took days to update people of your whereabouts/status.  Nowadays, we can track flights on line to see when planes take off and land and where people are.  You can call friends and family back home, you can text a message to everyone back home, you can update your blog from your smart phone while touring castles and various sites.  My son called us from a train via Skype on the way to their hotel to let us know they made it safely.  He is even posting updates to his Facebook page of their journey.   


Skaal!

And this morning's update from Stockholm:

Every hotel in Sweden is required to own at least one piece of Ikea furniture.
The world is definitely getting smaller every day.  

14 August 2012

And now back to our regularly scheduled program

Ok, enough about the wedding.  The kids are off exploring Stockholm and taking in the sites of Sweden, but somehow I keep thinking of the Swedish Chef.     



Enough lallygagging about.  Time to get back to work and take care of the pile of reports/reviews/meetings I have missed.  I deliberately took off 5 days for this shindig (3 before, 2 after).  Even though I didn't have as much to do as the moms or the bride, I did need to prep the home and get things in order before Saturday.  I planned to use the two days afterwards to wind down and I am glad I did. 

As usual, I have  been keeping up with my work e-mails just to see how big a mess I will  walk into tomorrow.  Several headaches and two crises await me in the morning.  I had hoped to use today to clean up the garage or check out the Batman flick, but time slipped away from me.  I am already working on my next road trip to Maine in two weeks before Labor day as well as the upcoming football season.  I hope to be able to take the new trailer out for the first real road trip for the first home game against Florida.  It will be our first night in the trailer and we can actually test it out to see what works.    My folks came over yesterday wanting to look at our new rig (they hadn't seen it yet) and they were elated that we had gotten a nice trailer (always looking for that parental seal of approval).  

It is time to get back to the normal chores that we have neglected for the past two weeks.  We are still looking for a new car, I need to have the driveway replaced, I am cleaning out the home office, and next week we may off load our family piano.  Long story that I will relay later.  For now, it is time to walk the dogs and gather up my notes for the office in the morning.  Always hard to jump right back into the pool after a week of "R&R".  Maybe I will attempt a visual montage of my commute to work like a few others have done.     

13 August 2012

Getting back to normal

Now that the Olympics are over, now that the fireworks have faded into the night, it is time to clean up and get back to the daily grind.  

As with any major event, there is the build up, the hype, the anticipation, and then the day dawns with all it glory and chaos and panic, then, in the ensuing days, it all seems a bit dull.  Despite our worries/fears, the wedding went off without any problems.  I wish I could claim credit for this.  Many times throughout the reception, people would comment to me how nice it was or how beautiful the decorations or great the food is, but honestly, my role was just one in the wings.  The mother (bride and groom) deserve all the credit for their efforts to drive this event forward.  And of course, the bride and groom worked hard to make this happen.  In my mind, this was their affair, I'm just Father of the Groom who gets to be in the pictures and gets to sit at the reserved table.  Many friends and family were offering up their congratulations and blessings but I felt it was the kids who did it all and I was just one of the supporting roles.  After all the toasts and bouquet/garter tossing and send offs, when the reception ended and everyone headed home, Mark (Father of the Bride) and I were out there paying off the caterer and the bar tab and DJ and the limo driver and the various supporting staff.  Now, please don't take this as complaining.  I have never been so happy to fork over the coin for such an event.  This was their moment, not mine, so I am elated to be a part of the whole circus.   

Reception table
Waiting for his bride (I would note that he is way calmer at this  point) 
Your chariot awaits

Cutting the cake
Tossing the bridal bouquet

Garter toss
Sunday was more of a cool down for us.  Trying to recover and get back into a normal rhythm.   I was playing limo driver for the kids to pick them up from their hotel and get them shuttled up to the airport.  Last minute packing, trips to the store, visits with out of town relatives, hugs/kisses.  Despite all of that, we got them to the airport in plenty of time to check in for their flight.  A long flight with a layover in London before they head out for Norway.  Severn time zones away and they called us via Skype around noon on the train to their hotel.  As of now, they are catching up on their sleep/rest and getting ready to explore the old city of Stockholm.  Those kids are definitely off to an interesting start in life.    


In the meanwhile, we are enjoying lots of wedding cake for dessert.   

12 August 2012

A new chapter begins

Very, very, very long day yesterday.  We started at the crack of early and did not wrap up the reception until around 2230.  Us old folks are still trying to recover.  
   
Those two made a very cute couple.  For the record and I may be slightly biased, but Rebecca was absolutely gorgeous in her gown.  

It's Official

Newlyweds

Leaving the church

Grand staircase

First Dance
The Happy Couple 
These two are going make a wonderful couple and we are looking forward to helping them celebrate many, many anniversaries.  

11 August 2012

A new day dawns

Rounding the final turn and into the home stretch.  We did the rehearsal yesterday at the church and pretty much have the ceremony nailed down.  Actually, as parents of the groom, all we have do is show up, sit down and behave.  On the other hand, the bride's parents do get a slightly bigger role in the show.  



Great rehearsal dinner last night.  Lots of people showed up from both sides of the family.  Took over the local Olive Garden where we ate too much, drank some good wine,  talked too loudly, made a general nuisance of ourselves.    


As PotGs, we've been reading up on what we are our roles in the whole wedding shindig.  Tradition has it that the rehearsal dinner is our gig, so we tried to make it nice.  Tradition has it that the Father of the Bride does a toast to his daughter at the reception but as Father of the Groom, I get to do one to the bride and groom at the Rehearsal dinner.  I did prep for it a bit and threw in some lame humor, and it didn't turn out too bad.  The key is keep it short and funny.  

Some of the bits from last night's toast/monologue:

When we heard of your engagement, we were absolutely elated.  As parents, it is hard to picture you children growing up and moving out on their own in life.  It seems like it was just yesterday that we were buying school supplies and getting you ready for your first day of school and now we are here celebrating your wedding to each other.  Some people would look at this like losing a son, but we consider it more of gaining a daughter.  In our eyes, you two were destined to be together, friends for life.  You enjoy each other’s company, even with corny jokes and bad humor.  I have to agree with Rita Rudner who once said:  I love being married. It's so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.

As parents, there are two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other wings.  

Over the next few days, you are going to get lots of advice from various people.  I thought I would get a head start and add a few of my own 
Never go to bed angry – stay up and fight all night
Be open and honest with each other
Find the humor in each other – make each other laugh
Pamper each other
Expect changes
Never argue over money – there will never be enough
And, most important, remember, in any argument you might have, she is always right.  

I would like to propose a toast to the young couple.  We wish the best for both of you and may all your troubles be little ones.  May the time you have together for the rest of your life, be as passionate as your heart felt the first time you said to each other I love you. May you always yearn for the touch of each other's hand and the look you see when only the both of you know what each other is thinking without saying a word. May the two of you live in love for as long as you want, but never want for as long as you live.

10 August 2012

No turning back now

We're picking up steam now.

Sharp Dressed Man

Somehow I kept thinking this tune when we were picking up the tuxes today.


09 August 2012

Down to the wire

Getting down to the last few days and the intensity has definitely achieve new levels.  We are working on a final headcount for the reception, I have sent out an evite for the rehearsal dinner, programs are being printed, limo has been secured, directions to the reception printed.  Lots of minor details being worked out.

Just to add to the confusion, I had both dogs groomed today.  I was going to have them taken to my vet to groom, but the groomer was booked for two weeks.  I used a coupon I had won last year for a mobile groomer to come to the house to do the dog.  Actually had both dogs done.  Met with the woman who runs the business and is also the president of the Houston Dog Park association.  Very nice lady who happens to love dogs (a lot).  Both dogs had a haircut and bath, even if they were not exactly thrilled with the attention.  Was interesting to watch them being groomed and see how they did.  Both are happier/cooler now.  Of course, right after being trimmed. bathed, and dries, Grayson goes and lays down in the wading pool I have set out for them.  











Of course, things are on track for this weekend's hoopla.  Pick up tuxes tomorrow, rehearsal dinner tomorrow night.  By Sunday afternoon, we should be comatose.   

06 August 2012

Oh yeah, it's on.

This week is definitely one for the books.  I have made plans to take off for a week starting Wednesday.  Got the vacation, gonna use it up.  I figured I would take 3 days before the wedding to take care of last minute stuff and then 2 days after just to unwind. That translates into two days at the office to get about 2 weeks worth of work done (remember, I was out for most of last week).  I know, I know, I'm whining again.          

The week has taken off already.  I am working on getting a limo for the kids for the wedding party to take them from the church to the reception and then from the reception to their hotel.  I know that is way past extravagant, but I wanted to do something special to make their day even more memorable.  Anywho, I have been looking up limo services down here in Houston and there are quite a few available.  I put my name out last night to a couple of local limo companies to get a general bid a wedding package for Saturday and my phone started ringing the hook at 0800 this morning.  I've been fielding calls from various limo companies to bid on the job.  I haven't decided anything yet and I will probably get one, even if it grinds against my cheapa%% nature.  

On top of limo negotiations, I am trying to get the dogs groomed this week.  Something I should have done last week but just didn't have the time.  My normal groomer at the vet is booked so I am utilizing a coupon I got from last fall's GBGRR picnic for a mobile groomer (one of those that come to your house).  I was conversing all morning with the lady who does the service and we came to a reasonable deal.  I made plans to have her come to us Wednesday morning to take care of both Chaos and Pandemonium.  It is not that those two have any role in this weekend's hoopla, but being Goldens they are getting quite shaggy and shedding up a storm.  Junior has become slightly allergic to pet dander, so I wanted to eliminate some of the source.  I love my two mutts, but sometimes, I envy those who have dogs with shorter coats.     

The groom is coming down Thursday night (likes to cut it close).  We pick up tuxes on Friday, confirm headcount of the reception on Thursday, lock down the menu for the rehearsal dinner Wednesday.  The bride dropped by last night to drop off a chair (won't fit in their new apartment) and she is going out to the club tomorrow with her mom to work out the final details of the reception.   My folks are flying in tomorrow from their road trip in New York, my middle brother is coming from Seattle on Wednesday.  It feels like a gathering of the clan.  Still got lots to do.  The one good thing is, come hell or high water, after tomorrow, I won't be on the clock so I might actually get something done around here. 



05 August 2012

Let's get this party started

Wait.  What?  A wedding?  In 6 days?  Oh, holy matrimony, Batman!  


The shindig is about to kick off.  Only a few minor last minute details to nail down - how many will attend the rehearsal dinner, who has accepted, final headcount for the reception, limo to/from the reception, church set up, floral arrangements, music to be played.  We are entering the pre-wedding build up week.  My parents are flying back into town on Tuesday, my brother should land on Wednesday, Stephen should hit town on Thursday afternoon.  The week is looking to get very busy.   

Engagement picture

04 August 2012

Back from the west coast

It's been a short week (work-wise).


The trip went very well, supplier's happy, we're happy, ate too much (Thai food, fish tacos), weather was fantastic, flights were packed but ok (not too bad), hotel was very nice, got a couple of really nice runs in, toured the Hearst Castle (again), did a wine tasting, tried out another local brewery, visited a small farmer's market,went back to the Bubble Gum Alley.  Not too bad for a three day gig.  Of course, that left me with 2 weeks of work to do in the remaining 2 days at the office.  On top of that, next week is a short one for me since I am taking off a week starting on Wednesday in preparation for the wedding.  


Playing catch up this weekend.  Need to prep the house for the onslaught of next weekend's festivities.  I'll delve into more wedding details tomorrow, but suffice it to say, we are one week out and the panic level has definitely kicked up a notch or two.       


In the meantime, I'll just have to entertain you with a few shots from the road.


Very tiny & loud

Interesting visual

Casa Grande

The private study

Indoor aquatics 

I keep thinking this would be a bear to clean

Wine store in the hotel

Local farmer's market

Another California tourist attraction

Best toured before lunch

There's a fine line between gross and unique

Doggy chic 
One of the many California Missions

The small river that runs through San Luis Obisbpo
As one might surmise, I took lots of pictures with my iPhone.  I didn't even try to take my camera this trip.  One interesting (or disturbing) visual effect was my picture in flight of the propellers on the small puddle jumper.  The still shot was interesting, but the video was even more strange.

video