Monday, December 31, 2007

Day 313 - 12/30/2007

After going to 1045a Mass, the kids and I ate lunch and headed over to Springfield. They were going to go to a movie with Grandma while I hung out at the house visiting with Rudy (and watching football). D met Maria for lunch, so we all had plans over the course of the afternoon.

Mom and the kids got back from the movies just after the 'Skins game started (vs. Dallas). They were playing like I haven't seen them play in years. Not only did they end up winning the game, but they dominated it the whole way through. (Don't let folks tell you Dallas wasn't trying to win the game, they had their starters out there for the better part of the game, even though it was meaningless to them. Had they not cared about it, they wouldn't have had their starters out there.)

After the game and getting the kids put to bed, I headed over to Falls Church to see the New Potato Caboose put on a reunion show at the State Theater. It's been years since I've seen them and was looking forward to seeing them again. Not only seeing them, but also seeing some friends from high school I hadn't seen in a year or so. As it turned out, Leah didn't make it home, so I didn't get to see her. Brian was there, however, so we chatted and hung out for a while. Larry and Joan were there as well (he was the one who told me about the show, so I knew I'd be seeing him). I also ran into a fraternity brother of mine from Mason, a guy I used to play lacrosse with at Mason and Dude-Man, one of the bartenders I used to work with at Fat's. It was like old home week all over again.

Larry and Joan left shortly after the first set was over and I left shortly after the second set started. During intermission I went up to the balcony and observed the scene below. I was having a harder and harder time convincing myself to stay. I really don't know why, but I just didn't feel like staying. I decided to wait a little longer, to see if I would change my mind and climbed on the fence, teetering between leaving and staying, while the crowd did their thing below waiting for the band to begin playing. After opening the second set with "Me and Julio," they immediately went into "Uncle John's Band" and followed that up with "Brokedown Palace." That was all I needed to make my decision; I left.

I surprised D by arriving home so early, but when I explained to her why I left, she told me that Maria, when asked whether she was going to the show or not, told D that "that was a time in my life in my past and that's where I'm going to leave it." I wish I had done the same. Not that I didn't enjoy myself, but it's not where I belong anymore.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Day 312 - 12/29/2007

We headed down to Fred for the day to get in some shopping before Nancy's employee discount expired. We ended up doing a bit of damage, but also saving a bit of money. Traffic on the way down was terrible. We left our house about 1115a, expecting to get there around 1215-1230p, but ended up getting there around 1p. Every time traffic started moving, it stopped just as suddenly. Then, when I was about to jump off, it started moving again. Oh well, at least we made it down in one piece.

While we were there, M made a cake and decorated it for dessert. She'd been wanting to decorate a cake using the fondant she got months ago and decided today was the day. I helped her roll it out, but the design was all hers!

As you can see, she did a pretty good job at decorating it, but even as good as it looked, the fondant wasn't all that good. (For the record, the pic was taken with my phone.) A couple of bites was more than enough to get the sense that fondant is not to be eaten in bulk. I'm not sure whether the cakes made on "Ace of Cakes" are made to be eaten or looked at, but if they're to be eaten, I hope their fondant tastes better than what M had!

We had to bug out early to get home in time to watch the Patriots-Giants game. Fortunately, traffic wasn't too bad and we ended up making it home just in time for kick-off.

Under normal circumstances, I really couldn't care less about the game, but with the Pats at 15-0, I wanted to see if they could go undefeated. They did and now I'll be rooting for them to make it all the way. Of course, should the Redskins find a way to make it to the playoffs and then make it to the Super Bowl Big Game, I think I'd still have to root for the Patriots. The opportunity to end the season with a perfect record doesn't come along very often! The Patriots ended up winning, so they're in the playoffs and are looking to continue their quest for the perfect season. I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Day 311 - 12/28/2007

Another day off, another day of getting stuff done. Well, almost. Read on, for a run-on description of my day in a nutshell:

After a trip to the gym, I scheduled the van for service and then took the kids to Lowe's for shelf supplies before stopping by the bank to make some deposits in their accounts after which we came home and had lunch and then left to drop the van off. On the way home I was dropped off at a friend's house to help move some furniture and then when I got home from that, D went to the mall and I watched the kids and prepared a dinner of leftovers that wasn't all that great but it did free up some space in the fridge. We picked up the van after dropping M off for a pajama party down the street and N and I drove around looking at lights on the way home. After M came home I headed downstairs to watch some football and play guitar, but I was only successful in watching football as I wasn't in the mood to play guitar.

I called it quits about 1130p.

I guess the shelves will have to wait until sometime before the end of the year.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Day 310 - 12/27/2006

Did I really wake up at 10a? Yes, I did (although I got up at 530a to take a puking cat into the bathroom, and then at 7a to tell N to go down and watch TV and then at 8a to tell M the same). Still, sleeping in until 10a is unheard of for me. I guess I was pretty worn out.

Dad came over to meet for lunch and we tried a new Indian place over in Fairfax. It was alright, although the incense they had burning in the entryway was overpowering and left a smell that stuck with you until you got something stronger in front of your nose (in this case, it was the food).

D had PT this afternoon, so the kids and I hung around the house. The Craig girls were down and N was down at the Agan's playing, so I piddled around the basement, trying to design a shelving system for the workbench area. In addition to that, I got the hoses rolled up and put away for the winter and raked the leaves from the side yard. There's still a few left out there, but they'll be ignored for the rest of the winter. I have no desire to rake anymore leaves, especially when the tree from which they fell isn't even in our yard. After these chores were done, I fixed the kids' bikes. N's back brakes were rubbing, making it close to impossible to ride and M's front tire needed a new tube.

After the kids finished playing with friends and I finished their bikes, we attempted to go to Toys R Us to make an exchange. After about 20 minutes of searching for the receipt (as they won't perform any kind of exchange or return transaction if there's no receipt), I finally found it...right where I put it. (I had originally taped it to the cabinet door and forgot that I had moved it to the mantle.) By the time we made it to the store and back again, it was too dark to go running (which I had hoped to do), so I attempted a run on the treadmill. Ten minutes later I was off it as I just wasn't feeling the love. I'm not sure whether it's this nagging sore throat or whether it's the lunch sitting in my stomach, but, as I said, I wasn't feeling the love and tossed in the towel.

After finalizing the plans for the shelves (and giving a lesson in perspective to M when it comes to drawing plans), we headed out to pick up a pie for dinner. After dinner, the kids got ready for bed and we all snuggled on the couch and finished watching the Purdue game (I had Tivo'd it for this purpose). Much to my disappointment, the game ran late and I missed the last three minutes (when CMU tied it up and Purdue ended up winning with a field goal with :02 on the clock). M filled me in, though, as D had told her how it finished.

After the kids were tucked in, I settled in for some more TV watching. I was still sluggish from last night's marathon sleep session and didn't feel like doing much of anything. That being said, I stayed up late as I kept thinking D would be getting home soon. She went to dinner and a movie with some friends (at 4p) and didn't get home until 1130p.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Day 309 - 12/26/2007

I decided to take advantage of the day off and relaxed. Well, that and did some work in the back basement. I've put off doing things for the past few weeks as a result of lost motivation and other activities on the calendar.

I don't want this time off to be a wasted week, although even doing nothing is good for the soul sometimes. I recall the trip we made to California in 2006. I was burned out from work and just not happy with how things were going and, after doing nothing work-related for 10 days, I came back refreshed and ready to tackle anything. While I don't feel the same way about work now (I actually feel good about going into the office and have come to realize that I've got a pretty good gig), having the time off is still good for the soul.

That being said, the activities over the past week have caught up with me. I'm pretty beat and can't even make it through the Purdue game (playing against Central Michigan in the all-important Motor City Bowl). Why do I care, you ask? Well, D's cousin's son is a defensive tackle for Purdue and, although he doesn't start, gets some healthy playing time. We've become Purdue fans because of it and hope they improve in the coming years.

I ended up calling it quits around 10p and quickly fell into a deep sleep.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Day 308 - 12/25/2007

Merry Christmas!

The kids had us up bright and early and we whipped through the presents in no time at all. Afterwards, D and I went to Mass at 10a, before returning for a quick lunch, Lego building and a flurry of phone calls.

Mom and Rudy ended up coming over for dinner. It was nothing fancy, leftovers from last night and a ham that Doug and Nancy brought up, but we were together and we all enjoyed ourselves. Rudy looked pretty good, although he may have stayed out too late as he fell asleep at the table.

Doug, Nancy and Michael left shortly after Mom and Rudy did and, after putting the kids to bed, D and I did the same. It's been a long few days (long week?) and I'm looking forward to doing nothing over the next few days.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Day 307 - 12/24/2007

It's Christmas Eve and D's family came up for dinner and Mass (D and I stayed home to prep for dessert and get things ready for the rest of the evening).

I tried to keep it simple for dinner and think I was successful. We served a roasted pork loin stuffed with apples and prunes with roasted butternut squash, carrots and onions; red cabbage (as mentioned in yesterday's post); and a green salad dressed with balsamic vinaigrette from Cheryl's salad recipe file. Unlike year's past, everything was ready at the appointed hour and we sat down to eat just a bit after the scheduled 2p dinner time. (Everyone was planning on going to Mass at 430p, so we wanted to be done with dinner in plenty of time.) Everything was delicious and, although the cabbage wasn't the same as Grandpa Pete's recipe, it was good none-the-less.

I'll definitely make it again, but the next time I do, I'll use ½ c. port and 1 c. red wine vs. the 1½ c. that the recipe calls for to make it more acidic. This recipe was a bit on the sweet side and, while everyone liked it, I didn't think it had the bite that Grandpa Pete's had.

We were able to eat dessert before everyone left for Mass and this too turned out better than I had expected. I made a rice pudding with a cranberry/raspberry sauce. I had cooked it yesterday and after it was chilled, it congealed more than I had hoped, so I poured in a cup or so of cream and reheated it. After 30 minutes or so, it was nice and creamy.

After everyone got back from Mass, we sang Silent Night (yes, I played my guitar) and proceeded to open presents. Afterwards, the kids were sent to bed and the adults stayed downstairs doing the Christmas Eve thing (some of which involved watching football). We finally called it a night when M came out to the railing and told us we needed to go to bed so Santa could get on with delivering his presents. We complied.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Day 306 - 12/23/2007

We decided to do split shift at Mass today as M's not feeling too well. Since I was showered and ready to go, I went to 1045a (D went to 530p). Caroline came by on her way to the airport and we had a brief visit. She's the last out-of-towner to leave (well last of three, so it's not like there were scores of visitors from out of town this week). After she left, I started prepping for dinner tomorrow.

I decided I'd make a different cabbage recipe and it was pretty simple. Much simpler than Grandpa Pete's recipe and it tasted pretty good to boot. I got it from Scandinavian Feasts, which is also where I got the recipe for the stuffed pork loin I'll be cooking for dinner tomorrow.

The rest of the day was spent watching football, especially enjoying the Redskins beating the Vikings to continue on their way to a playoff berth (should they beat the Cowboys next week, that is). As much as I'd love to see them in the playoffs, I don't think they'll go very far even if they do make it in. They're playing on emotion right now and it looks as if the tanks getting low. That being said, if they continue to play the way they played against Minnesota, it won't be a question of if they make the playoffs, but a question of how far they'll go once they get there. I guess only time will tell, but for now, let's just enjoy the ride.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Day 305 - 12/22/2007

Finally, a day of rest. Well, I mean a day without social commitments. What I had intended to be a day of last minute Christmas shopping turned into spending time with the kids while running errands (the post office to mail our Christmas cards, Target for a couple of returns and purchases, the Guitar Center for strings and Lowe's for a gift card for Doug). We even made it to confession as I had it up to there with the kids sniping back and forth at each other. M wasn't too happy when I pulled into the parking lot and told her what we were there for. N, on the other hand, couldn't have cared less since as soon as we got in the church, he lay down on the pew and fell asleep.

I wasn't able to leave the house until about 8p or so, but I was able to finish off my Christmas shopping as well as hit Giant, finally getting home about 11p. Not ready to call it a day yet, I grabbed a beer and hit the basement for some late night jamming on the guitar. I'm hoping to be able to play Silent Night on Christmas Eve as we process through the house, but I need to get some additional practice in first.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Day 304 - 12/21/2007

I'm really looking forward to an early night in. After being out late the past three nights and having more than my share to drink, I'm reaching the end of my candle.

That being said, I left work early to go to "happy afternoon" with a few colleagues from work (because an hour is just not enough). (Of course, I also went in late and hit the gym during lunch, so it wasn't that productive of a day.) We made plans a while ago to get together someplace other than The Bungalow and just enjoy each other's company one last time before we all went our separate ways before Christmas. About 10 of us made it and 3 hours later I finally left.

I surprised the kids with the cartoon version of Robin Hood and nearly fell asleep to it. The kids seemed to enjoy it a little more than the live version, although N kept hiding under the blanket during what he termed were the "scary" parts. (There were no scary parts, but I'm guessing he thought they were scary from what he remembered from the live version.)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Day 303 - 12/20/2007

Happy Birthday, Mom!

To celebrate, we had a family portrait taken since it may be a while before we're all in the same place. I think it turned out pretty good.

I also snapped a few pics of other family portraits the photographer had in his studio. I must say, I hope ours doesn't look that bad 30 years down the road! (What?!? You thought that was us?!?)

Afterwards, we went to dinner to celebrate her 70th. Whoops, did I just type that?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Day 302 - 12/19/2007

With everyone in town for Nina and Vince's wedding and for Mom's birthday (and since they're leaving before Christmas), D and I decided to host a Christmas get-together at our house so that the out-of-towners can have a "family" Christmas (you know, vs. having to give everyone their gifts and then let them open them on Christmas by themselves).

As is often the case, I served brats, sauerkraut and potato salad. With everything going on this week I didn't want to do anything fancy.

I ended up working from home today (well, for a couple of hours anyway) as D had PT and N was home sick again. I called it quits late in the morning when I started prepping for dinner. Even though I was home, I still hit the gym to get in a workout towards the holiday meltdown program. I'll be happy when January 4th comes around so that I won't have to hit the gym three days a week anymore. Sure, I'd love it if I could, but two days is plenty for me.

Anyway, while I was prepping the potatoes, I tried to cut out an eye and the knife slipped and I ended up slicing up my thumb. About 15 minutes later it had finally stopped bleeding.

Dinner turned out pretty good and Rudy thoroughly enjoyed his brats. I'm glad dialysis is working out for him and that he's able to make it to the events this week. I guess if he can get through this week, he's got it made!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Day 301 - 12/18/2007

"Will you, Nina, take Vince to be your lawfully wedded husband, to love and to hold, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, so long as you both may live?" asked the pastor.

"I do," she replied.

And with that, they were again married.

Congratulations, Nina and Vince, and best wishes for a long future together.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Day 300 - 12/17/2007

Another milestone reached. Only 66 more days of posts before the year is out. As I sit and write this, I wonder what the last 300 days have taught me. Well, for one, it seems that I'm now more aware of what I've done and what's happened in my life (as you, the reader are as well).

I'm more in tune with the mistakes I've made and lessons learned.

I have the makings of a book, should someone actually be interested in reading my collection of thoughts over the past year.

I have the discipline to actually write down the events that occurred the previous day (or, as in some cases a couple of days prior) and stick with it, even if I don't feel like it.

I have come to view this not as a chore, but as an outlet.

Will it continue? I think I asked that recently in a post and answered that I didn't know. I still don't know what will happen. Maybe I'll change it to capture a picture per day or something else that can be chronicled. Or maybe I'll just give it up and let it go. I mean, who am I to think that what I have to say and write about is important enough and interesting enough to be broadcast to the world? As it says above, I'm just an average Joe. I'm not special. Well, not special outside my circle anyway.

On a different note (an off-key note, shall we say), M had her band concert tonight. Caroline and Nina surprised her by showing up and when she (M) saw them, her face lit up. They played a few songs and then, after the advanced band did their numbers, we retired to the cafeteria for some refreshments.

After last night's stomach issues, having Colon Blow for breakfast (not this) probably wasn't the best idea. (Alright, it really wasn't Colon Blow, but that's my term for when I mix Kashi Mountain Medley and Kashi Crunch.) On top of that, having Progresso Split Pea Soup wasn't the best idea either. Not to worry, but the time M's concert was over, I was feeling back to my normal self.

Normal enough to celebrate my fantasy football championship winning performance while playing guitar! (Note: The championship was for the Toilet Bowl purse of $35 and a trophy, not the $480 payout to the overall winner.)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Day 299 - 12/16/2007

N is still sick. He was up again at the wee hours of the morning and fell asleep on our floor again. For the most part, he and I hung out on the couch watching football. D took M to a Girl Scout event the better part of the afternoon, so I was left alone to take care of N. If that meant sitting on the couch watching football with him all afternoon, so be it.

Before all that, though, I started dinner...about 830a. The last time we made a pot roast, it wasn't fork tender (even after 2.5 hours in the oven) and I made a mental note that the next time we made it, it would be in the crock pot. The only problem was that I didn't have a recipe so I had to go blind with this one. It turned out alright, but there was something tangy missing, something to cut the initial flavor provided by the wine (I used a cup of Merlot vs. 1/2 cup of sherry). While searching for recipes, I came across one for sauerbraten. It's a German pot roast dish that is delicious. The next time I make a pot roast, it'll be sauerbraten.

It all went South after dinner. N still wasn't feeling all that well and the next thing you know, neither were D or I. Since it hit both of us right after dinner, I thought it was my pot roast (which was good, just not as good as I'd hoped), but D told me she wasn't feeling that well before dinner either. We both grazed the buffet line at bowling last night (it was the Christmas party where everyone brings a dish) and probably picked something up there. Hopefully it will turn out to be nothing, we have a lot of family events this week and I'd hate it if we missed out.

By the time the 'Skins game was on, I was feeling well enough to sit on the couch and watch it (although I was on the tired side of things). N joined me for a little bit before I sent him off to bed. After watching the game for a bit more, D yelled out from upstairs. She tweaked her knee again. Hopefully it won't be a major setback, but I guess only time will tell. With all that was going on (none of us feeling all that good), I decided it was best if I just went to bed in case I had to get up in the middle of the night. (As it turned out, it wasn't necessary.)

On a fantasy football related note, I won the Tournament of Losers (although I have a player going tomorrow night) when I pulled ahead going into the 'Skins game. I ended the night up 88-80 and have the title all but locked up.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Day 298 - 12/15/2007

N woke up sicker this morning. He's been fighting something for the past few days and this morning he started complaining about his throat. D was up around 530a and gave him some Motrin, but he was running a fever again. With that in mind (and considering we've got a bunch of family activities next week), I took him to the doctor's for a strep test. I didn't think it was necessary, but did so to get a jump start on it if it was. As it turns out, he doesn't have strep, so it looks like we'll just have to wait it out.

Before taking him to the doctor's office, I started on the outdoor lights. I've been putting it off this year for whatever reason (the snow, the cold, the cost added to the electric bill) and finally had a window of opportunity. I got the garland and lights around the door before heading back inside to change and take N to the doctor's office. While we were gone, D and M headed down to Fred to do some shopping for Christmas. (Why Fred, you ask? D's mom has a deep discount where she works. Even after gas is figured in, it's still cheaper to make the drive!) As I said, the test was negative. Rest and fluids, fluids and rest. And Popsicles wouldn't hurt either. On the way home, we stopped by Giant for some orange juice, Popsicles and ice cream. N was all over that. We also hit a couple of stores in the strip mall in search of a certain item for D. We found it and headed home.

I fixed N a bowl of ice cream and afterwards he laid on the couch and fell asleep. While he was sleeping, I went back outside and continued working on the lights. While I was out there, I went ahead and cleaned the gutters as well (they were pretty full) in anticipation of the coming winter weather. I finished up about 10 minutes before D and M got back and headed upstairs to get ready for bowling.

We bowled against Rynoxious (made up of the Rynex and Knox spouses) and went 3-1. D did pretty well and it appears her knee didn't bother her at all. I guess we'll have to wait until tomorrow to see whether it's going to be sore or not. Hopefully it won't be.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Day 297 - 12/14/2007

D subbed again today, so the kids wanted to ride with her to school. This time they were ready when she had to leave and they left on time. If I had known, I would've stayed in bed; I could get used to sleeping in if I had to; I wouldn't mind. I ended up making it to work in plenty of time for my 9a meeting.

I left early this afternoon to do yard work. There's supposed to be an ice storm this weekend and I'd rather have the lawn clean vs. chock full of leaves. Fortunately most of the trees are bare, with the exception of a few stragglers on the Bradford pear trees in our back yard and weeping willow in our neighbor's yard. I finished up right on time (e.g., as it was getting dark) and went inside for dinner. Actually, dinner wasn't much of anything as neither D nor I felt like doing anything. I made the kids some chow and surprised them with Robin Hood, which came by way of the big brown truck this afternoon. (If I had been thinking, I would've gone ahead and ordered James and the Giant Peach as well since it's a pretty quick read and I would imagine I'll be done before the end of the year.)

I ordered both the Disney version and the 1938 version (which is the one we watched). There were a couple of scenes I would've cut out, but for the most part, it was pretty tame (especially compared with what would be seen today). After the movie was over, the kids were sent to bed and D and I did the same.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Day 296 - 12/13/2007

D subbed today. Once the kids found out, they wanted to ride with her, but were barely ready in time for them to get a ride. They weren't about to have me drive them, though, so they scurried to get ready and were out the door a little before 8a. (D wanted to leave by 745a in order to get in the classroom in time to settle in and get ready for the day.)

During lunch I went out shopping for Christmas, but wasn't too successful. I got a few things, but not everything I needed to get. I'm still waiting for Vince's list, so I couldn't get anything for him.

After getting back from shopping, I hit a gold mine in the kitchen when a slew of pizzas were delivered from a meeting. I'm not sure whether too many are ordered on purpose so that the rest of the group can benefit or they're just really bad at guestimating the number of pies to order. No matter, I did what I could to help finish them off (and paid for it by feeling like crap). I really need to learn how to say no when faced with what seems like an endless amount of food.

With that in mind, I skipped dinner.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Day 295 - 12/12/2007

I hit the gym again today in my attempt to reach my goal of losing 3-4 lbs. between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. So far, I've been pretty good about watching what I've been eating and have lost a pound or two so far (according to the scale at home). I only did cardio (45 minutes on the bike) as the Smith machine was being used. There was a short break where I could've gotten on it, but I decided to take it easy and just get in a ride instead.

I continued my slacker ways by reading while M had her swimming class. I finally finished Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed and began reading Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America. So far it seems good, although I only got through the first 30 or so pages. I'll have to hand this off to my dad as it seems like something he'd enjoy (as well as Collapse...).

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Day 294 - 12/11/2007

I visited Rudy again in the hospital and once again, he changed rooms. This time it was right next door, so it wasn't much of a problem. The room he was originally in has negative pressure and is used to house patients who are infectious.

After switching rooms, I was able to get in a good conversation with mom about all that was going on. I'm sure it's been rough on her and will continue to be so. One thing that will really impact her is the empty house. Sure, the cats will be there, but they don't provide the company that a person does.

After the hospital, I went over to Brion's Grille in University Mall for a couple of beers with Larry. I hadn't seen him in couple of months and it was good to catch each either up on our respective lives. I don't recall Brion's that much from back in the day, but maybe it's because I never really went there. Between work and school obligations, there wasn't much time go bar-hopping, nor was there the desire.

I got home late and was surprised to see D still up working on our Christmas cards. We played around with them for a while before calling it quits for the night. Maybe tomorrow night.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Day 293 - 12/10/2007

Another Monday and another day at the office, followed up by the gym (weights) and then a spin on the bike while M was at swim class.

After getting home, I hit the basement to watch the thriller between the Saints and Falcons. Had my opponent not had a player playing in this game, I would've gone to bed earlier. As it was, though, I had to (wanted to) keep an eye on Norwood. Had he scored 16 points, my season would've been over. As it turned out, he only got eight points and I ended up winning 112-103. I got lucky as he almost broke it for a long touchdown in the third quarter.

While watching the game I played around on the guitar. I tried practicing barre chords, but didn't get very far before I reverted to songs that I know thus far. I don't know how much longer I'll take lessons. I'd like to start getting together with other folks and play. I would imagine I would get much better if I had someone to play with and ask questions on a more regular basis...much cheaper as well!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Day 292 - 12/09/2007

We rallied and made 1045a Mass. I say we rallied as D and I didn't get up until about 930a. I was quite surprised, but then remembered that M and N had a "sleepover" last night and they probably woke each other up to go watch TV in the basement. It turns out I was right.

After church we headed over to the hospital to visit with Rudy. He had some more pain after everyone left Friday night and was moved back into the original heart care unit. Actually, he's back in the same room as he was last month. When we arrived he was in a chair finishing up his lunch, which I guess was a good thing (e.g., being out of bed), but he soon got back in bed and went to sleep. The morphine leaves him feeling groggy, which causes him to sleep the day away, only to be left awake at night. The kids gave him their cards and M gave mom a plate of cookies she baked in her E-Z-Bake oven (it finally came and M lost no time in putting it to work), as well as some of her leftover Halloween candy.

We headed over to the dollar store in Springfield after our visit with Rudy. After getting something for pretty much everyone on each of their lists, I was pleasantly surprised to see the total. I thought for sure it would equal or exceed the tally at the other store, but it was more than ⅓ less!

After getting home, I went out for a run while the kids watched some TV and D made dinner. I hadn't been out for a while and it felt good to be out in the cold air. (Actually, it didn't feel that cold due to the humidity levels.) It wasn't only the cold air that felt good, my knees felt good as well. I wouldn't say they're completely healed, but they feel better than they did six months ago (or even three months ago). I don't know how long it will be before I'm running 3-4x/week, but I'm not going to worry about it: I'll get there when I get there.

I did the 5k route through the neighborhood since it was dark and I didn't feel like traversing the trail. I was thinking about extending it to run by some of the houses that are lit up, but bagged it. I'm glad I did, as right when I got home D and the kids were sitting down for dinner. I joined them right away, quickly replenishing whatever was lost on the run.

During dinner N had agreed to eat a tomato in exchange for a piece of chocolate. When the time came for him to eat it, he wouldn't budge. After some hemming and hawing, he finally agreed to a spoonful of tomato soup, which, much to our amazement and his surprise, he enjoyed. I guess we can now add that to his food repertoire. If only he would try new things more often, he'd find out that there's lots of stuff that he'd like.

After putting the kids to bed, D and I lounged on the couch, reading the guts and watching the Colts dismantle the Ravens. I was glad to see the score when I turned on the game towards the end of the first quarter with the Colts leading 21-0. Surely Peyton had one of those TDs. As it turned out, he had two, meaning I might stand a chance of winning the game. I mismanaged three of my starters and ended up leaving valuable points on the bench. Going into tonight's game, I was 21 down. With only Peyton to play, I stood a chance and after he put up 36 points, I still stand a chance of winning. My opponent has one player in Monday's game. Hopefully the Saints will stop him and I'll continue on in the quest for Toilet Bowl champion and the Golden Toilet Brush!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Day 291 - 12/08/2007

Today's the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and is a Holy Day of Obligation. I had meant to go to vigil Mass last night, but didn't get back from the hospital in time. Instead, I went to 10a and D went to noon Mass. I had always thought that this was when Jesus was conceived, but it's when Mary was conceived. (I guess I wasn't listening or it wasn't reviewed in depth during my RCIA classes, otherwise I should have known this.) Listening to Father Beres during his homily, however, allowed me to better understand why we, as Catholics, pray to Mary. As Father said, she's a conduit to Christ himself and will intercede on our behalf.

After dropping D off at Mass, the kids and I went over to pay for the work done on the Altima. The shop closed at 1p today (vs. 4p, which they told me yesterday), so we had to do some creative thinking in coming up with an alternative to leaving the car in the shop until Monday. After paying for the car, I took the kids over to the Dollar Village for them to do their Christmas shopping thinking it was a dollar store.

It was not.

I don't think there was anything in there that was a dollar. Since we were there, I went ahead and let them shop for their presents. The kids have been doing this for a few years now and it's become a tradition that they go out and pick out the presents for everyone they're buying for (vs. me or D picking them out). After perusing the store and picking out the various items, we headed up front to check out. Much to my surprise, the total came to almost $70! Egads! There's no way I was going to pay that much, so I apologized and told the woman we wouldn't be getting anything. She seemed unfazed by that decision; maybe she gets it enough that it's become part of her everyday routine.

The kids weren't happy, though, so I told them we'd hit the Dollar Tree in Springfield this weekend. (We went there last year and were quite impressed...well, as impressed as you can be with a dollar store.)

Doug, Nancy and Michael came up to drop off some Christmas clothes for the kids. M's dress fit just fine, but N's outfits (save a sweater vest) were too small. After visiting for a while (including taking Michael and the kids on the neighborhood hayride), they left to go visit Rudy at the hospital. We were going to go with them, but it got too late, so we decided to go tomorrow.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Day 290 - 12/07/2007

I took off early this afternoon to hit the gym before heading over to Fairfax Hospital to visit Rudy. He had another heart attack last night and is back in the hospital.

On my way there, I stopped to get the Altima inspected. It didn't pass. This is the first time it's ever failed and it's going to cost upwards to $370 - $390 to get it passed. Last year the inspector told me that the brakes were close and I guess over the last year, they exceeded the threshold. I made an appointment to drop the car off tomorrow (or maybe later tonight) and, ignoring the rejection sticker on the windshield, drove over to the hospital. (Fortunately it was getting dark so the sticker wasn't easily seen -- driving with a rejection sticker is illegal in Virginia.)

I arrived right before he moved rooms, so I was able to help carry his things to the new room. His new room is in the step-down area, where he won't be hooked up to the monitors 24/7. We visited for a while before a Rabbi came in to celebrate the fourth day of Hanukkah, as well as Shabat. It's been a while since I've experienced any Jewish services (the last one was at a funeral), so it was interesting to see. (Well, I wouldn't really call it a service, more of a couple of prayers followed by a few songs.) Regardless of what it was, seeing Rudy singing and reciting prayers in Yiddish brought some happiness to the room. The gleam in his eyes and the smile on his face convinced me that he had forgotten about his heath issues for the time being.

Reality soon came back in the room, however, when his nephrologist came in to check on him. When the Rabbi left, I was going to take off myself, but decided to stay to hear what the doctor had to say. I was glad I did as it was an eye-opener. They discussed his treatment options and he asked her straight up what the bottom line was with regard to his prognosis. The answer she gave him was hard to hear: His kidneys have pretty much failed him and without dialysis, he won't be with us much longer.

There wasn't a look of resignation or despair on his face, but one of acceptance. In that one moment, the mood in the room went from jovial to somber. The doctor gave him a few options on what kind of treatment he could get, but the bottom line was that he's not looking at very much time.

One thing I noticed sitting in that hospital room was that the man in the bed in front of me, the man wearing a hospital gown for pajamas, the man who hadn't shaved in a few days and whose hair was uncombed, the man who had bruises from his recent dialysis, was that he wasn't ashamed of where he was or what he looked like. At that moment, he was proud. He was strong. He was dignified. There wasn't a moment when he felt sorry for himself and, if there was, he didn't project it. I hope to be able to act like that should I ever find myself in that situation. Rudy's never been one to complain about anything. Well, not much of anything that counted at least. Sure, he gets frustrated from time to time about trivial things, but in the grand scheme of things, he's an optimist. He enjoys life and enjoys making those around him happy.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Day 289 - 12/06/2007

There's a piece in the Washington Post that talked about the snowstorm that came through the other day. I added my 2¢ to the comments section as follows:

"Since we don't get many winter storms in this area, let's just all accept that there will be difficulties and move on with our lives.

I could understand the frustration if this was a weekly occurrence, but, for the most part, it's a once every few months occurrence in the winter.

Furthermore, I would add that it doesn't take a couple inches of snow to make the roads chock full of congestion. Look at the roads when it rains. I don't see any complaints about the various DOTs not doing a good enough job to alleviate traffic during those conditions (and we have a LOT more rainy days than we do snowy days in these here parts)."

I don't get it. It's not like the roads are going to magically expand to accept everyone on the roads at once (and going slower than usual). Even if the various DOTs had gotten their shit together and cleared the roads, they'd still be wet and has been proven every time it rains around here, people drive slower in the rain.

Of course, no one wants to accept responsibility (or reality). Instead, they would rather blame someone else. It took me about 45 minutes to get to work, but guess what? It was my fault. Yes, that's right: it was my fault. Had I not gone down 28 and instead cut through Greenbriar over to 50, I would have gotten to work in less than 20 minutes. Lesson learned.

In other news, I skipped reading to the kids as M was sent to her room for continually disobeying our request to finish the dishes. Her hemming and hawing on doing chores is getting old. If we don't tell her exactly what to do, she'll only do what she thought she heard. Tonight it was doing the dishes. She didn't realize that wiping the table was part of doing the dishes even though we told her about 20 times! Oh well, she paid the price by being sent to her room early and didn't get to participate in book-time. I read N "The Cat in the Hat" instead.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Day 288 - 12/05/2007

An Alberta Clipper came through and dumped (dumped?) a couple inches of the white stuff on us. The kids were happy, but it really didn't start snowing until they were in for the day.

When I got home from work, someone had left the van's interior light on and the battery had gone south. It wasn't so far south that the clock was off or the radio stations were erased from memory, but it wouldn't turn the engine over. I wasn't too happy about this as I typically have to move all the stuff out from the garage, finagle the Altima into the second bay (which is usually chock full of crap such as bikes, toys, a trash can and yard implements) so I can jump the van. This usually takes about an hour from start to finish and is just a pain in my ass. I really hate it that I can't put the van in neutral unless the engine is on; it would be so much easier to roll the van out of the garage and jump it in the driveway. (Or, better yet, have the lights go off after 15 minutes or so!)

Having a splitting headache, I didn't feel like dealing with the hassle described above so I decided I'd break down and get a remote jumper. I changed my clothes and headed back out into the snow to hit Target. I ended up getting a Duracell Instant Jump Start System. (Yes, that's what it's called.)

On the way home I stopped by Tony's to pick up dinner. I still hadn't used the gift card I got for coaching N's team so I figured why not use it tonight. I ended up getting a veggie calzone for D, a cheese pie for the kids and a large pie with pepperoni, mushrooms and sausage on it for me.

After M was ready for bed, I continued reading "James and the Giant Peach." I bought it when we were in Cape Charles at an "antique" store for a dollar. (I put that in quotes as it really wasn't an antique store, but it wasn't a thrift shop either. Maybe second hand store would be a better description.) I started it the other night and the kids seem to like it, as does D (who never read it as a kid), and it's been a quick read so far. Hopefully the movie won't be over the top. I really can't stand it when the movie is nothing like the book, especially the ones I've been reading to the kids.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Day 287 - 12/04/2007

Here's a list of mundane things I did today:
  • Got new tires on the Altima.
  • Went shopping at Costco. I ended up getting the advent calendar I had my eye on for $20 vs. the original price of $39. I guess hemming and hawing pays off (in this case, I made $20!).
  • Added the Win98 workstation to the network so I can access whatever is on it and cannibalize any parts off it (if possible).
  • Had minestrone soup for lunch.
  • Brought the large bin up from the basement and then, after it had been emptied, brought it back down.
  • Started getting caught up with the Sopranos on A&E.
  • Practiced guitar a little (I canceled my lesson as I wasn't able to practice anything since last time).

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Day 286 - 12/03/2007

Back to the grind that is work. After a few days out of the office, I certainly wasn't rarin' to get back. With that in mind, I eased into it slowly. (Well, not really as I had to be in early for a meeting.)

After work, I hit the gym for a workout. Although M had swimming tonight, I didn't want to do the bike there as well, so I got in both weights and cardio before heading home.

There was a school boundary meeting at Westfield so there was lots of spillover into the Cub Run parking lot. Fortunately, we found a spot and M made it to class on time. I spent most of the time reading the latest issue of PC Magazine, raising my head every now and again to watch M in the pool. She looked like she was enjoying herself and having fun. I'm glad she's come around to swimming. It's a great sport, both from a health perspective as well as from a team spirit perspective. While I wasn't the best swimmer as a kid by any means, I had a great time on the swim team. I hope M has just as much fun as I did.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Day 285 - 12/02/2007

I paid for staying up so late last night, but at least I got to sleep in until 845a. I told N that if he didn't sleep in, we'd go to Mass immediately. That must've done the trick. Either that or he was worn out from yesterday's trip.

Regardless of being able to sleep in, I was still tired. That being said, I went outside to take care of the leaves that had amassed over the past week and a half. Fortunately I was able to get them up before it started raining too heavily (actually, the rain held off until later on this afternoon, so I was in the clear). I was hoping the leaves on the pear trees would have dropped while we were gone, but that wasn't in the cards. It looks like I'll have one more chore to do with regards to raking leaves before winter sets in. I really need to get rid of both of them, I don't think either of them do much in the way of providing shade and/or privacy during the summertime and they only prolong the leaf raking season as they're always the last to drop their leaves.

After the leaves were raked, I washed up and plopped myself on the couch to watch what I thought would be a Redskins victory. After Sean Taylor's death, I figured the 'Skins would be fired up and not let anything get in the way of a victory. Well, they were fired up alright, but the flame went out midway through the third quarter and, yet again, they failed to put away the game.

In between being disgusted at the game, I brought the tree up and set it up so the kids could decorate it. We got a pre-lit tree last year after Christmas and the difference in the time it took to set up was incredible. With the old tree, it took about 30 minutes to put the tree up and then about 3 hours to get the lights on. With this one, it took less than 15 minutes for everything! Three hours later the tree was decorated and we were heading out the door to Mass!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Day 284 - 12/01/2007

The early start didn't happen. As a matter of fact, it was a late start.

We ended up hitting the road at 950a CT. By 1030a we were on 64 and heading east. We originally thought about staying the night in Charleston, WV, (a bit over halfway) but decided against it out of concern for the weather. Like on the way out, we tried not to stop (actually, we ended up stopping four times -- one more time than on the way out) and it showed in the time it took for us to get home: 12 hours and 10 minutes. That confirms it: we'll go the southern route from now on.

After getting the kids to bed and unloading the van (well, starting the unloading process, all of M's school stuff still needs to be taken care of), I said good night to D and went to the basement to (hopefully) find some football on TV as I was too hopped up on coffee to even think about sleeping. I was rewarded with the Hawaii-Washington game and watched it until about 2a, when I realized that if I didn't get to sleep then, I'd be paying for it in the morning. Even with the caffeine still coursing through my system, I fell asleep soon after hitting the pillow.
Here's the data generated by Claire during the trip home:

Total Mileage:
Average Speed:
Moving Average:
Maximum Speed:
Total Time:
Moving Time:
Stopped Time:
763.66 miles
64.3 mph
68.6 mph
80.9 mph
11h 52m
11h 07m
44m 30s

It's quite a difference! We will now be taking the Southern route from now on (unless we stop by Alpha on the way out or back). Of course, the big difference is the time spent moving vs. stopping. On the way back, we ate lunch in the car and the only time we stopped for any length of time was in Tamarack when we had dinner (about 20-25 minutes). Of course, how much of the time stopped on the way out was due to traffic getting to I-70? Going the Southern route, we're on I-66 in less than 10 minutes and going against the flow of rush hour traffic. It'll be interesting to see what happens next time.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Day 283 - 11/30/2007

Gramma Elie's funeral was today at St. Joseph's Church in Stringtown. From the outside, it looks like a simple, country church. Walk inside, however, and it seems as if you're in a cathedral. I wish I had gotten a picture of it, but I didn't think of it until we were leaving for the cemetery.

After the graveside service, we all went to a restaurant in town for a family gathering. All six of her children were there, as were 25 of 26 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. Add in the spouses and assorted family and friends and the place was packed.

Someone said that even after she was gone, she was still getting the family together for dinner.

I'm sure she would have laughed at that comment and added something along the lines of "well, you've got to eat!"

Friday, November 30, 2007

Day 282 - 11/29/2007

The visitation was today at the funeral home (one of two in town). Family visitation is from 5-6p and then it's open to friends from the area. We got there just before 5p and were surprised to see most everyone already there. Once 6p rolled around, D's mom and her siblings lined up for the receiving line and were busy throughout the evening greeting everyone who had stopped by to pay their respects. After a while, I took the kids back to Angie's house, where we were joined by a couple of other cousins and their kids while the rest of the family stayed at the funeral home. The vast majority of whom showed up afterwards, making the house pretty crowded.

D's cousin Joe plays the piano (quite well!) and was asked to play during the funeral; her cousin's husband was asked to sing as well. With that in mind, they rehearsed for a while and somehow I got involved and it was decided that I would join them in the choir loft (along with D's uncle). I wasn't sure how it would sound, but they seemed to think it was alright, so I went along with it. Not that I minded, though. I love singing, even if I might not be that good -- or so I've been told. (Hey, at least I can hold a tune in a bucket, unlike other members of the family.) After a couple of rounds of songs, I had to put the kids to bed, so I called it quits. It had been a long day (and is going to be another long one tomorrow).

Earlier in the afternoon I took M, N and Jacob to the park to get out of the house. While it was on the chilly side, it wasn't too bad. We headed into town and eventually made our way over to the park, where the kids played on the equipment. As we got there, I announced that whoever saw a white squirrel first would be rewarded with a dollar. I had never seen one before and I've been told that they usually hang out at the park, so I figured four sets of eyes was better than one. After they played on the playground, we walked around looking at the lights. Sure, it was during the day, but we could still see the cut out displays from various movies.

As we were finishing up, Jacob earned the dollar and I spotted my first ever white squirrel (I've been going to Olney for 10+ years now and had never seen one until today). I got a couple more shots, but I think this one shows best.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Day 281 - 11/28/2007

We hit the road this morning for the trip out to Illinois for Gramma Elie's funeral. We were hoping to leave by 830a, but ended up getting on the road about 910a ET. Traffic on 28 was heavy near the toll road, but we were soon heading out West without any problems.

I'll have to post the numbers Claire reported via GPS. For some reason it took us almost 13 hours to get there (arriving at 910p CT). Seeing as we only made three stops (one for lunch, one for gas and one for dinner and gas), I'm surprised it took us so long. Here's a shot of where we stopped for gas. You might wonder why we didn't eat there as well, considering what they were offering but we passed. (Well, D and I passed, the kids got ice cream.)

I plan on taking the southern route on the way home and doing a comparison based on what Claire tracks. (According to Google, the northern route is 2 miles longer than the southern route.) Below is the route we took, including stops (the white dots along the route). It may look similar to the route we took this summer, except for that it doesn't stop by Alpha.

The kids were pretty good on the way out, especially since we had limited stops. M did some of her homework, but for the most part, they watched the world go by and watched movies. (If it had been left up to them, they would've watched movies the entire trip.)
Here's the data generated by Claire during the trip to Olney:

Total Mileage:
Average Speed:
Moving Average:
Maximum Speed:
Total Time:
Moving Time:
Stopped Time:
753.75 miles
59.3 mph
66.6 mph
83 mph
12h 43m
11h 18m
1h 24m

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Day 280 - 11/27/2007

Until just before putting the kids to bed, we were still up in the air about whether the four of us would head out to Illinois or just D. While I wanted to be there, I also wanted to make it as easy as possible for D. We finally decided that we'd all go. M would be able to make up the work without any problems and N wouldn't miss much of anything.

That being settled, we got our stuff together and finished up whatever needed to be done before hitting the road tomorrow, including going to Giant, gassing up, checking the tire pressure, getting the suitcases out, etc.

Mundane stuff, I know, but I'm grasping (and don't feel like saying that I went to the gym and describing that in detail).

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Day 279 - 11/26/2007

D's Gramma Elie died this morning. She was 93.

We'll be driving out for the funeral later this week. We'll probably leave Wednesday and come back either Saturday or Sunday.

Day 278 - 11/25/2007

After spending the morning trying to fix my computer, I decided I needed a new power supply, so shortly after noon, N and I headed out the door to the Computer Place in Fairfax. We stopped by Target for some clothes for him and then attempted to get his haircut, but the line was too long, so we left and went to the computer store.

I love going to that store, it's chock-full of possibilities of what could be: It's like walking into a candy store! Up and down the aisles we went, checking out all the various hardware available for us to purchase. We left with a new power supply, a drive rail kit and a couple of cables, as well as a new-found desire to build a new box. It's been a few years since the last one (3½ at least) and it's about time to replace it. Actually, I will convert it to be used as the server as that's barely chugging along (it runs Win2k Server on a Celeron 500 MHz w/ 64 MB RAM!). I've been looking at parts for the past few months, but haven't really done anything serious. Maybe over Christmas (or early next year) I'll get around to it.

N and I then headed over and picked up M in Springfield. Actually, we hung out for a while watching the 'Skins game vs. Tampa Bay (which they eventually lost). It doesn't bode well for the Redskins this year (although they Post was touting that they could still make the playoffs if they won out the season...yeah right, like that's going to happen!).

Monday, November 26, 2007

Day 276 - 11/23/2007

We headed back north from Thanksgiving in Fred this afternoon, this time with an extra person in the back seat. Nancy got the call from back home that her mother has taken a turn for the worse, so we dropped her off at the airport for the trip out to Illinois. She was able to get a ticket to Bloomington at a relatively low price and will then drive down to Olney tomorrow to be with her mother and the rest of the family already in town. Doug and Michael will follow at some point, but for now, she'll head out alone.

Surprisingly, traffic wasn't too bad (either going down yesterday or coming back today). I'm not sure where everyone was, but they sure weren't on the highways we were on. (Not that I minded, I'm glad we traffic was as light as it was -- it makes the trip a little less stressful.)

We got the kids ready for bed and I read them a chapter from Robin Hood. There's only a few left and they're getting anxious for it to be finished. Well, M is getting anxious, N couldn't care less -- he just wants it to be over so he can see the movie. I've decided to watch both the 1937 version with Errol Flynn as well as the Disney version. I'm sure the kids won't mind.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Day 277 - 11/24/2007

After a stint in the basement and a quick trip to the dump to drop off some old paint, we dropped the kids off at the movies to see Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium with Grandma and Sarah. N wanted to see Bee Movie but was overruled. Maybe next time.

After dropping them off, D and I headed out to Belfort to look for a new kitchen table. The one we have is 13+ years old and, while the table is in decent condition, it's past time we replaced it (and W-A-Y past time we replaced the chairs). It will still be useful in the basement as a craft table or something, but it needs to be removed from the kitchen sometime in the near future.

From Belfort, we headed home to freshen up before heading over to mom's house for leftovers and to collect the kids. We got there later than expected, but still enjoyed the visit. M ended up spending the night over with Sarah, so when we left, it was just D, N and I. D and I ended up watching Heros on Tivo before calling it an early night. (I also watched part of the Rolling Stones' Rock and Roll Circus on PBS, which was pretty entertaining, if not bizarre. Um, yeah, ok. And what's up with Yoko Ono's performance?!? It looked as if the violinist playing with them wasn't prepared to hear that coming from a human being - and neither was I!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Day 275 - 11/22/2007

Happy Thanksgiving folks! In honor of today (and of the fact that the cabbage I made is the best I've made in a long time), here's the cabbage recipe from my Grandpa Pete.

Grandpa Pete’s Red Cabbage

1 large head of cabbage
2 apples
1 large onion
4 tbsp. pork drippings or lard
4 slices of bacon
¼ c. dry red wine or vinegar (or both)
salt and pepper to taste
hard pinch of thyme
caraway seeds
bay leaf
1 or 2 cloves
1 tbsp sugar (you can eliminate if the apples are sweet)

Wash the cabbage and slice it very thinly. The easiest was to do this is to quarter it, remove the thickest part of the stalk and slice it with a very sharp knife. You obtain what seems an unbelievable amount of cabbage, but it will cook down amazingly!

Peel and slice the apples and chop the onions. Heat the pork drippings or lard in a large heavy pot with a good lid. Add the onions and apples and cook until the onion is transparent and the apples soft. Add the bacon, cut into small pieces, and the cabbage. Keep stirring it into the hot fat until you get it all in. Pour in the wine, season with salt and pepper and a small pinch of thyme, also a big hard pinch of caraway seeds, if you like (I think it belongs). Drop in the bay leave and the cloves. If you are very particular you can put these in a little piece of cheesecloth so you can find them later on, or you can substitute powdered clove.

Cover and cook over a very low fire. At first the cabbage will render quite a bit of juice! Do not add any water. When it cooks down and the cabbage seems to be getting dry, add water sparingly just enough to bathe the bottom of the pot. The fat will keep the cabbage from burning. Just keep on cooking it stirring it once in a while to mix well for 2 hours. At that time, the cabbage is beginning to get good. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary and about 1 tablespoon of sugar. To get the cabbage to the peek of perfection, however, you should now refrigerate it until the next day.

Then cook it again for at least another hour, adding only enough water to prevent burning. If you are cooking a pork roast to go with you can add a little of the pork drippings to the cabbage.

Red cabbage goes fine with Roast Pork, fresh Ham, Turkey, Game, duck also if you have a Roast Pork sandwich, a little left over Cabbage, if you heat it a bit, is most delicious on top of the pork without drying it.

My notes:

I don’t use lard. Instead, I chop up 6-8 slices of bacon and render that down and then add the onion and apples. I stay away from the vinegar and usually end up using about 1 c. of Port (or another hearty red wine). I add the caraway seeds and use about 12-15 cloves (add 8-12 the first day and the rest the second) and 2-3 bay leaves. I use both black and white pepper to taste (you can skip this if you use Kunzler pepper bacon).

If you use the entire head of cabbage, this will make about a gallon of cabbage once it's cooked down. That's plenty for the holiday table (of 8-12) plus enough for leftovers.

Enjoy!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Day 274 - 11/21/2007

Went to work for half a day and then hit the gym. I almost won the award for last person out, but there was one straggler behind me.

I stopped off at Giant for cabbage and shrimp mold supplies and was quite surprised to see that it wasn't crowded at all! After Giant, I hit Total Wine for a variety of beer and then headed home.

Since the weather was so nice, I decided to forego making the cabbage and shrimp mold this afternoon and instead mowed the yard. It's been a while since it's been cut and the leaves were piling up so I dropped off the groceries and headed up to the gas station to fill up the tank (which was on empty...just in time to sit around all winter long). While I was pumping gas, I noticed a police helicopter circling over the area. As I drove home, I realized it was circling over the house and eventually landed up at the school.

Right about that same time, D and the kids got home, so we (the kids and I) headed up to the school to check it out. (This was the second time a helicopter has landed at the school, the first one was when there was a fire in the neighborhood and they had to transport the homeowner to the hospital.) We went up the back way and found a fireman posted sentry at one corner of the field. He told us that a homeowner was up on his roof cleaning out his gutters and fell off. The good news was that he was healthy enough to be air-lifted (if there's a chance of cardiac arrest, they'd have to have taken him by ambulance).

I snapped this pic of the helicopter as it took off (using my phone; I forgot to grab my camera from my car). Of course the kids thought it was great that we had another helicopter land at the school.
After getting home, I attacked the lawn and was able to just finish up before it got too dark to see (actually, it was too dark to see, so I turned on the side light).

Before getting the kids ready for bed, I started on the cabbage. Since the windows were opened, I didn't have to cook it outside (which I usually have to do due to the smell -- M gets sick from the smell). I finished the shrimp mold after the kids were in bed and called it a night myself (after burning the midnight oil, which I'm wont to do on Thanksgiving Eve).

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Day 273 - 11/20/2007

During my guitar lesson we reviewed barre chords for the second time. (We discussed them a few weeks ago, but I've not done much with them). Root V and root VI chords are based on which string is the bass string for the chord. Root V chords begin on the fifth string and chords use the standard A fingering position whereas root VI chords use the sixth string as the bass and use the standard E fingering position. (For more information on barre chords, check out this chapter from the Guitar book on Wikipedia.)

Now all I need to do is practice them. The best way to do that is to practice songs that I've already "mastered" (I use that term very loosely) using barre chords vs. the standard chords. While barre chords won't really help me on the acoustic guitar, they will help me with some of the trickier chords (such as the F and F#m where I'm playing multiple notes with single fingers) by strengthening my fingers.

After dinner, I returned to the basement to put together a ceiling storage unit that I designed. It's a pretty basic design in that it uses on 2x4s cut to length and some bolts. After putting it together, I calculated the cost and found it was less than $12 for all parts and supplies (vs. the $39 that the one I'm returning cost). Of course, this wouldn't work if the rafters weren't exposed, but since it's they basement, they are. I called D and the kids down to show off my handiwork. They were all impressed.

After a little more piddling around in the basement (and after putting the kids to bed), D and I sat down to watch a couple of recent Oprah episodes on hoarding. This is the second time she's had this guy on (Peter Walsh) and it's amazing to see not only the people's home (both before and after), but to get a glimpse inside their minds. One of the things that's driven home throughout the show is that hoarding isn't just caused by having a problem getting rid of things, it's more of an emotional problem. Like other addictions, hoarding can only be overcome by the hoarder him/herself and only if they want to change. Going into a hoarder's house and cleaning it for them will do nothing to change their behavior; it will just fill up again with other stuff. (I had originally used the word junk instead of stuff, but it's not necessarily junk, it's just stuff that's not being put to use.)

One thing that came into my mind as I watched this was that we've been looking at it the wrong way. We've tried to clean up and get rid of what we perceive to be useless junk, but until the person acquiring the stuff wants to get rid of it, it will continue to accumulate. No names are mentioned, but none have to be. I think most of you know who this person is that will be unnamed. We've often joked that it'll be quite a job cleaning out that house, but why not go at it now and help change an emotional attitude (and possibly foster a better relationship with the party involved) vs. pushing it to the back burner until we're forced to deal with it?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Day 272 - 11/19/2007

I had an impromptu lunch with Dad today. He was out and about and decided to ring me up and check on November lunch plans. I had nothing on my plate today (no pun intended), so arranged to head out to lunch with him. We headed into Fairfax for some sushi at Seoul House and, as usual, were in the minority as the place was packed with Koreans. I always take that as another sign that the food is good (vs. the narrow-minded view that they support their own). And, as usual, the food was good. I limited myself to only three plates (and smaller ones at that) as I was going to the gym after work.

Speaking of which, I signed up for the Holiday Workout Contest at the gym. When you sign up, your weight and body fat percentage are taken before you decide the goal you want to meet on January 4, 2008. At the weigh-in, I tipped the scale at 184.6 lbs. with 21% body fat. In order to meet the criteria for being entered for contest prizes, I need to workout at the gym at least three times a week between now and January 4th as well as reach my stated goal (drop 3-4 lbs.). Working out three days a week won't be a problem; the problem will be meeting the goal. (That being said, I know that if I cut out meat from my diet and start running on a more regular basis, the pounds will melt away like magic.)

After the gym, I continued working on the basement. The pegboard is up and finished and the next thing I need to do is get the wood off the floor. I bought a ceiling storage unit that I was going to put up, but it came down too far from the ceiling, causing the space below it to be lost, so I punted and watched football and played guitar instead once the kids were in bed. I've got my lesson tomorrow and I really haven't gotten in as much playing as I would have liked to. Hopefully it won't be obvious come tomorrow afternoon.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Day 271 - 11/18/2007

After Mass, I went to Lowe's to pick up some pegboard and other supplies to finish up the workbench. I was hoping to finish it up this afternoon, but we had to leave to go meet Chris, Lori and the kids for bowling. They went to the Mason basketball game last night so we decided to post-bowl today (with Frank subbing for D).

We all bowled pretty good (my high score was 228 and Frank's was 253), but that was attributed to it being a no-tap night. That being said, even without the no-tap scoring, Frank got a couple of honest turkeys. It looks like we found our sub!

After bowling, we hit Macaroni Grill to celebrate D's half-birthday. We started doing this a few years back to honor her birthday instead of letting it get lost in the shuffle of Mother's Day and then our anniversary. The kids love it (as does D) and people we explain it to get a kick out of it. After dinner she finished opening presents. (She started this morning when she first got out of the shower and N was waiting with his gift in hand.)

I checked the score in my fantasy football game and was disappointed with what I saw. Peyton only scored six points and Portis only scored three. Had I left my lineup the same yesterday, I would've been up by 24 vs. only being up by two going into tonight's game (I had the Pat's DST and my opponent had Brady). As it turns out, that cost me as I ended up losing by 20 points. Oh well, I guess my season is over. At 5-6, I'm pretty sure I won't be making the playoffs this year.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Day 270 - 11/17/2007

As I suspected, I was up early and out the door to...rake leaves. One of the nice things about having a stand of trees between our house and our backyard neighbors is that it provides us with privacy during the summer when we're out on the deck. Of course, the privacy disappears during the fall and winter when the leaves providing it fall to the ground. Today was the second round of leaf raking I had to do and won't be the last. I wish the trees were on the same leaf-dropping cycle, but I'm out of luck in that department. It looks like the next to drop will be the red maple and then (as usual) the Bradford pears. Like last week, I raked most of the backyard leaves onto a tarp and dragged them off into the easement behind the Jones' house. This makes a three hour job that much easier (as well as reduces it to under two hours!).

After raking, I hit the basement to start organizing. I moved the shelves yesterday and finished moving the yard sale stuff this morning. Afterwards, I started on the workbench. By the end of the day, I was able to have it moved, but that was pretty much it. Tomorrow I'll need to get some pegboard to put upon the portion that didn't have it before. Hopefully by the end of the weekend, I'll have the wood up and the workbench organized.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Day 269 - 11/16/2007

I went bowling with my work colleagues and used it to goof off. I've been wanting to try some new approaches to see if changing up my approach might allow me to increase my average substantially. The first game wasn't any different and the second one wasn't either. The third game, however, changed all that. After tossing three gutter balls in the first two frames (ending with a four), I ended up shooting a 174! Had I found a new technique? No, I simply bowled between my legs the entire game (both first and second balls). I ended up getting a 4x turkey at one point and had I not had that open frame towards the end of the game (or the 4 in the first two frames), I might've broken 200.

That being said, I don't think I could get away with bowling like this during the season as I'd be labeled a hot-dogger. Of course, I would contend that if I could do better bowling like a clown, why shouldn't I?

After I got home, D and I discussed what needed to be done to the workbench. It's been somewhat of a mess as I never really unpacked and organized after we moved. What with the recent spate of activity in the basement, however, I'm on a roll and want to finish this up. I started moving things from here to there in anticipation of the work I need to tackle over the weekend before calling it quits for the night. I was up early this morning and will probably be up early again tomorrow.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Day 268 - 11/15/2007

I hit the gym for the second time this week. I was hoping to get in some cardio, but as I was finishing up weights, another patron hopped on the bike I usually ride, so I punted and stretched instead.

Afterwards I picked up N from Frozen Ropes. It looks like he's having a great time there (although he wasn't too keen on me picking him up vs. D).

It's been a while since I've read to the kids, so I read them a chapter from Robin Hood tonight. As much as I enjoy this nightly ritual, sometimes I just like to skip it and let them read to themselves (especially now that N is beginning to read). That being said, this version of Robin Hood is pretty good. I'm just not sure which movie to show after we're done. Should I show the Disney version (one of my favorites), the classic with Errol Flynn or the remake with Kevin Costner? (Scratch that last one, IMDB shows it has male nudity. I'm sure it won't be as bad as Harvey Keitel in The Piano, but still, I'm sure it's not something the kids should be seeing at their age.)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Day 267 - 11/14/2007

Doug, Nancy and Michael came up today to celebrate Nancy's birthday. D made a pot roast and a chocolate cake for dessert. All of it was delicious. I even had a second piece of chocolate cake (which is surprising as I'm not a big fan of chocolate cake).

M played her clarinet for them and, after a while, it began to sound good. She's got a concert in a few weeks and hopefully they'll all get a lot of practice in and improve their sound. It's okay, but not what I would say concert-worthy. Of course, I'm not concert-worthy on guitar either, but that didn't stop me from giving one to Michael before he left. He really enjoyed it and could've listened all day. Had I known more songs, I would've continued playing, but after playing each song twice, I figured enough was enough and called it quits.

I forgot my badge again today. That's the second time in as many weeks. I guess I left it in my gym bag yesterday and forgot to take it out this morning when I went to work. I've got to start checking before I leave for work as I'm sure the receptionist has a report she issues on who's forgotten their badge on a regular basis. It would be just like my company to have such a thing.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Day 266 - 11/13/2007

100 days left in the year.

As I write this milestone post, I get the sense that it's become a mix between a chore (especially on days when I forget to post and have to do a two-fer the next day) and an exercise in writing (which is what I hoped it would be, in addition to sharing my daily happenings).

I guess we'll see what the remaining days have to offer.

We had conferences with the kids' teachers this afternoon. N is excelling in school and is finally starting to not get his apple changed on a somewhat daily basis. His teacher instituted a rule about who he can go to the bathroom with, which has helped (some of the boys in his class feed off each other and the next thing you know, there's a ruckus coming down the hall). He's also beginning to really focus on his work. His coloring and cutting have vastly improved since the beginning of the year. Let's hope it continues.

M missed being on honor roll by two points (in English of all things!). Her conference went well and we chatted with her teacher about the dynamics within the classroom. We clued her in to an ongoing issue between another classmate going back to kindergarten and were surprised to learn that what happens in the classroom is different from what's shared at home. I guess it's just like any relationship in that the complaints to the third party are more interesting (?) than the compliments. I mean, how often do you hear someone complimenting their SO to a third party? I don't hear it very often and, if that's how it goes across the spectrum, maybe that's just the way it works. Who knows, I guess time will tell.

I hit the gym this afternoon, but wasn't able to get my full cardio in. After finishing weights, I was about to get on the bike when someone else beat me to it. Oh well, I got in 20 minutes before weights, it'll have to do until next time. I did, however, stretch afterwards for the first time in a while. I know I should do it every time I workout, but sometimes I just don't feel like it. Hopefully this will start a trend.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Day 265 - 11/12/2007

Although it's a federal holiday today (Veteran's Day, observed), we're open for business (as are most private companies I would assume). Veterans Day doesn't have the panache it once did; it's become another non-holiday holiday, sort of like Columbus Day. I guess it's just another day to make money.

On my way home I noticed a few houses with Christmas lights already on. I guess they didn't read Stephen's recent letter to the editor. And if you haven't read it, here it is (from The Free-Lance Star):

Fredericksburg gets the prize for best costume!

Despite the late arrival of autumnal weather, the city of Fredericksburg was able to muster up some real Halloween spirit and get decked out in the best costume I've seen yet.

When I noticed red and green wreaths going up on the light poles around town on Oct. 29, I was confused at first, but then it all became clear! The whole city got dressed up as a town that places commercialism above sentimentality and decency.

By donning this timely costume, the city appears to be one of those towns that pushes the season as far as it possibly can, the kind that says, "Hey, self-respect is nothing compared to the satisfaction of your tax dollar in our pocket! It's time to spend money here! It's Xmas time!"

Well, city of Fredericksburg, open up that sack--because I think you deserve a whole handful of the good stuff from my candy bowl.

Fantastic! Red and green wreaths on the light poles before most of the leaves around town have even changed colors. Hilarious!

Let me know if you need any help taking that costume off after trick-or-treats. We can put it away until Christmas, when it will look good again.

Stephen Craig Fredericksburg

While they may be playing It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas in the shops, I wish retailers could just focus on the holiday at hand vs. trying to make a buck. I mean, I didn't even see one Veterans Day Extravaganza Blowout Sale circular. What's up with that?!?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Day 264 - 11/11/2007

A heartfelt thanks to all those who've served our country and were willing to put their lives on the line to allow the citizens of this country to live the way we do.

Veterans Day was started as a way to honor those who fought in World War I (or, as it was known then, the Great War). It was originally called Armistice Day to commemorate the end of hostilities during World War I (which occurred on November 11, 1918). This was in advance of the Treaty of Versailles that formally ended the war (which wasn't signed until June 28, 1919).

The first Armistice Day was commemorated by President Wilson on the first anniversary of the armistice on November 11, 1919. It was commemorated by two minutes of silence beginning at 11 a.m. (the eleventh hour of the eleventh day, which is when the hostilities were to have ended). It became an official annual federal holiday in 1938.

In 1954 the name was changed to Veterans Day to honor those who fought in World War II and the Korean War as well.

Although federal legislation changed the date of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October in 1968, not all states followed suit. The intent of the change was to ensure a three-day weekend, which would increase travel and boost the economy through various activities, but civic minded groups continued to celebrate the original date and so, in 1978, the date of the federal holiday was reverted back to November 11th.

(If that date falls on a weekend, it's observed by the Federal government by taking either Friday or Monday off.)

Again, thank you to all of you who have served your country in uniform.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Day 263 - 11/10/2007

N was up bright and early and since I'm the early riser, I got up and escorted him to the basement for him to watch some shows while I went back to work in the basement.

After a while, I reached a point where I needed storage bins so I made the trip to the store where I got what I thought was enough for the job at hand and went back to work cleaning the basement.

After a few hours in the basement, I broke for lunch and then took D and M shopping. Actually, N and I just dropped them off and picked them up later on. With D's knee still bothering her (especially getting in and out of the van), it's just easier to drop her off whenever possible.

While we were waiting for them to call for a ride, N and I raked the leaves in the back yard. This was the first "real" raking we've done all year (previous raking was done in conjunction with mowing the yard and simply bagging the lawn clippings). I ended up bagging only enough leaves for two bags, the rest I put on a tarp and dragged back into the woods. The way I see it, almost all of the leaves came from the common area and therefore that's where they should end up.

After raking I sat and listened to M practice her clarinet. I tried giving her some pointers on how to practice better and it appears to have taken as by the time her practice ended she was playing both her songs pretty good (Good King Wenceslas and Jingle Bells).

After dinner we played Mouse Trap and Trouble before putting the kids to bed, after which I did more work in the basement. I'm approaching the end of the storage area. Tomorrow I hope to be 90% done. (I won't consider it 100% done until all the yard sale/goodwill stuff is out and the workbench area is redesigned and organized.)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Day 262 - 11/09/2007

I got to the gym sort on time, but didn't get the workout in that I wanted to. As I was finishing up weights, the gym chick came out of the office and started cleaning down all the machines. It was close to closing time, but only closer than, say, noon is to closing time. There were still about 20 minutes before I had to be out of there. I guess she didn't think I took the hint so she turned the radio off and went about finishing her prep work to close for the weekend. That hint came through loud and clear.

I finished stretching, got my stuff and left. All in all, it was a good workout. I got in 20 minutes on the bike and my standard weight regimen. I wanted to get another 20 minutes on the bike after the weights, but I decided to punt.

As I was walking out of the gym, D called and put in a request for dinner for her and N. M had a girl scout event tonight so it was just going to be the three of us. I stopped off at Chick-Fil-A for some carry-out and we ate shortly after getting home. N had ordered a milkshake and I was quite surprised with how good it was; I think I've found a new place for shakes (their sweet tea is good as well!).

After dinner, I hit the basement to start working on organizing the back storage area. I moved the shelves from their original location a few months back but never got around to actually doing any serious organizing. Since we don't have anything on the calendar this weekend (save for Girl Scouts bowling on Sunday), I figured this was as good a time as any to get started on getting the back basement in order.

I spent about 3 hours down there tonight and will probably spend many more over the course of the weekend. As I've said to M when she balks at cleaning her room: it didn't take five minutes to make the mess, how do you expect to clean it up in that amount of time?

One of the things that I know will take up my time is going through old papers. I've done this a couple times in the past year or so, but never really organized anything. This time I plan on going through the boxes and *purge* whatever I don't want anymore (vs. just sorting it and making it nice and neat) and then consolidating everything into storage bins. We have the space for it if it's used wisely.

Hopefully, come Monday, there will be a huge difference between now and when I'm done.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Day 261 - 11/08/2007

Although N's baseball season is over, we signed him up for a class at Frozen Ropes to (hopefully) give him better instruction than his coaches were able to give him over the past two seasons. I arrived at the facility a little past 5p and from what it looked like, N was enjoying himself. In the car on the way home he was upset that he couldn't get the ball in the net during the throwing drill, but from what I saw, there was a vast improvement in just the one session. As I said to Mike (the other coach of N's team), I wonder if they offer a coaches clinic so that we (the coaches) can become better in teaching the kids the right skills.

Tonight there was a parenting session at school that I attended. The speaker was Dr. Patricia Dalton, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Washington. She also writes articles for the Washington Post. (I'm sure if you googled her, you'd get more information on her.) Anyway, she spoke at the kids school last night on being a parent in today's day and age. Since we're always on the lookout for tips and tricks in the parenting department (and since D is still not moving as fast as she'd like to), I went ahead and attended. She covered a lot of topics over the 90 minutes she spoke and it was quite reassuring to hear her validate some of the methods we're using.

Over the course of her discussion, she mentioned some books that might be helpful in the parenting department (The Explosive Child, The Nurture Assumption, The Way to Behave, and The Blessing of a Skinned Knee). I'll have to check them out and see if I can't glean some additional information from them. (I'm unable to find the one listed without a hyperlink; maybe I put the wrong title in my long-term memory. If I find the correct title -- or if you're able to provide it -- I'll come back and add it.)

Hopefully I'll be able to put some of her thoughts to work with the kids. One of the things she mentioned was that even though your primary responsibility is to raise socially responsible children, being their friend after they leave the nest is important as well. While the line you walk as a parent isn't all that fine, it can easily be destroyed should the parent not take the right approach in raising the child. Once it's destroyed, it's not very easy to rebuild.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Day 260 - 11/07/2007

The lights were left on in the van again last night and the inevitable happened: the battery died. D called me just as I was leaving the school from dropping the kids off and asked me to come home to jump the van.

I realized on my way home that wasn't going to happen as by the time I got home, she'd have to leave for rehab (she had an 830a rehab appointment this morning). So, with that in mind, I drove her there and then came back home to jump the van.

Now, for those not in the know, D parks the van in the right bay of the garage; the left bay is used for the kids toys and bikes and trash cans and lawn equipment and such (since the HOA won't allow us to put sheds in our yards). So, in order to jump the van, the left bay needs to be cleared out in order to pull the Altima in. Fortunately, the battery of the van is on the left side of the engine compartment, otherwise I'd have to drive across the lawn and run the cables through the side garage door since the batter in the Altima is also on the left (either that or I'd have to get longer cables). Although now that I mention it, maybe I should drive across the yard, it would alleviate the need to clear out the garage!

Anyway, after jumping D, I went back to pick her up, dropped her off at home and then went in to work.

Upon my arrival, I explained to my colleagues why I was late when one of them asked, "Why don't you just put the van in neutral and roll it out of the garage?"

And therein lies the rub: you can't shift out of park in the Odyssey unless the engine is running.

I found that out the first time the lights were left on in the van and the battery died. I thought we learned the lesson to double-check the interior lights have been turned off when exiting the vehicle, but sometimes it's hard to tell.

Maybe I'll just invest in one of these (if only for the picture on the target page!); it'd make it much easier the next time!