Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve

It will be a quiet New Years' Eve here in Woodbridge. Ann and I are way past the time where we think going out and partying on amateur night and waking up tomorrow feeling like hell is a good idea. Besides Auburn is playing in their Bowl Game, which is way more important than any New Year's party. War Eagle!

I don't have any New Year's Resolutions so we can skip that for now. I just hope for continued good health and fortune for my family and relatives. That's not too much to ask is it?

Today was doing mostly nothing. We did some grocery shopping and I fixed one of our toilets. Given that I fixed it at all given my limited Harry Homeowner skills and that I got around to it in just one day rather than the week or so it usually takes me, is a miracle unto itself. We watched some of the other bowl games and both napped a bit made it quite the lazy day.

A thank you to anyone who stopped by during Holidailies. It was my first try at something like that. I hope some of you will continue to stop by from time to time. Fell free to say Hi.

Wishing you all the very best for 2008.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

An Empty Nest

This weekend was spent getting The Son out of the house and moved in to his new place. He is the last of the kids to move out on his own. We are now officially empty nesters. The Son had been dragging his feet a bit claiming that he needed a new desk for his desktop computer so he can play World of Warcraft. We have been looking for a while and no desk seem to meet his requirements. Finally between myself, Ann and his gf, we convinced him to use, at least temporarily, the desk here at home that he has been using. Given inertia, I'm pretty sure he'll use the old desk almost indefinitely. After we moved the last few things from his room to his new place, although he did leave us his dirty laundry to wash and bring to him today, the four of us went out for dinner at the Original Steakhouse. The place was mobbed or at least the bar area was. I've been told it's usually crowded with the younger set at night, but I rarely go there at night, mostly just for lunch, so I had no idea it was such a happening place.

Today I made it to the gym and the erg class. There was about 20 of us so that made it a bit more bearable. I did get my 10,000 meters in during the class and didn't have to erg any extra minutes after the class was over to make my goal. I can really feel right now. My body can tell when I've not kept up and missed classes. Hopefully with the holidays almost over, I can get back into more of a regular workout regimen.

I just got off the phone with Daughter#1. She and her bf are in New Hampshire skiing this weekend. I guess a better description would be learning to ski since neither has skied before. Actually we did take the kids once to Ski Liberty and Daughter#1 hated it. Particularly the boots. I guess she decided to give it a try again and she said she liked it. I guess you can teach an old girl new tricks.

Time for Redskins football. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Bad Eyes

It's always somewhat depressing to visit my optometrist for my yearly eye exam. Every visit I'm told my eyes are a little worse. Considering I had 20/20 vision going into my 40s, the decline of my eyesight is just another reminder that I'm not getting any younger. I've never liked wearing glasses and never felt comfortable wearing contacts. I'm not a candidate for Lasik, so I have to put up with one or the other for the foreseeable future. The eye exam was routine until the Doctor asked if my right eye was bothering me. Now with my allergies, my eyes are always bothering me so I told him no. He told me it should since once again two of my eyelashes were growing such that the tips were scratching my cornea. This has happened before so we're thinking I might have to come in for more regular visits to check on those pesky eyelashes. The Doctor removed the offending eyelashes and I must say I can definitely tell a difference. The rest of the exam proceeded without incident. I ordered new lenses for my glasses and discovered that my insurance now pays for 50%. Sweet. I go back in a month to my cornea checked and try a new type of contact. I'd love to give up the glasses so we'll see.

After the exam, Ann and I went out for bbq and then to Target to return a few items. Upon returning home, I curled up on the couch and took a nap. I've been feeling really tired lately and I'm not sure why. Hopefully it's only temporary. After getting up from my nap, I helped Ann set up her pedometer, a Christmas gift from Daughter#2 and The Son In Law. She went out for a short walk to test it out and seems pleased by it. Hopefully this will get her walking more.

Now its time to warm up the TV and watch Maryland play Oregon State in the Emerald Bowl. Have a good weekend.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Hang 10

For a day off from work, it was quite a busy day. It started off with the sad task of taking Daughter#1 to Dulles for her flight back to JFK. I always enjoy having her home and it's always sad when she has to go back to her home in Connecticut. It's my secret wish that she'll move back closer to home at some point, but that's more wishful thinking on my part than anything. I have to say she gave me a great present for Christmas. Among other things, she gave me Josh Groban's Christmas album "Noel". Apparently I'm the last person in the country to hear about this CD. It is so wonderful. If you haven't heard it or bought, go do it now. Or at least put it on your Wish List for next Christmas. You won't be disappointed.

After taking Daughter #1 to the airport, the rest of the day was taken up doing errands to get The Son's condo in move in condition. Today it was getting and hanging curtains in his living room. We went to his condo to check some measurements and then headed to Target. Ann had an idea of what drapes she wanted to purchase from looking on line, but seeing them at the store had us looking for alternatives. We finally decided on some and purchased a curtain rod too and headed back to the condo. I'm the first to admit, and the rest of my family would be quick to agree, that Mr. Handyman I am not. Anything like this usually does not go well and today was no exception. At first things seemed to be going well. I got the curtain rod up and Ann was starting to hang the curtains and then she noticed that the bracket on one side was pulling out of the wall. We argued about whether the reason was because the curtains were too heavy or that we had inadvertently loosened the bracket in putting on the curtains. Regardless, we needed new mounting hardware. While back out, Ann bought new lighter curtains and I purchased 3 different kinds of anchors figuring one would work. Back at the condo, I drilled new pilot holes for the anchors, unfortunately, I couldn't make them deep enough for the new anchors. Something behind the drywall was preventing the drill from getting through. After breaking 3 or 4 anchors, I gave up. I tried the old pilot holes and was able to get new anchors in and they held and we finally got the drapes up. They look very nice, but I do need to Spackle up the the holes not used.

Tomorrow I have an appointment with my Optometrist. I really need new new lenses for my glasses. My current lenses are Transition lenses. They're the ones that darken in sunlight and lighten indoors. Somehow the anti-glare part has gone bad and it looks like I'm constantly looking through a smear on the glasses, but no amount of cleaning will clear them up. When I took them in to have them checked out, I was told they could strip off the anti-glare, but every once in a while that turned into a disaster and it would looked like the lens had been microwaved. Without a spare pair of glasses and since it had been almost two years since I had a check-up, we mutually agreed to hold off until after my exam and get new lenses put in. That should put another massive dent in the budget, but worth it if I can see properly.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Hike

As I mentioned in my last post, Daughter#2, The Son In Law, Ann and myself took a hike on Christmas Eve. We drove to Hemlock Overlook, which is part of the Northern Virginia Park system. Daughter#2 had been here before with her high school soccer team to do some team building exercises, but it was the first time for the rest of us.
We hiked about a total of two hours, give or take. Most of the first part from the parking lot down to Bull Run was downhill, which made me a bit concerned about the return part being all up hill when we would all be tired. Plus the footing was a bit tricky. We couldn't see the ground under all the leaves so you were never quite sure what your foot would land on as you stepped. I was worried about turning an ankle, but luckily that didn't happen. Once we got close to the river, the trail was easier and the footing, for the most part, not that big of a challenge. It had rained a bit the day before so we also had to avoid mud in places. The weather was fine for December. Not overly windy, but cool so we did have to bundle up a bit.

Here we are taking a short break. The sun was low on the horizon and we're more or less looking back into the sun for this picture.

Our hike took us along Bull Run for the most part. Here Ann poses for a picture along the river.

Here is Daughter#2 with her husband, The Son In Law, along with their dog Gracie, aka The Black Demon. There are some small rapids on the left side of the picture.

About halfway into our hike, the trail had the river to our left and train tracks to our right. Eventually the two crossed and we went underneath the tracks. Had we followed the tracks, we would have arrived shortly in the historic town of Clifton.

After crossing under the tracks, we had to cross a tributary that led into Bull Run. Ann was having none of it. Ann is a non swimmer and is not crazy about any type of water. Daughter#2 eventually was able to convince her to give it a try and cross she did. I think I might have had more difficulty in the crossing than any of us. My glasses are bifocals (thanks old age) and its difficult looking down and properly judging things like where to put my foot. However, we all made it across without incident.

These shots are actually taken on the way back so its our second time across.

Daughter#2 is an Environmental Specialist with VDOT and The Son In Law works for the Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension Service so between the two of them they provided a wealth of knowledge on the local flora and fauna and the water. Plus they're a very cute couple.

All in all it was a fun outing not to mention some great exercise. It certainly helped burning off some of those holiday calories. I'd like to try it again in the spring or summer when the leaves are all out. I'm sure it will be an even prettier hike.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve

As I had predicted, this weekend has been all kinds of crazy, but usually in a good way. We got The Son sort of set up in his new place. He still isn't living there full time, but after Christmas he should have everything he needs to live there full time. He still doesn't have any lamps for his bedroom, but we're working on it. Daughter#1 arrived on time Saturday morning. She helped with some of her mad shopping skills and a guest entry. Sunday, Daughter#2 arrived husband and dog in tow. We enjoyed some white beam chili for lunch before we headed down to her twin's new place to show it off. They seemed to like it. We went out to Olive Garden for dinner that night. all seven of us, including, The Son's new girlfriend. This morning, Christmas Eve, we woke up and exchanged presents with Daughter#2 and The Son In Law. They won't be able to be with us on Christmas Day as they will be with his family. I guess the up side it will be like having two Christmases. After presents there was the breakfast and mimosas. We really had no plans for after breakfast and Daughter #2, Ann, The Son In Law and myself went for a hike at Hemlock Overlook. Pictures for all of the above to follow.

As this is Christmas Eve, we should all be with our families so I will keep this short. As to my feelings about Christmas I'll defer to two writers much more talented than myself - Dr. Suess and Charles Dickens.

"Perhaps Christmas doesn't come from a store. Perhaps Christmas means a little bit more." - How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess. '

There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,' returned the nephew. 'Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round -apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that- as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!' = A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

So to one and all a Very Merry Christmas and God Bless Us every one.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Through the Eyes of a Child

Hey!!! I’m daughter #1, the high-maintenance one, the princess, the anal-retentive one, the materialistic one; however you want to look at it. I am happy to write as a guest blogger on my Dad’s blog.

So, I’m home for the holidays. I currently live in Stamford, CT. Technically, a cross between being its own little metropolis and a suburb of New York City. Dad wanted me to comment on holiday traditions, but I thought I would give a commentary on how I remember Christmas growing up.

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. Yes, of course the gifting part of it was huge, but also the traditions, the Christmas carols, decorating, random acts of kindness. I definitely take after my Dad-we are total holiday fanatics. Being a traditionalist, we do a lot of the same things, every Christmas. So not many stand out in my mind. But we got things down to sort of a routine.

First of all, in one of his posts, my Dad wonders if he took the kids to see Santa. That would be a negative, ghostrider. I think I remember seeing a picture of us with Santa, so we must have gone to see him, but I’m sure the nanny took us. Seeing Santa, the one time we must have sat on his lap, I think must have made me apprehensive. Like when you have to confess your sins to your priest at First Communion. You feel like you have to tell him you haven’t been 100% good, cuz what kid is an angel? But you can’t confess anything THAT bad, or you wouldn’t get any presents, in Santa’s case. Plus, it’s always awkward to sit on some strange man’s lap. Um, I mean, it must be, right?

I remember writing letters to Santa. I think I started reading at a pretty early age, and thus writing at a relatively early age. I was on Yearbook in high school, AP English, a Journalism major (don’t judge me!!). I would like to think my grammar and penmanship were impeccable, even at the tender age of 5. The letters probably went something like:

Dear Santa:

Hi! My name is Daughter #1. I live in Woodbridge, Virginia. In case you aren’t sure where that is, it is 20 minutes south of Our Nation’s Capital. I hope you and Mrs. Claus and the Reindeer and Elves are very well. I have been a very good girl this year. I want X, Y, and Z. I hope that is not a problem. Have a safe trip! Love, Daughter # 1

I suppose I’d put them in the mailbox with paid postage and my parents would take it out in the dark of night to see what I wanted. But Santa always ate the milk and cookies we left out! Seriously, it must have been an f-ing nightmare to wrap all the Christmas gifts after Children’s Mass (now THAT is a nightmare) before us kids woke up at 5 AM.

As for traditions, we don’t have anything crazy. We used to start listening to carols the moment the Thanksgiving dinner was served; we would go look for a tree together, decorate it together, go to Children’s Mass on Christmas Eve (because it was the shortest mass, with all the screaming kids); watch One Magic Christmas, go to bed. God forbid we open a present on Christmas Eve. We would ask, but to no avail. You’d think we were asking our parents for half a million bucks. We would wake up at 5 or 6 am, go and jump on our parents bed (well, I would, I’d always bee the first up). We would have to sit at the top of the stairs while they dragged their tired butts out of bed, I’m sure only running on 2 hours of sleep. Dad would have to get the ancient, huge, heavy, camcorder ready to film. The twins and I would be going nuts by now. Then we would race downstairs when the parentals were FINALLY ready, to open our stockings. There was something magical in the early years about seeing our stockings full, and presents literally spilling into all corners of our living room. After tossing aside our tantalizing stocking stuffers (socks, chapstick, candy) we would go racing into the “nice room” to open the real deal. Back in the day, we used to find our “section”-whichever part of the tree you decorated as your section-that’s where Santa would leave your gifts. And we’d open presents all at the same time like starving men on a morsel of food. Now, we mix them up and someone plays “Elf”, and everyone watches the person who has an gift, which stretches present-opening time to about a 3 hour ordeal. After that we have a huge breakfast with mimosas (that came later, obviously our parents didn’t feed us alcohol when we were 8), and then I guess we watched football all day? I think my Dad would make a fire if it was especially cold. Then Christmas dinner.

I have to be honest, this was the first Christmas I haven’t really felt it was ‘tis the season. Work is busy, we had several Christmas parties to go to, I obviously can’t share in a lot of the traditions my family is involved in as I’m up in Connecticut. But it’s great being back with family. Because that is so important-being thankful for your family, the ones who will always be there for you. I am very, very thankful for my family. I wish you Merry Christmas, from the Northeast.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A New Home

So Today The Son became a home owner. He had closing on his condo this morning. It started with a final walk through at 9:00. The fact that he didn't wake up until 8:30 and still hadn't showered at 8:45 wasn't a good start to the day, but we finally arrived at the condo at 9:10. We met our Realtor there. We checked everything once again. We had had a home inspection performed about two weeks ago so we weren't expecting any changes and none were really found. After the walk through, we headed off to closing. For those that have been through closing its mostly pretty boring, but terrifying at the same time. You sign document after document without seriously reading most of it. You just hope that you're not signing your first born away. Those lawyers can be tricky that way. Ann and I just sat there for the most part and let The Son do his thing. The only problems that arose was no key for the mailbox or to the padlock that held the storage area in the basement secured. After he received the keys to his new mansion less those that were missing), we headed off for a celebratory lunch. We tentatively laid out a budget for him. Things could be a little tight for a while, but he should be ok.

After lunch we headed off to do some shopping for his new place. He needs a lot of lamps and a new TV. We weren't successful with the lamps and decided to let Daughter#1 and her mad shopping skills handle that so we headed off to Circuit City. After some deliberation, The Son selected and paid for a new TV and a new DVD player. They should keep him adequately amused for years to come. Things should come start coming together tomorrow as his furniture arrives. Lets hope it fits. He can't really live there though until lamps are purchased. The search will begin in earnest tomorrow. This shopping stuff is really tiring.

Daughter#1 arrives tomorrow. Two kids at home and the third and final one to arrive on Sunday. Then it will truly be Christmas.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Weekend Forecast: Crazy

As the weekend decends upon us, it's devloping into one crazy weekend. Too much to do and not enough down time. Tomorrow The Son goes to closing on his condo. He has a final walk through at 9:00 and then the actual closing at 11:00. Its weird thinking of him as a homeowner. What we do after closing is still in the air. The Son would like to paint his bedroom while it's still empty. Or rather he would like me to paint his bedroom. I don't mind helping out, but I'm not sure I like the idea of working on HIS place while he sits and enjoys a cold one. We'll see how that plays out.

Saturday Daughter#1 is flying into Dulles at 8:00. The cable company is scheduled to arrive at The Son's place between 9:00 and noon. In addition, he is having furniture delivered during the same time period. Heaven help us if we are painting at the same time. I would like some time to bake cookies with Daughter#1.

Sunday Daughter#2 and The Son In Law arrive with the Black Demon in tow. We've gone back and forth about having our Christmas dinner on Sunday or having it on Christmas or trying to do it both days. If we have it on Sunday obviously Daughter#2 and The Son In Law will be able share it with us. However, that begs the question on what to do for dinner on Christmas. Having two dinners seems too ambitious. Plus we'd have no room for leftovers. I think the current thinking is to have dinner out on Sunday and stick to having Christmas dinner on Christmas. We'll exchange presents with Daughter#2 and The Son In Law on Monday before they head back to Harrisonburg and have Christmas with his family. This trading holiday thing sucks, but I can't think of another way to handle it that's fair to both families. On Christmas we'll exchange the rest of our presents with Daughter#1 and The Son. Then retire for a long winter's nap.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Visiting Santa

As everyone involved with this whole Holidailies thing knows, coming up with something interesting to write about everyday for a month is a challenge. I checked in at the Holidailies site for their daily prompt. Today it was your memories of visiting Santa or taking your kids to see Santa. As I'm sitting here I'm drawing a complete blank about ever taking my kids to visit Santa. I'm sure I must have done it. After all I'm a bit of a Christmas freak. Surely a visit to Santa would be on the agenda during the holiday season. We must have pictures somewhere, but for the life of me I have no memory of it. No waiting in line, no screaming kids. Nothing. Maybe our babysitters took them? I'll wait until tomorrow and I'm sure Daughter#1 will fill in the blanks. As for my own memories, all I remember was I was scared to death of the old guy. The times we went to visit, I was usually with my siblings and my Uncle, Mother and Grandmother. We would go to the Bambergers department Store in Newark. I loved visiting that store and seeing how it was decorated. The lights, the music, all the garland and bows. The bigger than life candy canes. It was like a kid's fairy tale land come to life. I didn't mind watching other kids visit Santa, but man, I didn't want to be up there. Usually my poor Uncle got stuck with the job of taking me up there along with my sister and brother for the obligatory picture. Poor guy. Usually the picture showed one or all three of us crying. Fun times. Once we got past five or so, I think we gave up the whole visiting Santa thing. Too much stress. I still get a kick out of checking out Santa when I go to one of the local malls. After all he's the symbol of all that is good with the world. Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Pot Luck Karma

Karma she is a bitch. Yesterday I mentioned here how The Son had waited to the last minute to inform us that he needed a dish to take to work for a pot luck party at his office. Well as I was getting ready for work in the wee hours of this morning, I remembered that, lo, my team at work was having a pot luck breakfast to say goodbye to a teammate. I had signed up to bake some pumpkin bread and also bring in some donuts. I had completely forgot until that moment. Oops. My team was very understanding and still let me come and pig out with them. As it turns out there was plenty of food, but I felt badly about it.

Today was also the last day for me to commute down to southern Maryland until January 7. Whoo Hoo! I still have to work some of those days in between, but at least they will be from home. Actually tomorrow is shaping up to be a busy day. Lots to be done before the Contractors we deal with shut down for the Holidays.

The UPS and Fed Ex men are starting to beat a path to our door and the presents are coming in droves. Santa has been very busy and we must have been very good. It's a stand-off to who should answer the door less the delivery be for the person answering the door. My Dad's presents arrived today in two separate boxes. Large boxes. He and his gf always go a bit overboard, but it's always appreciated. Now if I can just bribe Daughter#1 to wrap Ann's gifts for me, I'll be all set.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Mingling With the Masses

Today was a day to start cleaning up the last few items to finally be ready for Christmas. To pick up the last remaining gifts and get out the last Christmas cards. Although is it ever really done? Ann and I took today off to continue to use up or use or lose vacation days. Ann needed to get a gift card for her aunt so we headed to Wal*Mart. Apparently Wal*Mart is one of the few stores her elderly Aunt will go to. I dread going to that place. The masses that inhabit the store have to be seen to believed. While Ann paid for the gift card, I grabbed a few odds and ends. As always it seems the lines were long and the people trying to cash out seemed to be idiots - don't bring items to the checkout that aren't marked. After exiting we headed to Red Robin for some lunch. While waiting for our order, we did our yearly gift comparison. We try to make sure that the kids are each getting nearly the same in terms of dollar value. We listed what we had gotten for each and decided that Daughter#1 and The Son In Law were done. We were a little short with Daughter#2 and completely lost with The Son. Its a bit difficult with The Son and his moving into his own place later this week. He needs everything. We're a bit overwhelmed with where to start. He has a bed, but no bedding. He has furniture, but no lighting. He has a kitchen, but no plates, pans knives, glasses etc. Plus he wants to paint the place three days before Christmas. Like we don't have enough stress in our lives. Lord help me.

Speaking of The Son and how some things never change, on his way home from work he calls home and informs us that tomorrow is their pot luck party at work and he needs to bring in a main dish. He tells us this as the sun is setting and we're about to start cooking our own meal. Thanks for the warning. We decided to let him buy us a KFC dinner because we're all about healthy eating. Did you know there are 0 trans fat in their fried chicken? Who knew? See? Healthy. In exchange for him buying dinner, Ann made what were were going to have for dinner - Mexican Lasagna for him to take in for tomorrow's party. He lives a charmed life.

With any luck tomorrow will be my last commute to work until January 7. I will be working some from home, but for the most part my work year is complete. It's time for family, Christmas, Bowl Games and celebrating the New Year. Life is good.

Erging and A Christmas Carol

The storm that was forecast for us turned out to be a big nothing. At least around here. We got some rain, but nothing major. No major torrents. Even to the west of us, in the Shenandoah Valley, where Daughter#2 worked through the night, where they were suppose to get 3 to 6 inches of snow, nothing. It appears the worst of it past well to the north of us.

As the weather turned out to be no big deal, I did make it to the erg class along with about 20 others. There is something magical about watching so many people erg at the same time. All in unison keying off the instructor as the stroke. I didn't get to the class quite as early as I would have liked in order to erg a little before class and then class seem to end a little early, but maybe I was imagining things through the pain. I only did 8,500 meters during the class so after the class ended, I stayed and rowed another 1,600 meters to get me over 10,000 meters and then a bit extra. For me, 10,000 meters is a lot and I usually feel the effects the rest of the day. I feel tired and run down, but I know in the long run its good for me.

I spent the bulk of my afternoon doing the laundry. I hate doing it that late. I like to get it going early and get it over with. Blah. After the laundry I settled in to watch "A Christmas Carol". It's one of my favorite holiday movies. I'll watch almost any version of it I can find. Today it was the 1938 MGM version starring Reginald Owen as Scrooge. I love this version maybe second only to the version with George C. Scott. One of the highlights of this version is that the Cratchits are played by the Lockhart family. Gene Lockhart and his wife Kathleen play Bob Cratchit and Mrs. Cratchit. Their then 13 year old daughter June played daughter Belinda. For those of you old enough to remember the TV show Lassie remember June as Timmy's Mom and later she played the Mom on the TV show "Lost is Space". There is nothing like this movie to get me feeling its really Christmas.

The Son cooked as a tasty salmon dinner before he disappeared down into his dungeon to play his shaman or tree dwarf or whatever he plays on World of Warcraft. Ann and I plopped our butts in front of the TV to watch the Redskins play the Giants. We both promptly fell asleep. Not that we're old or anything. I recovered enough to watch the last quarter, but lord I hate the Sunday night games. I just can't stay awake to watch them. Tomorrow is another day off. Hallelujah for long weekends.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Of Rowing and Basketball

Today was a lazy Saturday. The way weekends are suppose to be. After waking up, I helped Ann walk the two furry kids, before feeding them their breakfast. After the walk, I got on the computer and surfed around and ordered a gift or two online. I think we've pretty much finished our shopping except for The Son. We'll probably have to visit an actual store for his presents since its getting pretty late. Otherwise most of the gifts we've purchased are en route to us.

I did manage to hop on the erg today. I did a 30:00 minute row and managed to bring my 500 meter split down another half second or so. The last three 30:00 minute rows I recorded average splits at 2:11.5, 2:10.5 and today 2:10.1. Correspondingly, the meters rowed have gone from 6,846 to 6,897 to 6,918 today. I'd like to get back over 7,000 meters before the end of the month. I'm slowly getting there. Tomorrow is my erg class assuming the weather isn't too bad. We're suppose to get mostly just rain so it should be ok. Going to class will let me get in another 10,000 meters.

After my workout Ann, The Son and I headed out to the local pizza place and had lunch before going grocery shopping. I don't know how we spend so much on groceries and we didn't even buy for our holiday dinner.

Today was also a bit unusual for having both Ann's and Daughter#1's college (Ohio) and The Son's college (Radford) on TV for basketball. Being mid major schools at best, they're rarely on TV. So we were looking forward to spending some time in front of the tube. Unfortunately Ohio was playing Kansas, which is ranked#3 in the country and Radford was playing Georgetown, which is ranked #5. There is a reason underdogs rarely win. The difference in athleticism and height of the players between the big schools and Ohio and Radford was painfully obvious. Both Ohio and Radford fell behind early by big margins. Ohio played Kansas even after their disastrous start, Radford I'm not sure. It got painful to watch. Oh well Radford is rebuilding. We'll see how they're doing in a few years. At least they were on TV.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Friday Wanderings

The nice thing about my Friday off under my compressed work schedule is that it is also payday. So not only do I have a day off, but I also have some money. So this morning was mostly spent paying bills and doing some Christmas shopping on line. We still have have some more to do, but with only six more business days before Christmas, we're put ourselves in a position of having to use express shipping in many cases. Procrastination gets expensive. We still need to d our cards as well.

After the bills were paid and skipping out on exercising, we headed down to Occoquan for lunch and some more shopping. The town of Occoquan has been around since there was a United States. The town of Occoquan sits on the Occoquan River which flows into the Potomac River about a mile downstream. Its now more of a tourist destination than anything else with lots of little antique and gift shops. Its a quaint little place. We had lunch at Madigan's Waterfront. Ann and I both enjoyed some crab chowder and crab cake sandwiches. After lunch we bought a gift or two for the kids. We then headed to the other end of town to Ye Old Dominion Wine Shop. That's its actual name. Its a wine shop that deals exclusively with Virginia wines. We thought while we were in Occoquan we would buy a few bottles. While its possible to get Virginia wines in most of the local grocery stores, their selection is often very limited. We also like to patronize local businesses when we can. One of the nice things about the shop is that they always have wine tasting going on. A nice way to broaden my very limited knowledge of wines and lets me taste wines I probably wouldn't try on my own if I had to buy a bottle to find out if I liked it or not. They also bring in representatives from the local wineries to host tastings on weekends, which is a nice touch. They had a spiced wine as one of their selections today. You could taste the cinnamon and nutmeg and other spices. I could see where it would be very tasty indeed warmed up while sitting in front of a cozy fire. We ended up buyng a Riesling and a red blend and headed home. Where we proceeded to take nap. We got up in time to watch the Virginia Tech men play in the NCAA soccer semi-finals. Unfortunately they lost 2-0 to Wake Forest. Still for them to go this far was quite an accomplishment for the team.

The Son had won tickets to a Capitals hockey game at his office Christmas party a few weeks back so he is off at the Verizon center tonight along with a very nice girl that he has reconnected with from his high school days. With him gone, I got to cook dinner again and we decided to take the easy route and just grill up some Brats. After walking the furry kids, we settled in to watch the Div-1AA football finals, but we just couldn't get into it especially with Appalachian State jumping out to a quick 14-0 lead.

Tomorrow evening we are suppose to get a significant storm. For us it means more rain than snow, but for Daughter#2 it could be 3 to 6 inches of snow with some ice thrown in for good measure. It sounds bleak for those traveling I-81 here in Virginia. Since she works for VDOT she is already on call for snow duty. It could be a long day/night for her. I keep telling her to let them train her to run a snow plow, but she doesn't sound too excited about the idea. She's content to keep track of the plows and the amount of sand/salt they use. Stay warm little one.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Another Day Another Dollar

Nothing too exciting today. It was a work from home day as I ditched out on my office Christmas party. The day did turn out a little busier than I anticipated as people keep e-mailing me with questions. I have a Request for Proposal out on the street and people have all sorts of questions. You deal with them the best you can.

Working from home did give me a chance to erg today. I did a 5000 meter row and while not beating my best ever time, I was close enough to indicate that I'm getting back into shape. If i can get my average 500 meter split down another second, I'll be right where I should be. I'll try and do another longer row tomorrow. It's hard making myself erg sometimes. It does tend to get a little boring especially on the longer rows.

After finishing up work for the day, I was in the mood for something light and funny. One of my kids, I can't remember if it was Daughter#1 or The Son, gave me "Beerfest" for Christmas last year. I wonder why? Anyway it's pretty stupid movie, but very funny too. It was just what I needed.

After the movie, I somehow got roped into preparing dinner. It was actually fairly easy. It just involved throwing a steak on the grill. It was prepared with peppercorns so it was a bit different. Add french fries and some mixed veggies and we were all set. Unfortunately, we failed to plan for desert and we were all out of ice cream. We settled for some Hershey Kisses instead.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Office Christmas Parties

Tomorrow is our big office Christmas party, not to be confused with our Department Christmas party, which is next week. Parties are nice, but when you're in a vanpool, it becomes an inconvenience to everyone. The parties are held away from the office. Therefore, I have to fine a ride to the party. Then I need to find someone to take me back, usually midparty, so I can catch the van home. I decided to bypass all that this year and work from home tomorrow. I'll have a Dominion Ale and toast my coworkers and wish them a Merry Christmas from afar. It's funny how our office Christmas parties have changed over the years. When I was but a lowly intern, Christmas parties were held in the office. Food was brought in for the masses. Nothing all that fancy. The usual party trays of cold cuts and salads. Contractors that fed off the Defense Department all year and from whom we bought the weapons of war would drop by one by one with large bottles of liquor and wine and cases of beer for us and a good time was had by all. It was pretty amazing actually. Eventually it was decided that Government employees shouldn't be letting the private sector ply us with booze. Actually that was always the case, but Management turned a blind eye to it for that one day a year. So then we partied with alcohol that we bought ourselves. No more appearance of impropriety. Since a lot of us were young and not far removed from college and didn't have rather sophisticated tastes, quantity was still more important than quality. Jack Daniels? Too expense on our meager Government salaries. Falling back on our college knowledge, we would prepare a trashcan full of fruit juices, vodka and some grain alcohol for that added kick. We added dry ice to give it that festive air. One year, in a scene right out of Jonestown, our head Administrative Assistant would literally drag nonimbibers to the trash can and make them drink. The grain alcohol gave us all very rosy cheeks. Very merry indeed. Somehow I inherited the job as head punch maker for a few years. My 15 minutes of fame. The sanctioned parties in the office eventually fell out of favor. No more drinking in the offices. Very unprofessional and all. So now since we're in southern Maryland, its the thing to rent out the local volunteer fire hall. Its all very proper now, but somehow it lacks the same intimacy we had back in the day. Ill leave the partying to the youngsters. God its sad getting old.

In other news, words you don't want to hear: "Dad the check engine light is on in my car". Merry Christmas to you too old Honda Civic. I marveled at the answer from the local Honda dealership in Connecticut when Daughter#1 tried to make an appointment to have the problem diagnosed. "Oh give it a day or two and see if the onboard computer resets itself". Like that will happen. It's like dealing with my computer provider when the Internet is down and we all know how that works out. Life is never dull.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Christmas Memories

We all have Christmas memories and traditions that we cherish from our childhood. I've always loved Christmas and my parents always made sure it was something special for my myself, my sister and brother. I grew up in northern New Jersey. It's an area far from the urban sprawl, the Turnpike and oil refineries. Where I lived was mostly protected Newark watershed. There were plenty of lakes and forests. For many years we would go out and cut our own tree. Something that seems totally foreign to me now. Two of the highlights for us of the Christmas season was the trip into New York City and the arrival on Christmas eve of my grandparents and uncle. My Dad worked for Western Electric, which was the manufacturing arm of Ma Bell. How quaint is the idea these days of only having one company available for phone service? At some point he got transferred from Western's Kearny plant to AT&T Headquarters in Manhattan. Around Christmas, whenever their last day of work was before the holidays, the families were invited in. For us kids this was quite the adventure. We got to ride the train and take the ferry into the city. It was a short walk from the ferry landing to the office on Broadway. Technically my Dad still had to work half a day so after introductions around, we amused ourselves by playing with the Frieden adding machines. These were big bulky electro mechanical devices. If you used the divide function, they would churn away on and on before spitting out the answer. A Frieden repair man always dropped by the office the day after all the kids were there. We would leave around lunch time, dragging my Dad to an Automat. Then back on the ferry and train to home.

Like many families, we spent time with both sets of Grandparents for Christmas. My Dad's parents and brother would drive up from Bloomfield and spend Christmas eve and Christmas morning with us. My family was different than most in that I had no cousins. No first cousins anyway. What I did have was an Uncle, my dad's brother and an aunt, my Mom's sister, that were only a few years older than I was. So when we visited grandparents we had someone to hang out with and play with. The Christmas that I remember most is the one and only Christmas I can remember where it snowed on Christmas eve well into the evening. Its the stuff Christmas stories are made of. We, I guess I should say my dad, has a picture of it. My Grandparents and Uncle, just out of the car, Christmas presents in hand, making their way up our driveway in the falling snow. Very Norman Rockwell. Its one of the very few white Christmas I've ever had. After opening presents on Christmas morning (never Christmas eve), My Grandparents and Uncle would head home and we would dress and make our way to My Mom's parents for Christmas dinner and another round of presents. One Christmas they gave up tickets to Radio City Music Hall to see the Christmas show. On New Years Day. The movie playing at the time was Babes in Toyland with Tommy Sands and Annette Funicello. The Rockettes were, of course, incredible. We stayed and watched them a second time after the movie. I think the ride in the Yellow Cabs was as fun as everything else we did that night.

I hope my kids have as fond a memory of Christmas's past as I do.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Oh Christmas Tree Part II

Ah another Monday off. I love having the extended weekend. I'll so miss them come January. After sleeping in I finally rolled out of bed around 8:00. I enjoyed my healthy breakfast of a bottle of Coke and a Honey Nut Cheerio Breakfast Bar. I played around on the computer for a bit before pulling out my erg. I did a 30 minute row and while it was better than my 30 minute row on Saturday, I still have a way to go to where I'm satisfied. I lowered my average 500 meter split by a second so there is progress. We'll see if I can continue to bring the split down and the meters up over the course of the rest of the month.

After my workout it was time to tackle decorating the Christmas tree. We had put it up in the living room yesterday, but it was too wet to decorate. Today it was ready. What would decorating the tree be without first fighting to untangle the lights?

Its my job to put the lights on, but really its a two person job, at least at the beginning. Here is my trusty assistant helping me with the lights.

I guess you can say there are two different camps when it comes to tree lights. The multicolor lights or the all white lights. We're a multi-color light family. While our outside lights are all white, we like the festive look the lights of a different color bring to the tree. The tree with all the lights in place and ready for ornaments.

I pretty much ended up putting most of the ornaments on the tree myself. Somehow my trusty assistant got involved in other tasks and only added a few ornaments to the tree. The dogs were no help either. I'm not sure how much longer their lame excuse about not having opposable thumbs is going to hold up. Anyway, with carols playing in the background, I placed our various treasured ornaments lovingly on the tree. Each year we assign a portion of the tree to each of the kids. The various ornaments they made over the years in school or Brownies or the ornaments from relatives or friends that have the kid's names on them hang in each of their assigned areas. This year Daughter#1's ornaments will be on the left, The Son in the middle and Daughter#2 on the right. Usually they each hang their own ornaments. Sadly that is no longer the case. They have grown up and moved out, well except for The Son, but even he will be gone soon. Now I hang them and their memories of Christmas's past. The almost finished tree is below. We still have a few ornaments to add and some popcorn/cranberry garland to add. We think it looks just fine. We're all ready for Santa to leave our presents under the tree. We've been good, I promise.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Oh Christmas Tree

Today was a day I imagine my relatives in Scotland see a lot. It was cloudy, drizzly, foggy and cold. It was kind of a depressing day actually. As we're a good week into December, it was definitely time to go look for a Christmas tree so off we went. We get our tree from a local nursery. The nursery was decked out for the holidays.

We parked the car and we headed out to find a tree. We usually get a Douglas fir and this year was no exception. We actually found our tree in the first few minutes. You can see it just to the right of and in front of The Son. Of course we spent another 20 minutes looking at all the other trees before we decided that that one was the one.

The nursery people cut the bottom of the tree for us and some of the lower branches. They bundled it up and tied it to the top of our van. Ann went in to pay for it. They give you a free poinsettia with each tree.

They also have a small buffet set up. You can catch a snack and some hot chocolate after the exhausting work of buying a tree. They also have a Santa for the kids, but I couldn't convince The Son to let me take a picture of him and Santa.

As we sat down to enjoy our snack we were surrounded by poinsettas. Quite the festive atmosphere.

After our snack we drove home to wrestle our tree into the stand and get it set up. This usually means many adjustments to get the tree to sit straight, but this year it seemed to go a little smoother than most. Ann added some water to keep the tree fresh. Because the tree was wet, we decided to wait a day to decorate it. We'll just enjoy the fresh pine smell for a while.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

What To Do?

So today I woke up and really didn't know what to do with myself. No rowing practice to be at by 7:00AM. No College Game Day to watch. No college football to watch. My whole world was different. Oh I suppose I could have hung around and watched some college basketball, but in my mind its still too early. I can't really start getting into college basketball until all the college football bowl games are over. Speaking of college football, how sad is it that Navy football coach Paul Johnson is leaving Navy to coach at Georgia Tech? He's paid his dues, of course, and what he has done at Navy speaks volumes of him as a coach. I can understand him wanting to move up the football food chain. But still. It takes someone really special to coach at a service academy. Anyone can win at Ga Tech, but not at Navy. Many have tried and few have succeeded. You're not getting the real blue chip prospects. Those with designs on the NFL don't want to waste their prime parked on an aircraft carrier in the middle of the ocean. Still it was nice to see Navy returned to respectability. Navy has a soft spot in my heart. I wanted to go there when I was a little kid. I lived not far from the academy when I was in high school. We use to drive down to the academy and sneak into their squash courts to play handball. The first college football game I attended was to watch Navy play. So thanks Paul, but you'll be missed.

So while trying to decide what to do with my day, Ann dragged me into our office to do some on-line Christmas shopping. We got one person done. Speed shoppers we are not. Sometimes you just have to hit the button that says "Proceed to Checkout". Reminds me of the scene in "Top Gun" where after Goose dies and Maverick is flying with a new RIO and he's trying him to get Maverick to engage. Sometimes you just have to quit reading on line reviews and take the shot. Talk to me Goose.

Our dilemma of what to do with our day was finally solved by The Son, who upon his emergence from his cave, demanded to be fed and, oh by the way, lets go shop for furniture. What guy likes to shop for furniture? So we went and feasted on some ribs (Memphis Dry Rub for me and Honey Glazed for The Son, Brunswick Stew and a Pulled Pork sandwich for Ann) and I had a beer to steady my nerves before we headed off to look at new furniture for The Son's new condo. It wasn't as bad as I expected and he did find some things he liked for his bedroom and living room. We'll be heading back tomorrow to buy them when they're suppose to be having some big sale. We'll see. After all that the afternoon was all but gone. On getting home, I was tagged with the responsibility for making something for dinner, but since we have no food in the house at the moment, bacon and eggs it was. Such an exciting life.

This post also marks my 100th post. Let's hope it's the first of many such milestones.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Giver of Pain and Delight

Now that my outdoor rowing season has come to an end, it's time to switch over to indoor conditioning. It's time to reintroduce myself to my ergometer or erg for short. It's also known as an indoor rower. Truly a torture device. The giver of pain and delight. Pain while you are on it and delight when your workout is finished. I actually stole that line (giver of pain and delight from an old Star Trek episode. In that case the givers were women, but I digress). I try to erg 3 to 4 times a week, but since my on water season ended its been more like 1 or 2 times a week. My conditioning is slowly going to hell. The good news is it doesn't take a lot of working out to get it back. Since I own my own erg, a Model C with an upgraded monitor, most of my erging is done at home. Once a week, however, I try to make it to an erg class at our local Gold's. There are about 24 ergs, half are owned by our rowing club and half by Gold's. Its certainly easier to erg with 20 or so of your teammates then doing it on your own. In a class, I'll normally row at least 10,000 meters. That's something I hardly ever attempt at home on my own.

So today after much hemming and hawing, I did sit down on the erg and do a 5,000 meter piece. Its the first I've erged in about 2 weeks and it showed. I was a good 20 seconds off my all time best for that distance so I definitely need to work on my conditioning. I just need to get more consistent with my workouts although that can be tough this time of year. To keep from being bored out of my mind while I erg, I have a DVD of the finals of the rowing events from the Olympics in Athens to watch. Sometimes it helps sometimes not. Just depends on my mood. I also need to introduce some weight training into my workout plan. It can't be strictly aerobic workouts. I need to get stronger to help keep me in the top boats come next year. After all its just 114 days until I can get back out on the water.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

A Time For Giving

Today marked the end of the Combined Federal Campaign. Its the Federal Government's version of the United Way. For those that wanted to donate, it was time to designate what charities and how much to donate for 2008. Like many contributors, I give through payroll deduction. That amount I designated comes out of each paycheck. Its fairly painless way to make my contributions. This years' list of eligible charities filled over 100 pages. All are worthy of receiving contributions, although clearly one can't contribute to each and every one regardless of how worthy their mission might be. This year I spread my dollars over five different charities this year. Here is my list:

1 Homeless Animals Rescue Team (HART) - As owners of two dogs, we are obviously pet lovers. We think they bring something special into our lives. Daughter#2 worked briefly at an animal shelter in Blacksburg and her dog, Gracie, came from there. We have adopted two dogs from a Schnauzer rescue organization ourselves. One, Napoleon, sadly has already crossed the Rainbow Bridge. HART is a local (Fairfax) animal rescue organization. All animals are hosted by various families until they are adopted. We like what they do so we donate to them.

2. Rails to Trails - This organization helps converts abandoned railway corridors into public trials for walking, biking, etc. Given my love for the W&OD Trail this is a natural for us to donate to.

3. Chesapeake Bay Foundation - Since I was 15, I've lived in the watershed that drains into the Chesapeake Bay. Back in the day, my father had a boat and we would often go out and enjoy the Bay. The Bay is an incredible natural resource, which we are unfortunately slowly killing. Oysters are all but gone and the Blue Crab catch is way down from when I was a kid. The CBF is working to help save the Bay. I want to help them.

4. Defenders of Wildlife - An organization dedicated to saving wild animals and their habitat. I'm a sucker for all things wild - deer, beavers, wolves, etc. Anything we can to not to run more into extinction is worthy.

5. National Kidney Foundation - I think this post explains why this charity is close to our hearts. Daughter#1 would not have the quality of life she enjoys without their research efforts. There is a serious shortage of organs for donations. Have you designated your organs for donation? You should. You'll save more people than you can realize.

Christmas is the season for giving. This is my part for the coming year.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

Working from home today I can look out our office window and see our first snow of the season. Considering how warm a fall we've had, its quite a treat to get snow so early here in Virginia. We don't get a lot of snow, as you might imagine, so I like to enjoy it while I can. It looks pretty coming down and tonight when every one's Christmas lights come on, it will look even better. It's a nice run up for Christmas. Next up on the schedule is to get our tree this weekend. I like to think I'm pretty picky about the tree that we get. It has to be just right. A good shape and nice and full. The ones I've seen just from driving past the nursery we usually get ours from look pretty nice so hopefully it won't take too long. The last few years its been a struggle to get the tree into our stand and getting it to be straight. Keeping my fingers crossed on that. Considering we have one of those adjustable stands, I'm not sure why we've had such a problem. The one thing I will miss is not having the girls home to help us decorate the tree. Christmas, to me, is about family and the unique traditions each family calls its own. Decorating the tree with everyone involved is one of ours, although we may have to beat on The Son to get him started. I put on the lights once the tree is inside and set up. We bring in the the CD player into the living room so we can listen to Christmas carols as we decorate the tree. We all have individual ornaments we like to call our own and place on the tree. The tree fills the main level of the house with a nice pine scent signaling that yes Christmas is not long in coming. Ann will usually take care of decorating the family room and hanging the stockings and putting garland on the mantle. One of these day we'll actually start on our Christmas cards.

The only downside to the snow is having to go to the grocery store. I'm sure by now they've had a run on milk, bread and toilet paper. If nothing, we Virginians love a good snow drama. Like an inch or two will strand us in our houses for a week. Good times and long lines at the checkout.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Its Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

There is nothing like a Monday off and extending your weekend another day. Somehow laying in bed and knowing that most of the rest of the working world is cursing the need to rise at an ungodly hour and fighting the other worker drones on the highway is quite satisfying. Especially hearing The Son get up and leave is even sweeter.
After finally rising, and enjoyed my daily jolt of caffeine via a Coke and a toasted bagel, I checked my e-mail, including my work e-mail, and listened to The Junkies discuss the happenings in the sports world over the weekend. I did manage to talk my way out of a business trip to the west coast next week, which made opening my work e-mail worthwhile.
Mid-morning our realtor called and we discussed The Son's offer on the condo he is interested in. He gave us the ok to act as his agent, so to speak, and we were able to close the deal. He goes to closing in three weeks. Quite the Christmas present. Its like right out of Miracle on 34th Street, one of my favorite holiday movies ever, where Natalie Wood asks Kris Kringle to get her a new house for Christmas. We have a house inspector coming by tomorrow to give the place the once over to make sure its all good.
After a celebratory lunch of pork barbecue and a cold Yuengling, we headed over to Target to get a few things including a few additional sets of light nets for outside. I spent about two hours running extension cords and placing various nets of lights on our bushes. This is the first year I have used all nets rather than individual strings of lights. It definitely saves time although not quite as much as I would have thought. One problem I have from year to year is trying to remember how I had things arranged from the year before. Every year its like starting over from scratch. I need to take notes or pictures or both. This is this years results. Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Houses, Gutters and Football

So today, The Son, Ann and I viewed six properties. Three townhouses and three condos. It's a lot of properties to see in one outing before they all start running together in your mind. After looking at each of the properties, we retired to our favorite Tex Mex place for lunch and to discuss the pros and cons of each property. Across from chili and Texas Devil Steak, we ranked each of the properties as to price, location, kitchen, master bedroom, other bedrooms, bathrooms and deck/patio. In the end, two condos came out very close in score with a townhouse a close third. We will be sitting down with our Realtor tonight to map out an offer. It's quite possible that his first choice might be slightly out of his price range, the second is definitely not. So we'll see.

After lunch we came home, built a fire in the fireplace and watched the Redskins. They played a so so first half. At halftime, I broke out our ladder and climbed up on our roof to clean out our gutters. It had been misting on and off and the roof was slicker than I care for. I always make sure I have a spotter as I've had the ladder kick out on me before as I've tried to descend. As it turned out, I did slip on the roof once, but I managed to catch my foot in the gutter to stop me before I went over the edge. I've decided that my new sneakers don't grip all that well and I'm getting too old to be climbing up on our roof. I did manage to get all the gutters clean right before the heavens opened up and the serious rain began. That mood carried over to the second half of the Redskins game as they let another second half lead fritter away. Watching the coach incur a 15 yard penalty for Unsportsmanlike Behavior because he didn't know the rules for calling back to back time-outs thereby changing a 51 yard field goal try to a 36 yard try is just inexcusable. Its just sad.

Because of the rain and house search, I wasn't able to get our outside Christmas lights up. Maybe tomorrow, if the weather clears in time. Maybe we'll get a tree as well. If the rain stays, Ann and I will just curl up with a good movie.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Search

Friday was spent previewing properties that The Son might be interested in buying. We started at 9:00AM and finished up at 1:15PM. So much for my day off. We saw a total of nine properties. Out of the nine properties, we determined four were worth a second look. A few of the nine were within his price range, a few were not and a few were just out and out dumps. One had a half finished inside wall, graffiti sprayed all over the walls and a rug that was so nasty that I felt like I should be wearing a biohazard suit. Lovely. The one good aspect about this hunt for a home for The Son is that he has qualified for a high enough mortgage that we don't don't have to co-sign for him. Tomorrow we continue the hunt and we'll look at two townhouses and two condos that Ann and I have already looked out and taken pictures of (I took 91 pictures on Friday - how great are digital cameras?) and that he has expressed interest in seeing. There was one townhouse I really liked, but upon reflection, it has no backyard or deck/patio as the unit behind it shares a common back wall. Where do you go to enjoy a drink after work and watch the sun set? In fact it only has one exit - the front door. That would seem to be a fire code violation, but what do I know. Also it has a really nice living room area, but no real place to place a dining table that wouldn't look out of place and just strange. He's hoping to make a final decision on a place tomorrow so he can start making offers. He really is anxious to be out of the house and on his own. We'll see how this plans out. In his favor, its quite a buyers market right now.

Today, Saturday, has been devoted to watching college football. We watched the Hokies revenge their earlier loss to Boston College in Blacksburg and win the ACC Championship. Navy also beat Army for the 6th straight year. Since we consider ourselves a Navy family, that's always a big plus. On the downside, we probably watched a few young men play today that will die in the senselessness that is Iraq. Such a waste.

Our neighborhood is slowly coming alive with holiday lights. We hope to get ours up tomorrow, house hunting and Redskin football permitting. I'll post pictures once they are up. Enjoy your weekend.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving Weekend

Thanksgiving has come and gone and I hope yours was as good as ours. Daughters #1 and 2 both came home to share the holiday with us. Daughter#1 bought her SO and Daughter#2, The Son In Law. Before everyone descended on the house, I tried out the home brewed Irish Red Ale to make sure it was drinkable. It let out a nice fizz when I popped the top and formed a nice head when I poured it into a glass. It was quite tasty. Very Bass Ale like. I had two cases worth and our company enjoyed more than a few bottles of it.

Daughter#2 volunteered to make a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving and unlike the rest of us slackers, decided to make it from scratch. She bought a pumpkin with her and put the filling in the food processor along with a load of other spices and coconut milk to make the filling.

She mixed it all up in our food processor.

Then poured it into a vegetarian friendly pie shell.

Then into the oven. It was quite good, especially with some Cool Whip.
I peeled and cored some Granny Smith apples and mixed up the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg coating for said apples for our apple pie. I let Ann handle the crust for that pie.
Thanksgiving morning I headed out to Dulles Airport.
To pick up Daughter#1 and her SO, Matt. They flew in from Connecticut.

While waiting for the turkey to cook, we had a brunch of scrambled eggs, bacon and toast. Here we are gather around the kitchen table. I have no recollection on what The Son and I were looking at on the computer.

As the feast approached, the table was laid out in all its seasonal glory.

Of course we stuffed ourselves silly on turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes covered in gravy, add in some sweet potato casserole, peas and onions, rolls a few bottles of Virginia wine, apple and pumpkin pie and good company. The end result is shown below.

Daughter#1, never wanting a dull moment, had planned a full day for us on Friday. After a late breakfast we headed to Virginia's Prince William County's only winery - La Grange. They've beautifully restored the old mansion originally built in 1790.

Inside is their tasting area. Here we are jotting down notes as we sampled several of their wines.

Throughout the house, there are rooms where you can relax with a glass of wine and snacks such as cheese and sausage. The manly men.

And the charming ladies.

Behind the mansion, is the winery's barrel storage area and processing area.

Here is Daughter#1 and Matt looking from the barn area to the back of the mansion.

And Daughter#2 and her Matt, The Son In Law.

In the basement of the mansion, they have a little pub area where you can sit and enjoy the wine. We assumed that some of the beams were from the original building.

After our tour and tasting, we headed to Sweetwater Tavern in Centreville for a late lunch/early dinner. The idea was to go to the Air and Space Museum at Dulles after lunch, but we all decided that we had had enough for one day and headed home. We sat around and watched "Love Actually" before heading to bed.
Saturday was all about football. At noon we watched the Hokies defeat UVA. We watched the first half at home and the second half at the Original Steakhouse and their big screen TVs. After the game, I had to run Daughter#1 and Matt back to Dulles to catch their flight home. Then it was back home for the game that really mattered - Auburn vs Alabama. Being an Auburn graduate, I was thrilled to watch Auburn hand Alabama its sixth straight loss in the series. For those of you that don't live in Alabama, you have no idea how intense this rivalry is. Nothing I've seen compares to it. One of my favorite crowd shots was someone holding up a sign that had the "B" in Saban (Saban being the Alabama coach) crossed out and replaced with a "T" spelling out Satan. Well said.
Sunday morning was spent looking at some houses for The Son. The Son disparately wants out of the house and a place of his own. Just starting out and given the crazy housing market, affordable places are not that easy to come by. He works in Fairfax County, which has a median income level that's in the top 3 or 4 in the whole country with housing prices to match. So he's more or less stuck with looking at places not far from us. That has its good and bad points. As we start to look at places, its amazing how many foreclosures are out there. Each one representing the American Dream gone bad. We are working with The Son to hopefully keep him from getting in over his head. We're scheduled to look at some more places on Friday. The rest of the day we watched the Redskins lose another game in the closing minutes. Its beginning to be an all to familiar pattern. Unless a miracle occurs, it looks like another year without the playoffs. Of course given the shocking shooting death of their Strong Safety Sean Taylor, I don't think the playoffs are on their mind at the moment. Really tragic.
Because we're old and therefore earn a lot of vacation days, Ann and I took Monday off. Most of it we spent raking leaves, which seemed to have come down all at once. It took three hours just to clear the front and side lawn. We still have the back yard to do.
It was nice to have all the family plus a few here at the house for the holiday. Growing up, my Mother would have 20 or more people over for Thanksgiving. A mix of family, relatives and friends. It was load and crazy at times, but always a good time. I like to think we starting to build that here. Hope your Thanksgiving was as good as ours.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Give Me My Football ESPN

Ever since college, I've always looked at Thursday evening as my gateway to the weekend. I'm always home on Fridays now, either with a day off due to my compressed work schedule or working from home. What better way to welcome the weekend then some Thursday night college football. Oregon would be playing Arizona. The Son likes Oregon and they are entertaining to watch. Because it was being played out west, the game was schedule to start later than most Thursday night games. I could live with that as ESPN promised an hour long College Football pre-game show. I love their Game Day Show on Saturday mornings so I thought that would be a fine lead in to the game. Imagine my surprise when instead of the pregame show, ESPN decided to air a "Breaking News" show. The "Breaking News" was, of course, Barry Bonds indictment and A Rod's resigning with the Yankees. True, as bis sport stories go, the Bonds story was news. However, ESPN had already beat the story to death on their Sports Center show earlier in the evening. The A Rod story? No one cares unless they are a Yankees fan. Most of the United States could care less about the dance between A Rod and George. Watching an hour of their coverage of these two stories was like being waterboarded. I watched about 15 minutes and that was all I could take. I decided to skip the game and went to bed. Stupid ESPN.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Last Dance

Saturday night was my rowing club's annual end of year party. One last opportunity to hang out with each other and celebrate another successful season. There was food and more food and a few adult beverages as well. Below is a picture of just the appetizers.

Behind the two at the far right is the desert table and on the floor plenty of beer.

We hand out gifts to those who have helped us during the year, like our high school coxswains. Here are Jake and Katie. Katie is our coxswain. No we didn't give Jake beer. Those are sodas.

On the left is Heather. She coaches our Fitness/Recreational rowers. She's off to Germany this week. I'm envious. Heather got beer.

Wally graciously hosted the party. He also coaches one of the high school crew teams and is our operations director. Basically that means he arranges getting the boats from the high schools that we need and taking care of them. Here he's congratulating one of our coxswains. Her boat had a collision during one of our races (not her fault) and she got everyone back safely. As you might imagine, its not easy being of high school age and coxing for a bunch of over achieving adults. They do a great job for us.

And what would a party be without a few gag gifts. Here airline barf bags are given two of our more zealous women rower partiers. But they had a right to party given they rowed well and fast enough to earn an automatic invite back to the head of the Charles. A first for our club. In all fairness, I believe only the one on the left, umm, had need for a barf bag in Boston.

It was an early ending. I was home by 11:00 Stuffed with good food and fond memories.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

It's in the Bottle

The beer that been fermenting away in our basement as documented here, finally was bottled and hopefully should be ready for consumption when the daughters return for Thanksgiving. I have no idea how it will turn out or whether it will be drinkable at all. I should try a bottle to see if its carbonating, but I suspect I'll just wait and find out on Turkey Day.

After fermenting away for two weeks in the basement, we dragged the carboy back up to the kitchen. With 5 gallons of beer inside, its quite heavy not to mention awkward to try and carry up the stairs. Good thing I have a young strong helper.

One of the things I learned in this whole beer making process is how clean and sanitary everything needs to be. Not necessarily because there's any danger in drinking it, but the wrong bacteria could lead to some bad tasting beer. So clean we did. Here we are sanitising the bottling bucket.

The it was on to brushing and cleaning out the bottles and bottle caps. It was all pretty messy.

After getting things all clean and sparkling, we siphoned the beer from the fermenter to the bottling bucket. This took a while. While the beer was transferring, I put some in a glass for a taste. It actually tasted pretty good considering its flat beer at this point. Hopefully the finished product will taste even better once its carbonated.

After siphoning the beer into the bottling bucket, we decided we were hungry and left to go eat pizza. I covered the beer with some Glad Wrap.

The bottles clean and ready to be filled.

Filling our first bottle. Using the bottle filler turned out to be a pain because the tubing kept slipping off it. Eventually we filled the bottles from the tubing directly and didn't use the bottle filler. That worked out well although we still got beer all over. Considering we just had the kitchen floor cleaned the day before made Ann doubt the usefulness of this new hobby.

We ended up bottling 55 bottles of beer. Here is the first case. Our German Quality Inspector checks it out.

We'll see how things turn out and I'll let you know in about a week and a half.