Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Feast

Thanksgiving has come and gone and overall it went well. We ended up having a total of five for dinner. My cousin and his wife were no shows.. The Son did show, but there is a limit on how much family reminiscing he can tolerate. The food turned out well, which is what the day is all about. We did end up with a lot of leftovers even after giving my uncle some to take back home. We got the turkey in the oven around 9:00 AM. Here it is all covered in foil.

A picture of Ann after the turkey went in the oven. She always a lot more relaxed once the turkey is cooking.

I had the task of peeling the potatoes to make the mashed potatoes. My handiwork before I cut them into cubes. Ann cooked them and then The Son was given the task of turning them into mashed potatoes. He runs a mean hand mixer and is generous with the spices and sour cream.

Mmmmm is there a better smell in the world then a turkey fresh from the oven? Here it is in all its 21 lb glory before I carved it up.

We all ate our fill and then some including the pumpkin and sweet potato pies. My Uncle's wife made the pumpkin pie from scratch starting with a real pumpkin. We're a lot lazier at this house (when we make pumpkin pie) relying on Libby to make the pumpkin filling. After laying around in a post turkey haze, we headed up and we were in bed by 9:00 and happy to be there.
Today, Friday. i actually broke out my erg for the first time since May. I was hoping to grab one more day out on the water before Sandy Run closes for the season at the end of this month, but it doesn't look like the weather will cooperate. I did an easy 5,000 meter piece. I'm not going to try and kill myself until I can get my fitness level back to where it should be. After erging and getting cleaned up, Ann and I walked the dog for about an hour. I don't know who needed the walk more - us or the dog. After lunch we looked on line for some deals, but really only managed to get a few things and nothing major. After that time sink, I retired to the family room and watched Miracle on 34th Street. That movie always does my heart good, but its really so politically incorrect these days what with the insane talk and commitment to Bellevue all because Kris thinks he is Santa Claus. I ended up the day by going out for pizza by myself. Ann was just too tired and not up for it at all. Our pizza place is like our "Cheers". They know our names and get us our drinks without even asking anymore. It's friendly and cozy and it wasn't a big deal for me to go by myself.

Tomorrow will no doubt be more attempts at shopping and watching football. Va Tech plays Virginia and my game, of course, is the Auburn vs Alabama game. If Auburn only had an offense. Hopefully the defense will keep it close.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (Thanksgiving)

With less than twenty-fours to go before we sit down and celebrate Thanksgiving, we have no idea who will be coming to dinner. Seriously. It's messed up. Besides Ann and myself, since we are hosting, the list of invitees included my uncle and his wife, his grown son (my cousin) and his wife and The Son. My uncle's wife called today to confirm they were coming and what they are bringing - an appetizer and pumpkin and sweet potato pies. During the course of the phone conversation it came up that my uncle's wife and my cousin's wife are not on speaking terms (even though they share a two bedroom apartment). My uncle's wife couldn't confirm whether my cousin and his wife are coming or not and we haven't heard from them. Hmmm...great. In addition, The Son is mad at us because we had the audacity to suggest that he should actually go to work this week instead of sitting in his condo playing the latest upgrade/expansion to WoW. So we're not sure if he'll show. This is shaping up as one weird Thanksgiving. On an up note, we'll have plenty of leftovers. Mmmmmm.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sore Foot

A few weeks ago, my left foot began giving me a bit of a problem. Apparently I have developed a plantar wart on the ball of that foot. I ignored it at first, but over time, it began to hurt more and more. By this past Friday, I couldn't put any weight on the ball of my foot because it just hurt too badly to do so. Obviously something had to be done. Should I go to my primary doctor, to my dermatologist, or to somewhere like Urgent Care? I figured if I went to my dermatologist, they would freeze it much like they do anything that looks suspicious during my yearly checkup. (Note: fair skin people, like myself, who let themselves get sunburned like crazy over and over growing up need to be checked out every year.) I remembered from one of my weekly visits to the grocery store, that someone had come up with an over the counter do it yourself freeze kit. So I decided to skip the medical professionals and treat myself. Turns out the kit is made by Compound W and consists of three parts - a base that contains the freezing agent, a foam q-tip and a small handle/actuator. The disposable q-tip locks into this handle/actuator and the q-tip is inserted into the base with the handle actuator interlocking with the base to prevent whatever is in the base that freezes the foam q-tip. It does say keep away from your face though. I assembled everything and pressed down on the base. A hissing sound ensued and after a very short time (3 seconds) removed the handle/q-tip. The foam q-tip indeed looked frozen. I held the q-tip to the wart and heard some sizzling noises. I assume that's a good thing since the idea is to freeze burn the wart. Per the instructions, I held the q-tip on the wart for 30 seconds or so. It didn't hurt and also didn't look significantly different from when I had started. I slapped a bandaid over it and put on clean socks. Hopefully this will kill off the wart although I've read that plantar warts go deep and freezing may or may not work. Shortly after the treatment, I tried putting on a sneaker. That didn't go well at all. It felt like a blister had formed and it didn't like being smushed into such tight confines. I went shoeless the rest of the day. The next day, I removed the bandaid after my shower and checked it out. Despite what i thought felt like a blister, there was no evidence of one. Not sure what was going on there. Again the wart didn't look much different than before the treatment and it's still sore as hell. I'm still having difficulty walking and I'm trying not to put any weight on the ball of my foot. I'm suppose to wait two weeks before trying to treat it again. If this at home treatment doesn't work, I think I'll go back to the professionals and let my dermatologist handle it. This is turning out to be much more of a pain in the ass then I bargained for.

Friday, November 21, 2008

It's Cold!

Northern Virginia is in the middle of a bit of a cold spell and I don't like it. It barely made it to 40 today before dropping again into the 30s in the afternoon. They say it will be a colder winter than normal, We're also way overdue for a major snowstorm. I can't wait for summer to return.

Much like Kelly, I have started playing Christmas music. Not everyday or all the time, but occasionally. I enjoy it and don't feel that I should have to wait until the day after Thanksgiving to hear it. Back in the day when you could illegally swap music without the music industry slapping a lawsuit on you, I downloaded some of my favorite songs and made a CD or two for myself. I have since made copies for the Daughters, but not for The Son because he has long since lost the ability to hear the bell (see the movie Polar Express for an explanation). Besides my own CD, I have a many many other Christmas CDs by various artists. Every year I check out Amazon's list of Christmas music to see if there is something new I might enjoy. I tend to be more of a traditionalist when it comes to such music because, frankly, pop artists usually make crappy Christmas music.

Tomorrow Ann and I will head out to shop for the various goodies that will make up our Thanksgiving dinner. It's not our year to have Daughter#2 and The Son In Law for Thanksgiving since they will be with his parents, We will have them for Christmas. Daughter#1 has also decided to stay in Connecticut for the holiday. She and the fiance will come down for Christmas. The Son will be dropping by for dinner, as will my Uncle and his wife, his grown son and his wife. They're bringing desert. We do a pretty traditional Thanksgiving - turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, cranberry sauce and rolls. A bottle of wine or two (this year Hokie White). Ann is a wreck until the turkey is safely cooking in the oven. I get to do all the peeling for the potatoes and apples. I also try to sneak in a viewing of Miracle on 34th Street. After all the movie does start on Thanksgiving Day. The best part - leftovers.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Scotch Ale

Back in September when we attended the Scottish Festival, we enjoyed some Scottish Ale so I thought I would try brewing some of my own. I ordered the requisite materials and they arrived last week. As Sunday dawned cold and windy, it seemed a good day to do some brewing. I broke out the goods and heated up some water and started seeping the speciality grains. It's like making tea.

After seeping the grains for 15 minutes it's time to bring things to a boil and add the goodies - the malts and hops.
Boil the the mixture, now call wort, for an hour, cool down in an ice bath and pour the wort into the carboy and add yeast. Let ferment for two weeks before bottling. The ale in making is now sitting down in the laundry room fermenting away. It should be ready to drink around Christmas.

I can hardly wait.
Oh boy the weather has taken a turn for the worse. It feels more like winter than fall. The temperature on Saturday was in the low 70s. Today on the way to catch the vanpool, the temperature was a chilly 30 degrees and the weathermen were calling for snow flurries. So much for outdoor activities for the foreseeable future. Good napping weather though, which I did yesterday. Nothing like a late afternoon nap.
I've been a big fan of the TV show ER since it came on the scene 15 years ago. This is its final season. As part of this last season, they've been bringing back some of the series regulars from past years. Seeing Anthony Edwards reprise his role as Dr Mark Green last week, was a reminder how good this show has been over the years. I will definitely miss it when it's gone.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Friday Update

All day I have been going back and forth. Go to a football game or not? Ann and I have tickets to the Maryland vs UNC football game. The game starts at 3:30 and is also on TV. This morning the weather was pretty good. Cloudy with patches of sun. The temperature was in the low 70s. Warm for November. However, the forecast sounded terrible. Rain, heavy at times, with chance of thunderstorms. We're also currently under a tornado watch. The rain has started. The temperature has already dropped 10 degrees. I think we'll stay home.

Yesterday was our Friday off. The Son was also off due to the fact that he has to work a special Sunday shift. He was bored and wanted out of his condo. We arranged to get together for lunch and hang out. We opted to try Red Lobster and their new fire grilled menu. Once we were seated and looked at the menu, the fire grilled selections, while sounding good, were more than we wanted to pay for lunch so we chose cheaper alternatives. I went for the New England Clam Chowder and Lobster pizza. After lunch we did some shopping at Target and then headed over to Potomac Mills Mall to go to a movie. We had some time to kill so we window shopped and picked up an odd thing or two. Finally it was movie time and we watched "Body of Lies" with Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe. It was pretty entertaining if you like the spy game genre. A big bag of popcorn didn't hurt either. After the movie, we did our usual Friday night pizza. We manage to miss the expected traffic jam around the local high school, which was involved in a football playoff game. After woofing down a pizza between the three of us, we returned home to try in indoctrinate The Son into the TV show "Fringe", which Ann and I love and had DVRed. It wasn't one of their better episodes and I don't think he left convinced to get involved in it. Oh well, his loss.

It's time for football.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Extended Weekends Are The Best

Oh did I speak too soon a few posts back about my rowing season being over? After rowing last Friday in a single, I got invited to row on Sunday in a Quad and again on Tuesday in a double. Heck it's like summer again in terms of frequency. Besides the rowing, I have no memory what I did with the rest of my time off (Saturday through Tuesday) short of going to my rowing club's end of season party on Saturday and grocery shopping on Monday.

The party was a good time, which is usually the case. What is so starling about the whole thing is seeing my fellow club members semi dressed up. I'm use to seeing them in spandex shorts and sweaty t-shirts or racing outfits. The women all have their hair pulled back and frankly everyone looks like ass as they come off the water. Well here these same people show up, dressed nicely and looking good. Who are these people? The party is a pot luck and I volunteered to bring a main dish. Rather I volunteered Ann to make a main dish for me to bring. In past years, we've opted to bring a Mexican lasagna, but this year we wanted to try something different. We had recently tried making our own pork BBQ, which turned out rather well. It's easy and would make a lot of food so it fit the bill. It turned out even better this time, mostly because we used a better BBQ sauce and also added a little liquid smoke to it. It was a big hit with people literally dipping their fingers in the crock pot to get the last of the sauce. At the party we were treated to a video montage of the past season, which I have to say was very creative. Unfortunately the copy of the DVD I was given won't play in my regular, hooked up to the TV DVD player or the DVD player in our computer. Not sure whats going on with that. Any suggestions are appreciated. We also recognized our coaches and coxswains for the all their help during the past season and gave them all gift cards. There was a lot of cold beer and good conversation. A good time was had by all.

During the party as I was chatting with some of my teammates, they asked if I wanted to go sculling with them the next day (Sunday). There was no real football game on (Redskins had a bye week) so I was up for it. It was a little on the chilly side (upper 40s) and a little windy. Getting out on the water was a bit of a comedy. The original plan was to scull a Quad. We got out the sculling oars and took them down to the dock. However after then checking out which Quad to use, the guy who set up the row spotted a coxless 4-. A coxless 4 is a sweep boat (each rower has just one oar as opposed to sculling where each rower has two oars). The coxless 4 had foot steering in the bow and doesn't require a coxswain as most 4s do. I think the idea of taking this boat out really appealed to him. It made sense in a way as the four of us have a lot more experience sweep rowing than sculling. Plus it was a type of boat none of us had ever rowed. We went down to the docks and got the sculls and put them away and grabbed four sweep oars. However when the last member of our foursome showed up (a good thirty minutes late) he stated he didn't want to sweep row, he wanted to scull. This went on for about 15 minutes about what to row. The other two of us didn't care what boat we took just lets get on with it because it's cold. Finally it was decided to scull. Back to the dock to get the sweep oars and put them away and grab the sculls again. We finally got out on the water a good hour later than we planned. It turned out to be a good row. Very relaxed, fairly smooth for intermediate scullers at best. I drew the straw to sit in bow and steer. Luckily OBC has Quads that you can actually steer as opposed to the high school Quads we use during the summer. We rowed up to Ryan's Dam and back for a total of 8 miles. We mixed it up with some power 10s and focus 10s. Ten on and twenty off and such so we wouldn't get too bored and lose focus. I think the row was pretty decent because there wasn't any pressure on us. It wasn't a race or practice. We didn't have to worry about fast stroke rates or chasing down or keeping ahead of other boats. It was just a row for fun and fun we had - once we got on the water.

Monday Ann and I grocery shopped and that's about all I remember doing. Of course going to the semi-new Wegman's in our area takes us about twice as long as shopping elsewhere due to its size and selection. The two of us wandering about like Ma and Pa Kettle right off the farm. "Look Ma at this new fangeld fancy pants food this here store is peddling." Geez

Tuesday, since a lot of us were off in observance of Veterans Day, a group row was organized. As I've mentioned before, I belong to two different rowing clubs. One, PWRC, uses rented equipment from high schools that's only available during scheduled practices and races. We also have coaches and safety launches, but we are now finished for the season. The other club, OBC, has its own equipment, but no coaching or scheduled practices. You just go and row when you want. You can start on 1 April and row to 1 December (although sometimes the park will stay open after 1 December if the weather remains seasonal). A fair number of my PWRC teammates are also members of OBC and that's the group that decided to get together for the group row. The debate (there is always a debate) was what time to row. Initially it was set for 8:00AM. However the weather forecast for early morning was for temperatures to be in the 30s. There is a temperature below which rowing is no longer fun and becomes uncomfortable and potentially dangerous (think hypothermia, especially if someone flips a shell). For me the temperature has to be 40 or above. I wrote back to the group (we were communicating via e-mail), that if we rowed at 8:00, I was out, but if they wanted to row at 10:00 when it would be considerably warmer, then I would go. After another flurry of e-mails, it was decided that 10:00 was good for most. A small contingent decided to stick with 8:00 and one hardy soul rowed both times. So seven of us headed out at 10:00. Three in singles and the other four split into two mixed doubles (mixed - one male and one female rower). I rowed bow in one of the doubles. It took my partner and I about ten minutes or so to find our rhythm together and then things went well. As long as we were rowing, we were fine and felt good. However as soon as we stopped, we would get cold pretty quickly. We rowed up to Fountainhead Park, where it was quite windy and the water very choppy almost to the point of producing whitecaps. Rather than rest there, we spun quickly and got back into more protected water before breaking for some water. On the way back, about a mile from our destination of Sandy Run, the woman in the other double, invited everyone over to her place for coffee/tea/hot chocolate. She lives in a run off the Occoquan and was rowing in her own double. I debated whether to stop or not knowing it would add another hour or so to the whole trip and Ann was waiting for me at home. Peer pressure prevailed and we rowed a short distance to her dock, pulled the boats out of the water and took a break at her house. It was nice and all and had some good rowing chat, but I think overall I would have preferred to have gone straight back to Sandy Run. I did enjoy the row. Its been about two years since I have been in a double with this particular female partner. She's quite the rowing nut and she works hard at it and technically she's fine, but has very little power in her stroke. Despite that we were able to get the boat to move right along coming back from our little break. Ann was a bit miffed at my late arrival home and justifiably so. I just wish I had had some advance warning about the invite.

That was the extent of my long weekend. Four days off in a row. I could get use to that really quickly. Retirement is looking better and better everyday. When to punch out remains the question.

Friday, November 7, 2008

It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This

It doesn't get any better than this. At least for the first week in November. The sun is out and it feels wonderfully warm. The temperature is in the low 70s. I couldn't resist taking advantage of the nice weather and slipping over to Sandy Run for a lunch time row. It seems like it has been ages since I've been out in a single. The wind was very light. Just occasional ripples across the water. It appears that they've already turned off the water at the park or at least the sprinkler system on the dock as the dock was covered in goose poop. I had to wend my way walking the oars and the single down to the dock so I didn't step in any. I placed the oars in the oarlocks, stepped into the boat, tied in my feet (actually the shoes use velcro) and pushed off the dock. Rowing a single is a lot like riding a bike. Once you learn the balance, you never really forget it. The boat seemed to jump with each stroke of the oars. It felt great being out on the water again. The trees are a little pass their prime now, but still look beautiful. Being a Friday, there were hardly any other boaters on the water. A few fisherman and a couple of kyakers. It was so quiet except for the sound of my oars and the rippling sound of the water rushing along the hull. I rowed up to Fountainhead Park and back for a total of 7 miles. I have to tell you though, it was hard. My conditioning level has really fallen off. I was pretty happy getting back to the dock. I can still feel the row in my shoulders, upper arms, my butt and my quads. I really need to get back into a schedule of regular exercise. But it was definitely time well spent.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Last Race

Sunday was our last race for the 2008 season. We rowed on our home water of the Occoquan in the Head of the Occoquan. Based on my past performances, I limited myself to just one head race. I rowed 2 seat in the 50+ boat (i.e., the average age of the boat was 50 years old). The day was slightly overcast and in the mid 50s and slightly windy. Not a bad day for being on the water. The row up to the start was uneventful. I took the time to admire the view. The leaves hear in northern Virginia are at their peak and it was gorgeous. Thank god Fairfax County has kept their side of the Occoquan as parkland. We arrived at the starting area and sat and waited for our number to be called. The Occoquan Boat Club, which hosts the Head of the Occoquan (HOTO), changed the course this year. Rather than start at Fountainhead Park and finishing at Sandy Run, they moved the start slightly downstream and pushed the finish line from Sandy Run to the grandstand on the 2,000 meter race course. I can't say I was a fan of the change since it makes it very much like the course run for the Occoquan Chase, but I understand there were some safety issues that resulted in the change. As we sat waiting to start we were among 57 Men's 8+s including Club 8+s, Youth 8+s and Masters 8+. It was quite an impressive sight seeing all those boats in the marshalling area. My boat was the next to last 8+ to go - boat 56. There were seven entries in our category (Masters 8+ 50+). As we waited, we were in the shade for the most part and frankly we were all start getting a bit chilled. Finally we moved up as the other boats in front of us paddled up to the start and then took off. We had a really good start given that this was a throw together group. It wasn't like this boat had practiced much together. Going into the first turn at Jacob's Rock we got passed by a boat from the Potomac Boat Club. No real surprise there. They should have started earlier than us and I'm not sure why the HOTO people put them last. After we got through the turn at Jacob's Rock and headed down a long straightaway, our stroke tried to lengthen out our stroke and get us to the rate we had previously agreed to row at - 28 strokes/minute. Unfortunately as often happens during races, everyone is so pumped up, its hard to settle at the rate you want. This was aggravated by our 6 seat who consistently rushed his slide and his blade was going in the water a good half beat before our stroke seat. This action threw off the catch tining for the other port rowers (2 and 4 seats). Having been a stroke myself, I know how frustrating it can be to be rushed by the other rowers in the boat. We rowed at a 30 strokes/minute rate most of the race and frankly it felt a bit ragged. To my surprise about two thirds of the way through the race we actually caught up to and passed a boat (the start is single file, with one boat starting about every 10 to 15 seconds) from Three Rivers Rowing from Pittsburgh. This almost never happens to us, but it certainly came at a good time and provided us with a boost to the finish. Overall I thought it wasn't a great race and was quite surprised to find out we came in 4th out of 7. The time wasn't great (19:42), but maybe it was ok when the average age is over 50. We missed third by 5 seconds, Ouch. The winner in our category finished in 18:02 so we have plenty of room for improvement. I have mixed feelings about the season now being over. While I feel a bit burned out, I know in a week or two, I'll miss not being out on the water. I can still take out a single for a few more weeks before Sandy Run closes for the season. If we have a mild fall, I'll try and do that. Another season of rowing come and gone. Certainly Boston was a highlight given that I was trying something new on a challenging course. While on the Women's side, they haven't been as competitive as past years (although they did finish first in Sunday's HOTO), the men's side, which hasn't been competitive at all in past years, has made significant progress and has finished in the medals several times this year. Hopefully, everyone will come back next year and we can build on this year.