Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year Meme

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before?

Raced in a single. Its been something I've wanted to try for a while and finally worked up enough nerve to try it. It was actually fun even if my finish time sucked badly.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Actually I don't make new year's resolutions so none to keep or fail to keep. I doubt I'll make any this year.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

My nephew's wife Erin gave birth too a baby boy - Cameron.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No,thank goodness.

5. What countries did you visit?


6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?

Ideally, I would love to retire in 2010, but we'll have to see on that one. I'm eligible, but it's whether I can afford to.

7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Daughter#1's wedding in May.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Wow, nothing really stands out even after reviewing my archives for the year. I guess I could say completing another year of rowing even while in my late 50s, including competing a 5,000 meter race in a single.

9. What was your biggest failure?

The inability to reduce my credit card debt. I haven't gotten in any deeper, but I haven't gotten any better either.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Nothing serious unless you consider the recurring skin infections and my screwed up eyelashes that keeping scratching my corneas.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Daughter#1's wedding. It was a great wedding/party, but man was it expensive.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Nobody in particular comes to mind.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

The right's continuing attacks on the President. Not born in the US! The birthers need a new life. He's a Muslim! Oh please. It seems the right will say anything to keep the masses in an uproar.

14. Where did most of your money go?

The mortgage, credit cards and other various loans.

15. What did you get really excited about?

My new bike that I got last Christmas. I couldn't wait to try it out. I had some great rides over the spring and summer.

16. What song will always remind you of 2009?

The Beach Boys 

"God Only Knows" It was the father/daughter dance at Daughter#1's wedding.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

– happier or sadder? Happier, I think.
– thinner or fatter? About the same.

– richer or poorer? Financially maybe a tad richer, but not by anything substantial.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

More day or overnight trips. There is so much to do in this area that I don't take enough advantage of.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Wasting time and being so disorganized.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

At home with Ann and The Son. The girls and their husbands joined us the day after.

21. Did you fall in love in 2009?

Not with anyone new. I'm still in love with my wife of 33 years.

22. What was your favorite TV program?

Probably Fringe.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?


24. What was the best book you read?

I usually read several books while at the beach. This year we didn't make it to the beach and therefore I can hardly recall reading any books at all. I did finish one while on travel in December - "Scarpetta" by Patricia Cornwell. Entertaining enough.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Can't think of a single one.

26. What did you want and get?

A year of being with my family, no serious illnesses, of seeing all the kids employed after all had lost their jobs at some point during the year. Walking Daughter#1 down the isle.

27. What did you want and not get?

I didn't get to retire.

8. What was your favorite film of this year?

Star Trek. Great movie for both Trekkees and the general public.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

My birthday was on a Friday so I was at home and I'm sure i went for a row, but nothing extravagant for my birthday. I turned 58.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

More work at home days.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?

Business casual for work days. Jeans and t shirts or sweatshirts depending on the temperature.

32. What kept you sane?

Getting out on the water or biking on the W&OD Trail. Working at home.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

I think I’ll go with Amy Adams (she's just so cute) and Anna Torv (Fringe).

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

The bailouts. Necessary I know. It's scary how close the country came to going under.

35. Who did you miss?

My kids, my Dad and at the 25th anniversary of her death, my Mom.

36. Who was the best new person you met?

Hmmmm...I'm drawing a complete blank here which speaks volumes on how much I stay in my own comfort box and really don't meet many new people. Maybe Daughter#1 can help me out with this one.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009.

My entire family was together for the first time in many years. We are scattered to the four winds and it's hard for all of us to get together any more. We did that this year celebrating my Dad's 80th birthday. It made me appreciate the family that I do have. It also makes me realize what I miss by not having them close by. It's said you can pick your friends, but not your family, which is true. I got lucky and have a great family. Even better, Daughters#1 and 2 have married guys with great families of their own. Its been wonderful adding their families to our own.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Slow Down Day

So today was a day to relax and knock back. To recover from the whirlwind pace Daughter#1 has been setting all week. I slept until 830, which these days is almost unheard of for me. It felt good believe me. By the time I rolled out of bed, showered and got ready, it was almost lunch time. Daughter#1 and her husband, M#1, were headed to Virginia Beach to hang out with some of her husband's friends. We decided to go out for lunch and picked a spot that would allow them to quickly jump onto I-95 and head south. That spot was a bbq place. As I just had some pulled pork with The Son right before Christmas, I decided to go with ribs this time. I do love bbq in whatever shape it comes in whether it be pork, ribs, brisket or chicken. After devouring lunch we bade the kids a safe trip we returned home after a short stop at Target for a few items for The Son's place. While Ann was smart and took a nap, I decided to get on my work laptop and see if my travel voucher for my December trip to LA had gone through. I found out it had been returned now a second time. Frustrating. I then proceeded to waste about 2 hours trying to correct it before deciding it was a lost cause. I'll just have to call the Help Desk on Monday when I go back to work. Bah. The evening was spent watching The Son's alma mater, Radford, play George Mason in Men's basketball. It was played down in Radford so I couldn't go to the game, but it was nice being able to see them on TV. Radford won easily, which was a bit of a surprise. The Son and I are hoping they will repeat as Big South Champions and get to be part of the craziness that is March Madness.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


I've been really really busy the past few days. The kids have all been home making for a full house what with the two daughters also bringing their spouses and Daughter#2 her dog Gracie. As I mentioned in my previous post, Daughter#1 has to fill the days and has she ever. Lets get a run down:

1. Day After Christmas and the two daughters arrive in the morning from out of town and The Son leaves his cave to join us for a day after Christmas breakfast prepared by yours truly.

2. Next up was opening presents. Here Daughter#1 does the honors while her husband looks on and takes her picture.

3. Then there was Christmas dinner to prepare. Here The Son works on his oyster dressing.

4. The next day (Sunday) we were down at The Son's place painting his living room and hallway of his condo. Here The Son paints around his balcony door.

Guests were not exempt. Here M#1 and Daughter#1 paint a portion of the hallway. Welcome to the family!

5. For Monday we were off to the Air and Space Museum Annex out by Dulles Airport. Here they have some of their larger aircraft/spacecraft that would never fit in the downtown museum. A look down just one third of the exhibit hall.

They have some really famous aircraft there. Like the Concorde. Oh if they could just make supersonic air travel economically feasible.

I think everyones favorite from our group was the SR-71 Blackbird. On its final flight from LA to Washington, the pilots made it in 1 hour 4 minutes. Average speed was over 2,000 mph. Amazing.

Probably the most famous bomber in the world. The Enola Gay. It had been in storage for decades before they finally had the space to display it. It wasn't as big a plane as I had envisioned from seeing pictures of B-29s.

My favorite fighter of all time. The plane that Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards made famous. The F-14 Tomcat. "Talk to me Goose".

All that walking around not to mention two big meals, left me wiped out. Hence no entry yesterday. Just too tired.

6. After sleeping 10 hours, we headed down to southern Maryland today to look at the Naval Air Station and the surrounding area. Daughter#1 and M#1 are considering relocating there. After touring the base, lunch was in order - crab cakes!

After a day of running around touring the base, Saint Mary's College, Solomon's Island, visiting a dear friend that lives down there and a last stop at Leonardtown and Breton Bay in the background, we headed home. Daughter#1 and M#1 pose for a final photo.

Its time for another long winter's nap.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Rembrant or Michelangelo?

Every since The Son bought a place of his own about two years ago, he has wanted to change the look of it by painting the place. The previous owner had had the place painted when he put it on the market. To make it more buyer friendly, he had painted it all white - everywhere. It's a two bedroom condo so its not all that big and it had the sterile rental property feel to it. Now The Son has wanted to paint it, but he hasn't been much on the action part of it. In particular he hem and hawed a lot about what color to paint what rooms. Enter in Daughter#1. Daughter#1 is like that old axiom about nature abhors a vacuum. To her every day has to be filled with some activity or another. A day laying around is a day wasted to her. So today we had nothing planned and there was a condo that needed painting - in her mind we had a match. In the weeks leading up to her visit many e-mails and phone calls ensued to nail down colors that would please not only The Son, but also the females in the family (Ann and the two daughters). A consensus was finally achieved and a game plan developed and the battle was on. After a breakfast of waffles (made from a dairy free and gluten free mix for our lactose intolerant guests), I took The Son and M#1 (Daughter#1's husband) and headed to his condo to begin taping while the Ann and Daughter#1 headed off to buy the paint and painting supplies. Daughter#2 and M#2 (Daughter#2's husband) also joined us. M#1 and 2 proceeded to remove all the outlet switch plates and register covers while I taped. M#2 joined in on the taping and ended up doing about twice as much as me. He is fast and I am slow. Once Ann and Daughter#1 arrived, the painting began. The plan was to do the living room area and the hallway. Most was a color called "Silver Setting" with an accent wall painted in "Bayside". They are Behr paints and you're welcome to go to their web site to look at the colors. I'll try to get pictures up shortly. It took us about four hours to get everything done including a break for some pizza. It turned out rather well and everyone seemed satisfied with the results. There is some debate on whether a second coat is required, but by the time we finished up it was starting to get dark and we thought it best to check back when the light would be better. Definitely a busy day, but with something concrete to show for our efforts.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Late Christmas

So today we finally got to celebrate Christmas as the kids filed in one by one. Daughter#2 and her husband were the first to arrive around 10:30 this morning followed by The Son and finally Daughter#1 and her husband who had been on the road since about 530 this morning. We knew everyone would be hungry after driving, I made a vegetarian friendly egg casserole so Daughter32 could have something to eat to. I made it with some fake sausage and no-dairy shredded cheese. Everyone liked it so it wasn't a big deal making it vegetarian friendly. After our brunch of sorts, we retired to the living room to exchanges gifts. We a one gift at a time type family when it comes to opening gifts. It takes longer, but its fun seeing who got what from whom. Socks were the most abundant gifts as everyone got some. Some of the highlights: Daughter#1 got a rain jacket. The son got a winter coat. Ann got some cookware, Daughter#2 got a blender, her husband got a lot of drum equipment, Daughter#1's husband got a tour book and a gift card, and i got some home made charcoal made by Daughter#2's husband and a picture of myself rowing during the head of the Occoquan. By the time we were down, the living room was a mess and everyone seemed pretty happy.

After the gift exchanged, I headed into our family room to watch Ohio take on Marshall in the Little Cesar Bowl. Ohio got blown out early, but made a nice comeback before finally losing 21-17. The rest of the day it was all about the big Christmas meal. I was put to work peeling 5lbs of potatoes and then carving the turkey. The Son made oyster dressing again and the mashed potatoes while Ann did the remained. We got another Tofurkey for daughter#2, which she prepared. It was a glorious a feast as we had on Thanksgiving. We manage to save room for desert of which there was a selection of three different pies - Apple, Pumpkin and Pecan. There was also Vanilla Ice cream and some non-dairy Vanilla Ice Cream. After that we all just crashed in the family room. We watch "Angels and Demons" and then most of us headed to bed. At least those that didn't have Holidailies post to deliver. That was our special day. I hope you had one as memorable.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Waiting for Christmas

My Christmas Day was like your Christmas Eve. Presents still sit under the tree waiting to be opened. We are awaiting the arrival of Daughters#1 and #2 and their husbands before we celebrate the Day. Both couples were with their respective In Law families for the day. Each couple will be driving home to visit tomorrow morning. Tomorrow then will be our Christmas day. A day for spending time with family and enjoying each others company. A time to share our gifts with each other.

So how did we spend our day? Mostly getting ready for tomorrow. We attended Mass. We baked two pies - a pumpkin and an apple. We also watched a movie or two (Miracle on 34th Street) plus two Lifetime movies that we sort of got sucked into while wait for the pies to cook. The Son did drop by. I suggested opening one gift each, but that was shot down by him and Ann so we will wait until tomorrow. We enjoyed a spiral cut glazed ham for our Christmas meal. Something we haven't had in quite some time. With some pecan pie for desert, it worked out quite well. Our dog Rosie helping out with the pie making:

I hope you and yours had a wonderful Christmas and I know I'm looking forward to ours.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve in Virginia

I'm going to keep it short and sweet tonight. I still have presents to wrap, Christmas carols to listen to and Christmas movies to watch. There is snow on the ground and we will have our first white Christmas in many many years. I hope you and yours have a very Merry Christmas and I'll leave you with a few Christmas quotes - the ones I used for the past last two years and which I love.

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

From "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens. The meaning of Christmas as told by Scrooge's nephew Fred:

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!'

And from Dr Suess and the Whos, the lyric from the song "Welcome, Christmas" from the TV version of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas":

Welcome, Welcome
Fah who rah-moose
Welcome, Welcome
Dah who dah-moose
Christmas day is in our grasp
So long as we have hands to clasp

Fah who for-aze!
Dah who dor-aze!
Welcome Christmas,
Come this way!

Fah who for-aze!
Dah who dor-aze!
Welcome Christmas,
Christmas Day.

Welcome, Welcome
Fah who rah-moose
Welcome, Welcome
Dah who dah-moose
Christmas day is in our grasp
So long as we have hands to clasp

Fah who for-aze!
Dah who dor-aze!
Welcome Christmas
Bring your cheer
Fah who for-aze!
Dah who dor-aze!
Welcome all Who's
Far and near

Welcome Christmas, fah who rah-moose
Welcome Christmas, dah who dah-moose
Christmas day will always be
Just so long as we have we

Fah who for-aze
Dah who dor-aze
Welcome Christmas
Bring your light

Welcome Christmas
Fah who rah-moose!
Welcome Christmas
Dah who dah-moose!
Welcome Christmas
While we stand
Heart to heart
And hand in hand

Fah who for-aze
Dah who dor-aze
Welcome welcome

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

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

All About Christmas

Because I'm a follower and coming up with new things to write about is hard for me, I present to you the Christmas meme that someone started and I'm happy to copy.

Eggnog or hot chocolate?
Hot chocolate. I can't say that I developed a taste for eggnog, but I've only ha it when i was young. With some booze in it, it might be a whole different story.

Does Santa wrap the presents or leave them open under the tree? Of course Santa wraps the presents.

Colored lights on a tree or white? Colored lights for the tree. White lights for the bushes outside.

Do you hang mistletoe? No, but only because we never buy any. Nothing against it personally.

When do you put your decorations up? It varies. usually the outside lights go up the weekend after the Thanksgiving weekend. The tree might go up that same weekend or the following weekend depending on when we get around to buying it.

What is your favorite holiday dish? The turkey! Mmmmmmm.

Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? No. We wait until Christmas Morning to open presents.

How do you decorate your Christmas tree? Colored lights - non-blinking. We have a mixture of ornaments. Some of the traditional glass bulbs, ornaments from the various colleges represented in our house - Auburn, Ohio, VA Tech and Radford. We also have some ornaments that mark important dates, like baby's first Christmas (1980 and 1982), the Atlanta Olympics courtesy of my sister, the new Millennium, some of religious nature and some crafty ones, a dog one, a Harpers Ferry (from a Girl Scout visit by Daughter#2) one and then a few made by the kids in school over the years. We have an Angel that sits on the top of the tree and we finish off with some garland of popcorn and cranberries.

Snow: love it or hate it? I love snow - in moderation, of course. I love watching ti fall and how quiet everything is. Makes everything look beautiful. Hate to shovel it, of course.

Can you ice skate? I can although not that well anymore. When I was younger and lived in the wilds of New Jersey (yes NJ has some gorgeous undeveloped areas in the north), I use to ice skate a lot. Not in any fancy rink, but on frozen ponds and reservoirs. There was a Girl Scout camp not far from us where we use to go to skate most of the time. Of course it wasn't open during the winter so only the locals went there. I remember we use to go there without any parental supervision whatsoever. It was left to us (mostly preteens) to test to make sure the pond was frozen enough to hold us. Our usual testing methodology was to find the biggest rock we could find and hurl it out onto the ice. If it didn't go through, we figured we were could to go. Can you picture that happening these days?

What is your favorite holiday dessert? Give me that Apple Pie, warmed up with Vanilla Ice cream on top.

What is your favorite holiday tradition? We watch "One Magic Christmas" every Christmas Eve.

Candy canes: yum or yuck? They're not bad, but take to long to eat. I get tired of them about a third of the way through. I don't usually buy any.

Favorite Christmas show? A Christmas Carol. Oh that we could all be visited by the three ghosts and s the benefit from the lessons they can teach us.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Today's Prompt - Holiday Movie Scenes

There is no one in the world, as my kids will attest, who loves a good holiday movie more then yours truly. I'll start watching them on Thanksgiving Day (Miracle on 34th Street) right on through New Years. I love them all. Lets face it, they all come out for the good in the end and whats not to like about that? Lets go to the video tape and look at some of my favorite scenes:

Love Actually
Favorite scene has to be Jamie (Colin Firth) proposing to Aurelia (Lucia Moniz) in the restaurant where she is working. I could watch that scene over and over. Very magical and from the heart. Second favorite scene is the school pageant and Joanna Anderson (Olivia Olson) singing "All I Want for Christmas". That girl can sing. If you ever watched the movie with the Directors comments on he said that she was so good that they had to dub in breath sounds to make it more believable that a 10 yr old (I think that was her age) actually sang the song.

One Magic Christmas
Favorite scene is where Ginny Grainger (Mary Steenburgen as the Mom) finds the letter that Abbie (Elisabeth Harnois as the Grainger daughter) has brought back from the North Pole given to her by Santa Claus. He tells Abbie that the letter will help her Mom make her dad all better (The dad had been shot and killed). The letter was written to Santa by Ginny when she was Abbie's age (6) and still believed in things like Santa Claus. Gets me every time. The list of toys in the letter are from a much simpler time. A Mister Potato Head was one and it always makes me smile.

The Polar Express
It took me a while to finally watch this movie. The whole digital capture/re-skin the characters took a while to get use to. The scene I like the best is at the end, where the narrator (The Hero Boy) explains that only true believers can hear the bell (a gift off of Santa's sleigh that was given to the boy as a gift from Santa) and how over time all his friends and eventually even his younger sister, could no longer hear the bell. Oh that we could all still hear the bell.

Miracle on 34th Street
The 1947 version with Natalie Wood, Maureen O'Hara and Edmund Gwen is my favorite version. There are two scenes that I love in this movie (actually more, but I'll limit myself to two). The first is where Santa first directs a Macy's shopper to another store to find that hard to find toy - a fire engine for her son. His talk to his Mother about where to find the fire engine and for how much and how Christmas was about making the children happy and not who makes the sale is priceless. The second is at the hearing into Santa's sanity (oh so politically incorrect these days) and the scene where Santa's lawyer is reading about the U.S. Postal Service and how big and efficient it is. That always brings a laugh and even more so when the judge tells him to bring in all the evidence and the bailiffs bring in bag after bag of letters (21 in all according to IMDb) to Santa that were in the NYC dead letter office. Love it.

Another Christmas movie that I came late too. Your heart just goes out to this little girl who has lost her mother and her father is on the verge of losing their farm. My favorite scenes in this one is where the Minister reads an editorial from the local paper about her (Jessica Riggs played by Rebecca Harrell) and her belief in Santa Claus and her idea to get the injured Prancer back to him. The second is when her Dad reads to her from a book the article entitled "Yes Virginia There is A Santa Claus". Ok I'll throw in a third, but its a given when they release Prancer and he hooks back up with Santa (after thinking he jumped to his death - yikes) is always a tear jerker.

A Christmas Carol
I own the George C. Scott version of this classic although I always try to catch the 1938 version as well with Reginald Owen as Scrooge. It also stars practically the whole Lockhart family including a 16 yr old June Lockhart of "Lassie" and "Lost in Space" fame. Her father Gene, who play Cratchit also plays the judge in the 1947 Miracle on 34th Street. Actually my favorite scene comes early in the film when Scrooge's nephew Fred visits Scrooge at his office and gives a short speech on what Christmas means to him and mankind in general. I always use it in my Christmas Eve post.

That was fun reliving those memories and thanks to IMDb for help on dates and names. I hope some of you will jump in with some of your favorite scenes.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Straight No Chaser

Today the federal government was closed due to the snow storm that rolled through over the weekend. Closing the Government only happens once about every 20 years or so so it's an event when it happens. Having traveled out today, I can see why they did. Even some of the more major roads were in less then great condition. Like they had been plowed once and then forgotten. Forget the side roads. People wouldn't have been able to get out of their neighborhoods. It really didn't matter all that much to me as I had already arranged to have the day off before the storm. One of the reasons I did was to attend a performance of Straight No Chaser at the Birchmere. SNC came to fame a few years back as the a cappello group from Indiana University with their You Tube rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas. It's embarrassing to admit I've lived in this area on and off (mostly on) since the 60s and its my first trip to the Birchmere. It's a very well known local venue and a number of well known stars have come through there on their way to the top. It's open seating and you are seated in the order you show up. First come first served. Its nice you can enjoy a drink from their bar as you wait until they open the seating area. After you are seated you have about an hour and a half to eat before the show starts. Ann and I both had the prime rib, which was surprisingly good. I also had the bread pudding with bourbon sauce for desert. Very tasty indeed. The show was highly entertaining. The guys put on a good show. They combined their well known holiday favorites with tunes like "Stand By Me". They rocked the crowd and gave two encores. They stayed and signed autographs afterward although we passed on that aspect. I do have to go into work tomorrow after all.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Shoveling Fool

Today's entry will be short and sweet with a few pictures thrown to help tell the story. Today I spent most of my day trying to dig out of 20+ inches of snow. I shoveled two hours in the morning, broke for lunch and shoveled two more hours in the afternoon and for that I got the driveway cleared. I still have to do the sidewalks and our front porch so I envision another 2 plus hours tomorrow.

Lets recap. This was yesterday:

First thing this morning Ann carried our dog Rosie out to the road for a walk as the snow was too deep for her (Rosie) to make it on her own. Ann's foot prints are along our driveway, not yet cleared.

After four hours of shoveling, our driveway now looks like this. I just know the plows will be around tonight and block the end of the driveway again.

Between the before and after, there was a lot of this:

After I was done, we let Rosie trot down the driveway. As you might guess, it's still pretty slippery, but basically she approved of it enough to do her business. Success comes packaged many different ways.

Now I'm off for a long winter's nap.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Welcome to My Blizzard

I'm sure most people have heard that the eastern US is getting hit with a major snowstorm. Living in the Washington DC area, I think we got the worst of it. Just over 24 inches of the white stuff. That's almost unheard of around here. Its probably been over 20 years since we had a storm like this. While its pretty to look at, especially when the outside Christmas lights came on at dusk and it made the bushes look like they were covered in cotton, I dread shoveling it tomorrow. There was no sense in trying to shovel today what with it snowing so hard and the strong winds. It would have been a struggle I couldn't win. So what did it look like? This is a picture of our deck about 10:00AM this morning. There was about 8 inches then.

Looking across the street during the height of the storm. Its about noon.

Another picture of our deck about 1:00 PM.

Although you can't really tell from this picture, it's still snowing out and another 4 to 6 inches still to come.

Another shot from the road in front of our house. I loved the way the snow clung to the trees.

The snow nearly buried our bushes.

I'm sure tomorrow's entry will be about how tired and sore I am from shoveling unless our neighbor a house or two down decides to clear everyone's driveway with his snow blower. Hoping!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Let It Snow!

Right now we are under a Winter Storm Warning. Predictions range from 10 to 22 inches depending where you live. While people in Buffalo would take such things in stride, here in northern Virginia, its blizzard conditions to us. We're fascinated by snow. Sure we get some every winter, but is usually small amounts which melt within a day or two. This much snow is a novelty to us. We haven't had a big storm in several years now so we're long overdue. The fact that it is coming on a Friday night after rush hour has quelled the panic somewhat. No morning commutes to fret about. Still Virginians have done their usual grocery store rush to buy mass quantities of bread. milk and toilet paper. The three necessities, apparently, if you're going to be cooped up for a day or two. The snow started about 8:00 tonight and is suppose to continue into Sunday morning. It will compliment the feel of Christmas and look dazzling under every one's lights. Not so good for the merchants who were hoping for a big Saturday and Sunday full of Shoppers rushing to finish their shopping. I can hardly wait to see what our world will look like come tomorrow morning under a blanket of white. Maybe the snow will be still around for Christmas.

Our meeting on the west coast actually ended on time and I was able to switch flights to catch the red eye home. This time we had a wide body 767 instead of the flying tube of a 757. Still the plane was filled to capacity. Every single seat filled. I managed an aisle seat so that wasn't to bad. It was full enough that they were telling the people that were the last to board to forget about overhead bin space and made them check their bags. They didn't look to happy about that, but frankly it would have been chaos and long waits if they didn't do that. Those people would have been opening every bin looking for a space, blocking the aisles and making a nuisance of themselves. At least United didn't make them pay. When I fly, I like to listen to the ATC calls. I heard our flight transferred to Albuquerque, fell asleep in time to hear us transferred to Washing Control. Somehow listening to the co-pilot tell the Air Traffic Controllers "Ta-Ta" as they were handed off as somewhat amusing. Not something they teach in pilot school, I'm sure. I'm glad I manged to switch flights, otherwise I'm not sure I would have gotten home on time or at all. Probably diverted somewhere else due to the snow or the flight cancelled. What fun that would have been. Instead I can relax, lean back and enjoy the beauty of it all.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

One Day to Go

Two days down and one day to got. Sitting through 9 hours of PowerPoint presentations is just pure hell. Make it all about engineering processes and you double the pain. I have no real involvement in the today's or tomorrows presentations. More there as a referee making sure that our side doesn't impose new requirements on the Contractor and not allowing the Contractor to cry foul where none exist. Its a matter of getting from one break to the next. Occasionally looking up to make sure the meeting is still on track. Really the only thing to look forward to was the food. So lets get down to the food rundown:

Breakfast: You basic pastry and muffins. No donuts, Bagels that should be embarrassed to call themselves bagels. Definitely LA could learn a thing or two from NY about making proper bagels. The upside is there is plenty to go around. Coffee is overflowing and kept hot. Frankly I don't care since I'm not a coffee drinker. Water and juice are available, but for those of us who get our caffeine through soft drinks, where are the Cokes? Pepsis? I'd give breakfast a "C".

Lunch: One of the IPT Leads apparently loves a Russian restaurant close by so we had Russian food for lunch. Two different salads, two different meats (lamb and chicken), some sort of meat pastry and bread. Very tasty and very different. Plenty to eat, it was warm and more or less on time. I give it an "A". Definitely something a little different and not the typical working lunch of Italian pastas or sub sandwiches.

Dinner: Oh the obligatory "social" where the Contractor and Government teams are suppose to mingle and bond and its all good for the program. Of course what usually happens is the Government people mingle with the Government people and the Contractor people mingle with the Contractor people. The social was at a Mexican place of some repute or so we were told. We're from the east coast so what do we know? Anyway it was more about drinks and appetizers. I lucked out and sat by a guy who was celebrating the birth of his first two grandchildren and who bought the first two rounds. Score! The appetizers were good and plentiful. Certainly no need for dinner. Two different versions of southwest spring rolls. Chicken pot stickers and steak quesadillas. Overall a pretty good time, even if I got stuck talking to China Lake engineers about their motorcycles. Overall a "A-"

I did manage to change my flight home and will be on the red eye tomorrow night instead of waiting until Friday morning to fly home (and spending a whole day on a frigging plane). Looking forward to going home.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Five Years Ago - Nothing

I'd love to write about something special that happened five years ago, but dang if I remember anything specific from that year. The kids were all out of college by then. The girls weren't married yet. I'm drawing a complete blank. Maybe I can try again next year.

I don't know how road warriors do it. This traveling thing gets old fast. The flights are the pits. The days roll into one meeting to another, eat dinner and roll into bed. Rinse and repeat. You start to learn more about your co-workers then you really want to know. The only upside is trying new places to eat and the snacks provided by the meeting hosts. I could get use to having treat day five days a week. I'd also weigh over 200 lbs. Fat and slow. Trying to rearrange my flight home to get home earlier. Hope I can swing it. Time for bed.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Why I Hate Traveling

This week I'm in LA on business. Looking after the public trust as it were. But frankly I'm over the whole traveling thing. When I was younger, I looked forward to traveling on business. Going to new places, eating out, getting out of the office. It was all great. Now it's just a drag. Flying is a big part of it. Flying these days just sucks the life right out of you. It begins with having to get to the airport ridiculously early to check in. Check in usually involves long lines, the first of many you'll encounter. The next line is getting through security. The endless back and forth to get to the front of the line. It's like waiting for a ride at Disney World without the fun ride at the end of it. Not to mention having to strip down and emptying pockets and trying to sneak that bottle of eye drops through. Next up is the airplane. I flew out on a Boeing 757. Also known as the cattle car. It's not a wide body and features 6 across seating. Maybe its just me, but the seats seem to be getting narrower. Nothing like spending 6 hours on a plane stuffed next to two other guys with no leg room and no elbow room. Every time I fly these days, it seems that the plane is full. I mean really full. Like no empty seats full. An lo they had the heat on for sure. That was one hot airplane. Of course everyone tries to bring as many bags on board as they think they can get away with. The fact that airlines are charging to check bags does nothing to cut down on this practice. It seriously delays both the loading and unloading of the aircraft. Idiots all. I can hardly wait for the flight home. I just hope they have good snacks at my meeting tomorrow.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Cards

Today was the day when I sat down to do our Christmas cards. It seems like a large task looming ahead, but by the time I actually sit down and do them, its not too bad, maybe even a bit pleasant. We're not ones to put together the dreaded Christmas letter. Mostly I just sign our names, but to a few, I'll jot down a few notes. Letting those few know what we've been up to. Even though we don't have that many people we send cards to, we had three different boxes of cards this year. Ann always gets a box through our church and I always get one or two boxes to send our less religious friends. Once I finally get into the actually signing/addressing/stuffing envelope process, what makes it bearable is the memories each name in the address book draws forth. The first card I do goes to my best friend growing up in Maryland. We lived a few house apart, swam on the same neighborhood summer swim team, went to the same high school, went to the beach together and had more then one crazy drinking escapade together. He still lives not that far away, but we never get together anymore. We just sort of drifted apart. Then there are my two fraternity brothers that I send cards to. I haven't seen them in years, but the good times we shared in school makes me want to still reach out and touch them this time of year. There are our relatives, of course, but also two nannies that lived with us as the kids grew up. They did a wonderful job with the kids and its nice to remember them. They both have families of their own now. I guess the cards kind of symbolize the whole Christmas time of year. The time when we think of those present and past who have touched our lives and made our world better for it.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Christmas Tradition

Pulling one from the writing prompt of the day, I'll talk about a Christmas tradition we have. It's not really an odd one, but beloved it is. Every Christmas Eve we'll gather around the TV and watch "One Magic Christmas". I can't really remember when we started watching this particular movie. It came out in 1985 and stars Mary Steenburgen, Gary Basaraba, Harry Dean Stanton and Elisabeth Harnois as Abbie. I'm not sure the movie did all that well when it was released as it was over shadowed by another holiday movie released at the same time - "Santa Claus", which starred Dudley Moore. It was a bigger budget movie and was marketed much more heavily. I originally discovered the film based on a review in the Washington Post that gave it high marks. As anyone in my family will attest, I'm a sucker for a Christmas movie. A brief summary from IMDB:

Gideon, a Christmas angel, is sent, by Santa, to help Ginny Grainger. Ginny is a cynic, and she hates Christmas. She and her family (husband, Jack and two kids, Caleb and Abbie) have fallen on hard times, making it even harder to believe in anything that can't be seen. With help from Abbie, and a trip to see Santa Claus himself, can Gideon find a way to make Ginny believe again?

What I particularly like about the film it employs the "if one things changes, then the future changes along with it". Ginny gets to change a series of catastrophic events, by the mere purchase of a camp stove. It's hard to go into much detail without getting into spoilers, but if you're looking for a movie to help you get into the spirit of Christmas, then this is a movie I highly recommend. And know come Christmas Eve, I'll be along with Gideon as he gets his assignment from Santa Claus to go help bring the spirit of Christmas to the Graingers. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Decorating for the Season

I never know whether to hate or to love holiday decorating. I usually love when it's all finished, but just thinking about it drives me to despair. It just seems like a task that will take forever. At some point though you just have to bite the bullet and get it done. First to go up are our outside lights. Putting up the outside lights has gotten considerably easier over the years with the introduction of the net lights. Much quicker then trying to put up individual strings of lights and they look better too. I do have a problem with my particular house though. Except for the major appliances like the hot water heater and the furnace, I swear the rest of the house is all wired on one circuit. And this one circuit seems to be a bit of a princess and will trip the circuit breaker fairly easily. Over the years I've been able to figure out what I can do and can't do, but it can be touchy. Another complaint with my house is there are no outside outlets on the front of the house. Bad planning there. This means I have to run extension cords from the back of the house or from the garage. It takes me about 2 hours to complete and in the end it looks like this:
Next up is to tackle the tree. We always opt for a real tree. In my mind no artificial tree can measure up. We buy our tree at a local nursery. Very different from my youth when I use to trudge into the woods and cut down a tree for our family. Over the years we've had a variety of trees from Scotch pines, to Douglas firs to our current Frazier fir. We've had that these last two years and we've been quite happy with them. Decorating the tree use to be a big family event. I would put on the lights and the kids would put on the bulbs and other decorations. Each child was designated a certain section for their ornaments. You know like the ones they make is school with their picture on it. We still have them and hang them up every year. Since the kids are grown now, its hard getting any help at all. This year I got the lights out to put on the tree only to find out that two of the strings were burned out. Not exactly the kind of start to get one motivated. As it happened it was the day we were having our first snowfall so out into the snow I went. I was considering switching to LED lights this year since they are cheaper to run and last forever, or so they say. My burned out lights gave me the push to do it or would have if they had had any more in stock. Oh well maybe next year. I did manage to get 450 new regular lights for $12 so all wasn't lost. I finally got the lights on the tree and called it a day so I could go watch some college football. A man has to have his priorities. The following day the tree was completed. Ann helped a bit in the morning and the The Son and I finished it off. So there was a bit of help. The Son decorating the tree:

Here I am trying to detangle something or other. It's not Christmas if you don't have to detangle lights or snowflakes or whatever.

The final touch is putting up some garland consisting of popcorn and cranberries. I'd like to tell you they were real, but such is not the case. We're not that crafty or crazy.

We also out up some lighted garland on our fireplace mantel and hung up a lighted wreath. I'll try to get a picture of that up soon.
What do you do to decorate for the holidays?

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Last night Ann, The Son and I headed downtown to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra at the Verizon Center. Its been a concert I had been looking forward to since their tour was announced. Not only that, but I believed I had scored some seats close to the stage. The evening started out somewhat auspiciously, however. The plan was for Ann and I to take the Metro from Springfield and meet up with The Son in Crystal City. As we pulled into the Crystal City station, however, two gentlemen with suitcases rose to exit the train in front of us and took their sweet time in doing so, so as I reached the door, I heard the familiar refrain "Doors Closing". That's right, the doors closed before we could get off and the train pulled away. We got off at the next station and managed to contact The Son who got on the next train and we hooked up at Pentagon City. Once we were all together, the rest of the trip downtown was uneventful. Once we got downtown, we began to look for somewhere to eat. I had gotten a few suggestions from a fellow blogger (thanks Zan), but didn't have time to research her suggestions. Right across from the Verizon Center was a Legal Seafood. That sounded good to everyone so we headed on in. We were seated promptly and began looking over the menu. It all sounded good to me and since this an outing of sorts for us, I decided we could do it right and get appetizers and deserts as well. The Son ordered mussels and I ordered 1/2 dozen oysters. James, our server, brought me an assortment, 2 from Oregon, 2 from NJ and 2 from Cape Cod. The Cape Cods were the best of the lot. Its been a while since I've had oysters and man were they good. I finished off those and followed with a seafood casserole and Boston Creme Pie for desert. With dinner over, we headed across the street to the arena. There was an incredibly long line to get in. They didn't seem to have but 2 doors open, which seemed pretty dumb given the large number of people waiting to get inside. Once we were inside, we had no idea which direction to head. Our seats were on the floor so all the permanent signs for seat sections were of no use to us. We had to ask an usher for help and she got us heading in the right direction. Our seats were as good as I had hoped. Maybe 8 to 10 rows back. Settling in, we overheard others talking about how many times they had seen TSO. Seems someone behind us had seem them 7 times over the years. The show was a little late getting started as most shows do it would seem, but it was definitely worth the wait. TSO puts on one of the most incredible shows I've ever seen. We were close enough to the stage that when the pyros went off, we could feel the heat. The first half of the show was their holiday music, which was as good as ever. The second half was some of the music from their new Night Castle CD, which turned out better then I had been expecting. They finished up with with Christmas Cannon, which I think is about my favorite piece that they do. To you give you a bit of the flavor of the event I'll leave you with two videos I shot during the concert. First up, the Wizard in Winter:
Well maybe not. The video wouldn't upload. Instead a picture of the The Son enjoying his mussels.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Concert Week

Well Bah! Humbug! Here it is and I missed the second day of posting for Holidailes. What a way to start. Just plum forgot about it. Obviously my memory isn't what it use to be or at least not that I remember. :-)

This week is concert week for Ann and I. Monday night we saw "Jersey Boys" down at the National Theatre and tonight we will make our way down to the Verizon Center with The Son to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

I've been wanting to see "Jersey Boys" for a while now. I've been a fan of the 4 Seasons for a long time dating back to the days when I was a Jersey Boy myself. Not enough of a fan to spend hundreds of dollars to go to NY to see it on Broadway, but a fan. I finally saw that a touring company was bringing the show to Washington and I couldn't wait to buy tickets. That is until I saw the prices. Not that they were outrageous by theatre standards, but theatre tickets do not come cheap. So I hem and hawed and didn't buy tickets when they first were available. I procrastinated some more and it wasn't to a few weeks ago that I finally bit the bullet and got us tickets. As Monday approached. we couldn't decide either how to get down to the theatre. Take the Metro? Drive? As it turned out, a person in our vanpool had just been down to the National a few days before, loved the show, but told us how it took an hour just to get out of the parking garage after the show. I wanted to take the Metro based on that, but Ann wanted us to drive so drive we did. Getting in was not a problem, A little traffic getting over the 14th Street bridge was all. Right before turning onto Pennsylvania Ave, we saw a presidential motorcade roar on by. That was kind of neat. So we parked down on level 4 of the nearest parking garage and walked about a block to the theatre. Our tickets were in the very last row of the orchestra, but the National isn't a big theatre so we had an excellent view of the stage. I wanted to reserve drinks for us at intermission, but when I approached the bar I discovered I had no wallet. I remember taking it out of my pants to pay for parking but then I couldn't remember if I had laid it on the seat between my legs or put it somewhere else in the car while I attempted to park (Backed in). My biggest fear was leaving it on the seat between my legs meaning it would have fallen out of the car when I got out. The idea of my wallet going missing and/or stolen kind of freaked me out. But the show itself was great. All their great songs and a little background on the group, how they came to be and the stories behind the songs etc. Very enjoyable and I would recommend it to anyone. My wallet turned up in the car so the evening ended well. And we zoomed right out of the garage, No waiting at all. We were home in no time.

We will definitely be taking Metro to the Verizon Center tonight though. The plan is to meet up with The Son at the Crystal City stop, take Metro down to the Verizon Center, have dinner somewhere in Chinatown and then go to the concert. We saw TSO about three years ago as a gift from Daughter#2. The show was incredible. I've been wanting to see them again ever since. Ann has balked so we haven't gone, but this year I was really up for it. Now that I have pushed it, I am sure the bulk of the concert will be from their new CD just out - Night Castle. From what I can gather, it is not Christmas related as their first couple of CDs were. That and the music is very dark so we shall see. I've always thought of them (TSO) as being Christmas related and given the time of year what I want to hear, but I'll withhold judgement until afterward. Either way it should be a fun night.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Holidailes 2009

This is my third year to participate in Holidailes where bloggers are asked to update their blog every day for a month. I'm looking forward to joining in again this year for two reasons. I usually find some new blogs every year that I didn't know existed and look forward to following as we start the new year. The second is a bit more selfish in that it exposes my blog to a much larger audience then I could ever hope to drum up on my own. I typically get a big jump in readers in December over the rest of the year.

I don't have a Cast of Characters listed on my blog so let me introduce everyone that you might run across on these pages. I'm Frank, author and creator of Ready.....Row. I'm a 50ish Federal Worker who resides in Virginia and works in southern Maryland. I have been reading blogs for quite a while and it seemed like fun so with a little encouragement, mostly from Beth of So the Fish Said, I set up this blog. This is my third year of writing this blog. As the title of my blog might indicate, my main hobby is rowing. I belong to two rowing clubs in the northern Virginia area. I've been rowing since 1995. I got into rowing via my oldest daughter, who was a coxswain on her high school and college teams and still coxes occasionally for a rowing club in CT. I row in 8+s and 4+s primarily when racing in Masters events and I also row a single for fun and exercise although this year I raced a single for the first time. When not rowing, I also like to bike and I have been know to brew my own beer from time to time.

Others you will run into here:

Ann - Wife of 33 years who puts up with me.

Daughter#1 - Our oldest child currently living in CT with her husband. Currently working on a nursing degree. She graduated from Ohio University with a degree in Journalism, which to date hasn't quite produced a paying job. hence the work on the nursing degree.

The Twins:
The Son - Twenty something IT Geek. Graduate of Radford University. Only one still living close to home. Video gamer obsessed.

Daughter#2 - Twenty something VA Tech grad living out in the Shenandoah valley with her husband also named Matt and their dog Gracie, known as the Black Demon. She is an environmental planner and current University of Florida grad student. Former soccer player extraordinarie.

Rosie - Our 15 year old mini schnauzer mix. Obtained through a schnauzer rescue organization when she was 9. Bottomless pit when it comes to eating.

If you're reading this, I hope you take the opportunity to come back over the next month and see what this crew is up to.