Friday, December 31, 2010

Fender Bender

It's been relatively quiet since Christmas. That goes for home cooking too. We've barely have had any food in the house to cook. We've been going out a lot lately. Apparently so is everyone else. Last night we decided to go out for dinner and the first three places we went to all had 50 minutes to an hour wait. What? On a Thursday night? What is wrong with you people.

I did finalyl make it to the grocery store and frankly I wished I hadn't. I ran in and did my shopping. Came out and got in my van. Looked left and right and in my rear view mirror. All was clear or so I thought and started to back out - right into the side of a pick-up truck. Somehow the driver had managed to pull in behind me after I had checked right and left and the way she had pulled behind me when I checked my rear view mirror, the cab of the truck was out of my line of sight and the bed of her pickup was below my rear window level so I couldn't see it. She was quite upset and crying. It was her husband's truck and she said he didn't want her to take it to the store, Why she did then I have no idea. The damage to both vehicles was minor, but needs to be fixed. More so on her truck then my van. This is what the rear bumper on my van is suppose to look like:

This is what the damaged side now looks like. At first I wasn't going to have it repaired. It's more cosmetic damage then anything. After talking to my insurance company though, I've decided to get it repaired. Parking lots are such a pain in the ass.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Follow Up and Things

In a follow up to yesterday's post, Maryland gave Coach Friedgen a proper send off by beating East Carolina 51-20. I was happy to see plenty of Maryland fans had brought along "Thanks Ralph" signs. I'm glad his team was able to send him out on a high note. The team has a lot of young talent. Ralph didn't leave the cupboard bare for the next coach. Things should be bright for next year if the new coach is any good at all. Maryland has said they want to name a new coach by January 4 - the official start of recruiting. Lets hope they stay on schedule.

Given the name of this blog you would think I would mention rowing every once in a while. Well it is winter and the temperatures have been below freezing for an unimaginable time for Virginia. For sure on water rowing is done until 1 April, weather permitting. So it's time for that all so popular winter conditioning. Like in most years past once our last race is over (1st weekend in November), I fall off the wagon during the rest of November and most of December only to try and drag myself back out of the fitness abyss. I have dug my erg out of Daughter#2's old bedroom put on a new handle and did my first 5,000 meter indoor row yesterday. It was painfully slow, but not unexpected given the long layoff. It's just about getting a bit faster and stronger with each workout. I'll be doing another 5,000 meter row tomorrow. If I manage anything close to respectability for my age, I will certainly post it here.

Today was also my last workday for the year. I'm off until Monday and low is the work backed up. That first week back is going to be pure hell. Retirement is sounding better all the time.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

End of an Era

Tomorrow marks the final game for Ralph Freidgen as coach of the Maryland Terrapins. His team will face the East Carolina Pirates in the Military Bowl in nearby RFK Stadium. He was fired after refusing to retire by the brand new Athletic Director Kevin Anderson. That after Anderson declared The Fridge would be back next year. Anderson comes from a similar position at Army. Army! Well qualified I'm sure. Ralph deserved much better then how he is being treated by his alma mater. He was just voted Coach of the Year in the ACC after what I believe was the second biggest turn around in NCAA history. Who gets fired after being named Coach of the Year? The man took the Terps to 7 Bowl games in 10 years. Thats pretty remarkable given Maryland's football history. When it comes to football, Maryland isn't Texas. It isn't USC. They have a hard time recruiting the blue chip football players. Maryland is first and foremost a basketball school. I've been a Maryland season ticket holder for over 30 years now. I've seen the ups and downs of this program. More downs then up. Ralph was a bright spot during that run of years. The rumors have it that Mike Leach recently of Texas Tech fame will be the new head coach. That he will bring some sizzle to the program that was lacking under Ralph. That he will fill the seats and empty luxury suites at Byrd Stadium. He might ultimately be able to do that, but he will have to fill some big shoes to do it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Ah The Weather

Nothing like discussing the weather to make for a snoozefest of an entry. I was thinking of writing about the weather as I was walking the dogs at 7:30 this morning. I walked three of our four dogs at the same time to minimize the time I had to spend out side. While we didn't get the snow that those to the east and north of us got, we certainly got the wind and the cold. The cold as propelled by the wind became that stinging, biting cold that hurts your face just to be out in it. It was hard to judge which was producing more liquid - my watering eyes or my running nose. As we walked along I kept repeating my silent mantra to the dogs - "Please go....Please go..." Of course they took their own sweet time about it. By the time we got back home, my cheeks and chin were numb as were my hands. And to think I get it to do it all again tomorrow as the winds will remain and the temperatures will be dipping into the teens. Such fun and what a wonderful vacation time.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Aftermath

I hope you and yours had a wonderful Christmas. We did here at the old hacienda. While not quite the mayhem as when the kids were little. it still ended up being exhausting as ever. I was up at 6:30 to prepare the family breakfast (for 6 of us) while Ann handled all the dogs. Five of them in all. After a breakfast of bacon and eggs, toast and OJ. We retired to the living room to dive into the packages left to us by Santa Claus. As we started the only one not in attendance was The Son who, although up, was running behind and still at his condo. He did tell us to go and get started and so we did. We had opened almost all the gifts by the time he arrived, but we sat him down and let him open all his presents. By the end I think I can safely say that everyone was quite happy with the presents received. After all the presents had been opened, Daughter#1 and her husband retired to the kitchen to prepare appetizers for the family to enjoy while the Christmas dinner was cooking away. We enjoyed a game of sorts (the name escapes me) the The Son managed to win. By late afternoon the turkey was ready and The Son had made his garlic mashed potatoes and we sat down for dinner. After saying grace for the many blessings we enjoy as a family, we proceeded to stuff ourselves silly. That included apple pie ala mode and pumpkin pie with whipped cream for desert. All I wanted to do afterward was to lay around and take a nap before heading to bed. After tending to the dogs one last time thats exactly what I did. I was in bed by 9:30 and glad of it.

Because of the threat of a major storm heading up the coast, Daughter#2 and her husband decided to head home to Harrisonburg Christmas night rather then stay the night. They ran into the leading edge of the storm during the drive home. The pickup they were driving skidded on the slick surface about 30 minutes from home and hit a concrete wall. They were safe, but the truck was undrivable. A call was made to his parents to come rescue them. They finally made it home around midnight.

This morning Daughter#1's husband was kind enough to make us blueberry pancakes. That was the last thing he was able to do before being felled by the stomach virus that has struck Daughter#1, Ann and myself in the past few weeks. I feel for the guy as I know what he's going through. The good news it doesn't last more then 24 hours.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve Thoughts

I hope you and yours have a very Merry Christmas and I'll leave you tonight with a few Christmas quotes - the ones I used for the past last three years, which I love. They represent to me the meaning of Christmas.

"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 lyrics 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 as Tiny Tim observed: "God Bless Us Every One"

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Movies

I was going to write about our family Christmas traditions tonight, but frankly the day got away from me and now I'm a bit too tired to think and write about them. So I'll just talk about a subset of our Christmas traditions, which is Christmas movies. I'll be the first to admit I'm a sucker for a good Christmas movie. I'll watch them over and over every year without fail. The first comes out on Thanksgiving because the movie itself starts on Thanksgiving Day. Sometime between getting the turkey in the oven and starting to peel the potatoes, I'll watch "Miracle on 34th Street".

Miracle on 34th Street Poster

I watch the 1947 version with Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn and Maureen O'Hara. In black in white and not "colorized". Occasionally I'll watch the 1994 remake with Richard Attenbourgh, Elizabeth Perkins and Mara Wilson, but I prefer the original.

The next four I watch in no particular order. It's whatever strikes my mood at the time.
First up is "Love Actually". I love this movie. Love the stories, love the music, love everything about it. The scene at the end where Colin Firth proposes to Aurelia always gets to me.

Love Actually Poster

The next one I just watched tonight - A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott as Scrooge

A Christmas Carol Poster

I'll watch other versions if I see them om TV, but I happen to own the above version and I've watched it a lot. I've given a copy to Daughter#1 as well. I really like the 1938 version with Reginald Owen as Scrooge and Gene Lockhart as Cratchit, but it's hard to find on TV. Some trivia - Gene Lockhart also played the Judge in the 1947 version of "Miracle on 34th Street".

The next two movies took me a while to warm up to. I really didn't like them at first, but having watched them a few times I've really gotten to like them. The first of these is the "Polar Express".

The Polar Express Poster

It's the one Christmas movie I watch that I don't actually own. I have to catch it on TV. At first I didn't like the animation. It looked kind of creepy. However over time the message of believing and being able to hear the sleigh bell won me over. At times I think its a bit overdone and could have easily been shorten by 30 minutes, but thats just nit picking. Besides who doesn't like Tom Hanks?

The next movie, which I bought about two years ago is "Prancer".

Prancer Poster

At first glance it appears to be just another cheezy kid Christmas movie, but Rebecca Harrell's performance as Jessica Riggs will win your heart over. We should all believe as sincerely as Jessica. Watching her save Prancer as he in turns saves her will bring a tear to your eye.

This final movie is what the family gathers together to watch every Christmas Eve before we turn in for the night to await Santa's arrival. Even now that the kids are adults, we still watch it as a family. The movie - "One Magic Christmas".

One Magic Christmas Poster

It has sort of a "It's a Wonderful Life" twist to it. It's always interesting to contemplate how changing one small thing changes all that follows it. The scene where Mary Steenburgen (the Mom) reads the letter she wrote as a child to Santa that her own child has brought back from the North Pole is the high point of the movie for me.

What Christmas movies are your favorites?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Dog's Christmas

Today was my last day of work for a while. I don't have to commute down to my place of work until after the New Year. That being said there is always work to be done around the house. The first and foremost is taking care of our pack of dogs. We have four total.

The old lady of the Group: Rosie She turns 17 in February. She's a Schnauzer mix.

Mischief personified: Emily on the left Amy on the right. Miniature Schnauzers. They will turn 3 in February

And the only other male in the house besides myself: Scruffy. He's 11

All our dogs are rescues.

Ann and I take turns walking the dogs or at least letting them out to take care of business. Scruffy gets the longest walks as he's the biggest dog by about 30 lbs and he's also the easiest to walk. At 17, Rosie isn't that interested in walking. She's more about the treat waiting at the end of the walk. The twins can walk as far as Scruffy, but walking them is a disaster waiting to happen. If we run into someone, they go berserk with the barking, pulling on their leashes and carrying on. Their bark is just at the high pitch level thats it's like fingernails on a blackboard. No one wants to hear that. Especially first thing in the morning. So Scruffy gets the long walk. Since its currently Canadian weather here in Virginia, I limit the walk to one mile round trip. We walk to the local elementary school, which is a half mile away. This time of year school is in session so there are two crossing guards at the school. One always carries a treat for the local dogs. Obviously she is a dog person with three of her own. Scruffy eagerly awaits for her to dig into the pocket of her uniform to produce the prized treat. He gets a bit mystified on weekends or school holidays when we walk to the school and there isn't a treat waiting for him. Last week, after giving the Scruffy his treat, she said she had something for us. She went to her car and brought back this enormous chew bone. She told Scruffy he had to share it with his sisters. We placed it under the tree too hand out Christmas morning. Its for a Dog's Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Organization from Chaos

For years our kitchen pantry had been a thorn in my wife's side. She hated how it looked. She hated how disorganized it was. Hated how it was just a giant mess in general. You couldn't grab an item from the pantry without several other items falling down off the shelves. It was that bad. Of course not so bad that she was willing to take on a job she felt a bit overwhelmed by. Ann had been not so subtlety hinting to Daughter#1 that she would love it if she would take on the project. Its a project right up Daughter#1's alley what with her anal ways and all. Heck she has already sent us all itineraries for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. However Daughter#1 has been pretty busy with the move back home, starting a new job, coaching crew and starting back to school. But tonight after dinner she dived right in. Determined to get the job done before the rest of the family arrives on Friday. After the first few minutes I was drafted to help out. Shelves were emptied. Old stuff thrown out like the jar of oregano that expired sometime in the 1980s. Other things placed aside to be donated. Spices arranged alphabetically. Different things grouped together logically (i.e., things for baking, soups, oils, etc). In a little over an hour we had a decent looking pantry ready for the big cooking days ahead. Thanks Daughter#1. A look at the finished product. I just wished I had taken a picture of the mess before we started.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Fosters and Rescues

I mentioned in an earlier post, how we enjoy getting Christmas cards. How they help set the mood for the holiday and how it lets us reconnect with old friends, even those we haven't seen in years. The other day a card arrived and I didn't recognize the address. It had a Virginia return address but it was from a town I wasn't familiar with. Upon opening it, we discovered that it was from the woman who had fostered one of our dogs before we adopted him. Back in 2009 we had lost our miniature schnauzer Winifred after 17 years. We still had one dog, a schnauzer mix, Rosie, that we adopted through the Mid-Atlantic Schnauzer Rescue . Ann decided she was ready for a bigger dog. One that she could take walks with. Not that you can't walk with miniature schnauzers, but they can be, shall we say, a challenge at times. I thought a second dog would be good if nothing else to be company for Rosie. Because I'm allergic to some furry animals, cats especially, it was important to pick a breed that has minimal shedding. Schnauzers had filled that bill hence why we had picked that breed in the past. As it turned out I had been donating to a local rescue organization HART - Homeless Animal Rescue Team. Occasionally I would visit their page to see what dogs were available. I came across a dog that would seem to fit the bill. He was a terrier (low shedding) and mid-size (about 45 lbs) so Ann could have a dog to walk with. He was a Wheaton terrier. We ended up adopting him this past February. Here was Scruffy on his ride home

And trying out one of our dog beds.

Anyway back to the Christmas card. In it, the former foster asked how Scruffy was doing and how he had been a favorite foster of hers. She had fostered him for just over a year. It was obvious she missed him. She asked if we could send her a picture of him. So today we broke out the camera and took a few pictures of Scruffy in front of our Christmas tree.

Ann was off camera bribing him with a treat to look her way while I took his picture. This of course drew the attention of our other dogs. Thats Emily in this picture with Scruffy.

I hope she enjoys the pictures (we sent her three). My hat is off to those who take in these unwanted pets and foster them until they can find a forever home. It must be difficult giving them up when the time comes. She did a wonderful job with Scruffy. He 's about the most well behaved, laid back dog ever. We're so glad we found him and he us.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

What a Lousy Sports Town

Washington may be many things - the home city for the Federal Government, home to some great monuments and famous buildings. Not to mention the famous people that live and/or visit here. But Washington, when it comes to sports, is just plain rotten. Long gone are the glory days of Super Bowls and an NBA Championship. Washington's sports teams are mired in the bottom in just about every sport. The Redskins? Last. The Wizards? Last. The Nationals? Last. The Capitals seem to be the only franchise with a glimmer of hope, but seem to disappear come play-off time. Since December 3, Washington's NFL, NBA and NHL teams were a combined 0-17. (Thanks to Parker and Parker for that tidbit). The Caps finally won tonight breaking their 7 game losing streak. Thats just all around bad. The Redskins and Wizards both seem to have so many holes to fill it's not realistic to think they will be contenders anytime soon. The Caps have the talent. It's just a matter of bringing their A game come play-off time. The Nationals? Who knows. Certainly they have some promising young talent, but thats all it is - promising. Not proven. Plus they turned around and traded two of their more popular players in Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham. They have a "plan" supposedly, but who knows. It doesn't look all that promising for next year.

Another part of it is that we can't just lose gracefully. All season long we've been tortured with the Albert Hayneswoth debacle. Then the unseemly benching of Donovan McNabb. Over at the University of Maryland (within spitting distance of Washington), football coach Ralph Friedgen is being forced out after taking Maryland to 7 bowl games in 10 years. Then there was Gilbert Arenas and the gun affair. It's just crazy in this town.

Is it too late to ask Santa for a winning sports team for Washington?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Making A List and Checking It Twice

With Christmas just a week away, today was the day for Ann and I to sit down and see where we were in terms of getting our presents taken care of. We have set up an Excel file to track who is getting what. We try top keep a somewhat level playing field between the kids and the two sons in law. Our review showed that we had done a pretty decent job to date. There were a few smaller things that we had missed, but overall we look to be in pretty good shape. Heave a big sigh of relief. After checking our list and checking it twice, it was off to do our Christmas cards. Doing Christmas cards is sort of a mixed bag for me. I certainly enjoy getting them, but it can be arduous task if you let it be. I like to put on some Christmas music to set the mood and jump right in. We don't do a Christmas letter like a lot pf people do. Just a card with a friendly greeting. We also don't send out a large quantity of cards - maybe 25 to 30. The one with the longest distance to go goes to a relative in Largs, Scotland. It's also nice to reconnect with a number of my friends from college. The one time a year I do so (although Facebook has changed that a bit). It's always good to relive old times.

So gifts ordered and mostly wrapped. Cards are done. House is decorated. Now just the Christmas dinner to buy and we're good to go for the big day. Somehow it didn't seem as hard this year.

Friday, December 17, 2010

House Tour

In participating in Holiday Homes Tour 2010 hosted by Jen of Jen on the Edge fame. The idea is to show how you decorate your home for the Holidays. We don't really go overboard on decorating for Christmas. Mostly because no one in this household has a speck of Martha Stewart in them. And we're lazy. So there you go, but on to the tour. Lets start outside.

For decorating outside there has been no better invention then light nets. They look better then individual strings of lights and they are much easier to put up and save untold amount of time. What you see is 8 nets with another triangle net for our Holly tree. The lights look great with a little snow on them. I do the lights and Ann puts up the wreaths on our front door

We set our tree up in the living room. This is a Douglas fir bought from a local nursery. Picking out a tree usually takes us over an hour as we literally look at every tree on the lot. This year we found our tree in less then 15 minutes. Pretty amazing for us. I put up the lights and in theory the rest of the family puts the ornaments on the tree. With adult children this becomes somewhat problematic. We couldn't arrange a convenient time for everyone to get together so Ann and I ended up decorating the tree ourselves. We assign a section of the tree to each of our three children, which contain the various ornaments they made in elementary school plus each has an ornament from their respective colleges - Daughter#1 - Ohio University, The Son - Radford University and Daughter#2 - Virginia Tech. I also have an ornament from my alma mater - Auburn University. This year Daughter#1 has the left side of the tree, The Son has the middle and Daughter#2 has the right side of the tree. Daughter#1 has already wrapped a fair number of presents which are now residing under the tree waiting for Christmas morning.

The only other room we really decorate is our family room. We add lighted garland to the fireplace mantel and a lighted wreath. Add in a Nutcracker or two and a couple of poinsettias and you have a festive room. Even more so if there is a fire going in the fireplace. Currently I'm out of wood so that is a bit of the problem. Back in the days we would always have these somewhat shady looking dudes from mid Virginia or West Virginia driving around the neighborhood in their loaded pickups full of firewood to sell. They have all but disappeared in the last three years. The only thing I can think of is so many of my neighbors have switched their fireplaces over to gas that it's not worth their while to try and go door to door selling the wood. I sure could use some though.

That ends my tour. Fell free to drop by anytime this month as I will be updating everyday as part of Holidailies. I hope you and yours have a Merry Christmas and the best during the New Year.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

First Snow

Today was the first measurable snow we've had since last winter. It snowed about 6 hours and left us with about 3 inches. Not quite Buffalo standards, but enough to cause concern among those who either hate to drive in snow or those that are bad at it. I love watching snow fall. It evokes such a sense of quiet and peace. It doesn't hurt that it snowed so close to Christmas. It fits right in with the spirit of the season. Who knows as cold as it has been, the snow might stick around long enough for us to have a white Christmas. Those are few and far between here in Virginia. Because it started to snow after I was already at work, I was worried about how long the commute home would be. Epic delays are not uncommon around here whenever it snows. Add in the fact that there was only two of us in the vanpool today, I figured I was due to be the driver on the way home. As it turned out, the other guy, much younger then myself, volunteered to drive both ways. That made my day. I promptly fell asleep coming and going leaving the driving to him. As it turned out, the commute home took us about 2 1/2 hours with a stop for gas thrown in. Frankly I thought that was great time given the circumstances. Of course my car was covered in snow when we got to the commuter parking lot where we leave the van. It was a fairly dry snow so it was easy to clear off without getting too much snow all over my shoes. Ann called me on the way from the parking lot to say she had hired two teenagers to clear our driveway and sidewalks so score one for that. Our outside Christmas lights look great glistening from under the fresh coat of snow. It really is looking a lot like Christmas.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

12 Days of Christmas

Like most males, I shudder at the thought of going shopping. The trips to the mall, the wandering around, the endless looking and looking. Going from store to store. Having to park out in the boondocks, the crowds, the mayhem. Who needs that? Now what I do like is shopping on line. Give me a computer, a credit card and a shopping list and I'm good to go. Shopping on line is like the 12 Days of Christmas. I type in a few choice numbers and give them an address and just like that, presents ordered. Almost every day Santa disguised as the UPS guy or the Fed Ex guy pulls up to the house and unloads his Christmas treasures. It's like Christmas every day. To top it off, this year I have an elf working for me in the basement. I just turn my gifts over to her and she wraps them for me. That spares me that task plus my elf wraps things a whole lot better then I can. So this year I won't be up to 3:00AM doing last minute wrapping. Perhaps I can sit around and enjoy the specialness that is Christmas eve surrounded by family. Now wouldn't that be special?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Oh Baby It's Cold

As I sit here and write the temperature outside is a chilly 18 degrees. The wind chill is approaching zero. These temperatures may be par for the course for places like Minnesota or upstate New Your, but this is Virginia. It's not suppose to be this cold in December and certainly for not this long. All I can do is groan when I wake up in the morning and ask Ann what the temperature is. "It's 16 and the wind chill is 8" she gleefully intones. "Have fun on your walk". I grumble as I layer up hoping to keep the cold at bay. I harness up the twins and we're out the door. The wind is so cold and it stings my face. My eyes are watering and my nose running. All I want is for the dogs to go so we can get inside. Of course they don't cooperate. They are more interested in the squirrels running around them. So we walk and walk and walk some more. My hands are frozen. Eventually there is success and we quickly retreat to the warmth of the house. I'm in the house long enough to blow my nose and then begin round 2 as I harness up Scruffy and we head back out into the cold. Thankfully Scruffy is a lot more cooperative and we're out and back in a reasonable amount of time. We get to do it again in 4 hours. Spring can't come fast enough.

Monday, December 13, 2010

One Of Those Days

Ever have one of those days? You know the ones. Where the days starts out bad and just goes down hill from there. Today was one of those days. My first chore of most days is walking the dogs. The devious twins, aka Amy and Emily, go first. I try to get them out in that time between when the middle school bus has picked up its charges and when the elementary school kids begin their walk to their school. I do this to minimize the chance of actually running into anyone. The twins tend to go ballistic if they see any one (as terriers are want to do) and who needs that racket at 7:30 in the morning? Upon opening the garage door there at the end of our driveway walking passed our house was another person walking their dog. Clue in the barking, the yelping, the carrying on. As the Grinch noted: "The noise...noise...noise...noise..." I dragged the twins back in the house to wait a few minutes and tried again. This time with success. After walking all the dogs, I showered and was getting ready to leave the house when I got a phone call from Ann. She had gone to Mass and was calling to report she had a flat tire. Great. Luckily a few kind men offered to help her change the tire so I was off the hook for that one. Dodged one bullet. Then I was off for an appointment with my eye doctor. I'm having continuing problems with my eyes due to the fact that some of my lower eye lashes grow back toward my eye and scratch my eye. Today was a scheduled treatment where the offending lashes are literally burned out of existence. Sounds painful doesn't it? Actually that part isn't bad at all because your lower eye lid is numb. Now getting the shot in your eye lids to numb them - that's the painful part. That and they bleed like crazy. While waiting for the doctor, Ann calls and informs me that they tire has been changed. Great news! Except the spare is also flat or just about. Crap. The kindly gentlemen that help change the tire direct her to the nearest service station to get both tires fixed. I hang up and I'm then directed into an exam room and given three injections in each of my lower eyelids. It's as painful as I remembered. I'm left alone to give the shots a chance to work. And alone and alone. The doctor finally returns with an apologetic "Oh I forgot all about you!" Oh how nice. Three eyelashes from each eye meet their end and I'm released. Thank goodness. I now get another call from Ann who is sitting at Starbucks while the tires are being taken care of. Someone or something has tripped the alarm at our house and the police are on their way to investigate. She thinks she may have forgot to cancel our dog walker or maybe not. I finally arrive home and no police and no note. I assume that they found no forced entry and no one home and figured it was a false alarm. A bill should arrive from the county in a few days for that. Merry Christmas. Driving into the garage, I notice the door into the kitchen has blown open and thats what tripped the alarm. Not to self - make sure the door is securely shut before running off to appointments. The rest of the day in uneventful. The quiet before the storm. Just as we are about to sit down to dinner, The Son calls. A phone call from The Son is almost always bad news. Its just a matter of degree on how bad. Turns out his car battery is dead. He wants me to come take care of it. What? He wants to use our car (flat tires now having been fixed) to go to work in the morning. I tell him to call AAA and they will install a new battery for him. Grumbling ensues, but he agrees to do it. 30 minutes later he calls back. AAA has arrived, but they don't have the right battery for his car and will have to return to the shop and pick one up. Oh and by the way, they're showing 2 different types of batteries called out for his car and would I know which one is the right one? Of course I don't so they leave to get the one they do have and we're all praying it's the right one. AAA returns and all seems to be ok. We'll see come morning. The car will be sitting out all night during the coldest night so far. The wind chill is already down to 3 with 25 mph winds. We finish dinner and Ann and I immediately fall asleep in front of the TV. We're old. Its what old people do. We wake up and face the dreaded job of taking the dogs out for the final time before bed. Its cold. Its windy. We whine a lot about it, but we walk the dogs. Scruffy's business looks terrible. We get home and unleash the dogs. We notice an unsettling smell coming from the dining room. Apparently Scruffy isn't feeling well and the dining room has borne the brunt of his intestinal distress. I watch the dogs while Ann does the clean up. We are keeping our fingers crossed that he isn't all up night having problems. After all who needs another day like today?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Long Distance Romance

Daughter#1's husband Matt was here for the weekend visiting his bride and trying to make the most of their time together. Daughter#1 is living with us for the moment here in Virginia. Her husband is still living in Connecticut while trying to find a job in the Washington DC area so he can rejoin his bride. Watching them reminds me of my own long distance romance I did with my now bride, Ann.

I met Ann back in January of 1975. We were both just out of college and trying to make our way in the world. We both worked for the Government, but at different locations. I was living in Charleston, SC. Ann was living here in northern Virginia. We were both in an intern program and required to take a lot of classes as part of the program. The first was a 4 week course usually taken at Ft Lee, but occasionally offered elsewhere. Where Ann was working had a large number of interns and, therefore, it made sense to being instructors to her workplace rather then send a lot of interns off on travel for 4 weeks. They still had some open spaces in her class and I managed to get one of them. It made sense for me to take the class in northern Virginia as my family (Mom and Dad) lived in suburban Maryland at the time and I could stay with them while I took the class. I made a great first impression on the class as I was over an hour late the first day due to traffic. Nothing like getting off on the right foot. The days were long - 8 hours of classroom lectures. By the second week, during one of our breaks, Ann came up and introduced herself to me. Not that I hadn't noticed her before. She and her two friends were hard to miss. But being the shy clod that I was, it was well she made the first introduction. She invited me to join her and some of her friends at the hotel bar next to where the class was being held. The rest as they say is history. We got together everyday after class for drinks or dinner or a movie or just going to her apartment and watching TV. On weekends I would drive from my parents house to take her out. All to soon the class was over and I was back in South Carolina. We would talk on the phone during work hours as I was too poor to have my own phone in my apartment (remember this is way before cell phones). We planned our next class so we could take it together. This time a 3 week course in April. This one was also as her workplace and this time I stayed at a hotel close by rather then stay with my parents. Seeing her everyday first for 4 weeks and then for 3 weeks was like speed dating someone. You got to know them well pretty quickly. After the 3 week course, we decided we were a pretty solid boyfriend/girlfriend and made weekend plans to see each other when we could. Back in those days, the trip from Charleston, SC to Alexandria took 9 hours. The speed limit was only 55 and their were portions of I-95 that were not yet completed in North Carolina. It helped that I got let out early on Fridays if I gave blood. So every 6 weeks I would. That would get me to Ann's place by 10:00PM. Otherwise I'd roll in at 2:00AM Saturday morning. We'd have Saturday together and part of Sunday. I was usually back on the road between 1 and 3 PM. The drive back to South Carolina always seemed a lot longer then the drive up. We did the long distance dating for over a year. Most of the time I would make the drive up to see her, but occasionally she would make the drive down to see me. Rather she found a Navy CDR with his family still living in Charleston and the two of them would drive down using her car. I was finally able to arrange a job working where Ann worked and moved up in July on 1976. We were married that September. It's an anniversary hard to forget these days. We were married on September 11.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Holidailies 2010

Wow. I can't believe I haven't written anything here since the twins birthday in July. That is down right embarrassing. I'm glad December has rolled around and the chance to participate in Holidailies once again to get me writing. This is my fourth year to participate in Holidailes where bloggers are asked to update their blog every day for a month. As I stated last year at this time, I'm looking forward to joining in 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 having one was fun so with a little encouragement, mostly from Beth of So the Fish Said, I set up this blog. This is my fourth year of writing in 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 now coaches for one of the rowing clubs I belong to. I row in 8+s and 4+s primarily when racing in Masters events and I also row a single for fun and exercise. 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 34 years who puts up with me.

Daughter#1 - Our oldest child and who is currently living with us. She is working for a University Medical Hospital in Washington, DC while pursuing a Masters degree from Boston University online. 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 Masters degree. Her husband Matt is still residing in CT and trying to get a job down this way. He visits as often as he can.

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

Scruffy - Wheaton terrier. A rescue from the Homeless Animal Rescue Team (HART). A truly lay back dog in a house of chaos.

Amy and Emily - Affectionally referred to as "The Twins". 2 year old Miniature Schnauzers. Sources of endless energy. As mischievous a pair of dogs you will ever meet. Rescued from a West Virginia shelter in the middle of last year's record snowfalls.

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.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Happy Birthday!

Today is the 28th birthday for The Son and Daughter#2. Twenty-Eight years ago they were born about 7:30 AM at Alexandria Hospital. The Son was born first followed about 6 minutes later by his twin sister. Here is wishing both have a great day.

Speaking of Daughter#2, she and her husband stayed with us last night after they attended the Iron Maiden concert at Jiffy Lube Live (formerly Nissan Pavilion). After weathering a thunder storm it all apparently went well. Jiffy Lube Live? What a name.

We're having work done on the house. We've had the basement area, including the bathroom, repainted. Now we're having the wallpaper stripped off the dining room walls, prepped and painted. Next on the agenda is our bedroom. That's if Ann and I don't kill each other over what color it should be.

Practice continues for Sunday's Diamond States Regatta. I have practice tonight in both the Mixed 2X and the Quad (4X). I'm sure I'll be one tired camper come tonight.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Race Results and Mistaken Identity

So Daughter#2 wants to know how the races went on Sunday. Well good and bad. My boat came in 2nd out of two. Not surprising as we were racing a boat whose average age was 20 years younger. The margin of defeat was somewhat embarrassing though. The Son's 4+ also came in last, but a lot closer then my boat. The good? The weather was gorgeous. Sunny, not overly hot and a light breeze. Water conditions were wonderful. Who wouldn't want to row under those conditions? Also good? The club as a whole did really well. The Mens 8+ came in 3rd in a race where only 2 seconds separated the top 4 boats. The Womens 8+s came in 1st and 3rd. The Womens 4+s came in 1-2-3. The Women's Lightweight Quad came in 1st and our Mixed 8+ came in 1st. Quite a good showing. They served some ice cream after the racing was over, which The Son got to enjoy. Since my race was next to last, we chose to just return to the boathouse and not stop at Sandy Run. The Regatta was run out of Sandy Run. It was a good time for all, I think.

In other rowing related news, my Coach has asked me to row in a mixed Double (2X) with her at our next Regatta, which is Diamonds State in Middleton, DE. That takes place next Sunday. I've never entered a sprint race in a boat that small. We practiced this morning to see how thing might go. It wasn't hot, but Lord the humidity. I was soaked by the end. We did four 1,000 meter pieces. I was just exhausted by the end. I had also did the same thing the evening before, also in a Double. I don't think I was fully recovered or more likely, properly hydrated to do back to back practices like that. We have another practice in the Double scheduled for Sunday morning.

In a weird happening on Tuesday I was confused for the base taxi driver. Most of the guys that do the bulk of the driving for my van pool were out on Tuesday. Another driver took us to his office building just outside the base gates and then I had to drive the van onto the base. After dropping off the two remaining riders before proceeding to my building, this women hops in the van and asks to be taken to the base medical clinic. I was sort of taken aback and stunned and not quite sure what to do. I figured she must have had an appointment there and since she was walking with a limp, I figured it wouldn't hurt to take her considering the clinic is on the way to my building. As we drove along she was asking all these questions on where she could and couldn't be picked up by the taxi. It finally dawned on me that this women thought our van was the Base Taxi (they do use the same white 14 person vans although they are clearly marked with signs that say "Base Taxi" on them). I dropped her off without incident never really telling her that my van wasn't the Base Taxi. Weird.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

First Race and Other Topics

It appears that I've been absent for some time now. Nothing posted at all for June. That's embarrassing. I'd like to say I've been super busy and couldn't get around to it, but that's so not the case. Just a case of laziness. With this post hopefully I can get back on the wagon.

The rowing season is off and running. I've been sculling a single since early April and my other rowing club began practice in early June. Our first race is this Sunday on the Occoquan. The Occoquan Boat Club (OBC) is sponsoring the Occoquan Masters Sprints. I'll be racing in a Quad in the "E" age category. "E" = Avg age is 55-59. My main rowing club is primarily a sweep rowing club. We race in 8+s and 4+s. We only dabble in sculling boats like the Quad. So of course, I'm in the Quad. I'm in the bow seat and responsible for steering the boat while I row. Fun times that. We haven't had much practice time in the Quad(see statement about the club being a sweep rowing club). So far there is only one other boat in the Quad category. They're from Pittsburgh and Three Rivers Rowing. They are an "A" age category boat. I have no illusion of keeping up with guys 20 years my junior. I would just like to keep close enough that the race is respectable once the time handicap is taken into account. (The younger the average, the less time handicap you are awarded). Racing against us old guys, Three Rivers will have to give us a significant handicap. I just have no idea how much - 15 or 20 seconds? We'll see.

On to other topics. Daughter#1 has moved back in. The family got together and painted the basement room for her. Less you think she is living in some small, dank, dark basement be advised that the room is huge, fully carpeted, has its own full bath, a fireplace and sliding glass doors to the backyard. The room has 4 windows in addition to the glass doors. She's hooked up with cable and Internet so she's all set. She is also coaching the women in my rowing club who are in the competitive category. Its neat having her out on the water with me. In other even better news, she has landed a job with Georgetown University. Things are looking up. We just need to get her husband a decent job down here.

In other news, hell must have frozen over here because The Son has also joined our rowing club. Something I thought I would never see. I've been asking him for years and he's always said "No". I think the combination of his sister now being involved with the club, his old high school coach also joining this year and his utter boredom with running and using his Elliptical for exercise finally got to him. We've already rowed several times together in the same boat. It helps that he rows starboard and I row port. He rowed in high school so its not a new endeavor for him. I actually think he's getting excited about racing tomorrow. It will be his first race in over 10 years. I hope his boat does well.

So as not to make this overly long and use up all the news in one post (plus it's time for lunch - priorities people!), I'll get this posted. Hopefully it won't be another month and a half before the next post.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Boomerang Child

Like a fair number of adults my age. Ann and I have have been empty nesters for about 2 or so years now. Ever since The Son moved into his condo back in 2007. Being an empty nester has its good and bad points, but we have made the adjustment and have pretty much settled into our own routine. That has all changed as of yesterday. We've now joined another select group - parents of a boomerang child. As Wiki defines it, a boomerang child is one that has moved back in with their parents after a stint of living out on their own for a period of time. Our boomerang child is Daughter#1. She has been living in Connecticut with her husband for several years now. During that time she has obtained work and been subsequently laid off several times. She has worked part time gigs when available. The economy has hurt her and her husband pretty hard. He works in sales and a large part of his income is based on commission. The economy has taken a bite out of his commission income due to lower sales. With Daughter#1 out of work and with his lower salary, they have had a hard time making ends meet. Daughter#1 decided that she needed to go back to school as her Journalism degree wasn't bringing her much in the way of job offers. She has decided she wants to get into nursing. An honorable profession. Unfortunately, a degree in Journalism doesn't get you much in terms of prerequisites to get you into nursing school. In addition, Connecticut doesn't seem to offer as many alternatives in terms of getting into an accelerated nursing program. Virginia offers several alternatives for such a program. Therefore she decided to return home to work on her degree program. Her husband will be joining her shortly, we hope. He has been applying for jobs here in the Washington area and we're hopeful he'll land one soon.

It will be strange for a while having a kid back in the house full time. On one hand it will be nice having help with the dogs and she will also be joining my rowing club. She will be one of the coaches for the Women's competitive team. I know its something she enjoys doing. I just hope the women, who have been known to run off a coach or two in the past with their antics, treat her with some respect. On the other hand, Daughter#1 is notorious with using excessive amounts of hot water and wanting food items not usually on our shopping list. I'm sure it will all work out for the best in the long run. She's already had her first class at the local Community College (Chemistry) as she continues to work on those nasty preregs. I'll give her this, once she has an idea in her head she'll stay focused on it until it's complete. She's the most anal child I've ever known. She has a lot of work ahead of her, but I have confidence she'll manage it.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

It's a Sad Day in Washington

For sports fans here in the nation's capital, it is a sad day as the beloved Capitals, the best team in the NHL this year, laid an egg in the playoffs losing to the Club de Hockey Canadien - the Montreal Canadiens. The Canadiens were the 8th seed. Frankly it wasn't a fluke. Even though the series went 7 games, the Canadiens totally outplayed the Capitals though out the series. I think the loss certifies Washington as the worst sports town in the world. The Redskins - last place, the Wizards - last place. The Nationals - back to back 100 loss seasons. It certainly makes being a sports fan here a trial. Sigh.

On a lighter note, we got a new high def TV. Now we can watch our lame sports teams in sparkling 1080 clarity.

Another thing that makes me happy - Daughter#2 has decided to return to the pitch and play soccer. She joined a league in Harrisonburg. One of the things I miss, now that my kids are older, is watching them play their various sports. As the kids were growing up, particularly when they were in high school, our weekends were spent following the teams our kids were on be it Daughter#2's travel soccer team or her high school soccer team or the high school crew team that Daughter#1 and The Son were on Their regattas would literally last all day long from 8:00 in the morning to 4:00 or so in the afternoon and, in the bigger ones, do it all the same the following day. Anyway, I plan to travel out to the Valley to catch at least one of her games.

It's suppose to be a good weekend weatherwize so I'm hoping to both get out on the water and do some rowing and break out the bike for my first ride of the season. I just wish it would stay warm instead of this 80 degrees one day and 40 the next. A little consistency would be nice.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Back in Town

Last week I was out of town on business. I got an all expense trip to lovely Sacramento courtesy of the Government. For all that I was subjected to three and a half days of endless PowerPoint presentations. By the second hour of each day my eyes would glaze over as engineer after engineer presented their piece of the puzzle. They did feed us very well so there was that. One dinner included a catered affair at the Aerospace Museum of California, which was really nice. Dinner and drinks among the exhibits. We finally finished up on Thursday and I caught the red eye out of San Francisco. That was not without its own drama. I took a commuter flight from Sacramento to San Francisco. When we got to San Francisco we were told that the gate wasn't available yet as we were a bit early. Several minutes later the pilot informed us that the plane occupying our gate was going no where due to some problem or another. Long story short by the time I was finally able to disembark and get to my gate to catch the flight home, I was told I was too late, the plane door was closed and I would have to get rebooked. With visions of being stuck at the airport overnight, I approached the customer service desk. Turns out United has two red eyes going into Dulles with one leaving about 40 minutes after the flight I was booked on. I made that flight even though I got stuck in a middle seat versus the window I was suppose to have. When I finally landed at Dulles my bag was already there so apparently they let my bag on the first flight. At that point I realized I couldn't find my car keys. While I looked I texted Ann to stand by as she might have to come pick me up at the airport. Always the supportive spouse she first gave me a ration of shit and ended with the loving words of - "Take a taxi". It's all about the love. I did eventually find my car keys although obviously not where I thought they would be. Did I mention after traveling all night, I had an appointment for my annual physical? Well I did. As far as I know everything is working fine although I'm still waiting to hear the results of the lab work. I was expecting to hear the worst about my blood pressure given my traveling all night, but it was surprisingly good for me - 130/70. My weight was another matter. After pigging out all week, I was way heavier then I should be. I told the Doctor that i would be back at my lightweight limit (165 lbs) by the end of July and I should be. That was the bulk of my Friday not including running around doing errands at PetSmart and Target. I also crashed around 8;30.

Saturday was spent recovery from the California trip. I walked the twins in the morning, which is always an adventure. I also restocked the pantry after a trip to Giant. That's my job, going to the grocery store since Ann seems to have a phobia about actually going to the store. The rest of the day I watched the Nationals (wow they're above .500) and the Capitals stage an amazing comeback to beat the Canadians in OT.

Sunday my crew club held its first of three Learn to Row Days. We had 25 people show up to try out the sport of rowing. Given how windy it was, the water was surprisingly calm and we were able to get the visitors out on the water. Pictures and more of LTR to follow.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Back on the Water

The weather over the weekend here in northern Virginia was just great. Temperatures reached into the high 70s with low humidity. It felt so good just to sit out in the sun. The start of this month also marked the first time when I could get back on the water in a single. I directed my browser to the appropriate web site and paid my membership fees and then hoped in the car and drove over to Sandy Run Park. The park was pretty crowded for a Friday mid-morning. This was mostly due to the schools being out for spring break and the coaches taking advantage by scheduling practices during the day rather then late afternoon after school lets out. In addition, the first full regatta was the next day. So some last minute fine tuning of starts and getting familiar with the course, I presume. I signed out my boat (but forgot to list the time I left - oops) and headed up stream. The water conditions were good. A slight breeze, but no choppy water. The first time out I want nice flat water until I get the feel of the boat again. Sculling in a single is not unlike riding a bile. Once you master it, you never really forget how to balance the boat but the first few minutes you're still a little unsure if you'll remember how to row and keep from flipping the boat. Overall I would judge it a good first outing. I got the boat to move much better then I had any reason to believe. I'll be the first to admit that my winter training this year was pretty much nonexistent and I need to work my way back into shape before my sweep rowing starts in June. Again given my fitness level, I was able to row decent distances between water breaks. My hands came out in ok shape. First rows of the season are notorious for chewing your hands up with multiple blisters and abrasions until the callouses develop. I had no real blisters although I manage to abrade the skin off the tip of my middle finger on my left hand. and a small part of my left palm. My right hand came out unscathed. I rowed up to Fountainhead park and back. A distance of 7 miles. I'm hoping to get up to 350 miles before the season ends. The wind started to pick up just as I was finishing up, but managed to get the boat back to the dock in one piece. I just missed hitting one rather big log floating in the water and one large tree that had fallen into the reservoir due to high water eroding the banks. Both times I turned around just in time to see them and stop the boat. Hitting objects in the water is not recommended.

Saturday had a meeting of my men's team (sweep rowing) for some instruction on the erg having to do with catches and releases. Unfortunately I missed the part of the message saying that's what was going on and I just thought it was an organizational meeting of sorts and didn't dress appropriately for erging. I listened to our coach for a bit and then cut out after the other rowers started their pieces. I feel a bit bad about that. After I got home, I took our two new miniature schnauzers (Amy and Emily) out for a long walk. At two years old they have endless terrier energy and long walks helps to calm them down a bit and not get into so much mischief at home (like chewing up one of our dog beds). We still trying to arrange some basic obedience training for them so they don't go so ape shit every time they see a living soul be it human, another dog/cat/squirrel. It does make it challenging to walk them. I try to go out on our walks when I think the least amount of pedestrian traffic will be about. The rest of the day was spent running errands and then, finally, watching the Final Four. I was happy to see Butler win and not so much to see Duke win. I will definitely be routing for Butler tonight.

Sunday morning Ann and I headed off to mass. Lord it was crowded Not quite as bad as Christmas eve masses, but not an open seat to be found. Seemed all that kneeling was a bit harder on my knees then usual. Getting old is hell. After mass and another long walk of the twins, it was off to get some much needed mulch for the island out in front of our house and the shrubs that border the house. and front walk. The yard looks 100 per cent better. Given the yard work and the nice day, I cracked my first Corona(s) of the year. Now if it will just stay warm. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Late Christmas Present

This past Christmas the kids got together and gave us a number of presents and one of them was tickets to see the Moody Blues. The Moody Blues was Ann's favorite group when I first met her and we used to listen to them a lot as we dated and later married. We had seen them once before, like 15 years ago, when they came to the Nissan Pavilion. A good show that was partly ruined by two women sitting behind us who decided they were way more interested in talking to each other then listening to the music and the fact that it takes two hours just to get out of the Nissan Pavilion parking lot. The tickets this time were for the DAR Constitution Hall. DAR = Daughters of the American Revolution. I've lived in this area going back all the way to high school and I've never been to Constitution Hall, which is a crime in itself. Anyway the venue was very nice and the Moody Blues didn't disappoint. They played all the old favorites and the crowd ate it up. The crowd itself was definitely on the older side. I felt like we were on the younger side of the average age, which is saying something these days. Overall a very good time so thanks kids for the treat.

Saturday consisted of a rowing club meeting in the morning as we try to get things rolling for the coming year. We also signed up for dog sitting for Daughter#2 as she and her husband were headed to Philly to pick up a drum set. We were a little worried how Gracie, her dog, would get along with our three new additions. Ann drove out to Gainevilles to meet Daughter#2 and pick up Gracie. When she got back to our house, we slowly introduced Gracie to each of our new dogs one at a time so she wouldn't feel overwhelmed. Amy and Emily can do that. A few butt sniffs and everything seemed to go well and we all settled in to enjoy the rest of the day watching the basketball tournament.

Sunday I got up early and walked first Gracie and Scruffy up to the tennis courts and back a distance of about 2 miles. After walking them, I walked the twins, Amy and Emily, around the loop, which is just over 2 miles to burn off some of that terrier energy. It seemed to work. Daughter#2 and her husband had returned from Philly Saturday night and they wanted to go out for lunch. The Son joined us and we headed out for Thai, I'm not a big Asian food guy, but Daughter#2 and The son are so I don't mind eating Thai. We all ate our fill. They had a sea bass special that I got and loved. It came with a seaweed salad, which I really liked. Who knew? We said goodbye to Daughter#2 around 2:00 and I spent the rest of the day catching up on chores - doing laundry and grocery shopping. Needless to say, I crashed early, but a good weekend overall.

The weather forecast is calling for temperatures to reach the high 70s and even low 80s by the weekend. Rowing season starts this weekend so a perfect fit. I can't wait to get back on the water. I just hope the winds stay down so I can actually get out. I need the work.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Bad Treat

I didn't want to let another whole week go by with out writing something here. I have a post ready to go in my head about Daughter#1's and her Husband's visit last week, but I have been putting it off until I upload some pictures I have to go with it. I was going to do that last night, but I couldn't put my hands on the camera and I was too lazy to go look for it. Hopefully I can get around to that tomorrow so check back.

I mentioned a time or two on here that Thursday is Treat Day here in the office. We all take turns (or least those of us participating) bringing in goodies for the rest to enjoy. Usually it's some combination of bagels/donuts/egg casserole/fruit/etc. The usual early morning fare as we try to get our eyes open and focused. It's a nice way to start the day and mingle with the co-workers. I have to say though, and we had them this morning, that Thomas makes the worst bagels in the world. There ought to be a law that they can't even call them bagels. They're just bread shaped like a donut with a bad aftertaste. Blah!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Daughter In The House

Yesterday Daughter#1 traveled down from Connecticut to visit with the rents for a week. She's down to look into getting registered for some college classes when she leaves Connecticut in May for the foreseeable while while she works on her nursing degree. Her husband will join her on Wednesday and stay until the end of the week when they will return back to Connecticut. Hopefully they will have some power by then. It has been out since Saturday night. Ann and I went and picked her up at National Airport yesterday morning.

It was Daughter#1's first chance to meet the new kids in the house - Scruffy here on the left and the twins, as we are now calling them - Amy and Emily, the miniature schnauzers. She loves them all, of course.
The twins are so full of energy, but seem to be settling in well. We even discovered that they know how to fetch. Obviously someone has spent some time with them doing some training, but lord can they be loud. We also bought a "coupler" so we can walk them on one leash that splits into two leads. Note the last remnants of our February snowstorms. Even this little bit is now gone.

Scruffy too has settled in and we are even getting him to eat without to much problem. Seems he likes various takes on dog stews. The Hill brand Irish Stew seems to be a favorite.

The twins are into everyone and everything. Here The Son keeps an eye out to make sure they don't get into trouble. Amy on the left and Emily on the right.

I forgot to mention in my last point that the previous weekend, my rowing club, hosted erg sprints for the local high schools. It is the 7th time we've held the sprints and it marks the end of their winter on land training as they switch to on water training. We had upwards of 180 rowers competing. The registration desk: two coaches and a rower checking in.

We hold the sprints at the local Gold's Gym where our club and Golds own 20+ ergs. 10 ergs were set up, and run through a laptop and the display shown on a large screen TV so spectators could follow the action.

Rowers taking their seats on the ergs. It was very competitive and everyone seemed to have a good time. A fitting end to the toil that is winter training.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Big Hearts...Weak Minds

In my last entry I briefly spoke of the web site It's a wonderful site for adopting all types of pets. It's also crack for those of us with big hearts and weak minds - like Ann and I. One of Ann's (and Daughter#1 for that matter) favorite activity is surfing Petfinder and looking at various dogs. Periodically she would send me links to certain dogs with the suggestion that we should adopt such and such dog. They all come with such sad stories (owner went into a nursing home, a victim of divorce where neither party wanted the family pet, etc.). Obviously you can't adopt them all and we just did adopt a dog (see last post), but your heart does go out to them. Did that deter us? Of course not! So this past Saturday found us on a road trip to of all places, Follansbee, WVA. Of course Follansbee wouldn't be that part of WVA that is just over an hour away. Oh no Follansbee is located about as far north as you can possibly be and still be in WVA. It's that portion of WVA that is like a spike up between Pennsylvania and Ohio. It's actually WEST of Pittsburgh. Oh man. Not to mention that Pennsylvania was hit by a snowstorm the day before. For that reason we opted for the slightly southern route taking I-68 rather then the Pennsylvania Turnpike. So we rolled through the mountains of western Maryland that looked like this:

We rolled through the town of Cumberland, Maryland:

Finally after 300+ miles and 5 plus hours on the road, we arrived in Follansbee. We were short on gas at that point and we wanted to refill before arriving at out ultimate destination. The first three gas stations we saw in Follansbee were all closed and shuttered up. Their gas pumps long removed. We eventually found an open station and gas up and headed off to the Brooke County Animal Shelter. It had started to snow as we pulled up to the shelter. It was an old building that had seen better days. It has two outside kennels for dogs and additional space inside. After filling out the appropriate paperwork we were now the proud owners of Amy and Emily - miniature schnauzers. That's right - we no own 2 more dogs.

They really are miniature. They are 2 years old and barely 12 pounds each. And seem to possess endless energy. Their previous owner was the "had to go into a nursing home" type. As I texted the kids, right now they remind me of the Siamese cats in "Lady and the Tramp". It's going to be interesting.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Newest Member of the Family

Ever since I was little, I have had a love/hate relationship with pets. I guess hate is too strong a word, but I had a problem with them. The reason - I'm highly allergic to animal fur. So where as I love dogs and cats, they make me sick, specifically trigger severe asthma, and thus it has never been very practical for for me to live with one. After I married and had kids the subject of owning a dog or cat would inevitably come up. I always would tell them that we couldn't have pets because they made me sick. Not that it stopped the kids from trying. This is where you could say the Internet is actually a good thing or a bad thing. As the kids got older and personal computers came into our home, they began to do their research. The coup de gras was when a neighbor, who also was Daughter#2's 4th grade teacher, told us how she had written this touching essay on how she would love to have a dog. Shortly thereafter, Ann and Daughter#1 spotted this cute miniature schnauzer as a local pet store and as they say the rest is history. They assured me that schnauzers don't shed as they have hair (and hence need to be groomed on a regular basis) and not fur so I would be fine and I was. So we had our first dog - Winifred or Winnie as we mostly called her. She was with us for 17 years before she crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Another good or bad thing (depends n your view) of the Internet was the formation of Petfinder.Com. Ann and daughter#1 spend way to much time on this site for animals needing to be adopted and the result has been two more dogs - Napoleon, another mini schnauzer and Rosie. He was with us only two years before he left us due to cancer. Next up was another senior - Rosie. She was advertised as a mini schnauzer also, but we think she is more of a schnauzer mix. We got her 5 years ago at the age of 9 and she is still with us. Ever since we took in Napoleon (both he and Rosie are rescues), we've had two dogs. With Winnie's passing a while back, we've just had Rosie and we've sort of fallen into a routine with just having her. Not that the dog surfing had come to an end. There were a few attempts to adopt another dog, but forever the reason things didn't just work out. That all came to an end this past weekend when we adopted Scruffy from the Homeless Animal Rescue Team (HART) located in Fairfax County. Here is the newest member of the family:

Scruffy is another senior dog. He's a 10 year old soft coated Wheaten Terrier. He's has been fostered for almost a year awaiting a new permanent home. He's a victim of a divorce. His owners divorced and neither party wanted him. That is so sad. How can you own a dog for 10 years and just abandon him?

So far he's settled in fine. He has met Rosie and after a few butt sniffs on both sides, things seem to be going well.
He's not a mini schnauzer so I'm hoping I don't have asthma problems with him You can't really row suffering from asthma. So far so good. The Internet assures me I will be fine and you can always believe what the Internet tells you, right? We do need to get him a bigger bed though. It's a tight squeeze for him to fit in Rosie's bed given he's twice her size. As an aside, the first dog I remember my family having when I was growing up was a cocker spaniel mix also named Scruffy. I think there is a connection there. Welcome to the family Scruffy.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Ice Dams

The weather report for yesterday called for more snow. 1 to 4 inches. We laugh at that amount these days so harden have we become to snow. In another year that might have sent us into our "Oh my God, snow is coming!" frenzy. No one hardly blinked at the forecast though. It turned out to be a bust, a false alarm and only got a dusting that melted quickly.

We still have over 2 feet of snow on the ground. Not much melting has occurred yet. What little that has, has resulted in ice dams on the roof of the house. Ice totally fills the gutters. This is what the roof line look s at the front of the house.

As you can see, the gutters are completely ice filled and has built up another 3 inches above the gutter line and formed an ice dam.

The ice dams block the melting snow (water) coming off the roof. There is no where for the water to go and this sometimes results in water getting in under the shingles and leaking into the house. Where this is the worse is in the back of the house which has a southern exposure and gets the most sun. Hence more melting. In particular, it seems to be the worse on a small overhang over the kitchen windows. To help ease the problem, I needed to get the snow off this overhang. The trouble is getting to the overhang. Our deck has 2 feet of snow on it. I had to literally shovel my way onto the deck. The one plus is we can now access the grill!

I got our step ladder out and proceeded to remove the snow off the overhang. I limited the snow removal to what I could reach from our deck. There was no way I was actually getting up on our roof and break my neck in the process. I also borrowed the neighbor's step ladder, which was taller then the on I own and that helped a lot. I got most of the snow off and it seemed to help although the gutters are still chock full of ice.

Unfortunately the damage was already done. Leaking has occurred in the kitchen area. It's pretty hideous looking and will require some patching and a few coats of ceiling paint to repair it all.

We're holding our breath hoping we don't get leaking in other areas of the house as it would be impossible to get on the roof (although professionals have been cruising the neighborhood offer to do it at, I'm sure, a premium price) to get the snow off and thereby getting rid of the source of the leaking water. Send some good thoughts our way.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

More of the Same

On the heels of the 22 inches of snow we received over the weekend, we have gotten another 6 inches of snow here Tuesday night into Wednesday. I started today's shoveling fun around 9:00 AM and finished around noon. The snow this time was a lot lighter and fluffier then the weekend snow so the shoveling went a lot faster (not to mention shoveling 6 inches is a lot easier then 22 inches). This is my driveway after about 15 minutes of shoveling.

The new snow provided a soft cover to the snow already on the ground and bushes.

With so much snow on the roof and the gutters clogged with snow, icicles are growing everywhere like stalactites in caves.

After about 2 hours of shoveling the driveway was complete. A plow hasn't been around yet so we won't be going anywhere today. Note that I have to shovel about 10 to 15 yards out onto the road to where the road had been plowed over the weekend.

Our road and no plow in sight.

No mail either, but at least the mailbox is accessible.

Another icicle growing off the roof in the back. That will take forever to melt.