Odds and Ends

I am calling this post: Odds and Ends

There is no overlying theme today.  There is no specific rant or rave or anything I am praising or disparaging.  It is going to be like a Larry King article, odds and ends, and I hope it is infinitely more interesting.

My son is home from college and brought along a friend from Cyprus.  I thought Cyprus was a part of Greece but it is its own free standing island nation.  It is located closer to Turkey and Syria than to Greece.  It is near Israel and Lebanon but hopefully the ocean is a big enough space for them to keep out of the crap going on in the Middle East.  They speak Greek, our guest looks Greek, and he is going to be going to a Thanksgiving celebration with 30 of our family members.

We are not hosting Thanksgiving but we will be hosting Christmas.  I told my wife that I would paint our dining room.  I have hated the color for five or six years and I want to paint it before we put in new flooring.  That way I can mess up the place and not have to worry too much about splashing.  My wife and I picked out a color but she wants me to do a pattern on it.  I don’t think it will be too hard but she likes to see me work harder than I have to.  Just kidding, her judgement is solid and I know it will look fantastic once I am done with it.  You know the best part?  I get to take down some old wallpaper edging!  I love doing that job.

We got a new TV and broached the world of UHDTV.  It is supposed to be twice as sharp as regular high definition TV but there is really no programming to go with it so who knows?  I bought a Samsung even though I hate that they use the TV to spy on us.  There is no opting out of the user agreement because you have to be in so that you may work the TV.  We got it for out bedroom because the old TV was small and it was not fun to watch TV up there.  Now we have a TV on steroids and the picture is incredible and the TV is a piece of artwork.  I am excited about it.

Other odds and ends

Winter is coming in Minnesota.  I have winterized the lawn mower and readied the snow blower and I am simply waiting for a big storm to come and hit us.  Iowa was pounded last week but we missed it.  In fact it is going to be 40 degrees today which really feels like a fall day.  I like when the weather is warmer, and no, I do not believe in global warming.

My wife has to go in for a colonoscopy tomorrow.  I am lucky in that I have already had that procedure.  It is painless except for the prep work.  By the time you are done cleansing your intestines, your butt is rubbed raw from even the smoothest of toilet papers.  The only advice I gave her was use a gentle touch when wiping.  Other than that she is on her own.

My daughter is supposed to show up Wednesday.  The poor cats.  They are going to get smothered with love.  She loves anything with a fury face.  She has been missing them so bad that she has a cat friend on campus who she goes and visits three times a week.  That cat does not like to be held so she still is missing the hugs and kisses you can give them.  For the next three days they will be smothered with hugs and loves and kisses.  I tried to warn them but they looked at me with indifference.

We are dog sitting tomorrow.  We already have two dogs but this one is a puppy and had high energy.  His name is Nikkon and he is as smart as can be.  He is also hyper and he bugs the hell out of the cats.  Maybe after Nikkon the cats will not mind my daughter attacking them.  There is usually an hour or so of getting to know the level of the pack and then the dogs get along swimmingly.

That is all.  A nice short odds and ends column.

The Minnesota State Fair

The Minnesota State Fair was our plan for the day

The Minnesota State Fair starts every year ten days before Labor Day (which is always a Thursday) and it ends on Labor Day.  It takes place in Falcon Heights, MN, which is next to Saint Paul but a stones throw from Minneapolis.  It has been located on this site for my entire lifetime and I believe it has been at its present location since 1885.  My grandpa and grandma lived only a few miles from the fair in Lauderdale.  I have been to every state fair since I was four or five years old, except for the two years I lived in Las Vegas.  I love the state fair.

Now that I am married with kids our family has made a tradition of going to the fair every year as well.  My wife and I also go there alone so we can do the “old people” things that our kids do not like to do.  That means we go into a lot of buildings, we watch a lot of demonstrations for the newest product that will change our lives, and we look for the rabbits.  My wife has a thing for rabbits.

My wife and I went to the state fair today and had a blast.  The weather was hot, it was close to 90 when we left, but we did not feel oppressed by the heat.  The morning was overcast and there were not a lot of people there yet.  As the day wore on the weather got warmer, the state fair got busier, and the human wave was seen down every street one looked.

The state fair and our traditions

My wife and I know a secret way into the fair that involves almost no traffic and very little headache.  We approach the state fair like we are on military maneuvers, planning our way in, where we will park, and what we will do during the day.  We pick a weekday to go by ourselves, sans kids, and we hope like hell it does not rain.  We eat a small breakfast at home and then leave a little after rush hour so we avoid traffic.  We are a well oiled machine.

We arrived using our route, and no I will NOT tell you how to get in with minimal fuss, and parked in the state fair lot.  We paid $11.00 to park our car this year and $9.00 to get in the state fair.  The $9.00 was discounted because we bought our tickets ahead of time at a local grocery store.  We applied sun screen and entered, our senses filled with the smells, sights and sounds of the state fair.  It is like no other feeling.

As an aside, if you want to get a feel for the Minnesota State Fair read the excellent short story, “A Night at the Fair” by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  A version of it can be found here.  This story was written in 1928 and it still manages to catch the feeling of our State Fair.  So many things are the same, the candy, the pop, the penny arcade, and Ye Olde Mill.

We entered and went into the Grandstand to search for a new product that my mom, who is 72 this year and also goes to the fair every year, had told me about earlier in the week.  They were some kind of device that was used instead of a chip clip.  You can buy almost anything at the Minnesota State Fair.  We wandered up and down the crowded aisles and we found the things.  They were impressive, easy to use and they sealed the bags air tight.  They were simple and easy to use and came with a lifetime guarantee.  We bought a pack for $22 (“We pay the tax!”) and were on our way.  We passed the personality computers that were there when I was a kid and they looked as archaic today as they did back then.  You could hear the dot-matrix printers working overtime kicking out the personality pieces of paper.

The State Fair and Food.

We next went off in our search for our first bit of food.  This is a very important process and when you are looking at 9:00 in the morning, your options are limited.  The state fair has a lot of different foods and your options are limitless, except for breakfast, where there are only a thousand different places to eat.  This year we opted for the Scotch Egg, which is a hard boiled egg, wrapped in a savory sausage mix, and then all of that is breaded and deep fried to golden perfection.  The brilliant thing about eating here first is that the stand is located next to the barns, and we were going to go in and see the animals before the temperatures got into the 80’s and the smell of animals, hay and people would overwhelm us.

We feasted on our eggs, my wife does not like to share, and paid our $7.00 each for the privilege of eating something that my cholesterol doctor would surely hate.  I didn’t see him milling about so I ate my egg with relish.  OK, it was a horseradish sauce, but I ate it up like a starving man.

My wife wanted to go off in search of the bunnies.  At the state fair there are six or seven animal barns and some are dedicate to horses, some to cows, the pigs have their own place at the Swine Barn, and then the bunny rabbits are regulated to the poultry barn, off in a corner of the building, and only during the first few days of the state fair.  Unfortunately we were a day late, at least, and there was nary a bunny to be found.  We found hens and roosters, ducks, turkeys and other assorted water foul, but there were no bunnies.  We left the poultry barn and went off to see more fabulous items for sale.

There is, deep within the Education building, an old crooked man who is one of the greatest salesmen I have ever witnessed.  We go to see him every year, hoping that he is still around and hoping that we can listen to his spiel.  He sells Swiss made peelers, and we have owned one for about 15 years.  They are fabulous.  Our old one finally succumbed to old-age and wear and tear, and we wanted to see if he would honor the lifetime guarantee that comes on his product.  I can’t tell you how happy I was when I turned the corner and saw a head of white hair and I heard his distinctive patter.

At the Minnesota State Fair I have never seen a better salesman.  He was in the middle of his demo and we watched him slice apple, potatoes, cabbage and zucchini.  He flirted with the women, told stories about his mother, teased the men.  He asked who had bought from him in the past and about seven hands went up.  People come back to watch him because he is that good!  Anyway, we waited until his patter was over and my wife asked my to buy a new set of peelers (which is truly the best peeler I have ever owned), slicers, Julianners, and knives available all for the incredible low price of $20.  She wanted me to buy one because she likes the old guy and she wanted him to have more sales.  God, I love my wife.

I bought my wares and she waited until he was done selling the ten or so sets he sold for that session.  She asked about an exchange and he gave her one with no questions asked, and commented on the state of our device.  It did look bad!  A stranger came up and asked my wife about the peeler and we stood and talked to her for three or four minutes and my wife convinced her to watch the pitch and to buy his product!  She should get commissions!

Anyway, that is part one of my story about the Minnesota State Fair.  I will complete my story in the next day or two, but I was full of piss and vinegar about it sitting here tonight.


After Christmas and back to normal

We had a great Christmas this year but now it is back to normal.

The kids had a great Christmas.  We got to see all of our families and we ate great food, and everyone seemed to get their fill of presents.  The Christmas music was played and besides all of the crazies out there shopping, which I mostly avoided, the holiday was a great one.  I hope all my Christmases are like this in the future.

Today is Tuesday and it is two days after Christmas.  We went to my in-laws yesterday and had a prime rib dinner.  The kids got presents from their uncle and the cousins got to see each other.  My niece and nephew were funny as hell and they get bigger every day.  My nephew is a skinny rail of a lad and he can pound away the food.  He ate a shrimp plate by himself and then had two big pieces of prime rib.  To top it off he had all the sides and then a piece of cheesecake at the end.  He weighs all of 60 lbs.

Christmas at the church.

My brother-in-law is a priest so we had the get together at his house and his church was decorated fantastically for Christmas.  He has two 20 foot trees on the altar and white lights.  He had a manger scene off to the side and my daughter got to go up in the balcony and play the piano.  We tried to get to the tower but it looked like the opening was 20 feet in the air and no stairs.  In the basement of his new church there is a dark cave that had a hundred candles in it and surrounding the candles were these fantastic stalactites that had formed from the melting wax.  It was the inside view of a church that was very cool.

We went to church for Christmas on Christmas eve and it was beautiful.  We did not go to the 4:00 PM mass, thank God, because that mass was filled to overflowing and they had a completely separate church and mass area set up in a different room.  We went to the 5:30 mass and there were cars parked four blocks away.  I don’t know how the people could breathe.

I love Christmas mass.  I love “Silent Night” sung by the congregation.  I love the other Christmas songs we sung.  I love the incense being dragged out and swung over our heads.  I love everything about it.  I love the live trees and the stunning way they looked on the altar.  I know that the birth of Jesus probably was not on December 25th but rather the early church co-opted a winter solstice celebration.  It does not matter to me.  The act of  going to church on Christmas, the readings, the story of Jesus’ birth all resonate.  We need saving as a people and it is amazing that this person who lived over 2,000 years ago still resonates through people.

Christmas is only 365 days away.

I say this because this coming year is a leap year so we have an extra day to deal with.  Also, Christmas will be on a Tuesday next year which will put things right in the middle of the week.  When it falls on the weekend it is so much nicer.  The kids will be a year older and I will have one in college, so maybe it will not feel the same as it has in years past.  I know that we will all get together as a family and that we will open presents.  I know that my kids will be loved and I will take them to church with me.  I know that the animals will love their extra food and treats.

I hope the economy rebounds but I doubt it.  I have no faith in Obama.  We may have a worse Christmas next year, we just don’t know.  I want it to be like this year, I want the fun to be there, I want the love to be there, and I want my kids around.  I love Christmas.

'Twas the night before Christmas Eve

‘Twas the night before Christmas Eve and all through the town the suburbanites were going shopping filling the malls and the strip malls.  Today we have a very pretty snow falling on the ground, the kind that is light and fluffy and does not accumulate to any great extent.  I have said it before but this is my favorite time of year.  I got to see three sets of my favorite Christmas concert, “A Very Trashy Christmas” by Trailer Trash.  I shopped until I dropped and I went shopping for all the food we will need to bring to my sister’s house.  The kids have been presented, how is that for a verbing of America?, and the dog and cats have too.  There is nothing left to do except sit back and wait for the festivities to begin.

We have plans for this Christmas and you are lucky in that I am going to share them with you.  Christmas starts for us on Christmas Eve when we get up in the morning and bake cinnamon rolls and a big breakfast.  We then go over to my mom’s house to exchange presents with the immediate family.  My mom, who is now 72, keeps pushing everything up because I think old folks are required to do that by law.  We usually had this little party at 6:00 or 7:00 at night where we would have dinner and then open presents.  We usually did not get home until 10:00 or so.  This year it is going to be at 1:00 in the afternoon so that changes things up a bit.

After Christmas Eve at my mom’s house

we are going to have an evening with the kids and the dog and cat.  My wife NEVER lets my kids open their presents on Christmas Eve.  This means we will go to church that night instead and then just hang.  I love hanging with my kids.

Christmas morning the kids usually wake up without alarm clocks at about 6:00 AM all hopped up on Santa juice.  They are good now about letting mom and dad sleep, but while we sleep they get under the tree and they divvy up the presents into their little piles.  The moment we set foot downstairs they are on us to open presents.  Mom trudges off to get a cup of coffee and dad is busy rubbing sleep out of his eyes.  We then let the kids go at the presents and we give the packages to the cat and dog as well.

Dad then goes and makes cinnamon rolls and another big breakfast.  We sit around until about 10:00 when we all go off to get ready to go have dinner with extended family.  This year my sister is hosting Christmas and we have about 30 people who are going to be there.  I really look forward to that.

My sister also has a hot tub so the kids and I will bring our suits and go for a soak for a while after everyone else has left.  My mom helps clean up and I do to, but it gets done and my mom scoots for the door before it gets too dark for her to drive.  She is out of there by 3:00PM.  My family will stay until about 5:00 and then leave for home.

Christmas night is usually a quiet night for us.

But not this Christmas night.  We are going to see a movie called “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.”  My son and I watched the Swedish version of these films which were very good.  We are looking forward to seeing this movie with our friend Nancy.  There is nothing better than a great movie, a big tub of popcorn drenched in butter, and friends.

The day after Christmas we are going to my wife’s side of the family to celebrate again.  It will be another dinner at 1:00 and the exchanging of gifts.  The kids get to see each other and we get to see my wife’s dad and brothers.  I love him and I like seeing him.  He is one of the good people.  My wife’s mom died two years ago so this will be the second time we will have Christmas without her.  This should make it easier on my wife.

The rest of the week will be spent getting ready for New Years.  The great thing is now is that daylight is getting longer each day and you get a sense we have turned a corner for the weather.  It is a bit of a downer when the local radio stations stop playing Christmas music, it is like there is a hole in the universe.  Life will slowly go back to normal and we will wait until next year to being Christmas back again.  My kids will be older and wiser and I will be older too.  But I still will act like a kid at Christmas!

Updates on several things and the diet

The diet is not going great.

I do not know if it is because I am getting older and my body is slowing down or if it is because I am still eating a lot of bad food, or both.  I know that I do not feel lighter and I have not stepped on a scale in a long time.  I am eating better and I am exercising more, but the diet feels more daunting than ever.

I have been running four or five times a week with my son.  I love it.  We talk and chat and help push each other to get out the door and then once out the door we push each other to run further and harder.  This works well with the diet.  When we started running we could only go a half mile or less before we would walk and now that number is up to at least a mile.  We try to run a 2.5 mile loop and I am trying to talk him into doing a half marathon!  I am excited.  He is getting good and he inspires me.

I went out today by myself and had a very good run.  The dog was with, of course, and the weather was beautiful.  I had my wind, I had my legs, and I ran better than I have run in a long, long time.  When I got home I showered and then picked up my son from school.  When I got out of the car my leg buckled and I had immense pain shooting from my knee.  Tears came up in my eyes because of the pain.  I hope like hell it is going to be alright.

Thanksgiving and the diet.

We had Thanksgiving this year at our house and we had 30 people over.  We cooked two turkeys and three things of stuffing and 20 pounds of mashed potatoes.  Everyone else brought things to share.  It was a smash.  The food was great and the families all mingled.  We had a lot of turkey left over so I made stock the next day (thanks Jennifer!) and then we had turkey noodle soup that night.  It was the best soup I have ever made and it tasted great.

The diet was shot over Thanksgiving.  I did not eat breakfast but I ended up eating too much.  It is too hard to diet with all the comfort food around.  It seems that I like stuffing and I love macaroni and cheese.  I had to eat stuffing every day for lunch for the rest of the week and felt like a human garbage disposal.  Good times.  By the time the week was over the diet was over and it had to start again the next day.

Christmas and the diet.

Christmas should be better.  My sister is taking over the hosting of 30 people and I will not have any leftovers to shatter my diet.  I will not have a weeks worth of stuffing to eat and I will not have any macaroni and cheese left over.  It is going to be a great holiday.

I also have an appointment with the clinic tomorrow because I have had tinnitus in my ear for about a week and a persistent cough.  I hope things go well.  If my leg is shot it will be a good time to look at that too.  I do not hold out much hope for my doctor appointment because I have found if they do not specialize they seem to know little.  I will tell him about my diet and we will laugh.

Laughter is the best medicine, I have read, and a diet blown all to hell is pretty damn funny!

Thanksgiving Week

Thanksgiving week is here

and it has been a little hectic so far.  We are having about 30 people over to our house on Thanksgiving and I had to go shopping this weekend for the main courses.  I bought two 20 pound turkeys.  They look like big frozen bowling balls.  I also got 20 pounds of potatoes which means I will be a lean, mean peeling machine this Thursday.  My mom dropped off some folding chairs and a couple of big roasters and I notified everyone who is coming that there will be about 20 people attending so everyone has a good idea of how much food to bring.

The cats have never had a lot of people over at one time and I have a feeling that they will be in fine form.  They love people, they love attention, and I can see them now sucking up for love and affection.  The dog will need a Valium to relax.  She may end up getting locked in the bedroom upstairs.  I imagine a lot of activity on Thursday and I am really looking forward to it!

Thanksgiving means a lot of good food.

It also means it is time to reflect on all the good in our lives.  I have a great wife, two fantastic kids and most everyone I know is healthy.  I do have a friend battling cancer, but Thanksgiving could be a day to give thanks for the new medicines that is keeping the cancer in check.  the economy is in the shitter and the government does not want to do a damn thing about it except tax more and spend more.  Could they ever spend less?  Not a chance because it would put them out of business.  The thing this country has going for it is the people and thank God we are still at a point where most people will come out of this OK.

The food at the Thanksgiving table is the same every year for our family.  We always have turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, yams, macaroni and cheese (this is a family tradition my grandpa’s started), stuffing, a pickle tray, a fruit salad, and home-made pumpkin pies.  We have a feast.  I am sure that the Christmas will come barreling down upon us once this day is over but for the week I am happy.  Also, my Green Bay Packers play Detroit that day.

Thanksgiving sometimes means shitting weather.

Not this Thanksgiving , though.  It is supposed to get up near the 50’s and be very nice outside.  I am going to take my son for a run that morning and hopefully this would take the edge off the dog.  The dog is always better with her edges taken off.

The day after Thanksgiving I am going to make turkey stock.  Home made stock takes a day to cook and it fills the house with wonderful smells and I will have enough to make a lot of chicken or turkey noodle soup.  I am not going to go out for any Black Friday deals this year because I do not want to fight the crowds.  My son and I stayed out overnight last year and it was cold and not a lot of fun.  The house will be filled with wonderful smells and the animals should be calm by then.

I love Thanksgiving and I truly am thankful for all I have.

The Diet Diaries

I am naming this blog the “Diet Diaries” because I have not

followed up on my post to eat better, exercise more, go to church, help old ladies across the street, and everything else that makes the world sunshine and lollipops.  It is amazing to me how the world is filled with good intentions but when the shit hits the fan people revert back to their old ways.  It is that way with diet for most people.  Your intentions are pure and god but when it comes to living it every day you fall back into the habits that got you there in the first place.

I am happy to say I am still doing the diet thing.  I have not stepped on a scale lately but I have done this.  My son and I have both started running together.  We have been going three or more times a week (we just went the last four days) and we are getting stronger and going longer.  I love it that my son runs with me now.  He is on a goal to lose weight and I think that he is going to make his goals.  I think if I can get him out the door with me on a regular basis then it will help both him and me stay motivated.  There is nothing better in the world than someone else pushing you to do better.

My dog has never been happier.  She is older now and sore some days, but when she sees us in our running clothes she jumps up and down like a puppy.  I tell her to stretch her hammies and she stretches out.  It is so cute.  When we run she goes at an easy trot, mocking us as we gasp for breath and beg for the sweet release of death.  She goes along our route smelling new smells, meeting new dogs and people, and happy with life.  The other day we saw a nice big buck burst through the woods and into the pasture across the street.

But the diet is the key, isn’t it?

Actually the diet is a key in this way.  Moderation.  When I love a food I tend to eat a lot of it which will shoot any diet all to hell.  I love to eat home made french fries.  I made killer fries.  When I make them I tend to indulge and swim in their salty goodness.  I am starting to make less of them so you get the taste and not the “I feel like a beached whale” feeling.  Of course on a diet you do not have fries every day, either.

I have decided too that I am going to start going to the Y in the winter to get me out of the house more.  I busting my ass at the YMCA and then treating my self to the hot tub when it is 10 below outside.  Nothing makes a lifestyle change work better than giving yourself massive rewards like a soak in the hot tub.

How will the diet affect Thanksgiving?

It will not.  Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of they year.  You get to see family and eat the best food in the world.  For one day you can kick the diet right in the arse and not worry about it.  I fill up on all the usual things but my family also makes killer mac and cheese that we have every holiday.  I get mashed potatoes, stuffing and mac and cheese and I throw it in a swimming pool of gravy.  Talk about a killer carb routine!  The tradition has continued because we have had mac and cheese as long as I remember.  I loved going to my grandpa’s house and the house would be so warm and full, and the smells would drive you to nirvana.  My grandpa was a great cook.  I used to dream of going over there on the holidays.

Christmas comes only a month after Thanksgiving and it too is a day that the diet goes to hell.  The whole holiday season is geared towards ruining a good diet.  I don’t care because I love it.  I love the radio stations that play all Christmas music and I love going to cut down the tree.  The diet is the last thing on my mind.  But, i am eating better, i am thinking about what I eat, and I am running again.  I think it would be safe to say that the diet and exercise are going well.

Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama

Thus far I have been hesitant to write a post about Michelle Obama.  I figure the first lady is mostly a position that the person did not run for like her husband, she does not really get paid, and a lot of attention is paid to her outfits and how she acts.  Each first lady in my lifetime has adopted a cause and Michelle is no different.  The more I see of her and the more I read about her the more I am hating her.  I do not hate too many people in this world but Michelle is a special case and I will give you reasons why she is a great person to hate.

Michelle and the country.

This is a video of Michelle and President Obama at the 9/11 ceremony in New York.  Watch it carefully and try to read her lips.  It looks like she is saying “all of this for a fucking flag” and then she rolls her eyes at the end of the video.  Obama just nods like most husbands do.  Normally this would go without comment and it has and will from the mainstream media, but Michelle has a past and her words and actions show a person who hates this country and everything it stands for to most Americans.  This was a ceremony to honor people who died at the hands of muslim terrorists.  I get it Michelle, your husband is a muslim, but this is a tribute to the dead.  This is a tribute to innocent lives lost on the most deadly attack on American soil.  You may hate this country (the one where you got rich simply because of your color and your ties to a powerful politician) but show some fucking respect.

This video Michelle tells us that for the first time in her adult life she is proud of her country.  It is hard for me to believe that a woman who had got to her position on her color (it certainly was not her looks) and her ties to a Chicago thug politician is suddenly proud of her country.  Michelle, you truly do hate America, you hate capitalism, you love being a Tsar’s wife.

Michelle and obesity and her multiple vacations and “let them eat cake” attitude.

Michelle has decided to take on childhood obesity.  This is a worthy cause.  However, she is using her husbands thug ways to force companies to comply with her mandates.  These are not things elected officials have proposed.  She is not accountable to anyone and that is the problem.  She demands that stores be built in poor areas of the country.  She demands people eat only certain foods while she smacks down a rack of ribs.  She makes me sick.

Michelle is also the queen of vacations.  She has no problem flying separate from the President (when they left only five hours apart!) and spending hundreds of thousands of tax payer dollars to fulfill her every whim.  She has no problems flying off to Spain and taking over a floor of a hotel with 39 of her closest friends.  She has no problems drinking the finest wines and eating the finest foods on our dime.  Michelle is the worst of the worst.

Michelle, the flag comment was the last little bit of leeway I am giving you.  You need to go and take your husband with you.  Michelle Obama is a bad, bad person.