Thursday, December 27, 2007

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmastime is here!

"And then the true meaning of Christmas came through and the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches, plus two!"

I don't want to leave the impression that Christmas Eve was all bad because it was filled with lots of good stuff too. For instance, polMom and I ran into friends at Krogers and had a very nice chat in the canned vegetables aisle. Now I know what you're thinking. You're thinking the best grocery store conversations take place in the produce section ... right? However, on this day Fate put us together in canned vegetables and it worked out very nicely. We got to catch up and as a bonus got a great recipe from them for a seasoned oyster cracker snack.

We also came home to the decorated tree and were able to have lovely dinner at home with the family. We had pork chops marinated in lemon and garlic, mashed potatoes, broccoli, and sugar snap peas. We even had sparkling apple cider for the kids. It was actually very nice to not be rushing around in the evening (the early evening anyway).

We opted to go to Saint Michael's Christmas mass at 9:30pm instead of the true midnight mass at the Cathedral that we did last year. The mass at the Cathedral is beautiful and wonderful and full of the spirit of the season but you don't get home until 2am which was just wasn't in the cards this year. Maybe next year we'll be better organized and ... no ... never mind. Anyway, the mass at Saint Michael's was great although highly attended which meant the five of us were sharing four seats for most of the mass. I personally had the opportunity to develop an intimate relationship with the concrete post next to me. In the end we decided a long-term thing wouldn't work and we've agreed to just be friends.

The music program at Saint Michael's is wonderful and, unlike DysfunctionalChurch's new design, the nave was built for great acoustics. The singing accompanied by violins, trumpets, french horns, clarinets, and even a bass guitar put us all in the proper mood. We also saw lots of friends there so it was in a better Christmas spirit that we traveled home.

The kids hung the stockings by the chimney with care and hustled on up to bed. polMom and I then pulled the traditional Christmas all-nighter in which we help prepare the way for Good Old St. Nick. This year were helped along in our quest by watching "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason" and "Speed." It was more background noise as neither one of us could probably tell you what happened in either of these DVDs. We finally went to bed about 5-ish which netted us about three hours of sleep each. But it was worth it.

[Click here] to see our Christmas Eve Flickr album.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Dah who dor-aze!

"He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas... perhaps... means a little bit more!"

Maybe ... but that didn't stop us from running all over town on Christmas Eve spending lots of money because, as lovely as the sentiment is, in the end somebody's got to go out and buy the roast beast. And, of course, the who-hash.

As you can see from the picture, the tree finally got decorated. ChaplainScout called us on Christmas Eve morning to let us know that his wife was ill so the big Christmas Eve bash that we attend at their house every year would be canceled. We felt very bad for the family, wished his wife a speedy recovery, and then selfishly realized that we now had to come up with a dinner for Christmas Eve. So we tasked the children with decorating the tree as polMom and I took our lives into our hands and headed out to ... (cue ominous music) ... Ukrops. On purpose. On Christmas Eve.

When we arrived we were greeted by the entire population of Richmond. Okay ... maybe I exaggerate. It was only everyone who lives west of I95, south of I64, east of 288, and north of the River. I have never seen it so crowded and though we were gripped by fear we had to persevere because this is where the roast beast Edwards Country Ham was and you can't make proper ham biscuits without it. Ukrops also had the last six packages of Pepperidge Farms Party Rolls in a 60-mile radius which are also a required component of ham biscuits. Six years ago we were forced to use Sunbeam Dinner Rolls and there are still family members that hold it against us to this day. Finally, Ukrops is the only store in the area that carries Crystal Hot Sauce that was needed by the WestPointCrowd. So into the store we went.

We sneaked in through the Back Door (which is a real thing at the Village Ukrops) and the first thing we noticed was that the lines at the checkouts were about 15-deep. We immediately vowed to get only the things unique to Ukrops and leave normal items for a normal (and hopefully less crowded) store. Our primary objective, the deli counter, was all the way on the other side of the store so we needed to be swift and agile. We eschewed the normal carts and grabbed the last thin "sports cart" ... the James Bond Aston Martin of shopping carts. This allowed us to bob and weave through the sea of humanity clogging the aisles. We were moving pretty well until we hit a 20-cart pileup at the butcher area from all the uber-organized people trying to get the party trays they pre-ordered on Labor Day. I saw a small hint of daylight between two carts and forced my way through. Now I had a clear shot at the deli counter as I raced a 72-year-old grandmother for the next "now serving" number. I executed a perfect turn around the European cheese stand and easily grabbed the next ticket, 93, and looked up to see what number was currently being served.

Number 78.

After waiting for a period of time that can only be described in geologic terms, they finally got around to take my order. My order? Oh no! I've been here so long I've forgotten. Oh right, ham biscuits. Six sets. A quarter pound per set. Pound and a half of Edwards Country Ham. Sliced thin. No ... thinner. No ... thinner than that. [sigh] Yes, that'll do (but should be thinner as it needs to melt into the biscuit). Slice, slice, slice. Anything else? No, that'll do. Thank you.

I regroup with Polly who's holding a defensive position at the cheese stand. No ... wait ... she's shopping! Apparently the kids need cheese (I don't question anymore I just react). We've also decided to obtain those items on our list that are in lightly defended areas that we might spot as we fight our way back to the other side. We manage to get oranges, apples, eggs (organic AND free range), cream cheese, Crystal Hot Sauce (4 bottles ... can never have enough hot sauce), bread, and toilet paper. We made a feint towards Ukrop's White House rolls to throw off our pursuers and came away with the Pepperidge Farm rolls fairly unscathed. A quick (relatively) march through the checkout and we were able to breathe fresh air again.

And live to fight another day.

Monday, December 24, 2007

It's Christmas Eve?!? Oh holy ... night

The clock on the computer tells me it's 1:23am which means it's officially Christmas Eve and, as usual, we're nowhere near ready. I took this picture of the tree on Friday afternoon ... and it still looks the same. We've had three abortive decorating sessions so maybe we can find time before Santa arrives to throw a couple of decorations on it. Or we could just go for the minimalist natural look ... harking back to the Martin Luther-inspired origins of the tree as described by Garrison Keillor:
Martin Luther was walking through the cold, dark woods at night when he looked up and saw the stars shining through the branches of a tree and thought "The stars in heaven are boundless but are contained here within the branches of this humble tree. I'll cut this tree down and take it home and set lights upon to celebrate the birth of Christ, the Light of Lights, here on Earth."

But that was a story told to us by women and men know differently. Martin Luther was walking through the woods, it was night, it was cold, and it was dark. And he walked ... WHAM! ... straight into a tree. He hit it hard and as he lay there on the ground a bit stunned he said "if someone would put lights on that tree this wouldn't have happened."

So we're not procrastinating, we're rejecting the crass commercialism of the season and harkening back to a simpler time to preserve the true meaning of Christmas ... and procrastinating.

CollegeGirl is home ... sort of

polMom and the boys went and picked up CollegeGirl from William and Mary on Friday morning. They all kicked around W'burg and shopped while waiting for polMom's sister in West Point to be home as the boys would be spending the night with their cousin. After dropping off the boys, the girls came home, unloaded CollegeGirl's things and then we all went to dinner at Guadalajara in Short Pump.

The restaurant came highly recommended by a couple of polMom's buddies but we all found it pretty mediocre with fairly bland food. Probably won't be making a return visit.

After we got home, CollegeGirl assumed the position we've become used to as shown in the picture here. She slept right through to about 3pm on Saturday, got up, got dressed and went out with her high school friends to dinner and a movie. She was awake about 10am on Sunday but never left the bed, fell back asleep and ended up wandering downstairs about 4pm. We did manage to actually have dinner with her and watch The Amazing Race before she left again for another movie with friends. Plus, if we're willing to stay up until 2am we can spend some quality time with her.

We are experiencing technical difficulties ...

We're not sure what's going on but we've been experiencing sporadic problems with our wireless broadband so articles we wanted to post the past couple of days have been on hold. Please stand by ...

Friday, December 21, 2007

Cloudy moonlit night

As I was walking back into the house from taking Christmas pictures I noticed the moon shining through the overcast sky between the branches of the trees overhead. I stopped and set up the tripod again and snapped a few pictures.

Christmas lights going up slowly but surely

Look what was waiting for me when I finally got home from work! polMom and the boys not only raked up all the leaves (again) but also got the snowmen up and wired up the downstairs window snowflakes so now we have all four of them functioning. I still need to get the blue light garland hung around the window frames but we're slowly making progress. It looked so nice that I ran out after midnight with the camera and tripod to get some pictures and post them to the Flickr account. You can see the set by clicking here.

I also took some pictures of the blue light globes we have hanging from the holly tree at the front of the house by the driveway. These used to hang on our big dogwood out front but, alas, we came home from Thanksgiving to find the main branch snapped in half so we had to cut it down . However, the globes really work in the holly and we're pleased with how nice they look. I can tell you are too. Thanks!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Okay ... okay ... I'll start posting again!

You know you're falling down on the job when your own parents unsubscribe from your blog and specify the reason as "content no longer relevant."


So I'm going to try and post at least one thing each day to give everyone a glimpse into what's going on in our lives. Note the word "try" in that sentence. I'm not promising anything as I'm not sure we're interesting enough for a daily post but we'll see.

Say goodbye to the Twitter posts

I did use a service called LoudTwitter that collects up your daily Twitter logs and posts them to your blog. Turns out that it's too loud and posting the collection of logs defeats the purpose of micro-blogging in the first place. So I've turned the service off and deleted all the old Twitter logs from the blog site. If you're a Twitter user you can still follow me on my Twitter page.

School's out!

Henrico County schools had their last day yesterday so the boys are out until January 2nd. CollegeGirl takes her last exam (French) tomorrow so we hope to have her home either tomorrow night or Friday morning. Her classes start back up on January 16th but I think freshman are supposed to be back on the 12th. Either way, we get to have her home for an extended period of time which will be very nice!

Friday, November 9, 2007

CollegeGirl rocks out with Carbon Leaf!

Okay ... this concert took place weeks ago but I just heard about this.

Carbon Leaf played at William and Mary in the beautiful and recently revitalized Lake Motoaka Amphitheater. CollegeGirl and her friends had been dancing up front during the opening act and a photographer from the W&M News wanted a picture of a student on stage with Carbon Leaf. CollegeGirl happened to be wearing a W&M shirt so he asked her to come up.

So, as you can see from this picture, CollegeGirl got to get up on the stage (with a microphone?) and rock out with lead singer Barry Privett. Now you have to understand that CollegeGirl is a huge, huge Carbon Leaf fan and if you were to glance at her list of Top Ten Things That I would Like to Do Before I Die But Never Will Because They're Too Outrageous, "dancing on the stage with Carbon Leaf" would probably fall around #3 just below "Winning The Amazing Race" but just above "Swimming with Dolphins" ... but only if swimming with dolphins ended up being a task on The Amazing Race.

I remember college being fun but I don't think I had as much fun as she's having. I'm not sure anyone has.

Going to our first Springers football game ... NOT!

We spent four years going to JR Tucker HS football games when CollegeGirl was attending and those four years were pretty miserable. However, I have been enjoying watching the phenomenal progress of OlderSon's Highland Springs HS as they march towards an undefeated season. Unfortunately, we haven't made it to a single game all season.

So it was with great excitement that we got all our gear together and headed off for the regular season finale with arch-rival Varina which is the closest high school to HSHS. Whoever won the game would win the Capital District championship. We made the 25 mile drive across town and pulled up to the parking lot only to see it blocked by several police cars. The marquee by the road read "Game Sold Out."

Something else we never had to worry about at Tucker.

So we turned the car around, found the game on the radio, and listened to it on the way home. Final score: Highland Springs 40, Varina 24.

Oh ... and the coaches had a fight on the field after the game. Pretty classy. Didn't have that Tucker either. The Varina coach was apparently upset that the Springers went for a two-point conversion with 36 seconds left. I guess he didn't notice that Highland Springs has been going for two points all year long and never kicking field goals because we have no kicker.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Wow ... now that's a great looking fondue

Aged Cheddar & Guinness Fondue | Jaden's Steamy Kitchen

Less than 24 hours after I post about the joys of beer and cheddar fondue, which nobody has ever heard of when I tell them about it, this beautiful photo shows up in my Google Reader from Jaden's Steamy Kitchen. Jaden's blog is great for taking complex dishes and turning them into recipes that can be prepared more easily at home.

Her fondue photos put ours to shame but she is a professional food photographer as well as a cooking instructor and columnist and we're ... well ... not.

There's also some intriguing things in her recipe that may merit some experimentation on our part. I'm particularly interested in her addition of frozen apple juice concentrate which she says sweetens the cheddar ever so slightly. I also like her use of "baby pigs in a blanket" as dippers in addition to bread and veggies.

See? We're becoming trendsetters!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Say cheese ... fondue that is!

Cheese fondue is becoming standard fare on Sunday nights at our house. Not the sophisticated fondue with Gruyere, Emmenthaler, and wine but a more down-to-earth mix of beer and cheddar served with some good sourdough bread. But first things first, let's get to the ingredients, most of which are pictured above:

  • loaf of sourdough bread
  • 1 lb. extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 T cornstarch
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 16oz. bottle of beer
  • 2 t dry mustard
  • dash cayenne pepper
Now we're pretty particular about our fondue ingredients. The cheddar cheese has to be from Cabot (Extra Sharp, Private Stock, Vintage, Hunters, or the yet-to-try Old School) which is grated and tossed with the cornstarch. The bread has to be sourdough (and preferably from a California starter), the mustard must be Coleman's, and the garlic must be fresh. In a perfect world, the beer would be Red Stripe (which lends a nice spice) or Guinness but Yuengling was on sale and worked fine. I'm not picky about the brand of cayenne.

Ideally you'd have a nice loaf of sourdough but all we could find Sunday night was a square. It worked out okay but you end up with a bunch of pieces without any crust on them. We like our bread lightly toasted which gives it a nice little crunch so we put it on a cookie sheet and throw it into a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes while the cheese melts.

Since the 70s are long over, maybe everyone doesn't have a fondue pot anymore. We actually have two and we couldn't use either one. The Oster model is one we've had forever but the nonstick coating on the bottom was destroyed by over-zealous french students. polMom found a replacement pot on eBay so we're waiting for that to show up. The other newer unit that we have is missing its power cord so we used the pot on the right whose inside surface has been rubbed thoroughly with a smashed clove of garlic.

Pour the bottle of beer into the pot and stir in the mustard and cayenne pepper. Heat the beer mixture over medium heat until it is just beginning to simmer. Then add the grated, cornstarch-dusted cheese to the pot and stir until the cheese melts and becomes thoroughly incorporated with the beer mixture.

Keep stirring the mixture gently until the cheese mixture is smooth. Eventually the cornstarch will cause the sauce to thicken. The cheese mixture is ready whenever you feel it is thick enough to hold to your bread after it is dunked in the cheese. We use fondue forks but regular forks would probably work just as well. We keep the meal pretty simple by accompanying the fondue with a vegetable tray, grapes, and sliced apples.

I yam what I yam!

Now that's a big yam!

OlderSon saw these jumbo yams from North Carolina in the grocery store and just had to get one. We explained that it was going to take a long, long time to cook so he probably couldn't have it tonight but he was content to wait until Thursday.

I can't even imagine how long this sucker will take to cook or what it will taste like but I'm curious now to find out. This picture kind of looks like those old pictures we used to get in the Waynesboro News-Virginian of slightly unusual vegetables.

Ahhh ... memories.

Monday, November 5, 2007


A visit to Goat Island |

Wilmington's Star-News posted this article about the goats on the little island near the Sunset Beach bridge. People always seemed surprised to see them there. According to the article a gentleman on the mainland put the goats out there in the early 1980s to eat mosquitoes.

Another thing that I didn't know is that the goats are able to survive because of a freshwater "lake" that collects rainwater in a low-lying area of the island. Apparently goats only need fresh water and plant life to survive so these little spit islands work out fine for them.

No Kegle this year but we keep the Stinky Shoe

Yesterday we held the 2nd Annual Kegel Challenge which is a bowling tournament that our troop puts on with Troop 799. The idea was to have a fun and friendly competition with another troop in our area to meet new Scouts and to broaden our Scouting horizons. It's actually a lot of fun and is helping to forge some links between the units. Last year, each PLC attended a troop meeting at the other troop and 799 joined us on our annual ski trip to Timberline (as they will this year as well).

The tournament works this way: each Scout and leader bowls a game. The six (this year seven) highest-scoring Scouts from each troop then bowl a second game. The highest combined score of those teams wins the coveted Kegel trophy which is a bowling pin. All other Scouts also get to bowl a second game for fun.

There is also a competition among the adult leaders for an equally-coveted prize: the Stinky Shoe award. This is a size 14 bowling shoe (that's not really stinky at all) that we've fashioned with brass plaques on the bottom. The premise is similar to the Kegel challenge except only the top three adult leaders from each team compete. Plus the boys are a lot better behaved than the adults. There's quite a bit of trash talking down there on that last lane.

The results this year were the same as last year but with bigger margins. The Scouts from Troop 799 retained the Kegel by 52 pins with a score of 632 to 580. Last year they won by four pins. And also like last year, the adult leaders from Troop 737 keep possession of the Stinky Shoe by a whopping 110 pins with a score of 449 to 339. Last year the margin was a mere two pins. But since the ultimate goal was to have fun I think we all won.

OlderSon, YoungerSon, and myself all competed and I think it's safe to say that none of us are destined for the PBA any time soon although after posting a 72 in the first round I hit my stride and got a 146 in the second round which I think is about the best game I've ever bowled.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Turkey Meatloaf

We bought ground turkey to make the dumplings but only needed 1/2 pound and we left the store with over two pounds (there was a sale) so we needed to come up another recipe. polMom found a great recipe for turkey meatloaf that we include below.

  • 1 tsp. oil
  • 1 c. chopped onions
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 3/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. dried sage
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 1/2 c. peeled, grated apples
  • 1 1/2 c. fresh bread crumbs from firm bread
  • 1 lg. egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

  • 1 tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard

Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add onions and celery and saute 3 minutes or until softened. Stir in thyme and sage and let cool slightly.

Combine onion mixture in large bowl with turkey, bread crumbs, apple, egg, parsley, salt, mustard and pepper. Mix well. Pack into a greased 8 x 4 inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Pour off any fat.

While the mixture is cooking, make the glaze by combining the ingredients in small bowl and brush over top of loaf. Bake 30 minutes more or until golden and juices run clear when pierced. I like taking the loaf out of the pan for the last thirty minutes to allow it to develop a little bit of a crust.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Saccharide Engineering

So what does an engineering student do with his Halloween candy stash? Start munching down on it as soon as possible? No, you must sort and classify it first as OlderSon has done with his candy haul from Halloween night.

When I was a kid, I ate about half of everything I got Halloween night. I think OlderSon only had a single candy bar Wednesday night and didn't open his bag back up until tonight when he meticulously organized his collection before sealing it up in a more secure container.

For later research of course.

Boy, that cape sure looks familiar ...

The front page of The Flat Hat, William and Mary's school newspaper, features a big picture of the Thomas Jefferson statue that has been transformed into the Headless Horseman. The caption reads "The statue of Thomas Jefferson was dressed in full form for Halloween by unknown students."

Huh. I wonder who could have done that.

Turkey Dumplings with Cranberry-Soy Dip

Our first recipe blog article!

I came across this recipe while reading the CHOW Digest blog. The article was titled "Appetizers for Autumn" and included this recipe for Turkey Dumplings with Cranberry-Soy Dip that they described as "Thanksgiving in one bite!" We thought it looked intriguing so we made a batch last week and they were great! They were such a hit with both adults and boys that we've made them two more times since then.

Recipe is listed below with some pictures of our efforts. Unfortunately, I usually ignore the "low sodium" part of recipes but this is one time when it should be followed. The first batch of sauce we made was really salty but switching to a low-sodium soy sauce fixed that right up. Enjoy!

For the dumplings:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 pound lean ground turkey
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded savoy or napa cabbage
  • 1/2 cup green onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • 32 round dumpling or square wonton wrappers
  • Cornstarch for dusting

For the sauce:

  • 1 cup cranberry sauce
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion

Heat 1 teaspoon vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat. Crumble in turkey and brown well. Add carrot, cabbage, green onion, ginger, soy sauce, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes or until cabbage is wilted. Remove from heat; cool to room temperature. Moisten 2 edges of each wonton wrapper with a little water. Place a rounded spoonful of the filling in the center of each; fold to enclose, pressing to seal.

Place on a baking sheet dusted with cornstarch to keep wontons from sticking. Cover with a damp towel.

Heat 1 teaspoon vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet set over medium heat. Add a single layer of wontons. Cook, without turning, for 2 minutes or until just golden on the bottom.

Add 1/2 cup of water to the skillet. Cover and steam for 6 minutes or until all water is evaporated and dumplings are tender throughout. Repeat with remaining dumplings, adding more oil to the pan as needed.

Meanwhile, whisk cranberry sauce with soy sauce in a small saucepan; set over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until the sauce comes to a boil and is smooth and glossy. Cool slightly; stir in the ginger and green onion.

Makes 32 wontons.

CollegeGirl 2.0

Apparently William and Mary does such a good job at filling up their students' brains that they forget basic skills like how to operate a telephone or to send email. Our poor daughter has only been able to make one phone call and send just a (small) handful of emails in the 2+ months she's been at school.

Fortunately, the part of her brain that knows how to update Facebook is still intact. For those that don't know what Facebook is, it's a part of what's known as social computing. You have your own page where you can post pictures, leave comments, and add applications that will do everything from show what books your reading to listing your course schedule to playing your favorite music. You can also post your "status" to let your friends and family know what you're doing. And it's pretty much our sole window into the life of CollegeGirl.

To share a taste of it with you, here's all of CollegeGirl's status messages since October 6th. Make note of the times some of these are written. All of them automatically begin with "CollegeGirl is":
  • is zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.......... 7:19pm, Oct 6
  • is awake and wondering what to do tonight... 10:08pm, Oct 6
  • is Tinker Bell! :). 6:28pm, Oct 7
  • is madly in love with PC, now and forever. 6:56pm, Oct 8
  • is suffering from a PC invasion... 7:47pm, Oct 8
  • is rockn' the capture the flag... 1:56am, Oct 10
  • is working....papers = bane of existance. 1:18am, Oct 11
  • is finally at home...all native americaned out... 2:26pm, Oct 14
  • is well rested from home, but glad to be heading back to W&M...not looking forwards to classes however... 12:42am, Oct 17
  • is glad to be back, but trying to figure out what on earth is going on in her life....stupid exams... 1:43pm, Oct 17
  • is madly in love with PC. I mean look at him... 7:11pm, Oct 17
  • is PC must die... 8:44pm, Oct 17
  • is yay! Rain! 1:37pm, Oct 18
  • is yay! Rain! Boo, work.. 1:44pm, Oct 18
  • is feeling sorry for her roomie... 2:59pm, Oct 18
  • is blistered, tired, achey and wonderously happy with the most amazing weekend EVER!! Thanks guys! ♥ to study my mind out for bio... 1:52pm, Oct 21
  • is excited for Capture the Flag tomorrow...still in a glow over the weekend... 12:33am, Oct 23
  • is excited for Capture the Flag today...I love windy fall days and dancing in the leaves... 2:28pm, Oct 23
  • is enjoying the rain...I love fall. 3:36pm, Oct 24
  • is enjoying the rain and baking muffins in D-wid! 4:50pm, Oct 24
  • is pondering whether she wants to go out and play in the rain... 10:22pm, Oct 24
  • is done pondering...going to head to WaWa and sing/skip/dance/slide through the rain swept campus! YaY! 10:35pm, Oct 24
  • is disappointed by the lack of rain, but puddles are fun too! 12:04am, Oct 25
  • is back from her second, much more successful rainy day encounter! 3:01am, Oct 25
  • is hating chemistry with a burning passion... working on Bio in the dorm until 4, then to Swem for Bio Lab... 2:10pm, Oct 25
  • is really wishing her Facebook photos would get their act together and keep their tags! 1:45am, Oct 26
  • is not really sure cookies are supposed to look like this... 5:39pm, Oct 26
  • is wondering what's going down tonight and how to make it to everything... 7:27pm, Oct 26
  • is super history weekend, huzzah!! 10:43pm, Oct 27
  • is at Rosewell for BBQ and bluegrass fun! Yay for History! ". 11:37am, Oct 28
  • is yay! My eggs hatched origami birds, thanks guys!! 4:58pm, Oct 28
  • is yay! My eggs hatched origami birds, thanks guys!! YEAH SOX! 2:55am, Oct 29
  • is loving the weather! 2:58pm, Oct 29
  • is messing around with her schedule... 11:46pm, Oct 29
  • is trying to figure out what's going on with Halloween... 8:17am, Oct 30
  • is sad Halloween is was fun guys! Much love to you all for great evening! 2:41am, Nov 1

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Halloween Wrap Up

Our Halloween setup
Originally uploaded by stepol

Our family always celebrates Halloween in a big way. We have four bins of decorations and two big bags full of pumpkins. We carve elaborate pumpkins and polMom puts together treat bags that combine candy and toys and have our name and address on them. It's usually a big event and this year was no exception.

Of course, this was yet another item on the ever-growing list of "first without CollegeGirl" entries. Our enthusiasm is tempered a little by her absence and we note little things like we don't have a pumpkin out carved by her. We miss her and would like to think she misses us a little too ... that is until we read her Facebook entries like "IT'S HALLLLLLOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEENNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YYYYYYYYAAAAAAAYYYYYYYY!!!!!!! :) PS: The statues are da bomb!" and we realize we'll be lucky if she remembers she even has parents or siblings.

Well, enough melancholy. On with the Halloween recap. First let's talk about the pumpkins. In a previous post I talked about how last year we purchased foam pumpkins so we could reuse them year after year instead of trying to carve six or seven fresh pumpkins in the two hours before trick or treaters arrive. This worked remarkably well this year as we reused the five pumpkins we carved last year and added two more that YoungerSon and I carved this year. First time in a dozen years I haven't had to carve the very intricate Cavalier. We got the normal oohs and aahs from the neighbors which is always nice. Lots more UVa fans out this year it seemed.

The picture at the top gives you a little idea of our setup. We put up a shelter that we string with lights, ghosts, and spider webs. We setup a table and chairs underneath along with a stereo playing the Halloween mix CD we made (I'll include that in another post). This is "Halloween Central" for us and is where we meet and greet all the kids and neighbors.

It's also where we have "Frankie" which is just about the oldest Halloween prop we have and polMom's favorite. It's a battery-operated Frankenstein that dips a blower into bubble stuff and really blows bubbles. We gave him a place of honor this year in front of the shelter and rigged a flashlight up as a spotlight. Definitely the biggest hit with the kids both young and old.

Whoever had the house long ago when they were putting in the curbs opted out so we have a shallow ditch between the road and the yard and we always worry about kids tripping in it in the dark so this year we strung pumpkin and slime lights along the street to direct everyone to the driveway. It worked (mostly) and looked really cool from the street. That's something we'll have to add to the tradition list.

YoungerSon and OlderSon were dressed up as a playing card and a superhero. polMom had made two cards, and Ace of spades and a Ten of diamonds, so they could go together as Blackjack but OlderSon would have no part of it. He went upstairs and made aletter for his chest, found a cape-like substance, and put on fuzzy socks and flip flops. I have to say, howver, that it was better than a lot of the costumes we saw on older kids that night. A lot weren't even wearing a costume ... just regular street clothes. Oh well.

Tally for the end of the night was just over 200 kids which is a new record for us. I even had to run out to Walmart after one wave of about 40 kids in a five minute span. polMom had made 180 bags which we thought would see us through but it was not to be.

Now we're putting away all of the Halloween gear into its bins and will soon drive back to the storage place for another year.

YoungerSon in Scouting Magazine!

That's right! Go to page 28 of the November/December 2007 issue of Scouting Magazine and you'll find the above picture at the top of the page with the caption: "Prospective den chiefs have fun during the training that ran concurrent to the University of Cub Scouting." And who is that at the left front of the photograph? It's YoungerSon who took the den chief trainnig course this past March at the event that was held at the University of Richmond. Very, very cool!

The issue isn't posted at the online site yet so I scanned the picture above and also made a PDF of the page it came from that you can download by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

... and the hotel was great.

Clay held the IT Architecture meeting at the Doubletree Paradise Valley Resort which was really, really nice. The picture above is the view from my balcony/patio which overlooked both the putting green and the South Pool. The landscaping was beautiful (obviously), the room was neat & spacious, and the meeting facilities were ... just okay. I guess it's hard to make big rectangular rooms interesting but it was quite a let down from the rest of the beautifully appointed resort.

My room was on the other side of the very large property from the lobby area. It was quite a hike going back and forth from the room but the surroundings made it a pleasant trek. I passed a sign several times pointing the way to the "Sonoran Desert Cactus Garden" before my curiosity got the better of me and I went to check it out. Wow. Very cool. OlderSon is a huge fan of cactus so I went back several times to get photos of it in different light. Glad I made the effort.

Anyway, if you ever find yourself in Scottsdale there are worse places to stay than here.

Architecture in Scottsdale

I ran across this quote from James McGovern's Enterprise Architecture blog about a tech fest he attended:
Having a conversation, even for one minute of something that isn't the dog and pony show is like methadone. You can see the light at the end of the tunnel but wonder if you are strong enough to take the first step. The journey is long and as you progress, you realize that others around you are caught in the same trap and also are struggling.
It pretty much sums up my feelings about the big IT Architecture team meeting we had out in Scottsdale last week. It was great to spend time with a group of colleagues who were (mostly) committed to looking at the strategic view of the company. A nice change from the day-to-day tactical demands of the enterprise.

And it was really nice to meet all the people I only knew as a voice on the other end of the phone. Of course I got to see the core EA team members: Andy, Mike, and Jim along with Rodney, our newest EA member from Concentra who I met for the first time. Also got to meet the other dozen or so IT Architecture team members which was particularly nice since I rarely talk to any of them outside of the biweekly conference call. Getting to sit down with them and talk casually about their work was extremely valuable to me.

I also finally got to meet Stan, the SVP I've reported to for almost a year but never met. He came with Maria, our (newish) CIO, to deliver a presentation on approved projects for 2008 and along with their vision for architecture. I about cried when Maria talked about how Enterprise Architecture was near and dear to her heart and how important she felt our efforts were. It's one thing for our team to talk about it but having the CIO in charge of several thousand IT professionals come out and say how it important it is made the 4500 miles and many, many hours of travel time worth it.

Do not attempt to adjust your browser ...

... it's about to get a little strange. I know, I'm way behind on the blog. I keep thinking I'll take some time and catch up but it all becomes a little overwhelming. I've decided to embrace the disjointed chaos for a while and blog about the present things and at the same time as I fill in with stuff that's taken place in the past few weeks. Someday I'll catch back up.

But don't hold your breath.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Your luggage may be a little delayed ...

Here's the photo that goes with the Jott post below that I phoned in from the airport. As you can see, the plane hit the cart pretty good, smashing the windshield and leaving glass all over the wing. The plane pushed the cart a pretty good ways as well so it's a miracle nobody got hurt.

The most interesting thing was how matter-of-fact they handled it. The pilot came on the speaker immediately and simply said that we would be deplaning and that those who had checked their luggage at the gate would have them delivered just inside the door. No mention of the crash at all.

We got off the plane very quickly with no delay. They brought out a stairway as we were still a little way away from the gate. And that was it.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Interesting thing happened on the way to Phoenix

Interesting thing happened on the way to Phoenix. In Charlotte as we were taxiing into our gate, the plane shuddered and shook and looked out the window and our wing had clipped a baggage train and left glass flying all over the windshield. Nobody was hurt. We all deplaned and hopefully the trip to Phoenix will be less eventful.
Click here to listen

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Unpacking Halloween

YoungerSon and I went over to the storage place to put away a couple of things from the house but also to bring back our huge amount of Halloween items. Four big bins plus several trash bags full of foam and plastic pumpkins. We do Halloween up pretty big and we've collected an inordinate amount of decorations and such.

Our discovery last year of Fun-Kins, realistic hollow foam pumpkins, was a big turning point for us. We've always done very elaborate pumpkin carvings and tried to have about ten pumpkins out for Halloween. Unfortunately, because of work, school, Scouts, clubs, etc. we were carving them later and later. The past couple of years we were carving them right up until 6pm on Halloween. These new foam pumpkins let us carve them in the evenings days and weeks before Halloween and we get to reuse them year after year.

For instance, I've been carving the same Virginia Cavalier pumpkin for years. It's very detailed and takes me quite a while to get it all carved up. Some of the cuts leave only a very thin strip of flesh to hold things together. As the pumpkin ages over the evening, it begins to sag and fall apart as you can see in this pic from 2005. Last year, however, I carved it into a foam pumpkin and could get it just how I wanted it. Better yet, it's just waiting to be put out this year so I can spend my time on a new pumpkin design.

polMom just finished a new William and Mary foam pumpkin last for CollegeGirl. She made a one with a real pumpkin last year because CollegeGirl thought that making a permanent one would tempt fate and she might not get into W&M. No worries about that now so polMom created an absolutely beautiful pumpkin. We'll have to get pics of it up after CollegeGirl gets to see it this weekend.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Big ugly bridge will have to wait

Legal challenge puts Sunset Beach bridge on hold | Star-News

You gotta love those pesky taxpayers! Just when you thought the NCDOT has finagled the process enough to actually award the contract to build the GiantUglyBridge, the Sunset Beach Taxpayers Association and the Brunswick Environmental Action Team step in with yet another lawsuit. God love 'em.

I figured they were out of lawsuit options but apparently DOT has modified the construction plans since the last environmental impact statement was done in 1997. The SBTA and BEAT say that a supplemental study needs to be done or DOT will be in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Environmental Protection Act.

Maybe this will buy enough time for the state to realize that the money would be better spent addressing much more pressing bridge needs around the state. And we get to hold on to our little bridge a little bit longer.

Jott is very cool.

I am sitting here at lunch with Carl and Mani and we are just talking about Web 2.0 technology so I want to demonstrate the very cool technology that I had found, so I am going to give them my blog site address and let them go to if after lunch and they can see that when I am saying here right now is showing up on the blog site as we speak.
Click here to listen

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

W&M team golfs at Sunset Beach!

The Flat Hat: Men's Golf: W&M sets school record for 54-holes at Sea Trail

We're going to have to get CollegeGirl interested in the golf team! William and Mary participated this past weekend in the Sea Trail Intercollegiate which is just across the bridge from her grandparents' beach house. The Tribe placed fourth out of 19 teams.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

CollegeGirl Update: Dining with polMom in Richmond!

While the boys and I were out camping, CollegeGirl paid a surprise visit to Richmond!

Her way-cool Saturday history class had traveled up to historic Saint Mary's City, Maryland which was the site of the fourth permanent settlement in British North America as well Maryland's first capital. It has a living history center with costumed interpreters similar to Colonial Williamsburg.

After spending the day attending court, being put in the stockade, learning about tobacco farming, and climbing aboard the replica square-rigged ship Maryland Dove, the class headed back to Williamsburg and decided to stop in Richmond for dinner at Five Guys Burgers and Fries. In an act of daughterly devotion that earned many, many brownie points, she phoned her mother at home to ask if she would like to join them. polMom was so excited that she called us out at camp to let us know she was going to see her.

Her visit was brief but she did fill in some of the holes that her Facebook account didn't provide. She's still has major love for William & Mary, enjoys her classes, and is apparently still doing well. She didn't miss a beat from high school and is still quite the social butterfly, participating in lots of clubs and activities ... some of them of questionable legality. She's very proud of completing the traditional Triathlon, a set of three tasks to be completed by each student prior to graduation. I won't post the tasks here but feel free to check out this Wikipedia article on W&M traditions and see what you think of our saintly daughter.

She hangs out a lot with her fellow Dinwiddie Hall dorm residents in which have really seemed to bond into a great social and support unit. Dinwiddie is the smallest of the freshman dorms and is also the furthest away from the academic campus tucked back in the woods by Lake Matoaka. With only 44 students in the dorm, the setting is almost familial and the residents do a lot of activities together, recently forming the Flying Lemurs intramural team.

Apparently, the local WaWa on Richmond Road is something akin to a religious site and has even prompted the creation of a "Cult of the WaWa" group on Facebook. CollegeGirl and her hoard wait until the wee hours of the morning and creep across campus in the dark of night on their pilgrimage for late-night (actually early morning) snacks. If you're thinking of sending something to her, one of these would be a welcome gift.

Apparently there was blackout last night in Williamsburg which triggered a crisis amongst the many Wawa fanatics. CollegeGirl posted this at 1:08am this morning:
Was anyone else part of the 50 or so people waiting in front of WaWa after the blackout? Wawa closed?? I about died...
Hopefully we'll hear more from her in the days ahead but were very grateful for even the brief time she was able to spend with her mom.