Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Short Greeting

Thought I'd put a quick post together to say howdy. We're in California for the next week. Stopped at my bothers house and stayed overnight, then made the second part of our journey to the bay area. Not sure what I did, but it feels like someone set a grenade off in my left kneecap. Dang O'Mally it hurts.

Today we conquered San Francisco. I'll save the details until I'm back home and can download a few pictures to go along with the story. For now I'll just leave it at, we all had a fantastic time.

In case I don't post again until the big day, Merry Christmas.

I'll be checking in on you when I can over the next few days, but probably won't be around too much till I get back home.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

"Oh Ficus Tree, Oh Ficus Tree..."

Everybody, sing with me: "Oh ficus tree, oh ficus tree..."
See # 10 for an explanation

I've seen various versions of this Christmas meme at one place or another. I decided to go ala carte and combine the questions I wanted to use, adding and omitting as I went.

Where Ive seen likenesses of this: Rubbish by Roan, Thom's Place 4 Well Whatever and Dr John's. Excuse me if I overlooked anyone.

(1) What is your favorite Christmas movie?
"The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" the cartoon version with Boris Karloff's voice. I love when the Grinch puts the "horn" on the dog and he tips face forward into the snow because of the weight.

(2) What is your LEAST favorite Christmas movie?
"The Sound of Music" OK, I know that's not necessarily a Christmas movie, but it does seem to make it onto the TV lineup this time of year. ICK, ICK, ICK

(3) What is your favorite Christmas song?
"White Christmas" cause it gives me an opportunity to break out my best Bing Crosby voice and sing along with it. Ya, it drives my wife absolutely nuts when I do that too.

(4) What Christmas song(s) drives you crazy?
Any and all of them when they are played between Dec 26 and the following Thanksgiving.

(5) Eggnog or hot chocolate?
Considering that eggnog is like drinking liquid snot, I'd have to say hot chocolate.

(6) What is your favorite Christmas memory?
Waking up, looking outside to the driveway and seeing a big red bow on a brand new car. . . Oh wait, you meant one of my memories.

(7) Have you ever re gifted a present?
No, never. . . but this year's not over yet.

(8) Candy canes, Like 'em or not?
Hanging on a tree I can handle. Eating them?.. Not so much.

(9) Do you ever buy, wrap and put a present for yourself under the tree?
I respectfully request to take the fifth amendment please.

(10) Real tree or artificial?
We live in Oregon which leads the nation in Christmas tree exportation. Trees here are cheap and easy come by. There are U-cut farms everywhere around here, and the boys enjoy going out and murdering a tree every year. This year however, we're going out of town for Christmas so there is a nice ficus in the corner of the living room that is acting as a surrogate (See the picture at the begining of this post).

(11) What tops your Christmas tree?
We have a funky star like thingy that sits up top. Growing up it was an angel. We would always laugh about that poor little angel sitting up there with a tree shoved up her backside.

(12) What is your favorite holiday dish?
Lisa when she comes to bed wearing nothing but a Santa hat. :)

(13) Do you hang mistletoe?
Yes, from the belt loop on the back of my blue jeans.

(14) Christmas lights - colored or all white?
It used to be all white, but ever since affirmative action we've gone to colored ones.

(15) Santa at the mall - Fun times or creepy?
There was one year when Matthew was a wee little guy when Santa scared the bejeebers out of him. Now though, we all look forward to our annual trip to downtown Portland to go see him. We make a day out of it hopping on the train and going there.

(16) Christmas cards - do you send them?
I think about doing it some years and then laziness takes over and it doesn't happen.

(17) Is Christmas your favorite holiday?
Not by a far stretch. Thanksgiving is number one for me. It's all about being with family and nothing about the commercialism aspect that Christmas can have overshadowing it.

(18) What is the worst thing about Christmas?
The utter chaos that happens in and around shopping areas. As I was walking toward the entrance of Target today, I darned near got run over by some retard trying to get a spot up front.

(19) When do you put decorations up?
Sometime after Thanksgiving, during that two hour window when it isn't raining outside.

(20) Out of the twelve days of Christmas, which item(s) would you want to receive?
Eight maids a milking... Hello!

(21) What is your favorite smell at Christmastime?
Homemade fudge and/or divinity

(22) What would make you happy at Christmastime this year?
Safe travel to and from California

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Stew On It

Hey, it's December in Oregon so I guess it should come as no surprise that it's cold and wet outside. The perfect weather for some good ole' rib sticking beef stew. For you vegetarians out there, just think of it as tofu with actual flavor.

A few weeks ago we bought a package of chuck roast from Costco. Now if any of you shop at this mecca of excess, you'll know there's no such thing as a small anything there. As a result of this, we had pot roast with half of what we originally bought and froze the rest. Not wanting to have post roast back to back, we decided to thaw out the remaining side of beef and make stew out of it. Thought I'd share a few photos of the cooking process and a loose adaptation of the recipe.

If you decide to make this and are looking at the quantities of ingredients, just remember it can all be altered. Add or subtract to your hearts content.

1/4 cup +/- Oil
3# Beef Chuck Roast (or other stew meat)
1 cup Flour
1/2 cup Red Wine
2 cups ea. Yellow Onion, Celery and Carrots
8 cloves Garlic
2 14.5 ounce cans Italian Stewed Tomatoes
3-4 cups Mushrooms
4 cups Potatoes
2-3 Bay Leaves

In a heavy skillet, heat the oil. Cut the chuck roast into large cubes and dredge in the flour. Brown meat in oil over high heat. Cook in small batches leaving plenty of room in the pan so the meat can be browned on all sides without it sticking together. Put all the cooked meat into a large soup pan.

When the last of the meat has been browned, drain any remaining oil and add the red wine. Deglaze the pan with the wine and pour the liquid into the soup pan. (basically this means to bring the wine to a boil in the pan and scrape/loosen any of the browned bits with a wooden spoon.)

This is a important part of the cooking process. Don't simply discarding them, those little browned bits in the bottom of the skillet have a tremendous amount of flavor. If you don't have any wine on hand to deglaze with, you can use water instead.

Cut the Onions, Celery and Carrots into large pieces. (about one inch cubes) Dice the garlic. In the skillet with about a tablespoon of oil, lightly saute the vegetables then put into the soup pot.

Cover the meat and veges with water and bring to a simmer. If you have any homemade beef stock on hand this is a perfect opportunity to use it here.

Quarter the mushrooms. Peel and cut the potatoes into large cubes. Place into soup pot.

If you have a nine year old in the house, ask him (or her) to open the cans of tomatoes. This will vastly improve the chances that they will want to eat dinner later. Trust me, it always tastes better if you let them help you! Put the tomatoes and bay leaves into the soup pot.

Simmer for about 2 - 2 1/2 hours.

Season with a little salt and black pepper.

About a half an hour into the simmering I like to skim the top of the stew to remove any oil or fat from the meat that has accumulated at the top of the pan.

I also think cornbread is the perfect accompaniment to beef stew. (cause that's the way mom always did it.) Homemade is always a nice touch, but mixes are soooo much easier. This night we used a mix from Bob's Red Mill (a local company) It was mighty tasty.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Tight Christmas

Anybody else relate to the guy on the right?

Thanks to Psycho Mom for this pic sent via an email

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Your Comment Story ... Finally!

Remember back in October when I was in my writing/blogging funk? I asked you all for a variety of comments that I would turn into a story. You came through with flying colors then I put all your comments on the shelf and didn't do anything with them. I went from feeling unmotivated to feeling guilty for not doing anything with them, to practically forgetting about them. Well, I sat down this morning and finally put them all together into a story. It's a bit off the wall, but then again, so were all those comments. Yaozer!

Below is a list all of the comments you left me followed by the story. Thought I'd put all the phrases/comments in a list for you to see rather than highlighting them in the story itself.

I'm not sure it was worth waiting for, but I couldn't stand to leave it as unfinished. Hope you enjoy.


I came storming into the room

What did you do after the elephant sat on your bicycle?

I'd love to kiss you, but I just washed my hair

Blue is the sound my heart makes

He was blindfolded, but he knew that she had just slipped the diamond ring of his dreams onto his toe

The car swerved to the left and the headlights of oncoming traffic blinded Alex

Just when he thought she'd never laugh again, she looked up just in time to see him slip on a banana peel

I felt like the biggest gasbag in town

I hobbled all the way into down on my good hoof

I've not had much loving in seventeen years either

This company consolidation is dreadful

How long are we going to continue to pretend this is a training issue?

Learn to live with the decisions you make in life

$140 in fees for a free education?

Dinner was liver and onions

What the f*** was that?

And that's when the zit popped

The mad cow had struck again

Root canal or keel hauled - choose wisely

The spot on his genitals grew larger by the day

You know I wish that I had Jesse's girl

What do you MEAN it's fake?!

But of course everyone knew my brother Gene was a far greater man than I could ever hope to be

The hole was deeper than I anticipated

"Don't touch it" she screamed, "I fear it's radioactive"

One of these days Alice, straight to the moon!

Will you return or do I have to go through this all by myself?


"The Realtor 's Reality "

The mad cow had struck again and the only thing I could think of was, blue is the sound my heart makes anytime I'm forced to go into that Maleficent bovine's office.

Being called into Mr Tums inner sanctum was rarely good news, and this particular day would prove to be no exception. Don't get me wrong, the initial proposition he placed before me sounded intriguing enough, but once the details were spelled out, it became clear that I was just being used as his string puppet once again.

He informed me that he had a very important client coming into town in a couple of days. He also said he wanted me to preview a variety of homes so I could have potential sites to show upon the arrival of said client. Common sense told me otherwise, but I decided to ask with the anticipation of an excited puppy dog who this VIP was. Tums informed me that it was none other than Bling Crozbee, the latest rap singing sensation. Upon hearing this bit of information I knew I had an immediate choice to make; Root canal or keel hauled. "Choose wisely", I thought. Knowing full well that the old standard "trip to the dentist" excuse wouldn't hold water, I opted for the torture of spending one weekend out of my life with someone I thought less of than the pimples on my ass.

To say this company consolidation was dreadful would have been an understatement. A year earlier when the economy was stronger, Tums would have had at least a half dozen other agents to choose from, but now with only three of us left (one being my brother) and me being the top seller of those remaining, I was the only logical choice. When I looked him in the eye and told him I'd be happy to oblige, I felt like the biggest gasbag in town. (Well, I am a Realtor, so I guess it kind of goes with the territory.)

An hour later and I was rolling out of the office with a list of multimillion dollar properties to preview. Then, as clearly as she was standing next to me I heard the sound of my mother resounding in my head. "Learn to live with the decisions you make in life." I could hear her say. Momma, you see, wanted me to be a doctor. I, of course, had a different idea of how to make a living.

Regardless of who was ultimately right or wrong, I had a job to do and I was going to give it everything I had. That meant doing whatever was needed to bring in a sale. Today that meant I'd needed to learn not only about the homes that were available in the area, but also to learn a thing or two about my new client.

I gulped hard as I reached over to the passenger's seat and picked up a copy of Crozbee's hit CD, "RAWRRRRRR!!!!" Lord, how I hoped the songs themselves had something more to offer than that ridicules title. Unfortunately, my initial suspicion was accurate. It was filled with a dozen or so songs ( and I use that term loosely mind you) that collectively had all the the enjoyment of a bowl of cold porridge.

From the first song, "$140 In Fees For a Free Education?" to the one that propelled him to the top of the charts, "What the F*** Was That!", the CD was one disappointment after another. After twenty minutes of listening, I was convinced talent was not a prerequisite to make it in some musical circles. Another twenty minutes and I was ready to commit hari-kiri.

As quickly as I could, I hit the eject button and flung that putrid silver disc out the passenger side window as far as I could possibly manage. The classic rock station that replaced Crozbee's noise was playing a song from Rick Springfield and I soon found myself singing out loud, "You know I wish that I had Jesse's girl...ta da da da da da...Jesse's girl" Maybe not the greatest song ever written, but it certainly was a far cry better than what was previously on.

It was about this time I pulled into Marietta Heights and up to the first of the homes I thought would be suitable for my client. At just under eighty-five hundred square feet of living space, it was the smallest one on the list and I knew Crozbee would immediately discount it as being undersized, but that was part of my plan. I found when showing property, it was beneficial to show at least one place that the client wouldn't care for, thereby making the others look that much better.

I took the obligatory tour through the property, making a few notes as I went, even knowing Bling would immediately shoot it down once he saw it. A few minutes later I jumped back my Beamer and headed off toward the next property, and that's when the zit popped. "Damn!" I shouted, looking into the rear view mirror. The hole was deeper than I anticipated too. In fact, the darned thing looked like a crater on the end of my nose. I watched as a greenish-white puss oozed from the divot now prominently displayed across my schnoz remembering what my wife had said earlier that morning. With both thumbs positioned to either side of that nasty little red bump, I was just about to give it a good firm squeeze when, in most dramatic fashion, she screamed, "Don't touch it. I fear is is radioactive!" to which I could only think of Jackie Gleason and shouted back, "One of these days Alice, straight to the moon!" I was going to have to do something about this before meeting with Crozbee later in the week.

After mopping up the mess on my nose with a slightly used napkin left over from my morning trip to Starbucks, I was once again focused on the task at hand; searching for the perfect home for my client.

The second home looked to be the perfect choice. I'd seen it two years earlier when it had been for sale before. Now, after an ugly divorce between the most recent owners, it was on the market once again. This baby had all the amenities a young, self absorbed rap star like Crozbee would find irresistible, and with an asking price of just under ten million, I was sure he'd think it was a steal.

With a smile on my face, I thought about the commission I'd be getting from this sale as I opened the lock box and plucked the key from its confines. I grabbed it and slid it into the ornate lock on the front door giving the bell a ring to announce my arrival in case anybody was inside. As I opened the large mahogany door, my smile quickly faded. The most horrific smell wafted through the air and I could tell the previous night's dinner was liver and onions. "Didn't anyone realize this was not the best choice for a house that was on the market?" I muttered aloud. "Well," I thought, "A nice apple pie placed in the oven a couple hours before showing it to Bling would certainly cover up any remaining nastiness that remained. Heck, it might even make him wax nostalgic for his mommas home cooking too, making the house seem all the more attractive."

It was obvious by the generally unkempt conditions I saw while going from room to room, that the husband had somehow retained possession of the home, but certainly not the maid. I kept reassuring myself we had a couple of days before actually showing the home, and these things could be overcome easily enough. That's about the time I made it to the master bedroom. The door was sort of half closed and I could hear two people inside who were, for the lack of a better term, engaged in an extra curricular activity that I was quite sure I didn't need to witness with my own eyes. As I stood motionless on the opposite side of the door, I could hear, "I've not had much loving in seventeen years either." to which I thought, "I did not need to hear that!"

"I'd love to kiss you, but I just washed my hair." she replied with a giggle.

"Oh brother!" I continued thinking, "What am I doing here?" A moment later I heard the young woman exclaim, "What do you MEAN it's fake?!"

Fits of laughter started to work their way through me as I stood there in morbid curiosity as to what was transpiring on the other side of the door. This was like a train wreck unfolding before my eyes ... well, my ears anyway. I couldn't stand it anymore so I came storming into the room as if I'd not heard a thing. The two of them jumped up from the oversized bed as the young woman quickly reached for the corner of the sheet to cover herself. He was not as modest though, and he stood there wearing nothing but a ridiculous looking ten gallon hat on his head and a dark red robe. Much to my dismay, the robe was not fastened in the front leaving his Johnson hanging out in full view. It was at this point that I recalled the very public divorce proceedings between he and his ex wife. The one headline that was played on every news channel and across every tabloid was a quote from his wife in which she said, "The spot on his genitals grew larger by the day!" Well, I'm here to tell you, she was absolutely right in her statement. DAMN!

Without skipping a beat he looked at me, extended his hand and said, "Howdy, you must be the realtor."

Dumbfounded, I replied, "Uh, er... Hi, Alex Snyder, pleased to meet you. Sorry to interrupt. I rang the bell, but no one..."

Cutting me off he said, "Don't worry boy, I heard ya, but as you can see I was a little busy. I figured you'd make it back here eventually." He looked at his companion and said he needed to talk business with me.

She asked, "Will you return or do I have to go through this all by myself?"

"Keep it fresh darlin', I'll be right back." he told her.

"OK sugar, you know where to find me." she replied.

We made our way out to the pool and he said, "You know, your timing could have been better."

"I'm sorry sir," I said, "but I did have an appointment."

"I know boy. I'm not upset about that. It's just that, well... that tender little thing in the other room just proposed to me."

"Really?" I responded.

He went on to tell me he was blindfolded, but knew that she had just slipped the diamond ring of his dreams onto his toe. I pretended to be touched by the sentiment, but what I really wanted to do was to put my client in his house and put a nice fat commission check in my pocket. I cared very little to hear any more of his personal doings or god forbid to see anything more of the two of their sexual escapades.

That's when he informed me that due to the newly developed circumstances the home would no longer be offered for sale. "That's just perfect," I thought. "Now what?"

By this point it was getting late and I decided to pack it in for the day. I climbed back into my Beamer and decided to head down to my favorite watering hole, "The Rusty Nail". I figured I could drown my sorrows of the day in a few libations. I thought wrong.

On the drive back down the hill I was met by hoards of cars traveling in the opposite direction as I was fumbling through some paperwork on the passenger seat. The car swerved to the left and the headlights of oncoming traffic blinded Alex. "Good Lord. " I thought, "Now I'm talking about myself in the third person. I really do need a drink!" I regained control of the car and of my composure and continued toward the Rusty Nail.

The place was full of the usual characters. From the over make-uped, over perfumed floozy sitting on the corner stool waiting for some "gentleman" to buy her a drink, to the scruffy, white haired drunk who'd obviously had more than one too many already. Wanting to avoid both of them, I pulled up a stool in the middle of the bar and ordered a JD and Coke. "And make it a double would ya." I said to the bar tender.

I picked up my cell phone and called Mr Tums to inform him of the days activities. Needless to say, he was not pleased. The funny thing was, he tried to pin the blame on me, saying with proper training, I'd have convinced the guy he didn't want to live in his house with a new wife and that he'd be better off selling it. "How long are we going to pretend this is a training issue?" I found myself saying. After a few more heated words I hung up the phone and returned to my cocktail.

No sooner had I picked up my glass than the scruffy, white haired drunk stumbled down the bar and pulled up a stool next to mine. Through glazed eyes he looked at me and with slurred speech asked, "What did you do after the elephant sat on your bicycle?"

I quickly replied, "I hobbled all the way into down on my one good hoof."

Friends, let me tell you, that was an absolutely beautiful moment. He starred at me with the most stupefied look on his face, turned and just walked away. At the same time, the floozy at the other end of the bar looked up with her sad eyes and just when he (that is, I) thought she'd never laugh again, she looked up just in time to see him slip on a banana peel. "Wow" I thought, "of all the times for the bartender to have a request for a banana daiquiri and to subsequently drop a peel on the wrong side of the bar." Well, with the way the rest of my had had gone, I guess I shouldn't have been too surprised.

Like the continuance of a bad dream, my phone rang and it was Mr Tums on the other end of the line. He informed me that he was removing me from Bling's sales team and was replacing me with my older brother Gene. I started to argue my point, but of course everyone knew my brother Gene was a far greater man than I could ever hope to be. I knew the real truth though and couldn't help but think no one deserved Bling like Gene did.


Thank you to all who contributed to the madness by leaving a comment for me to use. To say you made it a challenge would be an understatement.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

When Cold is Cool

Rather than let the cold weather get the best of us, Lisa and I decided to take a short journey east this morning while the boys were in school and take in what mother nature had to offer. We climbed into the truck and were met by a very neat display of ice crystals that had formed on the windshield over the previous night. (You can click on the photos to see them in a larger view)

About twenty miles to the north of where we live runs the Columbia river. For the geographically inquisitive, it forms the border between Oregon and Washington. The part of it just to the east of Portland is known as the Columbia River Gorge. As one might imagine, it meanders through the foothills on either side of it forming a deep canyon. It also makes for an incredible wind tunnel that sucks the cold air out of the east and pushes it toward the Portland metro area.

Within the gorge, there are several waterfalls that are all absolutely breathtaking. One of the more famous ones, at least locally, is Multnomah Falls. At 620 feet, it boasts being the second highest year round waterfall in the country. Anyhoodle, we've been there several times during the summer and hiked to the top of it on more than one occasion. Today though, we went there to see it in a completely different view.

With the past few days not getting above freezing, the falls have taken on a spectacular look. combining both the rushing water along with ice that has formed in and around itself. Usually when Multnomah gets this way, the entire Gorge is a mess of snow and ice, making driving through it a challenge at best. This week has been a bit different though. It has been colder than a well diggers butt, but it has also been bone dry. This meant we could travel out there at freeway speeds, but still get to enjoy the beauty of it firsthand.

Now I know some of you live in places where twenty degrees F would feel warm right about now, but to me it is C O L D ! So, I/we donned our long undies, scarfs, jackets, gloves and anything else that would keep us toasty, and headed off on our quest. About an hour later we arrived and were treated to some pretty cool sights. On the short walk up to the bridge, we came across a stream that literally froze in time.

There were probably a hundred or so people in and around the area, and everyone had a camera at the ready. Mine is just a simple pocket sized one, and unfortunately does not do the sights justice. To see it in person was really amazing.

The last shot is of the bridge I spoke of earlier. If you look closely, you'll see a couple of people standing on it. (to the right side) This was about as "empty" as I could manage to get it. I decided to change this one from color to black and white. It seemed to give it a more nostalgic flair.

Hope you all enjoyed this brief journey through Multnomah Falls.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Meandering About

As the great hunter Elmer Fudd would say, "Time for a wittle west and wewaxation."

My work projects have wrapped up and I'm ready to pack it in until after Christmas. Yahooooo!!!

Things should be pretty calm around here for the next couple of weeks now. After that we will be heading down to California to spend Christmas with Lisa's mom and brother. We're going to manage to get in some tourist type time in while down there too. Believe it or not, after living for about thirty years an hour away from San Francisco, Lisa never has been to Alcatraz island. So, on the 23rd, we're going to go check it out.


Winter may officially be a couple of weeks away, but like most of the country, if you take a look at the thermometer it would appear that it's already upon us. When I left for work this morning it was a whopping 15 degrees outside. For the third day in a row, the daytime high stayed under freezing. Brrrrrr!!! Tomorrow is supposed to be a bit colder still and, as an added bonus, if we're real lucky, we may get freezing rain on Friday/Saturday. Yepee Skippy!


How about a little cold weather Haiku?

I can't feel my toes
Temperature plummeting
It's so freaking cold!


Here's a blogging question. Sometimes when I read a post I particularly enjoy, or one that I like to reference back to, I mention the author along with a link to their place. I do this out of courtesy, not obligation. So the prose is this: Do you, when you see these links, ever click on them to visit the site?


I have a story idea running through my head. Hopefully I'll actually find the time and ambition to get it out on "paper" and share it with you all.


OK, enough rambling on for now.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Working Girls / Working Man

So in case you missed it (as did I), last night was Victoria's Secret big show on TV. It got me to thinking as some things will.

Was this show done to improve their bottom line?

Did they bust out all of their special goods?

Do you suppose they are bosom buddies with Fredrick's of Hollywood?

How's this for a slogan idea? "Don't buy off the rack. Buy for the rack!"


In other news, I have one more day left on a huge commercial job that has consumed the past two weeks of my working life. My oldest brother Gene came down for Thanksgiving and offered to help us out for a couple of days. My wife has even gotg into the act by helping out the last two days and will be there again tomorrow. Do you get the idea this really is a family business?

The project has been to revamp concrete floors in two locker rooms and the associated saunas and restrooms for a large recreation center. We've been grinding and leveling the floor and then putting a decorative epoxy floor system in. Tomorrow will mark the completion of phase one of our scope of work. I'll be sure to snap some photographs of it in a few weeks when the other trades have completed their work and the project is finished.

We'll be back at the project sometime in January to do a bit more coating around the new swimming pool that is being constructed. We've done larger jobs as far as square footage is concerned, but this one marks the largest contract yet. That's due to the logistical issues we've had to overcome and the intricate nature of the coating itself.

I am really looking forward to a day off and sleeping in past five a.m. Yes, my pillow and I are going to get reacquainted with one another very soon!