Thursday, December 31, 2009

Makayla and Me

Well--it is New Year's Eve (for New Year's Day 2010) and as I am reflecting upon 2009, I keep returning to the one thing that probably had the biggest impact on me during the year--Makayla. I reread my first blog about her--love on four feet and the pictures that I put in that item. Wow--she was small.

She has gone from a rambunctious little puppy to an exciting dog in the space of the year.

She has become my best companion--especially when the house is quiet and I am without other human companionship. she is usually there, except when Chris takes her out with her to Nicole's for a play date with Jeff and Gibbs.

I was looking back through pictures of her first year and i was just amazed at how she has grown from the small puppy--just weeks old into my best friend. It was, love at first sight.

It is her eyes that melt my heart. They are full of life and playfulness. She always seems to search my face to decide if we are going to play or not. I know it drives Chris crazy.
And then there are the rules which have been broken this year--like no table food--well except for toast, and Pringles, and who knows what else.
I guess that with the passing of the great dog Meghan three years ago, I had forgotten just how much of a dog person I really am.
So I guess 2009 is really the year of Makayla. Who knows what 2010 will bring.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 Movies of the Year

Movies 2009--the good and the not so good
Best Movies of 2009
1. Star Trek - the best movie of the year by far
2. Transformers 2 - almost the best movie (Megan Fox is hot!)
3. Avatar - Strong movie, creative--not as good as the other two
4. Defiance - difficult material to see on screen
5. Taken - best thriller of the year
6. Up - best animated movie of the year
7. Angels and Demons - much better ending than the book
8. Race to Witch Mountain - I like corny movies, OK?
9. The Proposal - the best chick flick of the year and funny
10. Knowing - even though the ending was terrible

Worst Movie of 2009
Mall Cop

Movies intentionally not on the list:
Twilight 2 New Moon (I'm neither a tween nor a cougar!)
Night at the Museum 2 (been done)
Ice Age 3 - yeah, yawn
Fired Up (cute and a funny rental)

Movies I still want to see:
Year One
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Inglorious Bastards
It's Complicated
The Blind Side
Sherlock Holmes

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Avatar - Movie Review

It has been a while since I reviewed a movie--but I saw Avatar and felt it needed a review.

I saw the movie in 3D XD at the local theater and was really impressed with the way the 3D was incorporated into the movie--it was one of the most impressive and natural 3D experiences that i have had. Technology gets a great grade.

The story is compelling and intriguing. The movie is long--almost three-hours, but the character development is necessary to understanding and appreciating the movie. The story moves though and the three hours passes very quickly. Much has been written about the opening sequences as being slow--but without the character de velopment acocmplished there, the movie would lack depth. The story is a lot like Dances with Wolves meets Fern Gully. The movie is set on a planet called Pandora with native peoples who are different form humans, but as you might suspect also superior in many ways to humans. This sets up the conflict between the races which forms the basis for the plot.

That written---the movie provides solid entertainment with a distinct social engineering thrust in two arenas--one--the suppression of indigenous peoples is wrong, and two, we need to be more in tune with our environment. Of course the quest for money (the love of money is the root of all evil) and the desire to possess the mineral riches of the planet are critical parts of the movie and directly relate to the environmental and ecological themes presented. There is also a strong religious (earth mother) undertone to the movie as well.
RECOMMENDATION: See this movie. It is not the best movie of all time, but the technical effects are amazing, the story compelling, and the acting is strong. Everyone is talking aobut this movie and there is no way you can appreciate it without seeing it. See it in the 3d and exepcially the XD 3D is you can. There is some violence and sensuality in the movie--so not good for the pre-teen crowd.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Monday Musings - December 28, 2009

1. The last Monday of the year is a good time to reflect on the other 51 Mondays and decide if waking up early is really enjoyable or not.

2. It is amazing how quickly four days off passes when I am busy and it seems as if I really didn't get to enjoy them at all.

3. Whomever said that Christmas is for children knew what they were talking about--kids definitely put the pizazz into the holiday.

4. It is crazy--here it is three days past Christmas and I still have not had time to play with all of my gifts!

5. New Year's is coming--wow, already? Who knew it was so close to Christmas? (think about it!)

6. I read that the airlines want people to show up four hours before their flights, if going overseas. And then they have to sit in their seats for the last hour of the flight and cannot even read. Flying is so much fun.

7. Following on the airline theme--the government needs to step in and make the airlines drop their checked baggage fees to help people get through security and reduce the amount of stuff in the cabins. Think about it--the fees may be creating a larger security problem and also slowing the processing of people through the security lines.

8. As it is time for the end of the year lists--I will be making my lists as well and sharing some of them--it is a good way to reflect on what has happened this past year.

9. Professional sports are tough to follow as a fan when your team (the Ravens) play like an undisciplined college team. Baseball is less than two months away and with every Springtime--hope springs eternal! Go O's.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Portrait!

Every year we take a few pictures in front of the Christmas Tree to document our family and its growth.

It helps us all remember the year and where we are in our lives as a family.

And at least one of the shots is the goofy image--this year here it is--complete with the dogs and the kids.

We are getting so big that we are beginning to block the tree in the pictures.

This year's picture was taken in the down stairs theater room where the tree was placed.

And so--the 2009 edition of the Family, is herewith presented for your viewing enjoyment.

Dog Tired

Well--there was one picture that, at the end of Christmas Day epitomized the entire two days of events--and that was of Makayla.

Over the week leading up to Christmas, she had been reacquainted with snow form the 22 inch snow storm, she had played at Nicole's house with Jeff and Gibbs (the beagles) and on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day she had played hard with the boys and Ben (Jeremy's Kees).

By the end of the day--it was catching up with her and she sacked out on the middle of the family room.

One tired puppy--for real.

Just too much of a good thing.

I have to admit--by about 11 PM on Christmas Day--when this image was taken--I felt the same way!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Twas the Day After Christmas--A time to Remember

Well Christmas Day dawned bright and early--with breakfast at Nicole and Mike's and us arriving there before the boys woke up--if you can believe that.
Presents were opened. And fun was had as we got the holiday celebration off to an early start.

Then--not too soon, it was back to the house for Christmas--the Story Continues as we enlarged the celebration. There is nothing like watching two small children listening to a song from the Polar Express at top volume and dancing to really drive home the point of Christmas.

And as the remainder of the family gathered --there was a spectacular piece of beef, prepared by Michael which was to become the centerpiece of an afternoon feast.

But first--presents.

And it was a great day!  Notice the dogs--they are all really part of our families and participate fully in family celebrations.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas 2009 Greeting

Merry Christmas! And no matter where you are today, nor who you are with; take a moment to be where you are instead of longing to be where you aren't and give thanks to God for the gift of His Son.

It is in the spirit of that first and most precious gift of Christmas that we give and receive gifts to and from our family, friends, loved ones, and even the strangers on the street that we do not know.

So keep the home fires warm and welcome in all who pass your door. Share with them the joy, the pain, the love, and the hurt that is in your soul this day. And by doing so, you will reflect that Christmas spirit to them, now and for the year ahead. For sharing yourself with another and allowing them to share of themselves with you--is truly the greatest gift of Christmas.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve 2009

Christmas songs play in the background soothing the harried shoppers
Sounds of the season, so they say, to make them feel more giving
Those who know the season, know it means much more
Than tired songs rising above clinging cash register drawers

A baby crying in a barn--surrounded by the dirt and mud of the world
A world and people that he loved so much that he came to visit
He did not arrive like the kings of earth--puffed up, proud upon their thrones
But the King of the Universe came to earth in a straw filled, back lot, dirty barn

Because of love and for only love--he came to give his life
Because of love, he left his throne and shed his royal robes
Because of me, and you, and everyone else
He became like us and accepted a mission that would end in painful death

The cars in the parking lot trapped in a horrible, not-going-anywhere gridlock
No one can go in or drive out of the mall to reach the stores to buy their wares
The shoppers are trying to rush home with their gifts ready for giving
Yet don't know the first gift of Christmas, was given to them

From the barn out in back of a motel off the beaten path, lost in the suburbia of its day
A garage full of leftovers where, had it been today a lawn mower would be waiting for springtime
The King of the Universe, the long awaited one, the Messiah invaded our world
Not to conquer with his sword, but to save us with his blood, and his gift to us is life

It is Christmas, the songs are softly playing on the radio in my truck
Does anyone still listen to the words and connect them with that gift?
The gift that was given to us, and confirmed by travelers not even from that place
The gift of life, of family, of love; given to us on Christmas and remembered to this day

and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. -- NET Bible Eph 5:2

Merry Christmas
and may God send His blessings upon you now
and in the year ahead.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Snow Days Result in Christmas Frenzy

The Baltimore Sun reported it widely--The malls are staying open late this week to accommodate shoppers who couldn't get out because of the snow this weekend! The malls are open until midnight!


So who is going to shop that late?

Oh yeah, I would have, had I not completed my Christmas shopping yesterday.

Chris reported that on Monday night the entire city of Odenton was crammed into Toys R Us. And she told me she was done, too! I guess there is always one more gift to buy.

I really don't know why it is I wait until that very last moment to get my shopping done. I do have most of it done--but I guess I like the ambiance of the last minute rush of the holiday season. No--it is probably more that I am a procrastinator of epic proportions!

I was in the parking lot of the local mall yesterday--crawling slower than a snail looking for a parking spot. It was absolutely unbelievable the amount of traffic--cars everywhere all going no where.

Once I found a spot--then I had to face the living humanity of the crowds--which were crushing. And people wonder why I don't get excited about shopping? Especially, Christmas shopping. But happlily I can report that I am done. I bought the last gift of Christmas. Yay.

Well--except for the inevitable returns, it will all be over in a couple of days anyway. And then we can begin the process of doing it all over again!

After a nice long break for summer, of course! Beach, diving, travel--warm/hot summer sun! Bring it on!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


I bet you're wondering what is the significance of the title.

I heard this abbreviation the other day and was fascinated by it.

It is: Just Happy To Be Here

And I am, too.

Every day.

Especially after the weekend. I was amazed how all of our neighbors pulled together to get everyone cleared of snow. And even though my street was not plowed until about 2:30pm on Sunday--where really did I need to go?

So, when I'm getting all hot an bothered about not being where I think I want to be, I need to remind myself about JHTBH! Because, think of the alternatives!

I got in my car yesterday--turned the key, it started and I was free to conquer the world. Where else should I have been?

I know--diving off the Florida Keys--but that is a dream, my happy place and not reality. Somewhere I can go to in my mind.

Aside from that--JHTBH and don't forget it!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Monday Musings - December 21, 2009

I'm going to do something different this week. I am going to use only photos for the Monday musings. These are all pictures from 2009--various places and events.
The above is wine on the vine at Keswick Vineyards, VA in October 2009

A March wedding in Texas. Where is Cinderella?

A U.S. flag on the USNS Hoyt S. Vandenberg, 80 feet deep off Key West, FL taken in July

Footprints in the sand, Cocoa Beach, FL in July

The indiginity of it all, Islamorada, FL in July

Tarpon on patrol or I'm having fish for dinner! Dry Tortugas, FL in July

A shuttle has been by. Cocoa Beach, July

I love snow. February in Maryland.

Lounging at the Hemmingway House in July.

Gramma, who are we cooking for dinner? March in Maryland.

Dude--where did the year go? Maybe it is down there? July in Cocoa Beach.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pictures from the Storm of December 2009--This Just In

OK--I was so busy yesterday that I didn't get the pictures from the storm together--but we have a few Since church was canceled this morning, I have a few minutes to get the storm pictures together for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy them. Today dawns, by the way, bright and sunny!

First--a couple words--the Great Blizzard of 2009 ranks only as the 5th all time single day storm in terms of snowfall in Maryland history. But--December 2009 is officially the snowiest December on record with the storm from earlier in the month and this one.

Snow--while some find it beautiful, I find it cold although it does make for some nice pictures and it makes the world seem white and clean. It washes away the sins and stains of the world I guess.

Our neighbors are awesome. We received about 22 inches of snow here. I love their snow blower. We wound up clearing the driveway twice AND are heading out in a few minutes today. This was taken at dusk--about 5PM and the reflection of the flash off the falling snowflakes is kinda neat.

Makayla loves the snow and she is a great snow dog.

So last night, we had to take a picture of the Christmas lights on the house in the snow. You can see we didn't try to go anywhere yesterday. The cars are still marshmallows.

Wedding Picture to Remember

A mid-October wedding in Upstate NY is bound to be fraught with challenges.

But sometimes--when the wedding is in the afternoon on a frosty, crisp autumn day interesting things happen.

This shot at sunset of Andie and Brian actually top my list of best ever wedding shots.

I like the mist in the background rising off the field in front of the trees and the hues of the sunset as it fades.

We tried a bunch of pictures as the sunset was happening--but this one seemed to be the best!

Maybe I'll enter it into a competition at a fair next year.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dragonfly Summer

It seems this was a summer to notice dragonflys.

And there were two images that really highlighted our photographic efforts against these ubiquitous creatures this summer.

One in Cocoa Beach while we were waiting for the Space Shuttle Endeavour to launch on July 15th. We were standing on the side of the causeway with some thousand of our newest friends waiting for the launch and Chris noticed this dragonfly striking a pose.

The other while we were doing a nature walk on Merritt's Island--just north of Cocoa Beach about two weeks later.
I can still smell the damp, musty odors of the trail and leaves on the nature walk as I look at this picture.

It was hot!

But our friend dragonfly was trying his best to keep the pesky mosquitoes away.

I must give credit where it is due--Chris took both of these awesome pictures!
But I still hold fond memories in my mind of both of these experiences.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Sunny Afternoon in a Quieter Place

So after my brief respite at the beach, the other day. I began to think--I wonder what my best images of 2009 really are? Not that some are more or less better than others--but some just express an emotion that really helps me to remember the fonder times as I struggle through the dark days of this season.

This image--I call Monticello Monarch, and although taken during our early October trip to Charlottesville, VA; it caught my eye for its color and contrast.

As we strolled around the walking path outside Monticello, Chris and I came upon this very busy butterfly--probably just preparing to migrate to warmer climates for the winter. I wish I had migrated along with the butterfly.

I can still smell the flowers in the gardens and enjoy the leaves on the trees in my mind. And I also remember the winding trail through the woods as we walked down the mountain from the main house to the visitor center.

Not just an image--but a memory!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Gifts--Men vs. Women

And there it was--an article I linked to titled: "The Gift That Needs Forgiving," or "Gifts You're Better Off Not Giving." The title made me smile and I clicked the link to read more.

And this article was so true! the differences between men and women when it comes to Christmas gift shopping and giving.

There are a couple excerpts from the article I want to share with you:

Of course, gifts between couples can backfire in either direction. But—please don't shoot the messenger—men seem to be more clueless than women.

Women tend to care more about gifts. They shop more, and think more about them. They attach more emotion to them. And they can be more demanding and less direct. (If I ask my husband what he wants for the holidays, he will say "nothing" and mean it. If he asks me, I will say "nothing," as well. And God help him if he believes me.)

Making matters even worse: When it comes to bad gifts, women have the memory of elephants. Take Donna Clark Goodrich. In 1962, she asked her husband for a recording of Handel's "Messiah." Instead, he got her a parody LP of the Kennedy family by impressionist Vaughn Meader. "I've never let my husband live that Christmas down," says Ms. Goodrich, 71, a writer in Mesa, Ariz.

If it weren't for the gifts and all the shopping and all of the stress--I think Christmas would be a great holiday!

The eating is good, the parties are grand, and the general jovial nature of people in holiday spirit is fantastic. But it is the gifts. We even make fun of the gifts at office parties by having white elephant gift exchanges or Chinese gift exchanges.

We need to listen to each other--but the article continues later:

Then why so many bad gifts within couples?

It's simple, really. Sometimes men aren't listening to their wives. But just as often, women aren't clear about their desires. They want men to pick up on their subtle clues, rather than telling them outright what they'd like. As one woman I know explains, "It means we are special to them if they detect what we want without us telling them."

But here is the bottom line:

And there's the rub. When men receive gifts they hate, they typically shrug them off. Women, faced with the same dilemma, feel hurt.

Really? Now I think I understand.

I admit, there have been a few gifts that I have not appreciated that I continue to hold on to the memory of--but for the most part I couldn't even tell you what I received last Christmas let alone from who! Except for Makayla from everyone--but she was probably one of the greatest Christmas gifts I ever received, well at least since my first bicycle when I was a kid. I still remember that Christmas morning . . .

OK--the solution to the gifting problem!

Women need to lighten up and men need to listen up!

Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Waiting to Relax

I needed to get to my happy place for a bit.

I went through my pictures of last summer in Florida. The diving, the partying, the walking, the visiting, the watching the shuttle launch.

This was the one that most expressed my happy place---palm trees, sand, and a wicker chair in the sun on the beach!

Ah, and the memory of the day, too! Lunch at the Islamorada Fish House and a sweet day in the Florida Keys!

I can see myself in the chair, sipping a great glass of wine and having a conversation with someone about the way the waves are crashing on the beach. Following the fish as they swim in the surf and keeping an eye out for the occasional seagull or other shore bird. A Christmas light wrapped palm in the sand to lend light as night falls and I haven't moved.

It certainly is a long way from the foul weather we are experiencing right now. And the dark days!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fear and Joe Bag-o-Doughnuts

"I'm not afraid O' nuthin!"


"Nope--I got everything I need and what can I possibly be afraid of?"

I guess--he's a healthy guy, being that way. Or is it that he is so afraid of something that he has buried it deep within his soul and it is now out of touch--that is until something sets it off?

What am I afraid of? Not getting everything done in time for Christmas and the New Years party! No really?

Really--I have got to get the ceiling of the kitchen painted--and I'm just not up to the mess. I hate painting and I'm afraid of all the places the paint will wind up other than the ceiling.

Fear must be an important subject this year. I have heard about it at church and on the radio while listening to country music. It is the season for joy (and fear!).

I guess we have a lot to be fearful of--but it seems fear is caused by not dealing with those deep down darknesses that we carry around as baggage. Like death.

Jesus said: “Do not let your hearts be distressed." (John 14:1a - NET Bible) and then he went on to say why--"You believe in God; believe also in me." (John 14:1b - NET Bible).

Keep it simple, keep it direct, keep it believable and know why.

Joe Bag-o-Doughnuts may not think he's afraid of anything--but when crunch time comes, as it does for everyone of us--we need to have our faith in the right place to address and even conquer our fear. I guess if ignorance is bliss--Joe here is in nirvana!

So what does this have to do with Christmas?

It seems that this is the time of year when our fears begin to take root in us and strive to overwhelm us. It may be due to the "dark days" as I call them. After all the Winter Solstice is mere days away. Stand fast against fear--

In March 1933, one of the great Presidents of the US, Franklin D. Roosevelt, made, in his inaugural speech, a statement about fear:

"let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

I urge you to read FDR's speech for an insightful commentary on the year 2009!

So--happy holidays and do not be afraid!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday Musings - December 14, 2009

1. Christmas shopping? Maybe I had better get on the stick and start/finish mine. So far everything I've gotten for Chris she helped buy! Hmmm! There needs to be a surprise in there somewhere.

2. At least all four football teams did not lose this weekend--and two of them are actually remaining alive for the playoffs. (Cowboys and Ravens)

3. I actually heard a new Christmas song this past week--a much needed break in between "Grandma got run over by a reindeer" and "Silver Bells."

4. News flash!!!! I am tired of rain, gray, and gloom! The weather better improve or else I'm going to file a complaint.

5. I have determined that there is probably no better procrastinator on the planet than me! Tomorrow, I've got to make a change.

6. Guys: How many shopping days until Christmas? One--Christmas Eve!

7. Women: How many shopping days until Christmas? Which one? I'm already working on next Christmas, too!

8. We went to a fantastic Christmas party--a different wine for every course and of course I found one that was really nice AND unavailable! Oh well--that is the fun of wine--the searching for that perfect vintage which combines everything you like in a wine. And everyone can have their own because there is no right or wrong answer.

9. I am finally beginning to get over the rotten sinus infection that has been plaguing me for the better part of three weeks! Yay, just in time for Christmas.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

"Ours is Prettier"

The true, sage words of a four-year old when comparing grandma's tree to the one at his house: "Our's is prettier."

Wow--sometimes when someone gives you an entirely honest assessment without any hint of malice--it is funny!

Ethan was visiting for the day, while the family was preparing to gather later at his house to celebrate more birthdays. He was doing his usual exploration of the grandparents house to determine what had changed and what was the same--when he cam upon the Christmas Tree.

Of course your tree is prettier--it had better be because your Mom and Dad put it together and you helped!

But it was funny, and true, and oh so honest an assessment.

We wouldn't have had it any other way!

And it made us smile at yet one of those long forgotten, but nice to know realities of life as seen through the eyes of a four-year old: "Life at our house is better than anywhere else! And don't you forget it. "

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Snow Village(s) 2009

most everyone knows that one of the really exciting things that happens around the house at the start of the holidays is the set up of the Snow Village.

This year, though--the village was deemed to be too big and so we divided it into two different villages.

One is in the family room--the one with the gold back ground and the other is in the dining room. We are enjoying it much more this year because we can see it daily and enjoy it every night.

It brings a bit of Christmas cheer to us as we watch TV or enjoy our meals.

Better yet--it means we have more space and are able to add a few more pieces this year!!

We still do not have a drape for the one in the Dining Room--but I am told that one is in the works.

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Dogs--Who owns Whom?

In addition to our energetic one-year old keeshond, Makayla, we have another more sedate dog--a 16-year old Yorkie, Zach. Zach weighs all of 4 lbs and has no teeth, so it is not like he is a threat to anyone, just himself. I used to love naming our animals after historical figures and so his real name is Zachary Taylor.

I have had other animals named after historical figures such as Genghis Khan, and Attila the Hun (both were cats). Our daughter has a beagle named Jefferson and I'm not sure whether that is for Thomas Jefferson or Jefferson Davis--both could apply. We also had a cat named Hans Ludwig, after the somewhat crazed leader of Bavaria, Ludwig II, who built a number of impressive mansions and castles in the Bavarian Alps. So the names tend to run the gamut of famous and infamous. I even had a cat named George, for George Washington.

But this morning Zach reminded me that it is he who allows me to live with him and not the other way around. It seems the animals tend to take on the characteristics of their namesakes in some ways.

Zach likes to head out on what I call "walk-abouts" through the neighborhood every so often. While I don't approve of this and usually stand by the door to ensure he comes in as soon as he has accomplished the primary purpose(s) for being outside, this morning, believing that it was too cold for him, I wandered away for a short minute. This was the same as giving Zach a green light to conduct a walk-about !

Well, he was gone for about 15 minutes--a short one today due to the cold, but the funny part was that I went to the door about four times to call Zach and looked for him up the street--but it being dark, I did not see him.

Here's the rub--when he decided to saunter back to the homestead and wanted in--he barked a mournful bark. The expectation was that I would immediately open the door to allow the small traveler access to the house. How do I know this? Makayla barked and Chris advised me that the dawg was home!

So--I ask--who owns whom? I think we're kidding ourselves if we believe that we are the ones in charge!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Christmas Blond Joke

OK--so everyone knows that I love blond jokes--after all I am one and I speak blond.

So, for your viewing pleasure--the ultimate Christmas season blond joke sent to me by a friend:

It is so true!

If you double click the photo it will go to full screen.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Buying a Car

Wow. I'm sitting in a car dealership with my, I can't believe its true, adult son as he navigates the myriad of paperwork associated with buying a car.

Another threshold crossed. All I'm here for is to see the vehicle and to provide moral support. But it is the Patrick and Tina show.

I'm so proud of them both. Making a reasoned and rational decision.

Oh the car? A Honda Civic SI 2007


Bob Doan
Elkridge, MD
Sent from My Blackberry

Consensus Blending Party

Really? What, you may ask, is a consensus blending party?

Answer: A whole lot of fun!

Picture this--54 people at 9 tables in the winery with 5 bottles of wine in front of them. The task: using any combination of the five wines--blend the best wine in terms of aroma, taste and finish as determined by those present.

The wines were all 2008 vintage of the vineyard: Cabernet Sauvignon in three very different lots: 1, 2, and 3; Petite Verdot; and Chambourcin.

I was intrigued by three lots of Cabernet Sauvignon--two were aged in American Oak and one in French Oak. Of the two in American Oak--one was very fruity while the other was full of tannins.

Our fellow members at the table all agreed that our blend would focus on probably three of the wines--and we readily agreed that Lot 2 and the Chambourcin would probably be excluded; leaving us to focus on the other three.

We only had two hour to com up with this blend--and please remember science class as we were working with pipettes, and graduated cylinders to pull the wines together.

Well our team did not wine the day--but our wine--which was 55% lot 1, 41% lot 3 and 4% Petite Verdot came in a close second.

This was a two day event with different people showing up for the Sunday version of the event and with the winning wine from the two days being chosen to be blended by the winery and released as the Consensus Blend. The team that beat us, was the two-day winner. So I don't feel too bad.

Most of all it was fun, dealt with wine, and was educational--I learned a lot more about blending wines.

The vineyard wine maker ran the event and he provided a lot of help and commentary as we did the blending.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Of Cars and Christmas, Part III


I was a bit non-specific in my previous posts and I appreciate all of the supportive comments about car shopping.

It was my son Patrick's car which decided to play dead. How this affects me is that I will continue to loan Patrick and Tina my truck until new rides are procured.

They are actually car shopping right now--although, I am looking forward to seeing what they decide to do.

I hear rumors of a Honda Civic SI rumbling right now--
But then there was a Scion in the mix a while ago--

Ah, the joy of it all--happy holidays to themselves!

I do like to comment about going into the dealership 15 minutes before closing--and I have actually used that one!

Of Cars and Christmas, Part II

And here it is--initial repair estimate: $3500, Merry Christmas!!!

Kelly Blue Book car value: $2055

Value to me? Priceless.

So lets go car shopping for Christmas.

I'm dreaming of a different ri-i-de
Just like the one I used to have
Where the motor hums sweet
And tires roll straight
And I can drive as fast as I like.

I'm dreaming of a new ri-i-de
With every bummed ride that I take
May my car shopping be profitable
And may all my Christmas dreams come true

Of Cars and Christmas

Well-when is snows, it blizzards!

Maybe that doesn't work as well as the old saying about raining and pouring (or was that for a salt company?)

But we have a mobility crisis in the family.

Between accidents and old cars wearing out, we are two vehicles short of a full stable. Last night the sound of a tow truck unceremoniously dumping a broken vehicle could be heard in the driveway again as Patrick's 1996 Honda came home on someone else's four (or more) wheels.

Following on the heels of a not-to-serious accident which left Patrick and Tina down a vehicle and left me driving Kitty--now this second uppercut is pretty serious. I'd say, they made be down for the count. It sounds bad--life a lifter or something equally as serious in the engine.

So--here we go again--car shopping although the real verdict won't be known until later today after the car is towed to the repair shop--which was closed last night and not accepting vehicles after hours.

Hopefully it is something minor--but it does not sound that way.

But look at the bright side-- (remind me again what the bright side is?)

It couldn't happen at a better time of year? Really?

Yes it could. And it could happen after they both find better paying jobs, too.

But this is where we can demonstrate the support of family and the love that we all have for each other. The silver lining is that we are pulling together as a family to help them through this crisis.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Monday Musings - December 7, 2009

1. Was it really only 68 years ago? The Day of Infamy? I paused for a moment to remember Pearl Harbor and the heroes of WWII who successfully defended freedom during the dark hours of the middle Twentieth Century.

2. Snow and cold. My door locks on Kitty were frozen this morning and she started hard. She truly is a fair weather car and it really pained me to have to drive her in such inhospitable conditions. But after some initial problems--she was up to the task. But, I do have a bent key now.

3. I have been feeling poorly again after returning from the frozen wastelands of Denver. Hence, there have been no blog entries for a couple of days. My loving wife has decided I need to see a doctor and I have an appointment for later today.

4. Football is no fun to watch when all of the teams you are cheering for are losing. It was a bad day for the Redskins--who I really though would defeat the Saints; for the Cowboys who remembered it was December and started their annual slide into mediocrity, and for the Steelers--losers of four in a row, really? The only team left are my Ravens who I sincerely hope can overcome the cold of Lambeau Field and defeat the Packers tonight.

5. The location in the U.S. reporting the highest temperature yesterday was Opa-Locka, Florida at only 80 degrees. It was only slightly cooler in Key West at 71 degrees. The hottest place in the world was Marble Bar, Australia coming in at a whopping 116 degrees!

6. So, once the gifts are bought then they must be wrapped so they can be subsequently opened (or unwrapped). Hmmmm. Who thought that up?

7. And so--tis the season and all of the cool music on the radio brings out joy, right?

8. This weekend we participated in a consensus wine blending at as part of the Wine Club activities of Keswick Vineyard. There were 9 tables of 6 people each. The wine blended by our table came in a close second--only 60 points behind the winner--or about 1 point per person difference. We felt that was a huge success. And we met a lot of really nice people. The winery will be blending up the winning wine and offering it for sale--and I admit--I scored it higher than our wine, too. I was really pleased to finish so high in the standings. It was fun to blend a wine and have it generally liked by those attending the event.

9. If this is a season of joy, why is there so much stress?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

"Me First" -- Of Mayors and Travel

Well--Baltimore hit the national news, again.

And like usual--it wasn't in a good way.

I remember a few years ago, Baltimore's neighbor to the south--Washington, DC has an infamous mayor too.

Shelia Dixon--I mean really--when was the last time someone gave gifts to their girl friend of 60 or so gift cards in low denominations?

The Washington Post story lays it out best:

AN ELECTED OFFICIAL who pilfers gift cards intended for needy children clearly puts her interests first. It should be no surprise, then, that Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon thinks she can stay in office after a jury found her guilty of misdemeanor theft. Her audacity only compounds her offense -- which is why we hope that Ms. Dixon soon feels enough public pressure to reconsider and resigns her office.

And that encapsulates everything wrong with the mayor situation in Baltimore. Too much "me first!"

And that same "Me First" pervades everything in our society right now.

Airlines are cashing in on it--United Airlines actually sells a package that allows people to board before they would normally board the airplane. I guess people just like being cramped into not enough space for a longer time.

Go anywhere there is a queue (or "line" for the American at heart) waiting to get into a venue. Line crashers who blatantly crash the line. I had a couple jump in front of me at the airport on Monday--they probably saved all of 30 seconds in their total check in procedure.

Even our driving represents a "me first" attitude. We hurry to make it through the stop light, or race out of concerts early so as not to be caught in the traffic mess.

We need to slow down a bit--and think of others.

This is a good time of year for that as it is the Christmas season.

Just don't take an example for the Mayor of Baltimore. And if you do slip into the "me first" admit you did it. Again--the mayor just isn't setting a good example for people to emulate.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

First Snow--Denver style

So I had to travel two-thirds the way across the country to get my first snow of the season--but there it is this morning as I look out my hotel window. The ground is no longer brown, but white.

There is no doubt that I still do not fully appreciate the white stuff as it falls from the sky. I may appreciate it more after the dawn breaks and it I can see it more clearly draped across the landscape.

But it is there.

I can drive drive in the snow--but I worry about those who can't. Although, unlike Maryland--people here in the greater Denver area actually do know how to drive in snow and do not panic at the sight of the white stuff falling from the sky.

Of course, Denver has suffered through two blizzards already this season, so there is a lot more recent experience herein the snow driving than I possess.

We'll see how the drive goes as proceed out this morning.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Monday Musings - Tuesday, December 1, 2009

1. I waited until December to put these together because it was so close.

2. The last month of the year has arrived--and while the weather has been mild, with the holiday season upon us, I am sure the weather will turn more seasonal, too.

3. Traveling always reminds me of the vastness of the country and its diversity. Cities to open lands, mountains to rolling prairie, and don't forget the wide-open water of the Great Lakes.

4. Family--that is what makes Thanksgiving such a great holiday. I realize that i enjoy the day more because I have family to enjoy it with. We had four generations present around the table on Thursday--a definite wow factor ensued.

5. While I was off from work, enjoying family and relaxation of the holiday--there were millions of others who were working --whether serving us all by being on the front lines of the war in Afghanistan, or the operations centers monitoring the world, or in the police cars in my town or yours, or the hospitals caring for the sick. Some were flying the friendly skies while others were piloting the ships on the seas. Or in the grocery store I ran to on an emergency errand. God bless you all--who can't just take a day off because the calendar says it is a holiday.

6. One take away from the message in church on Sunday--was to be thankful for what we have--and express that thanks to others in the written word so they know that they are appreciated.

7. It is December--remember all of those New Year's resolutions? You have 31 days to get them done!

8. Can you remember life before cell technology? I can't. I mean how great is it to be able to call family from wherever I am in the world. And to talk to my family as they are driving to work or what ever they are doing!

9. Sadly, the annual Axis and Allies game did not happen--too many defectors from the group. We WILL reschedule for over the Christmas/New Year holiday break!
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