Friday, November 21, 2014

Fun Friday

It was a quiet day at work after a week's worth of intense meetings.  It felt good to relax a little bit going into Thanksgiving week.  Unlike most of my employees and colleagues, I generally work the day before and after Thanksgiving, since my family is local and I don't go out of town.  I can't even remember the last time I went out of town over the Holiday.  With so many out of the office, I love how quiet it is during those days, though my boss has already put me "in charge" which almost guarantees I'm going to have to attend a meeting or three.

My daughter's school is having a book fair, and it was kind of neat to stop by the school this evening and get a bunch of books for her for Christmas.  The teachers are really great at her school (as are most of Howard County's teachers!), and it was fun to see them in a "social" environment.  Teachers tend to be very dedicated to their jobs, but they also know how to have fun, and they sure appeared to be having fun, even if they had to stick around at the school well after their work day on a Friday.

Friday is date night, and Melody and I decided to grab a bite to eat at one of our favorite restaurants, Houlihan's.  Houlihan's is what I would call "upscale casual", and the food tends to match the ambiance.  We've been going there for a lot of years now, and their menu, which does change a lot, still has many of our favorites.  I got the fish tacos, which is always great.  Melody got chicken tenders, and it is a BIG platter of food.  While the tenders are rather bland, there are a lot of them, and instead of just fries, they also have green beans, which my daughter loves.  The restaurant was really busy tonight, and we had a good 20 minute wait before we were seated.

I like to people watch, and since Friday is date night, there were a lot of couples in the restaurant.  You can usually tell which couples are dating (and those who might be on first dates) due to the way they interact with each other.  There's a lot of nervous laughing, and there is absolutely no physical contact.  They just don't quite seem comfortable with each other, at least not yet.  Then there was a slightly older couple (about my age, I'd guess), who seemed a little more comfortable with each other, even if they didn't appear to be married.  After they finished eating, he started to massage her arm from across the table, rather intensely.  It was an awkward public display of affection.  A third couple seated nearby, who looked like they were married, seemed to be having a very serious conversation with the manager, and the young man was getting a bit heated about something.  His date/wife looked like she wanted to be anywhere else.  The manager kept shaking her head no, and he didn't seem to like that answer.  They soon left without ordering any food.  Melody and I had a good time, though, and we left the restaurant with a lot of leftovers.

Originally we had planned to go to the Bengie's Drive-in tonight, but it's just too cold.  It's their last open weekend of the season, and even though they do rent in-car dashboard heaters (for only $1!), when we found out that the Friday show only had two movies, we decided not to go.  They're playing BIG HERO SIX, which we really enjoyed when we saw it a few weeks ago, and ST. VINCENT, with Bill Murray, which I had wanted to see.  The Saturday show includes PLANES, TRAINS, AND AUTOMOBILES, which is a classic Thanksgiving-themed movie featuring Steve Martin and John Candy.  I'm not sure why they decided not to show it on Friday.  Anyway, we decided to skip the movies since we wouldn't be able to see it.

And that's our Friday.  Hope you all have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Roller Coaster Inventory

Last Saturday morning, my daughter, Melody, and I decided to inventory our roller coaster rides.  We love roller coasters, and we've been on quite a few, all across the United States.  We used the Roller Coaster DataBase (http://rcdb.com/) to help us compile our list.  There are several that Melody has ridden that I have not (indicated by a double asterisk - **), and there are a bunch of others that I rode without Melody, most due to me being so much older and having ridden them long before she was born (indicated by a single asterisk - *).  Many are no longer around, having either been torn down long ago, or moved to another park (or country!).  When compiling the list, we did not include how many times we rode each one.  That was next to impossible for me, especially on ones I've been on hundreds of times since I was a kid (like one of my favorites, the Loch Ness Monster, at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, which I rode for the first time way back in the late 70s).  We were surprised by the results.  We hadn't realized just how many different roller coasters we've ridden.  Assuming the Roller Coaster DataBase is accurate (and I believe it is), and that my memory is accurate and I am remembering correctly all of the parks my family and I have visited since I was a kid, then Melody tallied 95 different roller coasters, while I've been on 116!

This was a fun exercise, and it will serve as our official record of roller coaster rides.  We look forward to riding many more.  And if you want any information about the many coasters or parks we've been to, please check out the Roller Coaster DataBase.

In no particular order, here is our list:



Busch Gardens Williamsburg - VA:
Alpengeist
Apollo's Chariot
Griffon
Grover's Alpine Express
Loch Ness Monster
Verbolten
Big Bad Wolf
Drachen Fire*
Das Katzchen*
Die Wildkatze*
Glissade*
Wild Maus*

Dutch Wonderland - PA:
Joust
Kingdom Coaster*

Sesame Place - PA:
Vapor Trail

Luna Park - NY:
Cyclone

Knoebels - PA:
Phoenix
Twister

Idlewild - PA:
Rollo Coaster


Kennywood - PA:
Jack Rabbit
Racer
Thunderbolt
Sky Rocket
Laser Loop*


Cedar Point - OH:
Blue Streak
Cedar Creek Mine Ride
Corkkscrew
Gemini
Iron Dragon
Magnum XL-200
Maverick
Mean Streak
Millennium Force
Raptor
Wicked Twister
Woodstock Express
Disaster Transport*
Mantis*


Hershey Park - PA:
Comet
Fahrenheit
Great Bear
Lightning Racer
Sidewinder*
Skyrush
Sooperdooperlooper
Storm Runner
Trailblazer
Wild Mouse
Wildcat

Kings Dominion - VA:
Anaconda
Avalanche
Back Lot Stunt Coaster
Grizzly
Hurler
Intimidator 305
Rebel Yell
Ricochet
Shockwave
Volcano
Woodstock Express/Scooby Doo
Galaxi*
HyperSonic XLC*
King Kobra*


Wild World/Six Flags America - MD:
Apocalypse
Batwing
Joker's Jinx
Mind Eraser
Ragin' Cajun
Roar
Superman - Ride of Steel
Wild One


Six Flags Great America - IL:
America Eagle
Dark Knight
Demon
Goliath
Vertical Velocity
Whizzer


Six Flags St. Louis - MO:
American Thunder
Batman The Ride
Boss
Mr. Freeze Reverse Blast
Ninja
Pandemonium
River King Mine Train
Screamin' Eagle

New York New York Casino - Las Vegas, NV:
Big Apple Coaster

NASCAR Cafe - Las Vegas, NV:
Speed:  The Ride*

Adventuredome - Las Vegas, NV:
Canyon Blaster*


Six Flags Magic Mountain - CA:
Apocalypse The Ride
Gold Rusher
Goliath
Ninja
Road Runner Express**
Scream!
Colossus
Viper
X2

Universal Studios Hollywood - CA:
Revenge of the Mummy

Universal Studios Islands of Adventure - FL:
Incredible Hulk*
Pteranodon Flyers*
Dueling Dragons (Dragon Challenge)*

Universal Studios Florida - FL:
Revenge of the Mummy*

Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom - FL:
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Space Mountain*

Legoland Florida:
Lego Technic Test Track
Coastersaurus
The Dragon

Busch Gardens Tampa - FL:
Air Grover**
Cheetah Hunt
Gwazi
Montu
Sand Serpent
Scorpion
SheiKra
Python*

Sea World Orlando - FL:
Manta
Kraken


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Fat Free Fox's Original Sugar Free Chocolate Flavor Syrup



My daughter and I had to make a stop at the grocery store this afternoon to pick up a few items, and I saw this sitting on an upper shelf, kind of hidden near the end of an aisle.  I was looking for something else, and it was totally random that I saw it.  But it caught my eye because it's sugar-free:  Fox's U-bet Original Sugar Free Chocolate Flavor Syrup.  And it's Fat Free, too!  And I've never heard of it before today.  

As a type 2 diabetic, I'm on a fairly strict diet, and I try to stay away from sugar almost completely.  I allow myself the occasional sweet, like a cookie or a bowl of cereal, but I generally try to watch what I eat.  I really love chocolate milk, and I've struggled to find something that tastes good, but is either sugar-free or at least as low sugar content.  My favorite is Ovaltine, but it isn't sugar-free.  So I decided to try this.  It was even on sale, for $2.99.

As soon as we arrived at home, I put away all of the groceries and immediately poured a glass of milk and added the stuff pictured above.  My mouth was watering in anticipation.  I stirred it up, and took a long swig of chocolaty goodness.  As the...stuff reached my taste buds, and processed the flavor, I almost spit it all out in the sink.  It was awful!  I've tried a lot of sugar-free things, but this might be the worst.  Sure, it had a chocolaty taste, but it just didn't seem to mix well with the milk, and the sweetener used in this...stuff didn't come close to tasting like sweetener, even if the ingredients mention Sucralose as the sweetener.  I couldn't help but notice that the back label says, "Tastes great in milk!"  I wondered what you might put this in other than milk.

Anyway, that was the end of the Fat Free Fox's U-bet Original Sugar Free Chocolate Flavor Syrup.  It went right into the garbage.  It would've been easier to have just thrown three dollar bills in the trash, except that it felt good to throw away the bottle since I hated it so much.

Unfortunately, this is my lot in life.  I'm stuck eating sugar-free foods.  And while the taste of many foods has improved over the years, there are still those, like Fat Free Fox's U-bet Original Sugar Free Chocolate Flavor Syrup, that still taste really rotten.  My search continues...

Diabetes sucks.  And so does this stuff.  U-bet.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Beautiful Girl, Little Dog, Big Couch

THIS Girl....  #Awesome #Beautiful #Caring #Love


THIS Pup.... #Loyal  #Faithful  #LoudBark #LittleDog #BigCouch


Have a great evening, everyone!

The Birthday Girl and a Dog's Tale

As I laid my weary head on my pillow late last evening, and began getting comfortable on my wonderful bed, I discovered, to my horror, as a dampness creeped through my bed clothes, that my faithful yet aging pup, Scout, who has been sharing this same bed with me for over a decade now, apparently had a bit of difficulty during the short time after I awoke Sunday morning and climbed out of bed to freshen up, and when I went to get her to immediately take her outside to do her business, that she had, instead, taken it upon herself to move over to my side of the mattress, unprotected by a bit of plastic unlike HER side if the bed, and do her business without me being aware, allowing this bit of business to soak into the mattress all day long. I'm not sure I have any words to describe how I feel about this, except I fell asleep well past my Sunday night bedtime to the aroma of Lysol.




***

Had a great time celebrating Melody's real birthday tonight with my wonderful family!  Happy Birthday, Melody!



Sunday, November 16, 2014

My Girl's 11th Birthday

It's the eve of my daughter's 11th birthday, and I'm excited.  She's an awesome little girl, and I love her so much.  She's smart, beautiful, funny, a leader, responsible beyond her years, and so caring.  I'm so proud of her.  I pray that she will know God, and ask Him into her heart.  I wish her mother could have lived to see what a wonderful young lady she has become.

We celebrated this evening with all four of her grandparents at Ginza of Tokyo, and we'll be having a party with the rest of our family tomorrow evening.

Happy birthday, Babe!  I love you so much!


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Public Service Message: Quality Absorbency

Today I feel the need to talk about something that impacts many people in so many ways:  cheap paper towels.  There aren't too many things worse than a bad paper towel, and I've got some that could be some of the worst ever sold in stores.  I know what you're thinking:  Surely he's not going to blog about paper towels, right?  You betcha, I am.  And don't call me Shirley.

Brands such as Brawny, Bounty, and Scott's tend to lead the way with the best of the best, good, greatly absorbent and quality-made paper towels.  The problem with them is that they tend to be on the pricey side, and sometimes it's difficult to justify getting the more expensive paper towels when there are so many other brands that are so much cheaper (price-wise).  But the quality is so much cheaper to match the cheaper brands, as well, even if you do get lucky every once in a while.  For every Viva, there's a store brand that actually works pretty well.

I decided to buy a brand I had never heard of before, called "Fiora", since my local grocery-chain had them advertised for a very good price.  Heck, they even had the pick-a-size kind, which tends to be a key feature of the better brands.  Now, I tend to go with the less expensive brands, but I really haven't found one that I like.  That means I end up trying a different one almost every time I purchase them.  And unless you break open a package prior to leaving the store, you really don't know what you have until you get home.  It's a risky proposition.  But I bought the Fiora paper towels based on a lack of knowing anything about them, and I headed home.


When I arrived at home and opened the package, I was immediately concerned.  The towels had that cheap feel to them.  Meaning they felt more like paper than towel.  Okay, a thin towel just wasn't going to cut it, but since I bought a pack of six rolls, I thought I may as well try them.  Faithful Pup Scout, after a long day at home, head left a wet spot on the kitchen floor for me to clean up, and this would be a good test for the Fiora's.  And they failed miserably.  They are absorbent, but all that means is that they completely disintegrated after taking on moisture.  It gets worse.  The perforation seems to be just a little too difficult to break the towel all along its edge, and it rips the towel about 7/8 of the way through consistently, leaving that last 1/8 of the towel hanging onto the roll (see the picture above).  It is maddeningly frustrating.

My daughter started to notice and complain, as well.  She almost never notices things like this, so it had to be bad for her to complain.  They are really terrible.

We don't seem to take shortcuts when it comes to toilet paper (thank goodness.... have you ever tried bad toilet paper?  If so, you know what I mean...), so I guess we shouldn't take shortcuts with paper towels.  It's really standing out for me this week due to my mother-in-law a few weeks ago buying me some great, high-quality Bounty paper towels (since the package had an NFL theme with a Steelers logo on the outside packaging, though nothing on the towels themselves).  I was really spoiled, and I guess that's why I'm so disappointed with the Fiora's.  Lesson learned.  Don't go cheap on paper towels.  Get the good stuff.

Have an extra-absorbent evening, everyone!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Way Out West

My daughter and I took an incredible trip in 2009 out to Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming.  It was Melody's first trip Out West, and we had a blast.  I had started to write up a trip diary, but I only documented the first day with any detail.  I had forgotten all about it until I came across it this afternoon.  Here it is.  Enjoy!


Day 1 - 5/14/09:  Melody & I were taken to BWI airport by Grammy & Pap Pap (Mom & Dad) for our 7:30a flight to Denver.  I promptly lost my cell phone somewhere between the car and the entrance to the terminal, but didn't realize it was missing until after we went through security.  Not a very good omen for our trip.  Spent most of the 4 hour flight trying to figure out what to do.  It was an uneventful trip.  After we landed and went to baggage claim, I found out I was being paged.  It was a message from Dad - they had my phone.  A very nice lady/airport employee graciously allowed me to use her cell phone to call him and he informed me that a Skycap employee found the phone and dialed the last number called, which was Dad's cell phone, and Dad picked up the phone for me.  I was greatly relieved, but still didn't know whether we should arrange to have the phone over-nighted to me or whether I should just do without.
 
Melody and I got our rental car, a 2009 Dodge Nitro.  It was a mess.  It had about 35000 miles on it and it had not been cleaned.  The Dollar Rental Car employees were no help at all.  They just told me to document it.  We decided to get some lunch, since it was about 11:30 by this time.  We had a nice meal at TGIFridays in a suburb of Denver.  Then we stopped at a Verizon Wireless store to see if we had any options with my cell phone.  I told the guy there that my phone was lost.  He proceeded to ridicule me for not purchasing the $6/month insurance on my phone, and that it would cost me over $200 to get a new phone.  That certainly was not an option.  I figured we would see if Dad could Fedex the phone to me at the next hotel we planned to stay at (in Deadwood, SD).  We decided to stop worrying about the phone and get on with our vacation.
 

We headed west from Denver and stopped in Golden, CO.  What a beautiful town!  We walked around a little bit, took some pictures, then drove up to Buffalo Bill Cody's grave and museum. 
 

Spectacular drive to the top of Lookout Mountain, and great view from the top.  The museum was just like I remembered it when I was here in Oct. '97.  Melody was a bit scared of the life-size figures in the museum, so we left about 15 minutes after we arrived.  


We hiked up to the grave site, though.  We got back in the Nitro and headed back down the mountain.  On the way down, Melody saw three foxes, and couldn't stop talking about them for the rest of the day.
 
We continued on to Boulder, CO.  It's a neat college town, with a central mall area (which regularly appeared in the show, MORK & MINDY).  We proceeded to 1619 Pine St., which is the location of the house Mork and Mindy lived in during the show.  The house has been fixed up a little, but you can still tell it's the same house.
 

We then continued on a scenic drive up to Estes Park, CO, which is the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park.  Estes Park is another one of those gorgeous towns in the heart of the Rockies, and, while looking for a place to eat dinner, we encountered several Elk eating on the side of the road.  


We stopped and took a bunch of pictures, then continued to Smokin' Dave's BBQ & Tap house.  Delicious barbecue and great view out the window of the place.
 
We got back on the road, but figured we should try to find a pay phone and call Dad.  We finally found one that worked and called him collect.  He said he would have my cell phone over-nighted to our hotel in Deadwood, SD, where we planned to arrive on 5/16.  I thanked him and we continued down the road.  I had originally intended to get as far as Cheyenne, WY, for our first leg of the trip, but it was getting late and I was tired.  Melody had already fallen asleep.  So, when we arrived in Loveland, CO, and looked for a hotel and found a Comfort Inn, where we stayed for the night.  Whew!
 
Thank you, Lord, for this opportunity to take such an incredible vacation!  I pray that you will keep us safe, happy, and healthy during the entire trip, and blessings on everyone who makes this possible.  Amen.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Frustration, Pizza, The Seventies, and SNOW?!?

Today was a rather frustrating day.  I don't like to write about things like this, because I don't think anyone wants to read about someone elses frustrations.  All I'll say is that professional jealousy has no place in the office.  Also, drawing the short straw that results in a task that I know nothing about is a terrible feeling.  Lastly, despite all of the many ways to communicate with someone, if their battery dies on their smart phone, it doesn't matter whether you text, email, FB, or call that person to try getting in touch with them.  They're still unreachable.

Whew.

***

One of the great things about this blog and sharing my many likes and dislikes is that I get a lot of links about topics near and dear to me.  A friend sent this link:  http://www.thrillist.com/eat/nation/the-best-pizza-in-every-state-in-america .  Being a fan of travel and pizza, this is right up my alley!  I looked through the list and realized that I've never been to any of these places.  Not one.  Even the local Maryland favorite, Matthew's, in Baltimore, is one I've never tried, though I have heard of it.  And while it must be good, and I'll have to try it, I can't help but wonder how the list was compiled (the article doesn't say, but there are a lot of "we"'s in the write-ups).  My friend suggested that my daughter and I should create our own list, and I agree.  We've tried quite a few places all over the country, though to get a definitive list, we'd have to try a LOT of pizzas.  I'm not sure my body will hold up.

If nothing else, I think I'm going to have to visit a lot of local pizza joints, and perhaps come up with a list of the best pizza in Howard County.  Or maybe just Laurel.  We'll see.  I'll come up with our criteria and see what we come up with.  Stay tuned.  I may just take up this challenge.  (Thanks, Sarah.... I think!)

***

I mentioned a few weeks ago how much I'm enjoying an old TV show from my childhood:  CHiPs!  It's about the California Highway Patrol, and focuses on a couple of motorcycle officers in the Los Angeles area.  Now that I've watched a couple of seasons worth of shows (it comes on daily at 6 p.m. on ME TV), and the character's personalities have been fleshed out a bit, I can see just how cheesy it was.  There were more and more car accidents on the show, too, as things went along, which I'm guessing were used to draw in more viewers (probably a lot of young males) and an increased budget, and there are way too many shots of a shirtless Erik Estrada.  The disco music is tiresome, too.  But seeing the LA sites in this time capsule from the late 70s is really kind of cool, as are all of the 60s and 70s era cars!  That alone makes it worth watching.

***

Here's an update on my mother-in-law, who was rushed to the hospital by ambulance yesterday evening.  She's fine, and resting at home now, but she had to stay overnight at the hospital last night, where they did test after test to try to figure out what might be wrong.  All of the tests came back negative, so that's a good thing, but it doesn't explain why she felt so bad.

My daughter and I planned to visit her this evening, but the snow (SNOW?!?!) and wet roads hampered that idea.  Damascus is farther north than Laurel, and it's all back roads to get there.  Anyway, she's fine.  Thanks for your thoughts and prayers.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Hospital, Pizza, Cold Meals, and a Report Card

Day to day, you never know what may occur.  We just received word that my mother-in-law had to be rushed to the hospital this evening via ambulance.  She was feeling really sick, just before the church's potluck dinner, and was bad enough that she felt the need to call 911.  My father-in-law is with her.  We've continued to check in with them by phone and text, and while she said she's feeling a little bit better, it appears they're going to keep her overnight.  No word on what is ailing her.

If you're the praying type, your prayers for them are appreciated.

***

Today is National Pizza Day.  I didn't know there was such a thing.  To celebrate, I made a homemade pizza.  I've changed my recipe a bit from what I've made over the years.  I found a very thin flatbread that works wonderfully as a nice thin crust.  I don't think it's necessarily designed to be a pizza crust, but it works for me, and with carbs being an issue for me, the fewer, the better.  Del Grosso makes a really good pizza sauce, and the one I'm using is the New York Style.  It has a moderately sweet tomatoey flavor.  I like it.  I use a low-fat mozzarella-provolone mix, which gives it a great smoky taste.  Then I top it with a mix of turkey pepperoni, mushrooms, sliced grape tomatoes, black olives, and, sometimes, pineapple.  After baking it, I sprinkle a moderate amount of crushed red pepper, and the result is a very flavorful, spicy-sweet, very thin-crusted pizza.  And I like it!  While I still have a place in my heart for the old Chef Boy-ar-dee pizza kits, this is a really good substitute, and certainly a little better for me.

***

Faithful Pup Scout is stuck in a very frustrating routine pattern.  She always goes for a "walk" when we arrive home at 4 p.m.  Then, a short three hours later, and almost always while I'm in the middle of eating dinner, she begins her incessant annoying barking telling me she has to go outside right that second, and not a second later.  I never get to finish a warm meal.  I feel like the mom in the movie THE CHRISTMAS STORY, who never gets to eat a hot meal, because by the time she's gotten her husband and all of the kids their food at dinner, and she finally sits down to eat her first bite, one of the kids needs something else.  By the time she's ready to get her first bite of food, it's cold.  Well, that's me.  All because of this rather selfish little 9-pound white furball.  It's a good thing she's not an ugly dog.

***

My daughter's birthday is next week.  I still haven't figured out how we're going to celebrate.  Sure, we'll have the standard birthday dinner with the family, along with cake and ice cream, but she really wants to do something fun with her friends.  If you have any ideas, I'd love to hear them.  Currently on the table is a spa day (manicure/pedicure/facial) with a few friends, or bowling.  She deserves something special (especially after an awesome report card - one B, the rest all A's!).

Have a great evening, everyone!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

This And That

It is such an honor to be able to thank so many of my friends and loved ones for their service in the United States military, including my father, who was in the Army Reserves, my father-in-law, Jim, who served in the National Guard, and my Uncle Jack, who served in the Army during World War 2, and was in the Battle of the Bulge.  He is in his 90s, and living in Florida, and doing well despite many aches and pains.  Thank you to all of our service men and women.  You have my gratitude.

***

I was very excited over the weekend to do a search on my Tivo and find that my Pittsburgh Steelers were mentioned in the description of an "NFL Football" program on Sunday afternoon.  For a few short seconds, I actually thought that meant their game was on versus the Jets.  Then I got the bad news.  They were mentioned only as part of the description of the Baltimore Ravens game.  The description stated that the Ravens were trying to rebound from their loss to the Steelers the previous week.  I was really disappointed.  I thought CBS was surprising me.  Instead, I realized, after looking at the schedule the rest of the season, I'll only get to see two more Steelers games all season, due to the Ravens games generally being on at the same time.  That's one of the few negatives of living in this area, though I realize I'm in the minority.

***

Speaking of my Tivo, one of my Hollywood crushes from back in the day is Meg Ryan, and I have her listed as one of my Wishlist searches.  I realized, after looking at a list of her movies, there are only a few where I actually like her character.  The rest are her acting completely different than the typical "girl-next-door" type that she is known for.  My favorite movies with her are, of course, JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO, WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, and IQ, to name a few.  Many of the rest of her movies she plays women who aren't as likable, in my opinion, particularly her earlier roles.  JOE VERSUS... contains the quote that my blog is named for.  Joe and Patricia are on a raft out in the middle of the South Pacific, just after the island they were on sinks into the ocean from the eruption of a volcano, and Patricia (Meg Ryan) asks, "I wonder where we'll end up?"  Joe (Tom Hanks) responds, "Away from the things of man, my love.  Away from the things of man..."  It's a great last line for a movie.  If you haven't seen it, it's worth watching.  I mean it.

***

I spent most of the day working around the house, and I wore my favorite pants, a pair of black scrubs with a gold Pittsburgh Pirate "P" on them.  They are sooooo comfortable!  The only issue I have is that the waist isn't elastic, but has a drawstring.  The drawstring is absolutely necessary given how loose the pants fit.  So that's all well and good except when I need to use the bathroom, and I'm in a hurry, and in the process of untying them, I inevitably get a knot stuck and can't get them off.  I have to use my inner Force to calm myself, quickly work the knot loose, and then allow nature to take its course.  I have had no accidents, but I have certainly not enjoyed these moments.

***

Congrats to the two area Major League Baseball managers for their Manager-of-the-Year awards, Matt Williams for the Washington Nationals in the National League, and Buck Showalter for the Baltimore Orioles in the American League.  Both were well deserved.

I miss baseball season.  There's just 100 days until Pitchers and Catchers report for Spring Training!

Have a great evening, everyone!

Monday, November 10, 2014

How I Spent My Day Off

"How I Spent My Summer--...er, I mean, My Day Off"
by Eric Freed

Today was a rare day off, and I aimed to spend it somewhere other than on the couch all day.  So I got my daughter up and off to school, and then I went right out to breakfast at one of my favorite breakfast joints, Eggspectation.  And it was gooooood!  The Eggs-iliration has pancakes, potatoes, tomato slices, fruit garnish, and, of course, eggs!  Scrambled is the way I like them.  I also got a small OJ and coffee.  One note about the coffee....it isn't very good.  I love a good diner-style coffee, and this isn't it.  Everything else is great.  They even brought me some sugar-free syrup for my pancakes.  My server, Stevie, was very attentive and kept checking on me, which was nice of him since he had a lot of tables and I was the only one with only one customer.

Despite it being my day off, I decided to mix in a few errands along with the fun stuff.  So my next stop was at Kohl's, off of Montgomery Road in Ellicott City.  I needed to get a few dress shirts for work, and some khakis.  I struck out.  My meds have caused me to put on more weight than I'd like, and my clothes need to be upgraded.  I've been doing it slowly in intervals over the past two years because dress clothes aren't cheap.  I was disappointed to find that they had nothing in my size.  Everything was just a touch too small.  This is pretty typical.  While I can find some pants with a 40" waist, and some with a 34" inseam, you can't find any with both.  And forget trying to get an 18" neck on a dress shirt.  Apparently these aren't standard sizes.  Either that, or everyone is that size and they're sold out.  Looks like I'm going to have to buy them online.

My next stop was at Ollie's in Jessup.  Ollie's is a fun little store with a lot of junk.  They have fairly good prices on lots of things, and it's kind of like going to a flea market.  I really wasn't looking for anything in particular.  I just wanted to look around.  You never know what you might find.  I didn't find anything I wanted, this time.

Next was Home Depot.  I needed some filters for my heat pump, and I'm in the market for a new snow shovel.  I'm one of those guys who believes in the Farmer's Almanac, which says we're going to get a LOT of snow this Winter.  I want to be prepared.  I was very disappointed to see that, even though they have a whole section of the store filled with Christmas decorations, and even though, last I checked, Christmas is celebrated in December, which is a Winter month, there were no snow shovels in the store.  So much for being prepared....

Next stop:  Daedalus Books!  This is probably my favorite store in the Greater Columbia Metropolitan Area.  I could literally spend hours in this place, just browsing.  This isn't the kind of book store that you go to find a specific book.  The books here find you.  They have a fantastic history section, and I love the travel section.  They have a huge selection of cook books.  There are DVDs, and CDs, and a huge kid's section.  And you can walk out with 10 books and not spend more than $50.  It's great!

After an entire morning of running around, I debated whether I should just head home for lunch, or grab a sandwich somewhere and then catch a movie.  It was almost 1 p.m., and the debate ended when I realized that my daughter would be getting out of school around the time the movie would be ending.  So I compromised.  I got a sandwich to take home.

I let Siri on my iPhone give me a list of sandwich shops in the area, and I decided it would be a place I had never tried before.  The top of the list was Bon Fresco Sandwich Bakery, just off of Oakland Mills Road, behind the Ledo's Restaurant.  I almost missed it, given how hidden it seemed, kind of hiding in plain sight.  Wow, what a gem!  All I can say is that it's an unassuming little place with a big appetite of flavorful sandwiches.  I got the Turkey Picante Sandwich (roast turkey, hot pepper cheese, roasted peppers and veggies, with poblano pepper hot sauce, on ciabatta bread).  I got it to go, and headed home.

Faithful Pup Scout was sooooo excited to see me.  She wasn't very happy when I left this morning.  We sat down on the couch and I ate a very delicious sandwich.  Soon, though, it was time to go get my daughter.  While I was disappointed that this meant my day off was essentially over, I was very excited to see her.

And that's how I spent my day off.  Have a great evening, everyone!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Weekend in Review

It was a wildly crazy couple of days, so much so that we actually didn't even turn on the TV for two days!  In our house, I'm sad to say, that's pretty noteworthy.  All right, I guess I should mention that "wildly crazy" may not be quite as wild or crazy as others might think.  So what have we been up to?

Thursday was Melody's big field trip with her classmates to Mount Vernon, George and Martha Washington's home in Virginia.  After picking Melody up from school, she couldn't stop talking about all of the things she saw.  She said it was really beautiful, especially the view from the house.  She really enjoyed the trip.  One statistic that adds some perspective, and something she and I talked about, was the fact that George Washington was in his 40s when Ludwig van Beethoven was born, meaning that many classics of music history were written during the early days of the United States.

***

Friday, following work and school, Melody and I decided to go to the Bengie's Drive-in.  We are reaching the end of the season, with the much cooler weather, though the Bengies wants you to know that their season goes from early Spring well into late Fall.  The big movie of the night was BIG HERO SIX, the latest Disney computer-animated movie.  I know about Big Hero Six from their Marvel comic book series back in the 90s, which I bought new.  This movie is really nothing like the comic book, but that's not a bad thing.  The movie was very enjoyable, and Melody had a great time.  The movie runs the gamut of hilarity to heartbreak, and we laughed at the understated vocal patterns of the robot Baymax, who steals the movie.  Baymax is a "health assistant" robot, and "he" only wants to help everyone he comes across.  He's a huge marshmallow/snowman shaped robot made out of vinyl balloons, and he squeaks across the screen as he walks and moves and finds himself forced into tight spaces that the main character, Hiro, leads him into.

The gist of the story, not to give too much away (**SPOILER ALERT**), is that Hiro, a young robotics prodigy who finished school at the age of 13, finds himself bored to the point that he does things that would get him in trouble.  His older brother, who attends a special science college, talks Hiro into joining him at the school, where he meets his brother's friends and all of the cool things that they get to work on.  Hiro decides he wants to join them.  His brother, who has already created Baymax, inspires Hiro to get his life together and he comes up with a great robot invention that the head of the school thinks is pretty good, a microrobot that, when joined by thousands of other microrobots, can do just about anything.  However, the microrobots are stolen and Hiro's brother is killed in an explosion.  The rest of the movie is about Hiro's attempts to find out how his brother was killed, and he's joined by the gang from the school who don super-hero costumes using their inventions, along with Baymax in a suit of armor, to figure it out. (**END SPOILER ALERT**)

The movie is a lot of fun, the animation is great, the characters are nicely developed, and Baymax is going to be a big star.  The kids are going to love it.  And you might like it, too.

***


After getting home very late from the drive-in, we were up really early to go into downtown DC for the American Heart Association-sponsored DC Heartwalk!  The DC Heartwalk was my opportunity to assist in the effort to build healthier lives free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke by raising money through fundraising and then participating in the 3-mile walk around the National Mall.  There were over 8000 people participating in the walk, and they were full of energy.  It was kids- and dog-friendly, and both were there in abundance.

This is the second walk I've participated in, the first with the AHA.  Previously, I did the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer about 7 years ago, and is detailed HERE.  This walk was a heck of lot easier.  The Breast Cancer walk was a 39.3 mile walk over two days, and it about killed me.  I had decided that I didn't need to do any training in advance of the walk, and my body was in no way ready for that kind of workout.  After the first day, I literally couldn't move my legs anymore.  I don't think my body had ever been that exhausted before or since.  The walk yesterday was vastly different.  Three miles isn't a lot, and while my body is a heck of a lot less fit than it was even seven years ago, I at least was able to still walk after it was over.

And it's for a great cause.  My wife died from a heart attack resulting from complications from mitral valve prolapse and an enlarged heart.  Personally, I have high blood pressure and hypertension, as well as type 2 diabetes.  This is a cause I want to support.  I'm so thankful for all who supported me through donations and prayers.  It isn't too late to donate, and if you feel like supporting the American Heart Association, I would be honored if you would.  You may use the link HERE.  Thank you!

***

After the walk, we met my parents in College Park for lunch at the original Ledo Restaurant.  It was nice to visit with them.  My parents are aging so gracefully, and it's hard to believe that they're both in their late 60s.  We had a good time talking about the past week, and our upcoming plans for the Holidays.  Upon leaving, we walked past a meter-maid on the sidewalk just outside of the parking garage they parked in, Dad told me he wasn't sure how the meters in the parking garage worked, and he actually didn't pay the meter after parking, which is what he should've done.  I told him he likely got a ticket.  College Park is ruthless with parking enforcement.  To our surprise, there was no ticket!  I couldn't believe it, and we're now convinced that there must've been time on the meter for their space when they parked and they didn't know it.  Anyway, it was a nice gift.

Melody and I drove home, and we had just enough time to clean up, grab a couple of showers, and then head right back out to church.  Pastor Mark, the senior pastor of Grace Community Church, presented a message on aging, which I thought was ironic given my thoughts about my parents earlier.  It was a great message, and if you're interested in hearing it, please check out the Grace website at www.gcconline.org later this week to see it there.

After church, we stopped to get a few groceries, then my daughter asked if we could stop and get some Munchkin donut holes at Dunkin' Donuts.  She specifically wanted chocolate ones.  So we stopped at three different Dunkin' Donuts before we found some.  The first had no chocolate ones, the second was closed (at 7:30 p.m. on a Saturday???), and the third barely had any.  We left with 10 in a cup for $1.99.  At least we satisfied her craving.

We finally arrived home at 8 and we had a late light dinner.  We watched a little TV for the first time in several days.  I began writing a blog post and I fell asleep two paragraphs in.  And that's why there was no post last night.  Sorry.

Anyway, the time change has had a dramatic impact on me, as I noted a few days ago.  Early to bed and early to rise, as they say.

Enjoy your Sunday!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Alaska Road Trip...Down the Road

You only live once, so my daughter and I are planning a really big road trip, one of those once-in-a-lifetime trips that get my blood pumping just thinking about it.  I made a deal with Melody that I would take her to all 50 US states before she graduates from high school, and, so far, she has been to 34.  We still need a few in the Southwest (Utah, New Mexico, and Texas), the Northwest (Washington, Oregon, and Idaho), the Plains (North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and Kansas), and the deep South (Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama), plus the two biggies, Alaska and Hawaii.  And since we can't drive to Hawaii, we're going to figure out something else in order to get there.  But we are planning to take the ultimate road trip to Alaska!

The trip won't be anytime soon.  We're thinking that the Summer of 2016 will be our target, with a lengthy three weeks of time off for the trip.  While it's still in the early planning stages, I'm starting to plan the route.  Since we still need to cross off North Dakota, we'll likely take the northern route out of Chicago and travel across Minnesota and North Dakota and into Montana, with a stop at Glacier National Park.  I'd like to hit Calgary, Alberta, Banff National Park, and then travel north to the Alaska Highway and up into America's Last Frontier.  After a week in Alaska, I'd like to come back down to Washington and Oregon before heading east across Idaho and eventually across Iowa.  We'll knock out a lot of states on this trip.

I can't help but feel excited, even if we're still a year and a half away from actually taking the trip.  It will be the biggest trip I've ever taken, by far, and I've been on a few big ones.  I started taking Melody on road trips when she was two, with a fun trip to Florida and Universal Studios.  A few years later, we went to Disney, and then we took our first trip Out West (Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming, and a few miles into Montana just to cross it off the list).  It was an awesome trip, and we saw some amazing sites, including the Crazy Horse Memorial, Mt. Rushmore, buffalo in Custer State Park, Deadwood, the Badlands, Wall Drug Store, Devil's Tower, Wind Cave, Chimney Rock, and Rocky Mountain National Park, to name a few of our favorites.  Melody's latest favorite trip was way out west, to Southern California (and Las Vegas).

So we're ready for another big trip.  Since this one is going to be SO big, and it's going to be a long time until we go, we'll have to fill up the gap with a bunch of little trips.  We're going to the Smokies, to New York City (again), maybe to Pittsburgh, another trip to Chicago, Ocean City, and Busch Gardens!  So take a trip, folks!  It does a body good.

I'm going to bed.  Have a great evening, everyone!<><