Monday, January 30, 2006

A nice dinner with friends

Sunday evening, Roger and Gina, a high school friend of mine and his wife came to our house for dinner. It was great, because it was the first time that we'd had them over since we moved to Seattle.
It was great evening, starting off with cocktails and conversation. I didn't plan enough time for the socializing before dinner, but everything rested well in the warming oven.
Roger wrote about the dinner in his blog, so I won't repeat that. He wrote very nicely about it and I just have some other things to add from my perspective.

The Soup

The Roasted Butternut Squash Soup was from my Tra Vigne cookbook. I roasted the squash the day before at 11 am, and as I started cooking, I thought to myself that a cocktail would be nice while cooking. Maybe my wife and friends are right, maybeI do have a problem. The recipe called for a dollop of marscapone cheese, which I had never used before. It was really good - much better than sour cream.

The Meat

There is a butcher in downtown Issaquah, Fisher Brothers, that I think is the greatest store in the world. They have smoked fish and meats, all kinds of pork and chicken sausages, every cut imaginable of beef and more. The place smells so great as you walk in. I also have a problem there - I can't just go in and buy a cut of meat. I'll always walk out with breakfast sausage, bacon and some more meat. After a very Dude Where's My Car "and then... and then... and then..." I give the guy my card so I'll stop buying stuff. It's a dangerous place. Sunday morning's breakfast was huge (bacon, chorizo, breakfast links), baked goods from a new chain bakery and 8 eggs (between the 5 of us) cooked three different ways.

The Potatoes

There is a chicken and port sauce recipe that I like to make that uses about a 1/4 cup of Gorgonzola cheese and about two weeks later, I was always throwing out brown disgusting Gorgonzola cheese. I had mashed potatoes with mix-ins (horseradish, wasabi and of course, garlic), so I thought to myself that it would be a great way to use of the Gorgonzola cheese. It was a hit. I'm sure other, much better cooks than I have done it before, but this was something that I thought up on my own.

The Dessert

Molten chocolate cakes. Decadent, elegant and delicious. And worrisome. The last time I made one of these (a single serving for myself, when my wife had gone to bed early and there was no dessert for the kids), it didn't come out well. It was a molten pile of chocolate pudding. You can see, I had some concern when I decided to make them - in fact, I almost called the Chef whose cooking lesson yielded the recipe (she gave us her phone number for that very purpose). But I didn't call her and I went ahead with them. They turned out okay - the kid sized ones were a little over done and for some reason, two were less cakey and more molten (the one's Heather and I got). But they were still good. After the meal, it took me a while to eat it all - but it was good, I wasn't going to let it get away.

I really enjoy cooking and I really enjoying sharing it with friends - and they are great friends to share with. All the prep work was fun and it was a straight forward meal to prepare and have ready to eat whenever we were ready.

Friday, January 27, 2006

What do they need it for anyways?

Postal service reports 2-cent stamp shortage

You know, I don't understand why they need the extra 2 cents. Postage keeps increasing every couple of years and I keep sending less and less snail mail.

And then on top of it all, they are running out of the stamps?

Do they not want us to send letters at all?

Save a tree, send email.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

An entertaining blog

This blog came up on the Web Clips in my Google Desktop and I was intrigued. There was a post entitled 10 Reasons Why Geeks Make Good Fathers. With a title like that I had to read it - I'm a geek (not fully by her definition, but close) and a father.

She covers topics of how great her family thinks meat is (she became vegetarian) and her kids and ...

She's local - someplace up here in the Greater Seattle area.

Her blog is entertaining. Check it out.
Welcome to MY world: January, 2006

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Blue skies, nothing but blue skies....

Today, I went into work later than usual because I had a follow doctor appointment for my shoulder.  It was great – the sky was blue, the sun was out and the roads were dry.  I got to wear my sunglasses and I didn’t bring a coat with me today.
Because I was going in later, the traffic was much lighter and I took advantage of the dry roads (read: my MINI got to stretch out some – boy does it handle curves nicely).
I got to work just a few minutes before my first conference call and I was sharing with some co-workers some thoughts about the nice day.
I got to work, planning out lunch.  I had these great plans: I’d find a restaurant and eat lunch on the patio (a great change from my desk) and enjoy the sun.  
My conference calls ended and I looked up.  The rain had returned.  What is up with that?  And to make matters worse, this rain is forecast to continue for some time.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Children of Heaven

Today, we watched the movie, Children of Heaven. From the description, it didn't sound like it would be a very good movie, but I needed to be flexible with Heather, because the next movie in line to watch is The Devil's Rejects.

Children of Heaven is about two young Iranian children and how the brother inadvertently loses his sister's shoes. They end up sharing his shoes so that they can go to school (she in the morning and he in the afternoon).

While that in itself sounds pretty boring, the children are great actors (you can really see and feel the attachment to her only pair of shoes) and the story is touching. The brother enters a foot race with the hopes of winning a pair of shoes that he can exchange for her.

The movie showed a very nice interaction between a brother and sister and also showed some of the vast differences between the 'haves" and the "have-nots" prevalent in other countries. The director so builds suspense that we, literally, we on the edge of our seats (well, couch).

When you are looking for a foreign film, and a touching film, I'd recommend it.

Next, Rob Zombie's second movie. We'll see how that is!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Big O Tires

My MINI developed a slow leak in the right rear passenger tire. No worries, though, they are run flats. Today, after my kids swim practice, I stopped by Big O tires to get it repaired. They worked for about 40 minutes, and some of it was pretty hard work, because run flats are difficult to get back on the wheel - and didn't charge me a dime.

I expected to pay a little for the repair, something like $10.

I was impressed. They made a Big O customer out of me.

Wal-Mart wouldn't do that for me. In fact, Wal-Mart once did nothing to a tire, because they couldn't repair it. They gave me back my car with a flat tire and thought nothing of it - because they couldn't repair the tire. They didn't even offer me the option of buying a new tire. I got to Wal-Mart after their shop had closed but before the cashier had gone. And I couldn't do anything with my car.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

More on Snowboarding

A few more thoughts on snowboarding:
  1. When I was in Alaska, I had a soldier in my platoon, PFC Walton. Every winter he'd go snowboarding and break his shoulder. He'd be out of commission for about three months. When Bernie was picking me up off the ski slope, I was laughing to myself about PFC Walton. Bernie had to think I was going into some kind of shock with my senseless ramblings.
  2. I also got some bad-ass pants. My old skool German Army wool pants just won't fit me any more (another sign I'm getting old) so I bought a pair of Burton Ronin boarding pants. Cargo pockets, crotch venting, waterproof-breathable fabric in an olive drab color. Nice.


For Christmas, my wife got my son and I a 3 pack of snowboard lessons, rental and lift tickets. It is a really cool gift and I get to spend some quality time with my son.

We took advantage of the long weekend and on Monday, went to the Summit at Snoqualamie for our first lesson.

It was a beautiful day for skiing. It snowed all day long, with a light breeze, so there was fresh powder all day long. Now, snow in Washington is wet, so a good jacket and pants was important.

The ski area is close, only about 45 miles from our house and is a pretty good place to learn to ski. Even on the holiday, the lift lines weren't long. The instructor was good and at the end of our lesson, we both felt pretty good about riding down the green hill.

We rode up and then came down. For the first time on snowboards, it wasn't bad. It took us a while to come down (or at least get up after falling down) and then we took a break for lunch. We were re-energized and warm.

Before our second run, I told Alec that we should stop half way down and take pictures of each of us snowboarding (it would make a great blog entry). I was able to get off the chair without falling this time and we headed off down the hill. I felt really good and in control. In fact, I saw something on the ground about 20 feet up the hill from a father and son team who looked like they were picking up all their equipment after a crash. I stopped and picked up the thing, it turned out to runaway strap and took it down to them. I was able to stop and ask if it was theirs, but it wasn't. I started off again (all of this without falling, mind you) and ended up going a little too fast.

I lost control and fell, my arms all akimbo and I felt my left arm twist around and a great pain in my shoulder. I ended up sitting on my butt, holding my left arm, with a dislocated shoulder. The pain was pretty severe and I couldn't get up. I ended up crashing just below the ski lift, so there were several people who asked if I needed help. I asked a passing ski instructor to tell Alec to wait for me because I got hurt and then I waited for the ski patrol. I couldn't even stand up on my own.

A guy named Bernie helped me off the hill and got me to the Ski Patrol shack and there I sat for a few hours waiting for the pain to subside. I came to the conclusion that I wouldn't be able to drive home (the MINI is a 6 speed manual) so I called Heather to ask her to come get us.

While she was willing to come get me, it also happened to coincide with a playgroup she was having at our house. It also happened to coincide with I-90 opening and closing because of the continuing snow. It took her 2.5 hours to drive what took me 45 minutes in the morning.

By the time she arrived, the ski area was closed and another Ski Patroller, Rob (I think, my brain was addled with pain) was helping me stretch my arm and relocate it. While it never klunked into place, my arm moved over to the right place and the pain subsided.

Heather took me to the Urgent Care and I've got follow up appointments with Orthopedic surgeons. I never did pick up a birthday cake for Parker that day, since we were going to come back and celebrate his birthday. We did open presents after the Urgent Care.

Today, I'm sore. My muscles are sore from snowboarding and my shoulder is sore from being out and back into its socket.

I'd recommend avoiding dislocating your limbs.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Beat at Chess

My son, who is nine years old, beat me playing chess Thursday night. This is note worthy because it is the first time that that he has done this un-aided. I enjoy playing chess and it is cool that we can enjoy it together.

Edit: I need to figure out how to better post from my phone so they stop getting cut off. Sorry about that!!


Mobile Email from a Cingular Wireless Customer

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The failed expedition to Cedar Butte

The guide book I bought has photographs and Heather saw a photo of Mailbox peak as seen from Cedar Butte and she said that she would like to hike up that trail. So, this weekend, we decided to try it out.
The trail head is a little more than 1/2 an hour from our house and it was a 3 mile round trip. I figure that it would take us about 4 hours to walk it with our 3 year old.
Heather and Alec had an activity at 3 PM, so we knew we need to make an early start in order to get back.
Saturday night, I packed up everybodies day pack with water, lunch, a warm layer, so that in the morning, we'd be ready to go.
I woke everybody up at 7:30 and we were on the road by 8:45. We found the trailhead and headed out. The weather was a little bit colder than it was last weekend, but not bad.
Well, we got about .3 miles into it (I had my GPS humming) and Parker decided he had had enough. Basically, his complaint was that it was too early and he was still sleepy. We made the not to hard call to turn around and went back to the car.
We didn't make it to Cedar Butte, but we turned it into a North Bend Outlet store trip. I ended up with a new Pea Coat, a down vest, a chef's jacket, my daughter got some hiking boots and my wife got a bunch of sweaters. Oh, yeah, and I got the credit card bills. But, still, it was a fun trip.
Once we got home and some lunch in the kids, I asked Parker what would have made it better. He would like to go again, but just later in the day. That's cool - he still likes hiking and getting out there.
We'll go again. Maybe we'll wait until later in the spring time, so the view will better, but we'll be back. Heather wants to see view and I want to hike more. Maybe for the winter time, we'll stick to the lower elevation trails, less terrain and better weather. We're getting started into this hiking thing.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Resolutions, old and new

A few years ago, I decided that I wasn’t going to make a long list of resolutions that there was no way of accomplishing and I decided that I would set some objectives for the year.
The first year I did this, I did okay – I met some objectives, I met some a little late and some slipped altogether. But I felt good about what I accomplished.
I was also using my PDA to keep myself organized, so naturally I put my objectives in there.
So, why am I telling you about 2004 resolutions? Is this some kind of super-retro-blog? Nope. As far as I can tell, I didn't change my objectives for 2005! I guess I was capitalizing on the success of the prior year. So, in 2005, I had the same resolutions:
  1. Read 3 books
  2. Run in 3 road races
  3. Take vitamins daily
  4. Complete income taxes prior to 14 February
  5. Exercise at least 3 times per week
  6. Invest for the kids college
So, how did I do in 2005.

Books - I made this goal. I should read even more.

Road Races
I ran in 3 road races - while that counts as a successfully met objective - as the year went on, my times only got slower. Oh well.

Vitamins - I don't think I took more than a handful of vitamins (not all at once, but over the course of the year). Not so good - considering my high cholesterol and heart problems.

Income Taxes - I was close on this one. What kind of dumb idea is it to have the deadline be probably one of the most important holidays in a committed guys year. The taxes were done by the end of February. This year, this one will have to be done quickly, because with a new mortgage, I hope that we've got a lot coming back to us!

Exercise - I did well, for a while, with the help of my friends. We were running at lunch time, 3 days a week and it felt great! I've since moved and haven't figured out how to work it back in. Our new physician is going to push the issue, because she wants to ensure that I keep my cholesterol down. If I can't do it on my own, she is going to push the drug option very stongly. I really don't want it to come to that. This one is important for this year, for some other reasons, which will get detailed later.

Invest for the kids college - Not proud of this one. Didn't do much here. This will be room for improvement in 2005 - we need better defined financial goals and a plan to reach them. Do you see a 2005 resolution coming?

Enough of 2005. Look forward - always forward!

Objectives for 2006
Firstly, I'm not sure how I feel about publicly posting my 2006 personal objectives. This could end up being a good thing, because I am committing to so many more people (than just myself, I guess) that I will do some things. But then at the same time, if I fall flat on my face, that could be problematic, as well. So, here goes nothing.
  1. Lose 10 pounds - When we put our house on the market, we cleaned our house and then for about 45 days only ate out. And most of that was fast food (or Fat Food, as it is sometimes known in my household). I gained ten pounds out of it. I've kept it pretty steady at that, no more during the holidays, but I'd really like to get it off. There is a pair of DKNY trousers that I have that my wife really likes, and I just can't fit into them. Not that they are tight, they just won't fit. I would like to be able to wear them, since my wife likes them so much. This will go together with my next objective.
  2. Exercise, more - So, any more exercise than I am doing now will be an improvement. I've got to figure out how to work more running into my life style.
  3. Keep my cholesterol low enough to stay off drugs - my new doctor told me that THEY have lowered the acceptable level for cholesterol. I really want to avoid taking the cholesterol drugs - I don't wanto start something and have to do it for the rest of my life.
  4. Hike - I really enjoy hiking. Where we live in Washington is so close to the public lands. We have so many trails that are less than an hour from our house. Mostly, the kids like it and we've gone hiking every weekend this year! Hey its that joke - it is only the second weekend!
  5. Finish the income taxes before the end of February - a much better deadline, this go around.
  6. Read at least 3 books - I'll keep this one on the list. I've already gotten started, reading The United States of Walmart.
  7. Develop some financial goals as a family - we've got three kids and college is already inside our ten year horizon. I'd love to retire (inside the ten year horizon too, would be super-cool). We are saving, but it just needs direction.
  8. Keep in better touch with my friends - about mid-way through 2005, I realized one of my significant shortcomings is not keeping in touch. I looked for and found several old friends from my time in the Army and got back in touch. Now that I've done that, I need to stay in touch.
There they are, out there for public consumption. It seems like a long list, with 8 items and all, but that is what I'd like to do. I'll keep you posted (oooh, interesting) through out the year.

Happy New Year!!

Monday, January 02, 2006

Good things

Good things come from Livermore (like my wife) but Wente Sparkling Wine is not one of them. It does make for a good mixer (try a French 75 or a Kir Royale).

Sunday, January 01, 2006

End of the year hike

Just recently, I spent my REI dividend and purchased a couple of guidebooks for camping and hiking in Washington, and on New Year’s Eve, we went for a hike in the Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park.  It was really convenient, less than 30 minutes from our house.
We stopped for white gas, soup and a topo map on the way there.  We got soup and fuel, but no map.  The guidebook said that there were trail maps, so I hoped for the best and just went with it.
We hiked from the Red Town Trailhead up to the Coal Creek Falls and then back again.  The weather wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great, either.  The skies were cloudy (contributing to dark photographs) and the temperature was about 45 degrees.  It sprinkled on us off an on and the puddles on the trail kept the kids happy.
We started out on the Red Town and Cave Hole Trails, both of which had the elevation gain at the beginning of the hike.  Since we were diverging from the “Easy” trail in the guidebook, I had a little concern that the kids might get too tired from the start.
We stopped for lunch a little past the Coal Creek Falls.  Since it was in the depths of winter (winter in the North West, that is) I brought my backpacking stove to make a hot soup lunch.  Since it was a little cold, the hot soup and hot cocoa were nice and reinvigorating.
After lunch we headed back, by way of the Quarry Trail back to the Red Town Trail.  There is a meadow that is being restored and the way it was described with the native flowers, it would be very pretty once it comes into bloom.
All in all, we hiked about 2.65 miles in about 3 hours, including our stop for lunch.
The park was really nice and there are many more trails that I hope we can explore.  Before next time, I’ll buy the topo map of the “Issaquah Alps” so I have a better map.  The kids all had fun, so it will be something we do again.  Our proximity to the outdoors is something that I really like about living here in Washington.