Wednesday, December 31

2008: the year in review

Favorite movie: Cloverfield. I still think about it. Iron Man was quite entertaining as well, but not quite as thought provoking.

Favorite book: Heart Shaped Box. I didn't have time to read a lot this year, but I think this would have been my favorite no matter what.

Favorite music: Nothing. I didn't buy a single cd this year that I can think of.

The year started off with time suck #1 of the year, Buster. He is well chronicled on this blog. Buying a new building followed. The remodel of said building wins the award for time suck #2 of the year. And, then I got a new job somewhere in between all of that. There were other activities going on, such as putting a pond in our back yard.

Even though it was a busy year, we managed to have some fun. We took a family vacation to Chincoteague and Brian and I took a motorcycle trip to Berkeley Springs.

This has been quite the year. I'm glad it's over. Here's to a less stressful 2009.

Tuesday, December 30

impromptu vacation

I had a couple days off over Christmas and it looks like I'm going to do the same for New Years. I had already planned on taking Friday off. But, after sitting through two days of self-paced training and not wanting to do a 3rd, I'm taking tomorrow off, too.

Of course, I feel like I'm coming down with a cold so my time off might not be as fun as I'd like it to be. On the other hand, at least I'll have time to get some rest, if needed.

Saturday, December 27

december 26

Brian's sister and her crew came in yesterday so we went to Brian's parents for dinner last night. It was a nice evening despite the fact that most of her family has the plague. We got to open more presents, which is always good. We had some good wine at dinner, too.

There was supposed to be an extended family get-together there today, but since everyone is sick, it has been canceled. So, Brian's mom sent us home with a bunch of food. I won't have to cook until next week!

Friday, December 26

Thursday, December 25

chrismas day

Let's start by saying that Jake was still up at 12:30 last night, which is when Brian and I went to bed. At 5:30 this morning, he came into our bedroom and said that he couldn't sleep (apparently he had been up since 4 at this point), so he hopped into our bed and fidgeted for about a half hour before Brian kicked him out. We got up shortly after that and let him open his gifts. This year was definitely the most excited he has been about Christmas.

This afternoon was spent at my parent's house. My parents, brother, and grandmother were all there. We had a nice meal and then opened some more presents!

This evening, we're just hanging out and playing with our new toys.

Wednesday, December 24

christmas eve



For the first time ever, we hosted Christmas Eve at our house. We went to the 4:30 service at our church with Brian's parents and grandmother. This service is kid-friendly and had no sermon other than the children's sermon--yahoo! Besides that, I liked the fact that it was early. We always end up going to church at the end of our evening, but this was definitely better.

After that, we came back to the house and had dinner. I made lasagna, garlic bread, and Italian antipasto salad. I'm still stuffed and I didn't even think I ate that much.

Jake couldn't wait any longer so we exchanged gifts with Brian's family after dinner. We got some cool bar/wine and grill stuff, among other things. Jake got a Nintendo DS and we haven't seen him since.

Not long after opening gifts, my parents and brother stopped in for a visit. They brought Jake's second favorite gift of the night--a framed Sidney Crosby poster. Jake's a huge Sidney Crosby fan in case you didn't know.

Besides nearly knocking Brian's grandmother ass over tea kettle a few times, Buster fared pretty well for his first dinner party. Thank goodness we received his medication yesterday. I don't think I would have wanted to attempt this otherwise.

The rest of the evening everyone sat around, drank, and talked. Just your typical holiday. Now, I must go and finish the Christmas morning preparations.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Tuesday, December 23

what a difference a pill makes

Last month, we finally gave up all hope on Buster and decided to medicate him for his separation anxiety issues. Our dog trainer did not think he needed to be medicated, but she does not have to live with him. So we talked to the vet, who thought we should give the medication a try. We have him on the generic version of Clomicalm. The stuff is supposed to take a couple of weeks to work, but we noticed a difference right away. The vet had us start him off on a half dose for the first two weeks so that any adverse reactions would be lessened. He did not have any reactions so around Thanksgiving, he went on the full dose.

Once on the full dose he was like a different dog. We still have to work on his separation issues (we were waiting for the medication to take full effect), but it has affected his daily life in a positive way as well. While he is still full of energy, he does not act out in the same ways he did before. He is generally calmer and does not bark anywhere near as much (his separation anxiety is such that he will bark even if not left alone--e.g. if someone leaves the house or sometimes just the room). We were afraid it would make him dopey, but instead it has made him almost normal.

At first, I thought there was no way the medication could work that quickly. I figured his new attitude had to do with the fact that he's now a year old and that we have given him more freedoms in the house. But, this theory was put to the test this week and failed miserably. Around 2 weeks ago, I renewed his prescription. After some bumbling on the pharmacy's end and then some on the shipper's end, we ran out of medication and the old Buster was back and up to his old tricks. It's unbelievable, actually. This stuff is supposed to take a while to exit your system, too, so I'm surprised that he reacted so quickly either way. Today, he's back on his meds and a little angel again (comparatively speaking).

Typically this medication is only given for a few months, which is enough time to do behavioral training and get the dog over the hump. But, given Buster's antics, there's a good chance he will be on them permanently. But, I'll tell you what, the pills aren't expensive and they make living with the dog bearable, so I don't have a problem with it either way it turns out.

Monday, December 22

the burden of proof

Whew! This was a long one. I've been reading it for almost 2 months now (though I did lose it for a week around Halloween when Jake put it in our pumpkin basket). Despite the slow reading, I did enjoy the book. It's just not what I'd call a "page turner". The story was quite good, though. It was one of those lawyer stories, but with less emphasis on actual court proceedings than what you might find normally.

I did receive some motivation to finish this book--the latest Stephen King short story book arrived the other week, so I knew I had to kick it up a notch. Guess what I'm reading next?

Saturday, December 20

get smart

On a whim I added this movie to our Blockbuster queue. I was running short on "family movie night" movies and thought it would do the trick. I wasn't particularly enamored with the movie based off of the previews, but I figured, what the heck? As it turns out, this movie was pretty funny. It had all three of us laughing out loud numerous times. Heck, we're still laughing today, so I guess could could call this a good one.

Tuesday, December 16

winter

I haven't been dreading winter quite as much this year as I have previous years. I think it's because I haven't had time to think much about it. Normally, winter is a slow time around this house. But, this year, since we were so busy with the office, it's "make up" time and that has been keeping me busy. I can hardly believe that next week is Christmas already and here I am still not quite prepared for it.

In my opinion, January is the absolute worst month of the year. The weather is always horrible. There's nothing going on. Everyone's sick. Usually I'm dreading this month from October on. But this year is different. The way time has been flying for me, January's practically over already.

That said, I guess it's time to start planning my 2009 garden tasks. I'll add it to the list.

Friday, December 12

christmas party

My work Christmas party was this evening. It was at that place behind the Gingerbread Man. Well, it's not the Gingerbread Man anymore, but that's what it was when I used to go out, so that's how I know it.

The party was ok, but nothing to get excited about. The food was so-so. The drinks weren't free, so we stayed until we ran out of money, which didn't take long. Our whole table left at the same time as we did so we didn't have to feel bad about ducking out early. I can't imagine the party was going to last very long, anyway because there was no music or anything planned for the rest of the evening.

So, I guess this marks the official beginning of the Christmas season. I managed to wrap up my cards this week. We have a bunch of Christmas stuff planned for the weekend. I am very far behind this year, but at least all of my shopping is done.

Wednesday, December 10

chiefs game

We went to a Chiefs game this evening thanks to our healthcare group at PDS. They were offering up some free tickets, so we took them up on it. All employees of PDS attended, plus Jake (for those of you who are counting, that was 4 of us total). The game was pretty good. The Chiefs won. There were no fights, however, much to the disappointment of at least 75% of us.

Anyway, it was nice to get some free stuff thanks to the business. Hopefully this won't be the last of it.

Saturday, December 6

the thin red line

We watched this movie last evening. All evening. It was 3 hours long. I did not realize that when I rented it or I might have passed. I do like a good war movie, but this one was just not up my alley. Besides being too long it had too many characters to follow and did not have enough of a plot. The other thing I did not like about it was the obvious stunt casting. It had people like John Travolta and George Clooney, who each appeared for one scene a piece. There were quite a lot of other stars in it that were in the whole movie, so I'm not sure why they did that with those guys. One positive to note, it was visually pleasing. A lot of nice camera work. But, I can't recommend it.

Wednesday, December 3

still busy

I'm so far behind from working on the office renovations that I'm still ridiculously busy each evening. Thanksgiving weekend was good, though. I pretty much wrapped up my Christmas shopping (thank you, internet). I really enjoyed being off those four days. I was in such a good mood until Monday hit and then it was back to work. I still don't have my Christmas cards done yet. They are only about 25% completed at this point. I've been trying to work on them this week, but haven't had much time. I guess I will have to remedy that this weekend. They do have to be mailed sooner or later...

Friday, November 28

the thanksgiving challenge

It was our turn to spend Thanksgiving with Brian's parents this year. The problem? Brian's dad was having knee replacement surgery the Monday before Thanksgiving and was scheduled to come home on Thanksgiving day (everything went fine, by the way). Obviously, he was not going to be able to travel and Brian's mom was not going to have time to cook.

Brian's brilliant idea was to make hamburgers or something on the grill and have that for our Thanksgiving dinner. I upped the ante and proposed cooking dinner at our house and transporting it to theirs. That said, I didn't get too fancy with the meal. I figured the logistics were enough of a challenge. I normally don't get very fancy with Thanksgiving, anyway. There are things people expect to eat on that day, so that's what I make.

Since it was just the five of us, I didn't have to make an enormous amount of food. I prepped what I could on Wednesday night and made the rest of the stuff on Thursday. We didn't go there till suppertime so that helped with the cooking since I had all day to do it.

I packed everything up and off we went. Brian had a great idea to put the mashed potatoes in a slow cooker. Everything else, I just wrapped in foil. I put the hot stuff in the oven at 200 when we got there, so it would stay hot while I made the vegetables and the gravy and Brian carved the bird. I have to say dinner turned out pretty good. I made a pecan pie for dessert. I'm not much for nuts, but even I liked it.

There were just enough leftovers for us all to have another meal so at least we don't have to spend the weekend coming up with creative ways to eat turkey.

Tuesday, November 25

perspective

Here are the "before" pictures from our renovation project, for those of you who didn't get to see the mess of a building we bought.

Sunday, November 23

office tour

For those of you who missed the open house, here is a tour of the office.

port-a-licious

As if I didn't have enough stuff to do this weekend, we bottled two batches of wine last night. One was called "Pacific Quartet" and it was a white wine blend (on the sweeter side). I thought it was pretty good. And the other was the chocolate raspberry port. It was quite good, too. I don't know how much of it I could drink because it's really sweet, but I bet it would be good with dessert (cheesecake, maybe?). It almost makes me want to serve a multi-course meal with different wines for each course. Any takers?

Saturday, November 22

shopping

I got my Costco fix today, so now we're all stocked up. I probably have enough meat in the house for the next four months (it doesn't hurt that I already had a half of a side of beef in the freezer). This time, I dragged Brian and Jacob with me so that I could load up two carts! Brian had to replenish the office supplies anyway so he was needed for the trip either way.

I've been wanting to go there the past few weekends, but we were too busy working at the office. While I probably could have put my time to better use today, I also did not want to go after Thanksgiving when all of the holiday shoppers are out. So, that left today. They were pretty crowded, too. I think my next trip will be on a weekday, but it probably won't be till spring.

open house

Metal lettering for Prime Design Solutions

Last night, Prime Design Solutions held an open house to celebrate the completion of the major interior renovations. Colleagues, friends, relatives, and clients were in attendance. We had a pretty good turnout, but I wasn't sure how many people to expect, so we have a lot of leftovers. No surprise there, because I always buy too much food. But, no one can ever accuse me of not having enough food!

Everyone seemed to have a good time and a few folks even stayed after "closing time". I'd call the party a success. This marks the end of our breakneck speed to finish the interior renovations. Thank goodness. We're going to take a couple week break and resume activities there in December. There are still a few things to wrap up (mostly closet and trim-related). But, at least we won't have to go there three days a week anymore. We are so far behind with things at our house, it will be nice to concentrate on it for a while.

Sunday, November 16

one more week

This is our final big week for remodeling the office. The "grand opening" is this Friday, so we're going to be busy the next few days, but after that, we'll be going there much less often. That will be nice. Goodness knows we have been neglecting the house all year.

We have all of the major stuff done at the office, now we're left with little things like trim and whatnot. Obviously, whatever we can get done before Friday is a bonus, but I'm ok with the way things are right now. I am looking forward to getting a break from that place, though.

Friday, November 14

iron man

We rented this one for family movie night. I always want to like the big-screen versions of the comic book superhero story (Batman, Spiderman, the Hulk), but I never do. This movie was the exception. What a great film! It was very entertaining, that was for sure. The funny thing is that I thought Robert Downey Jr. was an odd pick for this part, but he was absolutely perfect. The special effects were, of course, amazing. I'm looking forward to the sequel already.

Three thumbs up!

Sunday, November 9

lucky number slevin

This was a really good movie. We both enjoyed it very much. I don't want to say anything about the plot because that would give everything away. It was of the suspense variety, though. And it had a nice twist at the end. I always like a movie with a nice twist. It featured an all-star cast: Josh Hartnett, Morgan Freeman, Bruce Willis, and Lucy Liu. It was definitely one of the better movies we have watched this year.

Tuesday, November 4

oh, snap

We spent our weekend the usual way--working at the building. I'm down to all crap work now like painting in closets. I found some more things to touch up in the kitchen, but that counts as crap work, too. Brian installed most of the floor last weekend. I did my part by acting as the human clamp (I stood on the planks so they wouldn't move while he was installing). We would have gotten done had we not run out of material. We have one small strip that has to be done before the cabinet installation and the closet area as well. The small strip is probably going to end up being filled with some floor scraps we have because we need to install the cabinets next weekend. I had to order some more flooring and who knows when it will be in (it's on backorder from the manufacturer). Normally, we overestimate our materials, but since the flooring spanned three rooms, I guess we should have given ourselves a larger margin of error. I'll have to remember that for next time.

Saturday, November 1

halloween

Yesterday was Halloween and, not coincidentally, trick or treat night here in Upper Yoder Township. Jake went as a Death Eater from the Harry Potter books. He looked pretty cool (here's a pic from his school Halloween Parade. hint: he's the scary looking one). We had close to 60 kids, which seems to be the average. The weather was pretty decent, too (especially considering that we had snow earlier in the week). Brian took Jake around, along with the neighbors, while I stayed home and passed out the candy. I got a little chilly sitting on the porch, but Brian said it was nice if you were moving around. Jake also went trick or treating at Brian's parent's last weekend, so we have enough candy around here to last till next Halloween.

Sunday, October 26

the weekend

My weekend started 4 hours early on Friday. I took a half day in order to get some stuff done. Mainly, I was concerned about planting garlic in my garden. The weekend was calling for rain (though it didn't end up raining today. go figure). So, I went outside on Friday and worked in the garden for a bit. Prior to that, I put on a big old pot of chicken soup for supper. Mmm. I did some other things around the house that evening, but nothing worth reporting.

Saturday morning, I went to a pierogi-making class at the Bottleworks. It was fun, but I can't say I really learned anything (as I have made pierogies on my own in the past). In the class, we made the dough and assembled the pierogies, but we had to cook them ourselves (at home). I packed up the cooked pierogies and went to the office where Brian and I shared them for lunch. He was working on the kitchen ceiling all day. Looks great! I did some more painting--kitchen trim. Last night was kind of a blur, but I know I did some stuff.

Today was pretty productive, too. After brunch I went outside and wrapped up some things (namely, mulching the garlic; harvesting the broccoli rabe; and doing some general clean-up in the yard). After that, I did my usual afternoon "office management" work and then we headed to the office to do more work. Brian wrapped up a few loose ends and I painted some more (the kitchen trim is finally done!). This evening Jake and I got all of the treat bags ready for Halloween and I did some housework (there's no shortage of that in this house).

It was a pretty good weekend, but I didn't get as much done as I'd hoped (I never do). I guess I'll take tomorrow evening to get caught up.

Saturday, October 25

leatherheads

While I think George Clooney is a fine actor, I'm afraid this was not one of his better movies. The main problem was that the storyline was a little thin given the length of the movie (almost 2 hours). It was a period piece (set in the 1920s). All of that stuff was done well, but the movie just did not hold my attention. Sadly, not recommended.

Friday, October 24

garlic

I took this afternoon off work so I could do a few things around the house and finally plant the garlic in the garden. I normally like to do this mid-October (so I'm a week behind at this point). I was planning on doing it this weekend, but it's calling for rain, so today was my best bet.

I ordered 2.5 lbs. of garlic to plant. As it turns out, I could have gotten away with 2 lbs. (note to self). I still need to mulch it. I guess I'll save that step for the weekend. I had a little left over garlic. I think I might put it in the herb garden. I've been having trouble filling it with unique herbs, so this will help that cause.

Wednesday, October 22

pond winterization

After supper last night, I went outside to remove all of the leaves that found their way into the pond during yesterday's crappy weather. After that, I put some netting over the pond, so I wouldn't have to do that again. Closing the pond for the season goes in stages based off of the temperature. But, at the rate the weather is going downhill, we should be done with it soon enough.

Sunday, October 19

first frost

Today marked the first frost of the season. The area had some spotty frosts before this, but this was the first day I noticed any frost on our property. I guess it's time to put the garlic in.

Saturday, October 18

my cup runneth over

The grape juice I ordered from Conzatti's came in on Thursday, so now I have 4 batches of wine going! This is a personal record. I'm sure Brian and I will be sick of racking wine until all is said and done, but my wine racks are going to look good with all of that wine in them (they are looking a bit bare at the moment).

big fish

We picked this one for family movie night (last night). Brian and I saw it when it was playing in the theaters but some movies warrant a second viewing and this was one of those. It was just as enjoyable to watch this time as it was the first time. Jake really liked it, too. Tim Burton directed it, so if you like him you will definitely like this flick.

Thursday, October 16

20th century ghosts

This was a collection of short stories from Joe Hill. I did not enjoy it as much as his novel, but it was not a bad read, either. There were some pretty weird stories in this book. Very different. Not everything was horror, either. I'm still anxiously awaiting his next book.

Sunday, October 12

herb garden

We have sure been having some nice weather lately. I did not get to enjoy it outside until yesterday. I caught an hour to myself and finished cleaning up the herb garden. I harvested some parsley, which I will freeze, and some thyme, lemon thyme, sage, and rosemary, all of which I will dry.

In looking around the yard, I still have quite the "to do" list. Nothing major, but a lot of little things. I definitely need to take advantage of the next few days and try to wrap some stuff up.

fall get-together

Our friends Dan and Dani invited us over for supper and a campfire yesterday. We had some stew, sat around talking for a bit, and then headed outside to sit by the fire in the chiminea and talked some more. It was a fun evening. Jake had a blast playing with their kids (3 boys). Jake considers their oldest son to be his best friend.

The weather cooperated for the event, too. I'm sure there are not many more days like that left for the year, so it was nice to be able to enjoy one of them to the fullest extent.

Saturday, October 11

alpha

The dog trainer came for another session this week. As soon as Buster saw her, he cowered in the corner with his ears back. Nice. We could barely even get him to bark while she was here, which was the behavior we wanted to work on that day. Still, we got some good tips from her. I guess the promising thing is that if he can behave while she's around, surely he can behave at other times.

Monday, October 6

exploding celery

I'm #1!

end of season

The weather was pretty nice yesterday so I made plans to garden in the afternoon. I picked a bag full of peppers and then removed the pepper plants from the garden. I also did some more clean up in the herb garden, but it's still not done (it really got out of hand this year). I put away some of my solar lights, too, but I left the ones around the pond for now. I'll leave them out there till I fence off the pond for the winter.

I planted some broccoli rabe in August and it's doing really well. It has not formed any buds yet, so it's not quite ready. I hope it does so before the frosts come and kill it.

I guess the next step will be to plant the garlic. I normally do that mid-October. I only received part of my initial garlic order, so I ordered some more from another source. By the time it gets here, it should be time to plant.

Saturday, October 4

washington state wine party

My mom held a Washington state wine party tonight. I took a bottle of Shiraz from one of my favorite wineries, Chateau Ste. Michelle. It seemed to go over pretty well. I've been to so many of these parties in the past few years that there's not much more to say about them. But, I do really enjoy going to wine parties!

blazing saddles

I'm not sure what possessed me, but I put this movie in my Blockbuster queue. Anyway, it definitely had some funny parts, but I just couldn't get past the excessive use of the n-word. I know it was all in fun, but I can't imagine that a movie like this would be released today.

Monday, September 29

brush pickup

I checked the calendar this afternoon only to find out that it's brush pickup week here in the township. So we all went outside this evening and gathered our "brush". Jake did most of the hauling; Brian trimmed the trees; and I trimmed all of the perennials back. We have quite a pile of stuff in the front yard. I still haven't finished cleaning out the vegetable and herb gardens yet, but I guess there's still time for that.

whirlwind trip

Brian sister had a baby this summer (her 3rd boy). The baptism was scheduled for this weekend, so we headed to NY after lunch on Saturday. We went to her place for a visit Saturday night and then did the baptism festivities on Sunday (church/dinner after). We left town mid-afternoon yesterday and got home last night. We made really good time coming home so we stopped in Altoona for a sit-down dinner at Ruby Tuesdays. It seems like anytime we're coming from that general direction that's what we end up doing.

I'm off work today, partly because we have to pick up the dogs (in Stahlstown, which is 40 minutes away) and partly because I like to take the day off after we get back whenever we are away. I have a lot of catching up to do today, but that's what the day is for, so it should be a good one.

Friday, September 26

here's to a winey fall

My chocolate raspberry kit finally came in so I picked it up today after work. I'd like to have it ready before Christmas, so I started it tonight. It should be an interesting experiment.

In other wine news, I saw an ad in last Sunday's paper for Conzatti's. They were taking orders for imported Italian grape juice (for wine). So, I stopped there on my way back from Thomas Feed Mill and ordered 2 buckets of juice--Pinot Grigio and Valpolicella. It'll be in, in mid-October. Plus, I still have another wine kit left from the beginning of the year (I've only made two batches so far this year). Given all of this, we're going to have a whole lot of wine at the end of 2008/beginning of 2009.

Monday, September 22

still at it

I've really been in a cooking mood lately. This is probably because I haven't had a lot of time to cook up to my usual standards in recent months due to our ridiculous schedule. But, things are letting up, so I've been spending some extra time in the kitchen. This weekend, I continued my streak and made baguettes, which I turned into a tasty sandwich for today's lunch. And, tonight, I made an apple tart--it's in the oven right now. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Sunday, September 21

long time, no blog

It's been a typical week here--chock full of work, work, and more work. Brian just completed a huge project at work last week, so things are looking up around here--more time for all of us. Things are moving along with the office remodel, too. We're working on the kitchen now. Everything's been torn out and now we're putting it back together. This afternoon, we primed the kitchen walls and it looks better in there already. We're hoping to wrap this project up next month and then we're going to take a nice long break before we involve ourselves in any more major office projects.

Jake's really enjoying basketball so we're going to sign him up for a basketball league that starts in December.

Buster is responding well to training, but still needs some work.

I have a lot of work to do in the yard. I got to work in the garden a little over the weekend, but not as much as I would have liked.

Other than that, we've just been doing stuff around the house. Nothing exciting.

Saturday, September 20

the end (almost)

I picked the last of the tomatoes this evening and removed the tomato plants from the garden. I also did some more clean up in the herb garden. I still have a ways to go with all of this but things seem to be slowing down a little around here, so I should have more time to finish up this fall (which starts next week, incidentally).

Sunday, September 14

more tear-out

I caught a few minutes outside yesterday evening. It's a shame it's getting dark so early these days as I surely could have spent more time outside last night. I did some weeding in the pond area--it was full of dandelions. And, I picked a few cukes and tomatoes and removed the cucumber plants from the garden. Unfortunately, they were just about done for the year. You can't complain when you're still picking cucumbers in mid-September, though. While the gardening season might be coming to an end, I manage to drag it out in some fashion for most of the year, so I guess things are not as bleak as they might seem. I still have a bunch of clean up to do; garden paths need to be made; my 2009 garden needs to be planned; the garlic needs to be planted; seeds need to be ordered; gardening books need to be read; and before you know it, it will be time to plant the seedlings again.

normal weekend

We had a typical weekend. We spent some time working at the office. Yesterday, we tied up a couple of loose ends and we got some office furniture from Brian's parents. That will help fill some empty spaces within the office for sure. Today, we worked in the kitchen. Brian finished removing the cabinets. I started patching the walls and removing the wallpaper. My parents stopped by again this weekend and did some more cleaning.

Jake and I did some cooking, too. We mixed up a batch of mint-chocolate chip ice cream on Friday evening. It turned out pretty well. We used fresh mint from my herb garden. So, that's two weekends in a row that allowed me to cook something "fun". This fall/winter, my goal is to bake bread every weekend. While I'm sure that won't quite happen, it should happen often enough so that I can fill my freezer with some fresh-baked goods.

Friday, September 12

the spongebob squarepants movie

We haven't had a family movie night in quite a while so we did one tonight. We intended on watching Finding Nemo, but the tape was broken so that didn't happen. Jake ran through his movie catalog and came up with the SpongeBob movie. We were all on board with that. Brian and I both wanted to see that movie, but have only seen bits and pieces while Jake was watching it. Anyway, the movie was pretty good and got a few laughs from all of us. Though I've decided that I prefer my SpongeBob in smaller quantities.

Wednesday, September 10

dog trainer

I finally convinced Brian to bring in a dog trainer for Buster. God knows we could have done this months ago, but better late than never. Our veterinarian referred us to Classy Canine Services, so I set up a session with the trainer for this evening. I thought for sure she was going to come to the house, take one look at Buster, and then announce her retirement from dog training tomorrow. But, instead, he responded quite well to her methods (she uses positive reinforcement). Brian and I were both quite pleased with how the evening went. And, we got a lot of instruction on what to work on in the coming weeks. I'm sure this will take a few sessions, but things are already looking up.

Sunday, September 7

cooking up a storm

Yesterday afternoon, I made cheese! Actually 2 kinds of cheese--fresh mozzarella and ricotta. A friend of mine tried this a while ago and it turned out great for him, so I couldn't resist--I just had to try it myself.

So, I was wondering what to do with all of the cheese. The cheese book had a recipe for lasagna, so that seemed like a good idea. But, I figured if I was going to have this great, home-made cheese, I couldn't just go out and buy sauce, so I made my mom's sauce recipe this afternoon and then assembled a lasagna with all of my freshly made ingredients this evening. We'll have it for supper tomorrow. I also tried out a bread recipe that used whey (a product of the cheese-making process). It was pretty good. We had it for supper last night with some salami, cheese, and olives. Nice. I also froze a loaf to be consumed at a later time.

Oh. The reason I was able to do all of this is that we didn't go on the Dog Run yesterday because Brian had to work. And, today, Brian and Jake went to a Steelers game today so I had a free day to myself.

dog run

We fully intended to go on the Dog Run this year, but Brian's all backed up at work, so he spent the day working instead. Later in the afternoon, Brian and I took a ride on our bikes, so it was just as good, if you ask me. After supper, we headed to the Dog Run party for a few hours, so we still got to participate in the festivities. This was only the 2nd time we went to the party. The first time we were there early, this time we were there late. It's nice to get there early so you can check out all of the bikes, but being there late was fun, too. They had an incredible fireworks display around 10:00. Then they awarded the raffle prizes. It was hard to hear the names they were calling out, but I think it's safe to assume I didn't win the Harley Davidson Nightster.

Saturday, September 6

basketball?

Jake signed up for a basketball clinic. It runs for 90 minutes each Saturday this month. He's there right now, in fact. We have never been ones to push sports onto the kid, but we've always said if it was something he was interested in, we certainly wouldn't hold him back. I'll give him this much--he definitely has the build for basketball. Today, we'll find out if he likes it.

Monday, September 1

ghosts

Another book from Ed McBain. This was a pretty good story. It was also short and to the point, clocking in at 185 pages. Even so, it took me a month to read it. I actually read half of it last month when Brian and I went to Berkeley Springs. But, life got in the way since then (that, and I'm all caught up on my magazine reading!) and I didn't finish it till last night. I finally had some motivation to do so--another book from Joe Hill, 20th Century Ghosts, has been burning a hole in my coffee table for a few weeks now.

labor day weekend

The weekend in review...

Friday was pretty laid back. Brian went to Virginia to get another tattoo (not that anyone would notice another tattoo on him at this point). He didn't get back till after 10pm so the evening was pretty much shot at that point. Jake stayed at my parent's that night because he was going to a Penn State game with my dad on Saturday.

Saturday morning we got up bright and early and went to the office to work on the bathroom. We finished installing the floor and did most of the paneling (we ran out). I primed the existing trim, too. I'm sure we did some other things, but I can't remember what. After we got home from there, our usual Saturday routine fell into place--housework for me; work for Brian. After supper, I went outside and worked in the garden for a few hours. I was having a lot of fun out there, but it got dark so I had to stop working. Brian wanted to go to the Folk Fest that evening, but I was enjoying the yard so much I talked him into staying home and hanging out by the pond. It was nice and relaxing. It's kind of sad that that's only the 2nd time we've been able to do that.

On Sunday we went to church and then went to the Ethnic Fest in Cambria City for lunch. The place was packed. We had to wait in line for almost 30 minutes before we got our food. But, I guess it's good that many people were in attendance. Later in the afternoon, we went to Lowe's to pick up another piece of paneling and a few other supplies, and then headed to the office to do some more work. We got the paneling installed and started on the trim. We ran out of floor trim, too. I guess we should have figured that seeing that we ran out of paneling (we bought the same amount of each). I started painting the trim, too. That night we planned in going to the Folk Fest. We fired up the bikes and got as far as the light at Goucher and Franklin when Brian pulled over. He was out of gas and had to engage his reserve tank. While we were sitting there, my bike stopped running and wouldn't restart. Brian ran to get gas in his and then came back and was able to get my bike started after a few tries. It is overdue for a new spark plug, so hopefully that is the issue. Anyway, till we got home, we were no longer in the mood to go to the Folk Fest so we scrapped that idea.

Today, we went to the office to work again. The bathroom is about 99% done. I have a few odds and ends to do and we're still missing that one piece of trim. My parents offered up their help so they were there, too. My dad cleaned up all of the boxes that were in the kitchen and then started removing the cabinets. My mom cleaned the foyer. Brian finished installing the trim in the bathroom and then worked in the kitchen with my dad. And, I did some more painting in the bathroom and cleaned it. So, it was a pretty productive day. And, I'm glad to say that the kitchen remodel is officially underway. Tonight Brian has to work and I'll just be doing stuff around the house. At least it's a short work week.

final harvests

I've been doing some harvesting in the garden and tearing out the plants that are no longer producing (as well as doing some weeding--there are more weeds than plants in the garden at this point). I got a bunch of tomatoes the other day--I expect to get more before all is said and done; a few more cukes; a nice bag of carrots; and a couple of beets.

I think I might make some roasted tomato sauce from the harvest. I made some the other week for pasta and had just enough left over for 2 pizzas. And, those were the best pizzas I ever made. So I'm anxious to try it again.

I ordered some garlic to plant this fall, but I'm a little worried as it's on backorder. I sure hope they at least send me some of my order otherwise I will be SOL--I definitely don't have enough of my own garlic to replant.

It's kind of sad that the gardening season is coming to an end. This summer just went way too fast.

Tuesday, August 26

tomatoes!

I picked a nice basketful of tomatoes this evening--a couple of varieties. I will surely be giving some of these away. But, in the meantime, it looks like we'll be having some tomato side dishes this week. This recipe looks good. I think I'll try it this week.

the bathroom project

Last weekend we kicked it up a notch and finished a good portion of the bathroom at the office. We spent Friday, Saturday, and Sunday there, not to mention last night. And, Brian's there right now. And, we'll be going again tomorrow. We did manage to squeeze in some fun--Doug had a party Saturday evening. Other than that it was work, work, work!

We had one setback Friday night--Brian wanted to move the old toilet to the downstairs bathroom. But, while he was installing it the toilet flange broke and that was the end of that. We had a similar situation here when installing our basement toilet, and that took a bit of work, so we're putting that on the back burner for now.

As for the status, the floor needs a few more planks installed and it will be done. The toilet is installed. Brian is installing the sink as we speak. The new trim is painted and ready to install. Other than that, all that is left is the wall paneling and some of that is already up, too. So, I'm hoping this wraps up early next weekend and we can start working in the kitchen, because I have a feeling that is going to be a project unto itself.

Friday, August 22

tomato note

The Costaluto Genovese tomatoes I planted this year are doing pretty well. My tomatoes are somewhat pathetic this year and these have been the best producer thus far. I'll need to plant these again next year.

Thursday, August 21

more socialization

My parents watched Jake a couple of days this week so I asked them if they wanted to stay for dinner one night. Tonight worked best for them, so we had a little cookout this evening. Nothing fancy--just burgers (and the fixin's), kielbasa, and some of my famous freezer pickles. And, an ice cream cake for dessert.

It also happened to be my mom's birthday today (happy birthday, Mom!) so that worked out well. My mom's, dad's and grandmother's birthdays all fall within a few days of each other. Normally we get together for dinner to celebrate all of them, but since my grandmother's 80th birthday was celebrated last week, we didn't get together to celebrate my mom's and dad's this year.

So, this was the second night this week we got to spend in the back yard. Amazingly, this was the first time we've eaten on the patio all summer. And August is practically over! This has been an unusual year for us, but I expect better things in 2009.

Monday, August 18

a relaxing evening

Judy came over this evening and we hung out by the pond for a few hours. This was about as close to entertaining as we've gotten all year. We had a couple of glasses of wine and spent the evening talking. It was a nice change of pace from our usual routine of endless work. We'll have to get together again soon--perhaps for a meal. Things should be slowing down quite a bit for us by the fall, so I'm hoping to be more social then.

Saturday, August 16

good to be bad

I haven't had a music review in quite some time, so here goes...

Whitesnake was my favorite band in the 1980's. Some might say I was obsessed with the band. Some might be correct. Their 1987 album was my introduction to the band, but I grew to love the older stuff, too (you know, the stuff that no one even heard of, post-Deep Purple). While I'll admit I was a little disappointed in the follow-up to the 1987 album, Slip of the Tongue, I was still a huge fan of the band at that time. I even bought David Coverdale's solo album and his album with Jimmy Page. And, I even ventured to buy one of the Whitesnake albums he did with Adrian Vandenberg. It was not so good. Who would have thunk?

I caught wind that Whitesnake released a new album this year. I checked out the reviews on Amazon and they were surprisingly good. In an attempt to recapture my youth, I plunked down $10 and bought their latest cd (and, that's probably the least amount of money I've ever spent on a Whitesnake cd).

First impressions were eh. Nothing really stuck out. But, for me that's actually a good thing. If I like an album on the first listen, I'll be sick of it in two weeks. After a couple more listens to it, I have to say some of it is sticking. I've had a few songs stuck in my head for days now.

I will say this. While I love David Coverdale's voice, I don't consider him to be a great lyricist. He tends to repeat a lot of themes and actual lyrics in his songs. While this was ok when I was in my teens, now I just find it annoying. Some of the songs on this album are just a little too sappy--it's almost like he's phoning it in. However, his voice still sounds amazing. The music is pretty good, but not great. The sound is kind of what you would have expected if Whitesnake had released an album between Slide It In and 1987, though I don't want to give the impression that this album is better than Slide It In, because it is not.

So, if you're a die-hard Whitesnake fan, you'll probably like this. Otherwise, feel free to skip it--it's not like you're going to hear any of this on the radio, anyway.

not what it seems

I thought I was going to get a bunch of stuff done today since the guys were camping, but that didn't happen. Buster was a royal pain in the neck all day. I couldn't leave his sight or he'd start barking up a storm and/or eating inappropriate things. I took him for a couple of walks, but that didn't seem to help. I gave him a pig's ear to eat while I was outside doing some stuff. That, at least, kept him busy for the duration, however short. Finally, around 8pm this evening, he collapsed in an exhausted heap onto the dog bed. I was kind of hoping he'd sleep all day like he usually does. I had grand plans for this afternoon.

That said, I still got a lot done. Just not some of the things I was hoping to accomplish.

back in order

The pond is back in working order once again. The new pump came in on Thursday. I hooked it up that evening. It's nice to see the water running again and I'm sure the fish appreciate the oxygen. I still have not had a chance to sit out back and enjoy the pond for any length of time. Maybe next week...

Friday, August 15

rizzo's

My mom hosted a dinner at Rizzo's Restaurant this evening to celebrate my grandmother's 80th birthday. The dinner was quite good--it was a homestyle dinner and consisted of Italian wedding soup, antipasto salad, bread, lasagna, rigatoni, meatballs, and spumoni. I have some leftovers for tomorrow so I don't have to cook (the guys are going on a scout camping trip).

In attendance were my parents and brother, the three of us, my grandmother's sisters (and the one spouse), and, of course, my grandmother. It was a nice evening.

Wednesday, August 13

aaaba

My company gave away AAABA tickets for Monday and Tuesday night's games, so I took them up on the offer even though I hate baseball. We went to the game last night. We didn't stay very long, but Brian seemed to enjoy it. Jake couldn't see anything because he forgot his glasses and he was busy bitching because he forgot his money so I don't think he got much out of the game. We stayed till the 7th inning and then went home. Johnstown lost so I guess we didn't miss much.

Sunday, August 10

on broken pond

Brian went outside yesterday afternoon to relax by the pond. Something seemed amiss. It took him a few seconds to realize that the stream (i.e. the pump) was not running. Of course by the time all of this went down, the store where we bought the supplies was closed, so we have to wait till tomorrow to make the exchange. I hope they have one in stock.

I went outside this afternoon and tied up some loose ends around the pond. Some dandelions are already cropping up--I'll need to take care of those soon.

New summer goal: actually sit by the pond one evening and enjoy it.

broccoli rabe

I planted some broccoli rabe last week. I tried planting it last spring, but it got all buggy. I tried again in late summer, but it was a little too late so it never matured. So, I'm trying it again this year. As far as vegetables go, this is a pretty good one. I don't see it in stores much so we've only had it a few times. Hopefully I'll have better luck with it this year.

Saturday, August 9

bottling night

We bottled 2 batches of wine tonight--an Australian Riesling and an Italian Brunello. I think both are going to turn out to be fine wines.

This is the first wine we've bottled this year so this should help replenish the wine racks. I still have more stuff to make but am waiting for an order to come in (next month, I think).

juno

This was a good story. Even Brian will admit to this fact. It was about a teenage girl who gets pregnant and then decides to give the baby up for adoption. The marital woes of the prospective adoptive parents was a side story. It could be described as a dramedy, though there were some pretty funny parts in the movie.

Recommended.

Wednesday, August 6

Tuesday, August 5

garden pond: step 8 photo

As promised:

i heart costco

With the cost of everything rising these days, I thought it might be a good idea to join one of the "warehouse clubs". I've heard great things about Costco for years and thought I'd give them a try. I've been to Sam's club and while I thought it was ok, I'm not a fan of WalMart, so I figured I didn't have anything to lose by trying out Costco.

Well, I did have one thing to lose--about a half a day. The closest Costco is in Pittsburgh. I went to the one in West Homestead. Due to the construction on route 22, it took me forever to get there. All of 22 is under construction. All of it. But, once I got there, it didn't take me long to fill up my cart and then some. I could have easily bought another cart of stuff, but it was only me, so I had to make due with the one.

I spent way too much money, but I do believe all of my purchases were valid and will be used (no 5 pound boxes of cereal for me!) I couldn't believe how good some of the prices were--like on office stuff. Having just outfitted an office, I know what things cost and we paid way too much for some of the things we bought.

The nice thing about Costco is that you can order stuff on the internet from them as well. I was checking out some of their prices and they do seem to have the lowest price on a lot of items. Since I like ordering through the mail, I definitely will be taking advantage of this.

All in all I thought the store was nicer than Sam's Club, but maybe this is just my WalMart bias showing through. I can't wait to go there again--if only it were closer.

Monday, August 4

berkeley springs, wv

Jake is on vacation with my parents, so Brian and I planned our annual motorcycle vacation for the weekend. This time, I rode my own bike. We headed to Berkeley Springs, West Virginia yesterday afternoon. It was a pretty nice day for a bike ride. I didn't particularly care for the highway riding, but I was fine with it by today when we came home.

The ride was nice and uneventful. We got into town, checked into our hotel and then headed out to check out the local scenic view (I rode with Brian for this). After that we hung out in the hotel and watched some tv, including the opening NFL preseason game. We ordered in pizza for supper. I also read for a bit. It was a relaxing evening. I don't get many of those. I guess that's why we have to plan these trips. I got a solid 8 hours of sleep for a change, too. That was nice.

This morning, we got up bright and early and headed home. The weather seemed nice enough till we hit the highway--I have never been so cold in my life! We stopped in Breezewood to thaw and I could barely operate the motorcycle because my hands were frozen into claws. We went to a local shop and bought me a sweatshirt for the ride home. Brian's apparently tougher than I am and didn't opt for any additional clothing. Note to self: wear layers next time.

The rest of today has been a blur. After arriving home, we went to Milkie's and picked up another load of mulch. Then we ran to the Cozy Inn and picked up the dogs. After a late lunch, I took a nap and Brian went to work. After I got up, I went to the office and painted the bathroom. We both came home at the same time, had supper, then went to work in the yard. Unfortunately, we need one more load of mulch before my project is done. It has been a busy day. I was hoping to accomplish another thing or two, but that didn't happen. Do I know how to spend a day off or what? I'm off again tomorrow, so hopefully I will be able to knock out a few things on my "to do" list. Though I'm a bit skeptical about that because I have plans for most of the day already. To be continued...

Saturday, August 2

garden pond: step 8 (landscaping)

A lot has been accomplished this week. As previously noted, the stream was finished earlier in the week. Later in the week (Thursday, maybe) I went to Westwood Garden Haven and picked up some fish and some plants for the landscaping. Yesterday after work, I went to Ray's Nursery and picked up a few more plants. Last night, Brian hauled some rocks and created my "rock garden" on the hillside. Today, he picked up a load of mulch and we put it around the pond and the side yard.

Unfortunately, we ran out of mulch before we finished the side yard. But, this was not unexpected. I hope to get some more mulch early in the week so we can finish that up. Once that is done, I'll post some photos of the pond.

On another note, I'm also going to mulch the dog area. I hope this works out. The yard looks like complete crap there (no pun intended). I think the mulch will look nice, but I hope they don't track too much of it in the house or go on digging frenzies every time they go outside.

what a week

I spent every waking moment working this week. Most nights were spent in the yard till dark, then doing housework until 10 or later. Today was no different. Ugh. The morning started off with some laundry then we went to the office to work. Brian did some plumbing stuff, which took him most of the day (don't ask!) and I primed the bathroom (holy yellow, batman!). After I was done there (Brian had to stay behind and plumb), Jake and I stopped at Em's and grabbed a late lunch. I did some more work and then ran some food to the office for Brian. Before you knew it, it was time to run Jake to my parent's--he's going on vacation with them tomorrow morning. I returned home, ate a quick supper, and then Brian and I went outside to do some work.

The good news is that the pond is officially done. I'll be posting the pond pictures just as soon as we finish mulching the side yard. It looks friggin' awesome!

Tuesday, July 29

spuds

I've been growing potatoes for a few years now, but this year was my best harvest yet. For starters, no critters found my potato patch. Secondly, I managed to not damage any potatoes in the harvest.

The sad thing is that it's almost August already. Between pulling my garlic the other week, harvesting the onions last week, and the potatoes today, my garden is definitely on its way out. On the plus side, I noticed that one of the tomatoes was starting to turn so that will be the start of tomato season.

garden pond: step 6 (completed)

Here's a pic of the completed pond. I finished laying the rock along the stream last night. The stream part turned out ok, but it wasn't exactly what I hoped for. I think the looks of it will improve quite a bit once the landscaping is done.

Up next: fish!

Sunday, July 27

pond update

We haven't made much progress with the pond lately, but that's about to change tomorrow. We ran out of fieldstone, so we were pretty much at a standstill. But, Brian went to his parent's today and got some more rocks for me (they are replacing a fieldstone path with pavers), so now I'm ready to go. Hopefully, I'll have time to finish the stream area tomorrow night.

We have done a few things here and there--I planted a couple of yucca plants over the weekend. We picked up some submersible lighting and installed that yesterday evening. Brian drained the pond the other night and cleaned it out...

I still need to grab a few hosta plants from the office (they're growing around the garage that we will be tearing down soon). I need to grab a few plants from the nursery as well. And I need for Brian to strategically place some rocks on the hillside. After the plants and rocks, I'll be able to mulch (this time, we'll be buying it by the truckload--I plan on mulching the entire side of the yard from the dog area to the property line in the back yard). Oh, and we need to get some fish, too, but I'm going to wait till the middle/end of the week since we just refilled the pond over the weekend. So, I guess there's still lots to do, but there is definitely a light at the end of this tunnel.

the office

I haven't had an office update in a while, so no better time than the present, eh? The office has been functional for quite a while. There are a few little things to tie up, but the two major items that remain are the bathroom and kitchen. We started on the bathroom last weekend. I was all set to remove the ugly tile from the walls only to find out it wasn't tile at all--it was plastic made to look like tile and was set in a thick layer of mastic. This proved all but impossible to get off the wall, so we're just going to glue some paneling over it and call it done. The only issue was the shower because the "tile" comes up higher in that area. So, Brian and Jake spent all of yesterday morning removing the tile from that area. While they were doing that, I painted the foyer.

I think the bathroom project is going to come together quickly (at least that's what I keep saying). We ran over there for a few minutes this evening so I could patch the shower area. This is going to take a few coats of joint compound for sure. At least it doesn't take long to do. I'm hoping to have the room ready by next weekend so we can paint the remaining walls and ceiling.

Friday, July 25

pickles

What do you do when you have too many cucumbers? You make pickles!

I tried this recipe last summer and really liked it, so I made it again today (only I tripled it this time). I used onions and peppers (hot wax, because that's what I had) from my garden, too. I just picked the onions yesterday. They were really nice this year--I must have gotten them in early enough.

I guess you could say that we have enough pickles for a while. I found that these keep well beyond the 6 weeks specified in the recipe, so I may end up making some more before the end of the summer.

garden pond: step 7

Drain the pond.

The dirt from all of the rocks proved to be too much for the pond. This step was not unexpected. So, Brian drained the pond this evening and then removed all of the muck with the shop vac. The pond has been refilled, so once the chlorine dissipates in a few days, I'll be able to get some fish for it! I just hope the chlorine doesn't kill the plants...

Monday, July 21

garden pond: step 6ish

I guess we should have taken multiple photos of this next step. It really didn't take that long to do, though. Over the weekend, Brian graded the dirt on the hill and then dug out a small stream. This evening, he dug out some shelves in it for the large stones, we lined the stream with sand and the pond liner, and then put the large stones and some smaller river stones on the liner.

The stream and waterfall are currently in working order. I still have to trim around the edges of the stream, but other than that, it's done.

Oh yeah, I bought some plants for the pond, too (last week). It seemed like a lot of plants when I was buying them, but once I put them in the pond, I realized that I only had about the 1/4 of the amount I needed. Seeing that summer is already half over, I'm not going to buy any more till next year--most of the ones I bought, you need to buy each year, anyway, so no sense in wasting any more money this year.

all grown up

We haven't had a Buster update in a while. He's not so little anymore (he's the one on the right--with the spiked collar). He has deservedly earned the nickname "Buster Maniac". While he has definitely settled down some since puppyhood, he is still a lot to deal with.

His main problem is barking--he suffers acutely from separation anxiety. We finally resorted to buying a bark collar a few weeks ago and the damned thing is not working anymore (I think he might have worn it out). He was doing pretty well with it, as we found out this evening. I've been putting the collar on him in the evenings and taking him outside while gardening or working on the pond. Tonight it was totally not working. It looked like it was working, but it wasn't doling out any corrections. I had to bring him in the house because he just would not stop barking.

On the plus side, he sleeps a lot more these days and doesn't have many accidents in the house (99% of them occur when we're not home and he is confined).

Friday, July 18

we're all in this together

This was a collection of stories from Stephen King's other son, Owen. Unlike Joe Hill's book, I did not enjoy this one. The summaries of the stories sounded promising enough, but in reality they seemed more like a college exercise (or maybe something you'd be forced to read in college). So, while I'm eagerly awaiting Joe Hill's next novel, I'm not planning on reading any more Owen King.

Thursday, July 17

step 5: done

Here's the picture I've been promising--the pond with a bunch of rocks around it. It took a little while to get to this point, but I'm still pleased with the progress I have been making.

I don't think I mentioned this before, but I got the plans for the pond from Popular Mechanics. I like to think I'm doing it my way. The plans were definitely a good guide, though.

I finished this phase this evening by putting a bunch of river rock in the crevices and around the edges. Here's the photo:

I like the looks of it. I put the landscape fabric down the other day. The pond will be surrounded by mulch eventually (once I get the hillside landscaped).

Up this weeked: the waterfall.

Wednesday, July 16

indiana jones and the kingdom of the crystal skull

That's a mouthful. Brian thought it should have been called Indiana Jones: Frickin' Ridonkulous. There were a number of unbelievable things happening in the movie, but it didn't really take away from what it was supposed to be: entertainment. While nothing is ever as good as the original, this made for a good night of entertainment (and supper!) at the Westwood Plaza Theatre (I'm going to miss that place if/when they sell it). Nonstop action, just like you'd expect in an Indian Jones movie.

Jake enjoyed the movie and that was the point of the evening. We don't actually go to the movies very often, so tonight was a special treat for him.

Tuesday, July 15

steps 4 and 5

I guess this could have been just about any step in the process, but Brian and his dad installed my outside outlet tonight (for the pond pump). As a bonus, an extra outlet was installed, so that's cool. We didn't have any outlets in the back, so this is a good thing.

I worked on putting more rocks around the coping shelf of the pond. I'm pretty much done because I'm about out of rocks. Well, I'm about out of rocks that could be used for this particular phase. I have some nice, big rocks I'm going to put on the hillside and in a few other locations. I also have some large flat ones that I'm going to use for the stream (yes, I'm expanding the project already and installing a stream). I should have a picture soon--I still need to fill in the empty spaces with the river rock. I'd like to have that done before the weekend so that I can spend the weekend landscaping the hillside and designing the stream.

Sunday, July 13

first harvest

Yesterday for supper, we enjoyed some vegetables and dip. I picked scallions, a cucumber, broccoli, and sugar snap peas from the garden. This was my first harvest of the year. The cucumbers are looking good--there are quite a few of them that should be ready soon. I'll have more broccoli soon, too. I saw some small zucchini out there, so it's just a matter of time for them. And, I have a lot of small green tomatoes growing--I can't wait for the first ones of those!

step 3 con't

Here's the pond with some water in it (and with the liner trimmed somewhat). Brian took the photo yesterday before we started adding stones to the pond. We're basically putting stones around the top shelf and creating a waterfall at the upper end (the left in this particular picture). We did a good bit of that this weekend, but I won't be posting any photos until that phase is done.

Unfortunately, even though we rinsed the stones before adding them, it made the water pretty murky, so we'll need to drain the pond, clean it out, and fill it again before the final steps--adding plants and fish. I read that this was going to be the case, so I'm not surprised.

I plan to do more work on it this week, but I need Brian's help with the heavy stones so the next step might not be completed till next weekend.

Saturday, July 12

napa valley wine party

Brian's parents hosted a wine party last night. It was a fun event--I just love wine parties! We got to try a couple of whites, a couple of reds, and a Greek dessert wine (don't ask). And, we had a bunch of great food.

One thing I will say about Napa Valley wines--I think they're overpriced. However, one of my favorite wines from that region is Beringer Founder's Estate Merlot, so that's what we took to the party. Guess what wine was everyone's favorite? And, it only costs $12. How can you beat it?

It put me in the mood to host another wine party here, but that's going to have to wait until things settle down (that is, until the office remodeling project is completed and my garden pond is completely done).

Tuesday, July 8

pond

The "Great Garden Pond Project of 2008" is underway and chronicled on my garden blog.

garden pond: steps 2 & 3

Brian finished digging out the pond last night. It looks pretty cool already. I stopped at Westwood Garden Haven on my way home from work this afternoon and picked up pond supplies--namely a liner, pump, filter, and a couple of bags of river rock.

Before installing the liner, we had to put a layer of sand on all of the flat surfaces. Then, we covered all surfaces with some old carpeting (thanks to the office renovations, there's no shortage of that). Brian handled cutting the carpeting, so that went pretty quickly. I thought it was going to take a lot longer. The next step was to lay the liner in the pond and fill it up.

I couldn't be more happy with the progress we're making. The next step will be to work on the waterfall. I'll probably wait for the weekend for that. It will involve a lot of heavy lifting (rocks) and some engineering as well--I'm totally winging it. So, I want to wait and work on it when I actually have a few hours to spare.

Sunday, July 6

garden pond: step 1

On Friday, we stared the garden pond project. The first step was to lay out the perimeter. We went with a kidney shape and the pond is approximately 8x10. Originally we were thinking 6x8, but that proved to be too small.

Brian made a lot of progress digging the area out over the course of the weekend, but we found out today that the pond is not quite level, so he has some more work to do tomorrow. Unfortunately for him, his line level was at the office and we didn't get it until today, otherwise he'd be done digging by now. But, it really shouldn't take that long to finish the digging. I'm hoping to have this project wrapped up by the end of the month. We have enough other stuff going on so I don't want to drag it out forever. The landscaping on the hillside might take a little longer--I'm not quite sure if I'm going to do all of it this year or finish it up next year (I'm going to play that by ear), but I fully expect the pond to be stocked with fish and plants within the next few weeks.

Saturday, July 5

30 days of night

This movie was a real snoozer. The premise sounded promising enough--a group of vampires descends upon an Alaskan village that is just about to enter a period of 30 days without sunlight. You would think someone could make a good movie out of this. However, the characters in the film were unlikeable (well, not so much unlikeable, but you just don't get invested in them). And the vampires were about as boring as vampires can get--nothing but sucking blood. The movie wasn't all that suspenseful, either. And, it was too long.

The only high point was Ben Foster's character. I didn't really like him on Six Feet Under (his character was really annoying, but I guess he played it well). He was really creepy in this movie. I've seen him in a few other things recently and have come to the conclusion that the guy is a really good actor.

I'm going to have to start paying more attention to movie reviews so I don't get stuck watching more crap like this.

Thursday, July 3

more wine!

I made another batch of wine the other night. This time, it was Italian Brunello. I don't know what that is exactly, but I'm sure it will be good. And, I also ordered the Chocolate Raspberry Port kit that I mentioned previously. Whenever that one comes in, I'll make the other kit that I have and I'll be set. The wine racks are looking pretty bare at the moment.

Sunday, June 29

garden update

Despite my lack of dedication this year, my garden is doing pretty well. My previously sickly tomatoes are now flourishing; the peppers are looking good; there are some little zucchini growing; the potato plants are looking great. I have plenty of weeds this year, though. Ray's was charging $10 a bag for my beloved cocoa mulch. That seemed out of hand, so I didn't buy any mulch this year. Luckily for me, there doesn't seem to be a need to conserve water as it has been raining every day. And I have plenty of water in my new rain barrel (it holds 65 gallons and was filled within minutes of our first storm) even if there was a shortage. I do have some extra straw, so I'll probably mulch around some of the plants when I get around to it.

Next up: a garden pond. This project may be starting as early as next weekend. Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 26

chincoteague, va

Sunday, June 22
We got up bright and early this morning so that we could drop off the dogs at the Cozy Inn on our way to Chincoteague, Va. Taking 3 dogs on a 45 minute trip was interesting. Buster got carsick even though he didn't eat breakfast today. I can't say I was surprised--I even took paper towels and other supplies for cleanup. After dropping off the dogs, it was smooth sailing from that point on. We arrived at the Hampton Inn in Chincoteague in late afternoon. After getting settled in, we caught some supper at Don's Seafood Restaurant. The food there was ok, but nothing to write home about. Then we hung out for a bit in the hotel room before Jake and Brian took a dip in the pool. I sat on the sidelines reading my Real Simple magazine. Twice. Ahh, vacation.

Monday, June 23
There were no alarms going off for me this morning. Still I managed to get up at a respectable 8:30. Brian got up 2 hours earlier to sneak some work in. Today's activities included checking out the NASA Visitor Center, shopping, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on the Assateague Island National Seashore (here, we saw the lighthouse, did the wildlife loop, checked out the visitor's center, and took a walk on the beach), and swimming in the hotel pool (Brian and Jake--I'm not much for swimming). We had lunch at Bill's Seafood Restaurant and supper at Etta's Channel Side Restaurant. The food at both restaurants was good. Etta's had a nice view of the water.

Tuesday, June 24
Again no alarms, but I got up at 8am anyway. Brian was up bright and early again to do some work. After breakfast, we headed to the CNWR again and went on a little hike. The ponies were all hiding, so we didn't get to see any up close in their natural habitat (we did see some up close in the parking lot and on the road, however). After that, we rented a scooter and a 2-seater car (based on a scooter platform) and had a blast cruising around the island for an hour. We grabbed some lunch from Subway and went back to the hotel to relax. Next up: the beach. Jake made a friend there and that kept him busy for the duration of our stay. For supper, we went to AJ's on the Creek. So far, that's the best meal we've had on our trip. We came back from dinner, watched Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and then Brian and Jake went swimming for a bit.

Wednesday, June 25
We all slept in today and got up around 8:30. Activities today included lots of swimming (for Jake), miniature golf, the Oyster & Maritime Museum, and collecting shells on the beach at sunset. Lunch was again at Subway and supper at the Village Restaurant. Dinner was good, but not quite as good as last night.

All in all, it was quite a relaxing vacation. As busy as this year has been, this was a welcome respite for us. And, we're home just in time for Thunder in the Valley (don't think that wasn't planned)!

Pictures of our trip can be viewed here.

Wednesday, June 25

indiana jones and the temple of doom

This movie was in the dvd player last night. It held Jake's attention throughout, but Brian and I flitted in and out of watching it. I'm sure because of this, I liked the first movie in the series better than the second. But then, isn't the first movie usually better? It was still enjoyable and very action-packed. The latest (and 4th) installment in the series is now playing at the Westwood Plaza Theatre, so we need to get on the ball and watch the 3rd one so we can go see it.

Tuesday, June 24

losing it

This book is Valerie Bertinelli's autobiography. Years ago, I was a fan of her TV show One Day at a Time. I've always been a fan of Van Halen's music, too. So, I thought this would be an interesting read. While the book was somewhat interesting, she mostly talked about her weight (hence the title, I guess). And, she didn't really spill much dirt outside of what I already knew of her and Eddie's relationship. The book wasn't all that well written, either. It almost read like a blog post (where we don't have to be so careful with grammar structured paragraphs) rather than a book.

But, it was a quick read. It clocked in at under 300 pages, so it didn't take that long. Overall, somewhat disappointing, though.

Sunday, June 22

duma key

I was looking forward to reading this book ever since I read a preview of it in Blaze last year. It seemed like it was going to be a really good story.

I have to say, the beginning of the book was great. The story was from the perspective of the guy who was badly injured in an accident (something Stephen King knows a bit about). This was pretty interesting. But, the middle of the story started to slow down once they introduced the "supernatural" element, and by the end, I just wanted to finish it. I know I've been busy lately, but it took me over four months to read this book. One thing about me--if I'm reading something I really like, it doesn't matter how busy I am, I'll finish reading it relatively quickly.

So, while I would not say I didn't like this book, it definitely was not one of my favorites.

Saturday, June 21

wine!

I'm only 6 months behind this year, but I finally started my first batch of wine for 2008. It's an Australian Riesling. Australian Riesling is done in a drier style, so I'm looking forward to this one. I don't mind the sweeter Rieslings, but this will be a nice change of pace, since sweeter is the usual style.

I have 2 more kits to do. The 4th one I ordered didn't come in. I just got an email from my supplier, Fine Wines of Windber, and they are offering a Chocolate Raspberry Port this summer. So, I'm planning on ordering that as my 4th kit. And Brian's dad is trying to hook me up with some fresh juice this fall, so it might turn out to be a good wine year after all.

Tuesday, June 17

ahh, gardening

I got to work in the yard/garden for about two hours this evening. It was nice. I did a lot of things: capped the garden wall, hooked up the new rain barrel, planted herbs, put the solar lighting in the butterfly garden, weeded some of the garden, etc.

My garden is a raised bed, made up of retaining wall blocks. I put it in quite a while ago (the year Jake was born, if I remember correctly). I've been wanting to cap the wall for years and finally did so tonight. It looks pretty good, but there are some blocks I need to reset and I didn't get to that tonight.

I ordered a rain barrel a few weeks ago. It finally arrived last week. I hooked it up to the downspout on the patio. Too bad I didn't do this before Saturday because it would probably be full right now. Supposedly using rainwater is better for your plants. I don't really know if it is or not, but I do like the looks of this rain barrel in comparison to the others I have seen. Plus, it has a planter on the top, so I planted a few things in that tonight, too.

My herb garden is finally complete. I picked up a couple of plants last night and put those in this evening. I also was pleasantly surprised to find that my tarragon came back this year. It's a little behind, but at least it's growing.

As for my garden...every year I have high hopes for it. It usually does pretty well, but I'm often left disappointed in one aspect or another. This year, however, I have lowered my expectations to the point where if I get anything, I will be happy. Too much is going on for me to pay much attention to it, so I'll just be thankful for what I get.

Sunday, June 15

cook in

Last evening, the second annual "Surf n Turf" extravaganza was held. This year, we did it in honor of Father's Day. It was supposed to be a cook out, but we ended up eating in the bar due to the rain. I still had to cook outside, though (and it was pouring).

For appetizers, I made White Bean Bruschetta, artichoke dip (courtesy of Tastefully Simple), and bacon-wrapped scallops. For the main course, Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Herb-Garlic-Pepper Coating, crab legs (which I did on the grill), and ratatouille (the grill was full, so I did this in the oven). For dessert, tiramisu. Brian's dad provided the surf, I provided the turf, and my mom brought dessert.

We had a nice variety of wines, too (one for every taste). I provided a prosecco and a red zinfandel and my mom brought pinot grigio. Surf n turf is a difficult combination to match wines to, but I think we did ok. Once we ran out of wine, I opened a few bottles of my own. But that was more of an after dinner thing.

Except for the rain, everything went as planned. It was a good evening.

Monday, June 9

hot water

Well, we have hot water again today. However, the new tank Brian installed has a slow drip at the connection point. We're hoping the problem goes away (we've had a surprising number of plumbing problems that have "fixed" themselves). In the meantime, I'm washing everything in the house.

Sunday, June 8

plumbing disaster 2008

We had our yearly plumbing disaster tonight. I discovered it after we got back from working at the building. I was hoping to catch a few minutes in the yard this evening and went into our utility room to grab the electric hand trimmers only to find the floor covered in water. My first thought was that the A/C was leaking, but we soon discovered that the hot water expansion tank had sprung a leak. So, we currently have no hot water (luckily Brian was able to shut of the water to the hot water tank). Guess who's working at home tomorrow? That would be me.

I just got a bath the old fashioned way--I filled the tub with cold water and then heated some water on the stove. I'm just grateful that I didn't have to chop some wood in order to do so. While it cut the chill a little bit, the water was still quite cold. I could have boiled some more water, but it was already 10pm and I just wanted to get it over with.

None of the hardware stores are open this late on Sunday, so we're going to have to wait till tomorrow for the fix. Luckily, the fix should not involve soldering anything so it really shouldn't be that difficult--it's just a matter of swapping out the expansion tanks. But, is it ever really that easy? Tune in tomorrow for more...

Saturday, June 7

yard overhaul

In preparation for our now annual Surf N Turf dinner (to be held next weekend), we did some work in the yard this evening. Brian edged the sidewalk, patio, etc., and also mowed the lawn. I got out the weedeater and ate some weeds. I also weeded some stuff by hand and got out some of the solar lighting. There is still more to do, but tomorrow is another day.

Friday, June 6

raiders of the lost ark

Unlike many of the other films from our youth, this one actually held up. It was quite entertaining for all three of us. My manager at work lent us the DVD. He has the whole series. I hope he lends us the rest because I'd like to watch them in order and maybe catch the current one in the theater.

Thursday, June 5

fear itself

NBC has a horror anthology that started this evening. Supposedly there are going to be 13 episodes. There are guest directors and writers galore scheduled for this endeavor.

Tonight's episode was "Sacrifice" and was a vampire story. Pretty good. Definitely worth watching if you are into that sort of thing.

4 corners of the world

It's my birthday and I'll eat out if I want to.

I knew I wasn't going to feel like cooking today. Plus, Jake was staying at his grandparent's. So, I made an executive decision and decided we'd go out for supper tonight. I've been wanting to go to 4 Corners of the World, so that's where we went.

I was a little disappointed in the limited menu, but what I had was good, if not that exciting. I was hoping to try the red snapper, but they were out, so I had salmon teriyaki instead. But, I did like the place and wouldn't mind going back again sometime.

I received a nice little present today as well. Jake and Brian stopped at my favorite jeweler's after school today and picked up a little gold heart pin. What a nice surprise!

Sunday, June 1

sunday gardening

This evening, I planted some cilantro seeds in the herb garden. I should have planted these in the spring, but I'm a little behind this year, in case you haven't noticed. Hopefully they will at least sprout. I still have slots for three more herbs, but I'm going to have to find some plants somewhere because I don't have any other herb seeds to plant. I need to make a cocoa mulch run this week, so hopefully Ray's Nursery will still have some herb plants left.

After that, I finished planting my garden. I threw in one of my zucchini plants that survived, my two sad looking pumpkin plants that were left, some muskmelon seeds (because my plants died--a recurring theme this year), and my pepper plants (which looked great). After almost two hours of garden bliss, it was time to return to the confines of the house and get some other work done.

scouting event

They did this thing called the Scouting Olympics (or some such thing) today. The kids did track and field type events--hurdling, jumping, sprinting, relay races, etc. Jake killed at the sprints. I slathered myself with SPF 55 sunblock, but still managed to get sunburned--in the part of my hair (no sunblock there)! The sun was pretty bright today, but it was windy so it didn't feel too hot out. The event lasted about 3 hours. Most of the kids seemed to have a great time, so I guess you could call it a success.

Brian had band practice when we got home. I managed to catch a little nap while he was doing that. The nap didn't do anything to help my headache (nor did standing in the sun for 3 hours, for that matter), but hey, a nap's a nap.

I got to work in the garden tonight as well. That was fun, but it seems like someone's always mowing their grass while all of the neighborhood kids are screaming (not helping the headache, either), so my garden time is not usually all that relaxing.

Saturday, May 31

annual birthday dinner

Yesterday for supper, my mom held the annual birthday dinner for my brother and me. Dinner was basically "Thanksgiving in May" as we had turkey and all the trimmings. This meal was especially good. Given how busy we've been lately, we've been doing a lot of eating out and quick suppers, so it was nice to have a good meal for a change.

Thursday, May 29

two nights in a row

I spent a little bit of time in my herb garden again this evening. I finished straightening it out and planted the few herbs that I had purchased. I still need a bunch of stuff to fill it up. Next up, I'll need to see what seeds I have available and probably buy a few more plants as well.

I forgot to mention that I harvested a nice quantity of parsley and chives yesterday. I froze a bunch of it today so at least I have a supply of that now. I could use some more to get me through the year, but it's only May, so I'm sure I'll get plenty more as the year goes on.

cloverfield

We took a break from our usual movie night and watched Cloverfield this evening. It was quite good. Not your typical horror movie, but it will do. The movie was totally intense. With a running time of less than 90 minutes, I guess this is to be expected. But, I really like movies that eliminate the fluff and get right to the point. This one accomplished that feat quite well. Two thumbs up from us.

Wednesday, May 28

dirt therapy

I spent the evening working in the herb garden. It's now edged and weeded. Tomorrow, I'd like to finish it off. I don't have nearly enough herbs to fill it so now I need to decide whether to go out and buy some more plants or try some of the herb seeds that I have. Or a little of both. I got to spend about two hours outside. I could've easily spent another two, but there are other things to do around here, so I can't be greedy. Tomorrow is another day.

I do have some deadlines in mind as far as getting the yard in order. We're not planning on doing much entertaining this year given how busy we've been. But, we are having both sets of parents over for a Father's Day celebration this year, so I'm trying to get as much as possible done before then. I like to have these little deadlines--it is good motivation.

Monday, May 26

work. nap. work. play. work. play. drink.

Tomorrow, Brian's new employee starts to work. We had a lot to do in order to get ready for this milestone, so we called in the troops (our parents) and put in good shift starting this morning. A lot of work was done: trim was painted; carpeting was removed from office #2; office #2 floors were cleaned and waxed; general cleaning ensued; windows were cleaned; a book case was assembled; and I'm sure a lot of other things happened, but I can't remember everything.

We had a nice picnic lunch on the grounds. A Memorial Day without rain was a nice change of pace (though it's raining now). After lunch, we did a little more work, then came home. I took a nap, while Jake and Brian played a board game. After napping, I ran to Giant Eagle to buy some supplies for the office. Then, the three of us went for a short motorcycle ride (only my 2nd ride of the year, believe it or not).

After the ride, we came home and ate some leftovers, then started loading up the vehicles with stuff for the office. I got Brian's computer, phone, and printer hooked up and working. I still have a few things to do on the IT end of things, but things are under control.

I really, really wanted to spend a few hours in my garden today, but it was not to be. I got to spend 15 minutes in the rain before I had enough. There's not much left to do at the office until Brian obtains a building permit for the kitchen and bathroom remodel, so I should be able to spend some quality time in my garden soon enough.

I'm drinking a glass of homemade Gewurztraminer right now. It is delicious.

rain, rain go away

Around 8:00, I finally got outside to do some gardening. As soon as I got started, I felt a few rain drops. So, I was out there for about 15 minutes in the rain. I planted zucchini and cucumbers. I was hoping to spend a little more time in the garden this evening, but it was not to be.

My pepper plants are the only thing remaining to plant in the vegetable garden. It's supposed to be a little chilly a few nights this week, so I'm going to hold off for a bit with those. But, I imagine they'll be in within the next week. I still have to tend to my herb garden. Most things made it through the winter and at least one other reseeded itself (all over the place, by the way). And, two years after ripping my mint out of the herb garden, it's still there.

There is a lot of work to do.

Sunday, May 25

connellsville

I got to spend a good chunk of my weekend in the Connellsville area. Yesterday, I attended a baby shower at the Pleasant Valley Country Club for the wife of one of Brian's cousins. The shower was very nice. The size of the group was perfect and we didn't have to play a bunch of games (there were games, just not a bunch). The mom-to-be made quite a haul.

This morning, the three of us headed back in that general direction to attend a 60th birthday party for Brian's aunt (the grandmother-to-be). It was held at a restaurant called Nino's. Brunch was good, but they had a weird selection of food (it ranged from stuffed chicken breasts, to fish sticks to scrambed eggs). It was nice to not have to cook. As busy as we've been, I don't argue with meals out.

It sure is a nice ride out to that area. Brian wanted to take the bikes, which would've been nice, but I just wasn't into the logistics of finding Jake a ride there. As a consolation prize, I told Brian we'd take a ride tomorrow afternoon after putting in a morning shift at the building. So, this will probably guarantee rain for Memorial Day. Sorry about that.

black thumb

I don't know what the deal is, but most of my tomato plants died again this year (and I didn't even fry them in the cold frames this year. I guess it could be any one of a number of things. I haven't had the time to dedicate to my garden this year, much like last year. Additionally, I switched brands of seed starting mix and used them the past two years. Plus, I planted a lot more last year and this year, than I did my first year (which was successful). I'll need to keep these things in mind next year when it's time to start the seedlings.

Not only that, but my cucumbers and zucchini plants didn't fare well either. So, I bought a few of those at Westwood Garden Haven this afternoon. In the past, I always directly seeded those into the garden. Perhaps it is time to return to that school of thought.

This evening, after working at the building, I planted a few of the surviving tomato plants in my garden. I threw in a few seeds as well because the plants I really wanted (San Marzano plum tomatoes) all died. We'll see what happens with that. Maybe I'll be onto something with this approach.

Anyway, I'm not getting off to a good start this season. There is one positive note: my pepper plants are flourishing. So, I must be doing something right.