Wednesday, December 28

christmas 2016

Christmas has come and gone once again. We did Christmas Eve at my in-laws' and Christmas Day at our house with my family. We had Monday off work, but did not do anything of consequence. Though, we did have a visit from my in-laws that night. Yesterday, Jake had a bunch of doctor-type appointments and we had Judy over for supper. That probably concludes our Christmas visits for the year, but you never know what else might pop up.

We're both off alternating days this week (to ensure coverage at the office). Today's my turn to go in. I have a few things that need to be done before the end of the year, so I plan on accomplishing those things today. Despite all of the recent days off, I am looking forward to an event-free New Year's weekend. I have much to accomplish around the house. I keep thinking I'm going to get stuff done this week, but it's just not happening.

Friday, December 23

without mercy

This was definitely not one of the better books I've read this year. I think I'm going to have to become more selective with my reading.

The story was about some murders that happened at a remote boarding school. And of course, a big winter storm rolled in at the same time, so everyone was isolated. And, just when they figured out what was going on, there was a surprise twist (but not in a good way).

My rating: 2.5/5

Saturday, December 17


Brian and I made my raspberry lambic for the 2nd time today. I would not have guessed that we first made it 4 years ago. But, here we are. We were waiting for a "nicer" day to do it. Today wasn't terribly cold, so we seized the day. The only real snag we ran into was that the hose was frozen and we needed a water source, so Brian had to carry the giant pot of beer to our basement for the final cooling step.

This beer has to ferment at around 50 degrees, so that's why we make it in late fall. That way, we can put it in Brian's shop, which is unheated, to ferment. We did make one change this time--the first time we used fresh raspberries and this time we're trying a canned raspberry product. Whatever one works out better is the way we'll do it in the future.

Sunday, December 4


Sylvia the cat earned herself a new nickname today, Hillary. She has a penchant for walking all over my keyboard when I leave the room. Today, when she did that, she deleted all of the emails from my inbox. Of course, they just went to my trash folder, so it's not like they were gone forever, but I'm not sure I recovered everything that required a follow-up. I really need to remember to close my laptop when I leave the room!

Saturday, November 26


Another year, another Thanksgiving. It was looking a bit touchy this year, with Jake's surgery. But, he felt well enough to travel (mostly, I think he didn't want to miss out on dinner), so we went to my in-laws' house for dinner on Thursday. It was a doggy kind of Thanksgiving (my favorite kind). They have two dogs and Brian's sister has two, so there were plenty of dogs to go around.

Other than that, we haven't done anything to speak of over the break. I have all of these things that need done, but despite being home, I can't seem to accomplish anything. I think it's partly because I'm tired--I didn't get much sleep earlier in the week. And, I'm still sick--day 26 for those of you who are counting.

One thing I did do was my Christmas shopping. I started it yesterday and wrapped up this morning. It used to be my goal to be done with the shopping before Thanksgiving, but my new thing is to do all of my shopping Thanksgiving weekend. I still look for ideas throughout the year, but I bookmark them instead of making the purchase. We really have no storage in our house, so this works out well.

As for Jake, he's doing a lot better. He's already gone to PT twice and did especially great yesterday. He was feeling so good last night that he wanted to go out with his friends, but it's still a little early for that.

Wednesday, November 23

the surgery

Jake's surgery was yesterday. Things went well. He's in a lot of pain, but is doing better than I expected. Now, comes the hard part--he will be in physical therapy for a bit and won't be able to return to full activity until next summer.

Sunday, November 20


Brian was easier to convince about the cat thing than I would have originally thought. So, I sent my application in to the Humane Society of Somerset County and we picked up our new cat yesterday afternoon. She is a mostly white calico and her shelter name was Callie. We're calling her Sylvia. Jake came up with the name because he liked Silvio on the Sopranos.

Sylvia was spayed a few days ago, so we have not introduced her to the general population just yet. We did briefly introduce her to Buster this morning and she promptly swatted him on the nose, so now he's terrified of her. Lizzy would just chase her so no introduction will be made with her. For now, Sylvia has the back half of the house to herself. Once her stitches heal and she can make a getaway, we'll open the house back up and let the animals figure it out.

Sylvia is Jake's cat, so all of her stuff is upstairs in his loft. Though, as it turns out, Brian has quite a sweet spot for her despite not wanting to get another cat. In fact he proclaimed, "This is the one!" when he met her. She was the first cat we looked at so none of the other ones stood a chance.

Saturday, November 19


In my previous post, I thought my chipmunk post was missing, mostly because I thought the title was chipmunk. It turns out that it was entitled thief. Crisis averted. I will chalk this up to the fact that I'm on day 19 of my illness and haven't had a decent night's sleep all month. I guess I'm not technically sick, but I still have some lingering effects from the cold--namely, slightly stuffed nose, blocked ears, and a cough that mostly manifests itself in the evening, hence the lack of sleep. I'm starting to wonder if this will ever end.

Wednesday, November 16


Previously, we thought we had a chipmunk problem in the house. I would link to my post on the subject, but it has gone missing. Not sure what happened there. I've been having a problem when editing published posts--when I do this, it creates a 2nd post and makes one of them a draft. Then, I have to delete the extra post. I have to assume it's related to this (and now I'm wondering if I'm missing anything else. Oh, well.).

Anyway, we thought we had a chipmunk problem because something stole the contents of two bags of tortellini from our basement pantry. It seemed like a reasonable idea that chipmunks might have taken them for their winter storage. And, they may have. But, this morning, Brian was restocking toilet paper throughout the house and the toilet paper was all chewed up. This is mouse behavior for sure. So, we either have a different problem or an additional problem.

All I know is that this is the first fall in 20 years that we haven't had a cat and now we have rodent problems. I was never a cat fan, but I will take one over rodents any day. Now, to convince Brian.

Tuesday, November 15


Jacob is now an officially licensed driver. He took and passed his driver's test on Sunday. How did he do this on Sunday, you might ask? Well, he took a driver's safety course through Brant's Driving School as they do not offer Driver's Ed at Westmont. In addition to behind-the-wheel and classroom instruction, they also administer the driver's test. Sunday was the first day Jacob was eligible to take the test and he somehow managed to schedule his test for that day (even though they don't normally test on Sundays). We haven't seen Jacob since.

Friday, November 11

critical judgment

This medical thriller, written by Michael Palmer, starts off strong but ends on a weak note. It begins by introducing a bunch of patients with undiagnosable illnesses. The first two-thirds to three-quarters of the story was rather interesting--it dealt with a physician trying to figure out what was causing the illnesses (with a local manufacturing company being the prime suspect). But, then it ends with underground tunnels (again!) and government testing of biological weapons on unsuspecting citizens. Whew!

My rating: 3/5

Thursday, November 10

signing out

I'm so over Facebook. Unfortunately I have to use it for work, so I can't delete my account. And, I do like looking at the pictures of dogs that frequent my feed (thanks to the surrounding humane societies). So, I set my feed up to show just that. No more updates from people I barely know (or from ones I actually do know). I should have done this before the election--I've wasted a lot of ill will these past few months. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that I don't need to know what everyone is thinking.

Wednesday, November 9

the sickness

I have had the worst cold ever since last Tuesday. Thanks, Jake. Lucky for Brian, he has been able to avoid coming down with something.

Due to my symptoms, I haven't gotten much sleep in the past week. Brian was nice enough to go to Page Bedding and get me a wedge pillow so that I could sleep upright in bed, rather than on our recliner. But, unfortunately, that is not a cure for a cough, which I have been suffering from the past few days. Nor is cough syrup, apparently. I guess I will live, but I could sure use some sleep. Maybe this weekend...

Saturday, November 5

highly suspect

They are one of my favorite current bands, so we decided to go see them at the Rex Theater in Pittsburgh on Thursday. I caught a horrible cold earlier in the week, so things were up in the air till the last minute, but we made it there. 

Unfortunately, the band was pretty sloppy (and when I say band, I really mean the lead singer/guitarist), so that was rather disappointing. I've never seen a national act that played that sloppily before. They also didn't play very long--just a little over an hour.  And, now my cold is even worse than before (I blame it on the lack of sleep Thursday night). The place was full of Highly Suspect fans, though. At times, you couldn't even hear the band because the audience was singing so enthusiastically.

Still, I'm kind of glad we went because I do really like the band's music and if we would not have gone, I would have felt like I missed out on something.

Monday, October 31

daddy's girl

And I thought The Fireman had a fantastical plot. This one had the Underground Railroad, an escape tunnel from a prison and exploding propane tank. A more contrived plot than this, I don't think I've encountered.

Not Scottoline's best work. Still, it was an engaging read, which I wrapped up rather quickly.

My rating: 3/5

Saturday, October 29


I went downstairs to get something out of the pantry and saw an empty tortellini bag on the floor. At first glance, I thought Buster got into it, but the bag had a fairly small round hole chewed into it and that's just not his style. There was another tortellini bag, also empty, still sitting on the shelf. This one had the same hole in it.

Brian thinks it might be chipmunks, though how they are getting into that room is a mystery. So far, they've left the other food alone, but I should probably find a new home for those items. I think the chipmunks are going to be disappointed in how the tortellini hold up over the winter. They probably should've stuck to nuts.

Friday, October 21

the fireman

The is the latest novel from Joe Hill. It was pretty good--better than anything I read from just about anyone else, but definitely not my favorite of his. The plot was pretty fantastical, though. It was about a pandemic which caused the infected to spontaneously combust. I mean, it was a pretty interesting concept, but some of the details were a little hard to swallow.

My rating: not quite 4, but not 3.5, either/5

Sunday, October 16

indian summer

We're in the midst of some crazy, beautiful weather. It's too bad I have to go to work this week. I was off on Friday for my annual "planting of the garlic". I suppose I should have postponed my time off until this week, but it was pretty nice on Friday, too.

I'm still on fall cleanup duty. It's a shame that it gets dark so early these days as it's hard to get much done after work. I only have a few things left to do outside, so I shouldn't have any trouble completing the tasks this week. But, I'm sure I could find other things to do given the nice weather and some time off.

Tuesday, October 11


Another week, another obligatory post. Nothing much to report here. I've been trying to get some stuff done outside before the snow falls. I have most of the garden torn out and will be finishing that up on Friday, which I took off work to plant garlic. There's still a lot to do out there, but it's almost impossible to get anything done during the week with the early sunset.

Once the outdoor chores are done, then it will be time to get some things done inside. Brian installed a bunch of trim in our library, so I need to caulk and paint that. What an improvement that made to the room (even in its unpainted state)! He's also going to be finishing up the bookshelves this winter, so there will be a lot of finishing to do with those.

We're also going to refinish the office basement. We originally were going to hire someone to do that project, but it's impossible to find anyone (not to mention, way more expensive), so we decided to do it ourselves. That's going to be an undertaking.

Monday, October 3

gun raffle

My Dad, Brian and I went to the Jaffa Gun Raffle in Altoona yesterday. It was ok. I mean, it's quite an impressive raffle, but we didn't win anything, so there's that. Also, I think one gun raffle per year is enough for me and this was my second. But, it was fun to hang out and take a break from everything.

Saturday, October 1

hedging bets

October arrived today and we pledged to ourselves that we'd take care of the hedge problem in October, so here we are. We went to Stuver's this morning to see what they had and they talked us into arborvitae, which is a common hedge plant in these parts. All I knew was that I wanted something evergreen. They didn't have any actual evergreen trees in stock (and they would have been way more expensive anyway), so we went with the arborvitae. The plants we got are 5-6 feet high, but they aren't very wide. To fill in the gaps, we also purchased some tall grasses. In the long run, the grasses won't be necessary, but it's the short term that I'm concerned with.

Brian's been digging holes all day and is about to put the 7th (and the last) into the ground. Then, he'll have 6 grasses to go. Daylight is quickly fading, but the grasses are in much smaller pots, so hopefully he'll be able to wrap things up tonight.

Thursday, September 22


This was a novel by an author named Jack Kilborn. And if you think that name is made up, it is. The author's real name is JA Konrath. Or is it?

Anyway, the book was rather Dean Koontz-ish, which is a good thing. While the premise was kind of ridiculous (a "red-ops" unit kills an entire town), I did manage to read it in a week-and-a-half, so it wasn't all bad.

My rating 3.5/5

Wednesday, September 21


As it turns out, the compost bin was in no shape to move, so it has been disassembled and Brian is using the salvageable cedar on some personal projects. Since we're still planning on moving after Jake graduates, we're not going to go to the expense of building another bin. I'm going to try trench composting for a change of pace. That's not going to allow me to compost quite as much, but we'll see how it works out. I could always move to the "pile" system, but Brian doesn't find that aesthetically pleasing. However, the pile would be on the border of the property in plain view of our neighbor so that's one plus.

Sunday, September 11

freedom of the mask

This was the latest book in Robert McCammon's Matthew Corbett series. It started off a little slow, but picked up some steam at the end. And, it ended with a major cliffhanger, so I'm looking forward the the next book, whenever that might be released. I feel like the first couple of books were better than the later ones, but they are all still worth a read. I wonder how many books are planned for the series--this was the 6th one and I'm starting to feel like things need to wrap up soon.

My rating: 3.5/5

Sunday, September 4


I saw this movie listed on a "must see" article about Netflix and it piqued my interest so I watched it last night. The movie centered around the effects of an alien invasion, which took place six years before the story started, and which was contained to a single area near the US/Mexico border. There were only two main characters in the movie, a photographer who was in Mexico to photograph alien-related activity, and the daughter of the photographer's boss (and I have no idea why she was in Mexico). Anyway, the photographer is recruited to escort the daughter back to the US and getting there is pretty much the story.

For a low budget production, this was pretty good.

My rating: 3.5/5

Friday, September 2


Jake's knee has been bothering him on and off since he sprained it in July, so I took him to his pediatrician's office last week. They recommended seeing an ortho, which we did today. Unfortunately, he has a torn ACL, which will need to be surgically repaired. He's getting an MRI next week to make sure there isn't any other damage and then he has a follow-up appointment in a couple of weeks with the ortho. We'll get things scheduled at that point. He will definitely need time off from school and work, and as you can imagine, he's not very happy about all of this.

Saturday, August 27


I don't like superhero movies, with the exception if the Iron Man series. They take themselves too seriously (whereas Iron Man was pretty funny). I heard this movie was also funny, so I figured I'd give it a shot. Not my kind of humor, though. The plot was interesting enough, but overall I was disappointed in the film. I guess I'm in the minority, but that's how it goes.

My rating: 3/5

Friday, August 26

bad to worse

So, the hedge situation...the rest of the hedges were removed last weekend and it looks even worse than we anticipated. We had some things up against the hedges (rock pile, compost bin, etc.). It looked fine before, but now it looks like we have a bunch of garbage sitting in the middle of the yard.

Brian took care of the rock pile by putting in a dry rock foundation around the shed (the shed is raised off of the ground and the ground slopes, so there was a pretty big space between the bottom of the shed and the ground on three sides). It looks amazing! I don't know why we didn't think of this idea before. And almost all of the rocks were used in its construction, so that takes care of one problem.

We're going to move the compost bin to the garden area. This means I will be losing one of my raised beds to accommodate it, so that is disappointing. The bed is currently planted, so we won't be able to move it till the fall.

Lastly, we've decided that we don't trust the neighbor to plant new hedges in a timely manner, so we're going to plant a number of evergreen trees this fall. It's not going to be a whole row of them--just enough to block the view of their patio. Next spring, we'll fill in with some additional plants (hostas, grasses, etc.). With the sale of our house looming in the near future, we need to fix what we can ourselves.

Sunday, August 21

10/09 kitchen

We've been wanting to go to 10/09 Kitchen ever since we heard about it a few years ago when one of the owners attended a series of marketing seminars that Prime Design Solutions did. In addition to that connection, the chef/other owner of the restaurant was one of my brother's childhood friends.

Well, we finally made it there yesterday. My parents went there earlier this year and couldn't stop raving about the place, so my mom thought it would be nice to go there for the August birthdays (my mom, dad and grandmother all celebrate birthdays this month). 

They weren't wrong about the place--the food was excellent. The menu is pretty limited, but very high quality. We will definitely be going back.

Friday, August 19


Years ago, our neighbor to the back threatened to remove the hedges. For whatever reason, it never happened...until this week. I heard someone running a chainsaw and saw that the hedges were being removed. This was confirmed yesterday, when the neighbor stopped over to let Brian know.

In the spring, new hedges will be planted (supposedly), but I have to think it will be quite some time until they are effective. And, we will likely be out of here by the point of effectiveness. In the meantime, I guess I will have to glare at the neighbor when I see him from the back yard.

If there's any plus side to this, it's that it is getting pretty shady in the back due to all of the mature shade trees on our and neighboring properties, so at least my garden will get a little more sun.

Sunday, August 14


After countless years of seeing their ad in the paper, we finally made a trip to Smithmyer's Superette in Loretto to grab one of their meat bundles. The price was definitely right--$70 for 25 pounds of meat (pork, beef and chicken). I've been struggling with our meat purchases ever since we stopped going to Costco and also since our beef supplier quit raising beef cattle. So, I figured this was worth a shot. We try to stock up at Giant Eagle when things are on sale, but it seems like we're never able to build up a stash in the freezer.

The superette was super nice, as were all of the employees. It was like taking a step back in time--it felt like the 1950s in there (not that I'd know what that was like, but that's how I picture it). They had a decent selection of groceries, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend the store for heavy duty grocery shopping (it reminded me more of a grocery store you'd see when you go camping).

I was pretty happy with what we got and I'm sure we'll be making a return trip in the next month or so.

Saturday, August 13

the revenant

Do you like brutality and revenge? Well, I have a movie for you.

We finally got around to watching this movie last night. We intended on seeing it in the theater, but that did not work out for whatever reason. It was quite good, but hard to watch at times. And that bear scene did not increase my liking of animals in the wild.

My rating: 4/5

Tuesday, August 9

fcmf 2016

We really enjoyed the Flood City Music Festival this year. We went down there three of the four days. While the artists are typically not familiar to us, we always check out their videos and then go see the bands that most appeal to us. This tactic has worked out great. My top three acts this year were: Grace Potter, Samantha Fish and Tab Benoit.

We ran into a ton of people--clients, co-workers, friends. The place was pretty packed. And, to top things off, the weather was beautiful. All in all, a great weekend.

Wednesday, August 3

the dream is not dead

I've been wanting to get chickens for quite some time, but the zoning in Upper Yoder does not allow for it. Given the popularity of chicken-raising, someone else has taken the lead and was called before the zoning board for having chickens. The board is going to make a decision in 45 days. I will be surprised if it goes in favor of the chickens, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Monday, August 1

more work

Summer is coming to an end, so Jake started looking for another job for when his summer job ends. Em's Subs called him last week and he had an interview with them this morning and was offered the job! He starts on the 15th of this month.

To top that off, he went to work at Westwood Garden Haven this afternoon and they extended him an offer to stay on after the end of summer. So, I guess he's going to be busy from now on. This job will pretty much be limited to Saturdays during the school year. I don't know what kind of hours he can expect, but it can't be too many.

Coordinating his work schedules with his two employers may prove to be a challenge, but hopefully everything will work out because with these two jobs, he's pretty much set on employment through college.

Saturday, July 30

2wet 2weed

This summer has been so dry, I was glad to see the rain today. The pond, which has been really low, is back up to capacity. Not only that, but I get a break from watering plants for at least a few days. On the other hand, everything outside is wet so that makes it difficult to do anything out there (I hate weeding when everything's wet), so I guess I'm going to have to find something to do in the house this evening. That should not be hard to do.

Monday, July 25

2hot 2ride

But we did anyway. We had a free moment yesterday afternoon, so we went for a quick motorcycle ride. It was rather like riding into the air of a hair dryer, even though we took the relatively shady path of the Somerset Pike. It was too hot for dogs, so Lizzy had to sit this one out.

Monday, July 18

garden 2016

My garden is kind of blah this year. I'm not sure what the problem is. It doesn't seem to be as far along at this point as normal. For example, last year, by this time, I had already canned a batch of pickles. This year, I've only collected a handful of cukes from the garden and most of the plants are still tiny. I guess some years are better than others. My tomatoes are getting spots on the leaves again, too. But, the ones we planted in pots in the front yard look fantastic, so we should still get a good harvest.

I'm trying the succession planting thing again this year. I haven't had much luck in previous years, but we'll see how it goes. Instead of direct sowing, I'm planting most things indoors and then transplanting them, with the hope I will have better results. Time will tell.

Sunday, July 17

10 cloverfield lane

This was kind of a sequel to Cloverfield, but not really. It did have some clever marketing, though. The beginning of the movie was pretty engrossing, but once you definitively find out what's going on, the intensity dropped off a bit. And for that, I'm taking away a half point from my rating.

My rating 3.5/5

Friday, July 15


Jake's mouth is three teeth lighter and my wallet is about $1,500 lighter (thanks, Obama*). Jacob had his wisdom teeth extracted this morning (he only had three of them). The procedure went smoothly and he's doing as well as one would expect, so no complaints there.

*We used to have really good insurance (i.e. no deductible), but thanks to the "Affordable" Care Act, our premiums increased so much that we had to switch to a deductible plan (which, by the way, costs us a lot more than the no deductible plan used to). And when I say "our" I mean our office's plan, in which we cover the full cost for our employees to have health insurance. The good news is that if Jacob needs any further procedures this year, his deductible has been met.

Monday, July 11

black mass

This was a pretty good mobster movie, but by no means a classic. It told the story of James "Whitey" Bulger, an Irish mobster in Boston. But I guess that's probably redundant to say--where else would story about the Irish Mob take place?

Definitely worth a watch if you enjoy this genre.

My rating: 3.5/5

Sunday, July 10

it's back

Speaking of pain...I woke up Saturday morning with back pain (in the vicinity of my right shoulder area). This has happened to me many times in the past, but it's always super annoying to go to bed fine and then wake up like that (I mean, it's not like I was doing anything in my sleep). Needless to say, this put a damper on the day as I was unable to do a bunch of planned activities (such as going for a motorcycle ride, weeding the garden, painting outside, etc.). But, it did not stop us from going out to dinner with our friends Carol & Bob. We met up with them at Franklin Street Bar & Grill. This was the first we'd been out with them in over a year. Hopefully, the next time will be sooner than that.

Friday, July 8


Jacob was fooling around with his friends on Sunday and sprained his knee. I took him to iCare on the 4th for x-rays and such. They didn't feel that there was any ligament damage, but it's still bothering him. So, if this keeps up, I guess we'll be making another trip to the doctor. Luckily, he didn't have to work until Wednesday this week, so that gave him a couple of days to rest his injury.

I guess I shouldn't complain--this is the first incident like this ever. Not bad for 16 years.

Friday, July 1


Brian and I celebrated our 20th anniversary on June 28th. Since one of our Thunder afternoons off work was canceled due to the weather, we decided to take the afternoon of the 28th off instead.

We took a motorcycle ride to Yellow Creek State Park in the afternoon. It was a nice day for a ride. Then we went to the Boulevard Grill for dinner. It was just the two of us as Jake was at work. Then, in the evening, we had a fire on the patio to cap off the night.

It's hard to believe it has been 20 years. Most of the time.

Monday, June 27

thunder 2016

We kicked off Thunder by going to Richland Bike Bash on Wednesday night. We were supposed to take Thursday afternoon off work, but it was cold and rainy, so that got nixed. We did make it downtown later that day (after the rain finally stopped), but it was a ghost town so we didn't stay long. We went downtown Friday and Saturday night, too. We ran into a lot of people that we knew and it was nice to catch up with everyone.

We took Friday afternoon off and rode to Duman Lake County Park. Saturday afternoon, we rode out to Pool N Pork in Nanty Glo. We were surprised to be charged an admission fee. I can only hope that party picked up in the evening as there really weren't any people there. We did not stay long.

Sunday, we put Lizzy in the sidecar and went for a quick ride through downtown and Richland. She enjoyed it, as always, but it was pretty hot out.

While Thursday was a washout, at least the weather was nice for the rest of the rally.

Sunday, June 26

the witch

This is a movie...about a witch. More specifically, the movie, which takes place in Colonial America, is about a family who thinks a witch lives in the woods near their farm. Spoiler alert: they were right. Despite only clocking in around 90 minutes, the movie was a little slow at the beginning. The ending was pretty good, though. But, I wouldn't call this a typical horror film--it was definitely more subtle than that.

My rating: 3/5

the dead town

This was the final book in Dean Koontz's Frankenstein series. I was getting a little tired of the series, but figured this would be a good book to read at the beach (which is where I started it). It actually ended up being pretty good and had a satisfying ending.

My rating: 3.5/5

Monday, June 20


The critters are doing me in this summer. Something (chipmunks, I'm guessing) keeps digging up the larger seeds (beans, peas and the like) that I've planted. If they miss one and the seed actually grows into a plant, something else eats the plant. I guess I need to pull out the row covers and see if covering them up keeps them away.

Something else keeps knocking down our bird feeder (and even smashed one of them). We borrowed my dad's wildlife camera, which takes photos whenever motion is detected, so we will be getting to the bottom of this mystery.

Sunday, June 19

straight outta compton

I was neither in the mood to watch this movie Friday night nor did I want to see it in the first place, but I took one for the team and was pleasantly surprised. The movie was about the rise and fall of N.W.A, the controversial rap group from Compton. While I'm not a fan of rap, their music is pretty good (and sounded great through my tv's new sound system, which I got for my birthday).

My rating: 4/5

Tuesday, June 14


I've been fretting about my sidecar's lighting for weeks. Never mind the fact that it took me forever to find lighting that I liked, I had no idea how it was going to get wired up. I read numerous articles on the subject, but still did not feel great going into the project.

However, once I took a look at how the previous lights were connected, it all became clear (I guess I should have done that earlier in the process). I got everything hooked up and working last night. So long as I don't blow any fuses, I'm good to go. Just in time for Thunder.

There are some other customizations I'd like to make, namely adding a sidecar headlamp and doing some upholstery work (including a removable seat for the dog), but that's probably enough work for the moment.

Sunday, June 12

working man

When we bought Jake a car, part of the deal was that he'd have to get a job in order to pay for his vehicle expenses. He applied at a bunch of places and received an offer from Westwood Garden Haven (so be sure to stop in and say "hi" and buy a bunch of stuff). I'm sure the fact that we've been customers of theirs for 20 years didn't hurt his chances. His first day was yesterday and they put him through the grinder (a little hard work never killed anyone), but he came out unscathed and is scheduled for another three days this week. I expect he'll be working at least 20 hours a week, which is ideal. The only issue is that this is a seasonal position, so he'll have to look for something else at the end of the summer. But, we'll worry about that when it happens.

Saturday, June 11

dog tags

This book was ok. It was a suspense novel about a former police dog who witnessed a murder and whose owner is suspected of the crime. It was kind of a goofy premise, but it worked out ok. I wasn't all that fond of the main character, the lawyer representing both the dog and the accused, though. Apparently this book is one of a series. I don't know that I'd be interested in reading anything else from the series, but you never know.

My rating: 3/5

Friday, June 10

wildwood, nj

We took a break from the forest this year and hit the beach at Jake's request. Much like the last time we were at Wildwood, Jake's friend Dom joined us.

We had an uneventful trip down on Monday (though we hit a little traffic around Philly), got settled in and ordered some pizza from Sam's. Serious Eats hails it as the best pizza place in Wildwood. I thought it was pretty good, though the crust was a bit dry. I'll still take Pizza Man's pizza over anyone's. The boys were off on their own after supper. It's kind of nice that they are old enough to do so, but sad at the same time. Brian and I went for a walk and then just hung out the rest of the evening, which was the recurring theme of the week for us.

I did a lot of reading, knitting, and coloring. And we went on a lot of walks--I logged well over 10,000 steps a day, including the day we got there (after being in the car for 6 hours). The weather was nice, though it was really windy one of the days (and I mean really). It only rained for a couple of minutes, too. The hotel we stayed at was great--it was the cleanest place I have ever seen. All in all, it was a pretty good trip, but it's back to work on Monday. At least we still have the weekend.

Tuesday, June 7

birthday weekend

My birthday weekend started off at Polkafest, which it always does. We were there Friday night for supper, but didn't have time to get there again so we missed Alex Meixner this year. Hopefully he'll be back again next year. On Sunday, Brian made a delicious birthday brunch and the rest of the day was pretty low-key, just the way I like it.

Saturday, June 4

a case of need

This was Michael Crichton's first book, which was originally published under a pseudonym. I got through it quick enough, but I really wasn't that into it. The writing style did not appeal to me and there were a couple of typos (you think they could have fixed these when they republished it).

My rating: 2.5/5

Monday, May 30

memorial weekend

I started Memorial Day weekend by taking Friday off. I ran a bunch of errands and did some gardening-related activities that day. On Saturday, we went to a cookout at my brother's and yesterday, we went to one at my in-law's. We cooked out for supper today, but it was just the three of us. The weather was pretty nice all weekend, except for yesterday, and we got a lot done outside (but never enough). Today, we finally made our first motorcycle run of the year and it was a lot of fun. I'm still getting my sidecar back together after being painted--we're down to the fender and lighting (which happens to be on the fender). I'm shooting to have this done by Thunder at the latest.

Sunday, May 29

kurt cobain: montage of heck

I've been Nirvana'ed out for about 10 years, but Brian wanted to see this movie so we watched it last night. I think we can both agree that it was a bit slow. Overall, it was pretty interesting, but it did not paint a good picture of Love and Cobain.

My rating: 3/5

Tuesday, May 24

that's better

Due to the weather (snow, rain, what-have-you), I haven't been able to do much outside this month. It's just as well, because we've been kind of busy. I did manage to make some headway in the garden last night. But, the rest of the yard is overrun with weeds and could use some attention. So that is what I'll be doing the next couple of nights before it starts raining again. It would also be nice to take a ride on our motorcycles. Just saying.

Sunday, May 22

gun bash

Jacob's boy scout troop hosted a gun bash today as a fundraiser. I went with the dads (Brian helped out with the bash, so he didn't get to have any of the fun). Unfortunately, I did not win anything (at least not while I was there--they were still drawing for the guns when I left). But, it was a good time and looked to be a lucrative fundraiser for the troop.

Monday, May 16


This was a really good movie that centered around the Mexican drug cartels. Plus it had Benicio Del Toro, who is a fine actor. The ending was phenomenal (I do like a good revenge storyline).

My rating: 4/5

Sunday, May 15

busy times

The weekend was kind of busy, with things going on each day. Friday night, Jake played at his school's Coffee House event, which is like a real coffee house, where performers play music or do poetry. Jake and his friend Kat played a song (Jake was on guitar and Kat, on vocals). They did a great job!

Saturday was the Westmont prom. While Jake is just a sophomore, one of his upperclassmen friends, Megan, invited him to go. We went to her house to get a couple of photos in the afternoon, but that was all of our input that was needed for the event.

Today, we ran to the Pittsburgh area to celebrate my Great Aunt Betty's 89th birthday. She moved to a home there recently, as that is where her daughter lives. Some other relatives that we never get to see were there, too, so it was good to see them again.

Friday, May 13


Jacob turned 16 today! I'm taking the afternoon off to take him to the DMV for his driver's permit. He is very excited about the prospect of driving.

It is hard to believe that he's 16 already. Time flies. Happy Birthday, Jake!

water & sewer

Yesterday, our hot water heater stopped working. The pilot light went out and would not stay on when relit. Brian called the plumber to take a look and it was fixed in short order (and the bill wasn't excessive).

We had the sewer work done at the office a few weeks ago and were waiting on someone to come and do the concrete work. That day finally arrived yesterday. I guess that means I have to pay the bill now (as you can imagine, this one is on the excessive end).

Tuesday, May 10

the hunter from the woods

This book was written by Robert McCammon, who is one of my favorite authors. It was pretty good and had an interesting premise: it was about a werewolf who was undercover for the British military. Apparently there's another book about this same character, The Wolf's Hour. Surely I must have read it in the past, but I really can't remember. So, I should probably check it out, too.

My rating: 3.5/5

Monday, May 9


We had our (almost) annual Mother's Day/Jacob's birthday party yesterday. I even tried to schedule it on a different day (Jake's actual birthday), but a school event came up so we had to reschedule and this was the only day that worked for everyone. The usual suspects were present. I made a ton of food and prepped most of it on Saturday, so it was easy sailing yesterday. It's barely even a challenge to cook for a dozen plus people anymore. I think I need to up my game.

Wednesday, May 4


Add another skill to our list. Our house a/c has been broken since the fall. We scheduled an appointment to have it fixed last month, but the guy never showed up.

Annoyed, I did a little research and found that the problem was probably a capacitor that needed to be replaced, which we've had done in the past. Further research showed that this was a pretty easy thing to do. So I bought a capacitor on Amazon and Brian replaced it and the a/c is running again! And, he didn't charge for labor, so we'll call it a win.

Monday, April 25

the night before

Since this was a holiday movie, I suppose it would have been better to watch this around the holidays, but I was in the mood for a comedy and those are in short supply in my Netflix queue, so this one made the cut.

It starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen and some other guy (who I've never seen before) as best friends who go out every Christmas Eve and search for some fabled Christmas party they heard about once at a club. Hijinks ensue.

My rating: 3/5

Saturday, April 23

the partner

This book reminded me why I stopped reading John Grisham years ago--all of his books are the same story. There's always something fishy going on with a law firm somewhere; offshore bank accounts are involved; and some lawyer always gets away with something in the end. 

My rating: 2.5

Thursday, April 21

used car lot

As if it didn't look like one before, the driveway we share with our neighbors (who have three vehicles themselves) officially looks like a small used car lot. We added another vehicle to our fleet on Monday, a Scion tC for Jake, who turns 16 in a couple of weeks.

We were going to wait till closer to his birthday to get the car, but he's pretty picky for someone who was getting a free car. His most important requirement was that the car had to have a manual transmission. There are not a whole lot of these around, so I've been keeping my eyes open. I came upon the tC, which was on his shortlist, so we went to check it out over the weekend and then we bought it on Monday. And that is that.

Sunday, April 17

dark ages

Yesterday, there was a brush fire somewhere in Johnstown and it took out one of the fiber optic cables that delivers cable and internet services to the area. It affected 10,000 customers and we were one of them. The outage started in early afternoon and was not resolved by the time I went to bed. It did not, however, put a damper on our entertainment as we all have data plans on our phones and we already had a DVD lined up for the evening (we're old fashioned in that we still watch DVDs).

The movie was another from our top 13, No Country for Old Men. We all enjoyed it (not surprisingly, since it's in our top 13). And, thankfully, the internet was back on this morning.

Friday, April 15

lizzy goat

I came home from work on Monday to find that Lizzy ate a huge piece of her canvas bed cover--it was at least the size of a sheet of paper and is fairly heavy material. I got on the phone with the vet and they said to watch her for signs of distress (or take her to Pittsburgh to get scoped. sigh.). She threw up a couple of times that evening and early the next day but by later that day, she was eating (dog food) again without incident. And, stuff started to come out the other end, so that is good. I thought for sure we were going to end up with an intestinal blockage on our hands. I guess we're not out of the woods yet since she's still passing pieces of the cover, but at least things are moving in the right direction. No pun intended.

Monday, April 11

date morning

Despite the fact that Brian and I are always together due to work, it seems like we never get to do anything fun. So, we're jumping on the "date night" bandwagon and are trying to schedule some non-work related activities into our lives. The first of these happened Saturday morning, when we went to a muzzleloading gun show at Old Bedford Village.

Date night has only one rule, and that is no talking about work. And, it doesn't have to happen at night (hey, we're old and tired by 10pm). We were fairly successful at this on our first attempt.

Sunday, April 10

quick project

Our office kitchen had a long table in it. We had printers and other office-related things on it. The table was made of plastic and started to bow over time. To remedy this, we bought a couple of base kitchen cabinets and got them assembled and installed over the weekend. Only the trim remains for the project (isn't that always the case?). Unfortunately, since so much time has passed since we originally did the kitchen, we were not able to get matching cabinets or countertop. Still, the new stuff doesn't look bad and it's in the same vein as the originals.

Saturday, April 2

back in business

I was notified that my sidecar was ready to be picked up today, so Brian and I took a trip to Salix to get it. I had it painted at Gary's Custom Painting and they did a great job! I can't believe how good it looks. Now, I just need a nice day so I can put it back on the frame.

Friday, April 1

garden kick off

It was kind of nice this week, so I got a few things planted in the garden--namely, peas and onions. There's a lot of work to do out there as the warm winter didn't do much to kill off the weeds. But, I guess that's going to have to wait for a bit as the near term forecast doesn't look all that great.

I started planting stuff inside, too, and will be doing more of that in the coming weeks. So far, just peppers and fennel, but I'm due to plant tomatoes this weekend. Spring is here!

Sunday, March 27

bad start

It's still only March and the gardening season is already off to a bad start. I was outside the other day and saw that most of my garlic didn't make it through the winter. I'm actually blaming the mild temperatures on this one as they grew a lot more than they should have over the winter. I think the blizzard did them in as the tops were rotted. This is a big disappointment.

Saturday, March 26

the hunger games: mockingjay - part 2

This was the last installment in The Hunger Games series. Frankly, I was a bit disappointed. Unlike the previous movies, it was short on action. Also, unlike the previous movies, this is the first one we watched at the house--we saw the others at the theater, so I don't know if that would have improved the overall experience or not.

It wasn't bad by any means, but neither I nor Jake enjoyed it as much as the earlier ones. It seems to me like they could have cut out a bunch of stuff and combined the last two movies into a slightly longer, but better conclusion (just like the books).

My rating: 3/5

Friday, March 25

lumpy dog

Lizzy is covered in bumps, but one of them has gotten particularly large since her last vet visit 6 months ago. Buster was due for his annual appointment this month, so we took them both to the vet yesterday. The vet tested the lump and confirmed that she has a fatty tumor, which was what she originally thought. So, since it doesn't seem to be bothering Lizzy, we're good to go for now. That's a relief.

Sunday, March 20

sleeping with the enemy

I thought for sure that I saw this movie, but after reading the book, I really don't think so. Nor will I be doing that. The book was ok--I read it fast enough, but the story was not very plausible (or good).

My rating; 2.5/5

Sunday, March 13

the departed

This was another movie from our top 13. My original review stands. What a great film! I had forgotten most of the plot so that made it compelling to watch again. I barely mentioned Mark Wahlberg last time around, but I found his character to be hysterical.

My rating; 4/5

Saturday, March 12

sidecar saga

My sidecar's factory finish did not hold up very well. I'm sure the fact that it sits out in the elements all summer doesn't help the cause, but I don't think the factory finish was very high quality, either. I intended on getting it painted last fall. I found a guy who could do it for a reasonable rate and we were all set to have it done. But, the guy ended up hospitalized and then dying (from cancer) before we dropped it off, so it's been sitting in our family room ever since.

Fast forward to now. With motorcycle season right around the corner, this project became a little more pressing. We got some estimates this week and dropped the sidecar off at one of the places this morning. It should be done by the end of the month, which will be in plenty of time as we don't usually start riding until May. There are a bunch of other things I need to do (like upgrade the lighting and upholster the interior), so that will give me some time to sort these things out before the riding season. Though, it will probably take me all summer to accomplish everything I want to do, but at least the ball is rolling now.

Wednesday, March 9

innovative tomato

It seems I'm long overdue for a post, so I might as well take this opportunity to discuss my new company, Innovative Tomato. The company is going to be doing digital marketing, video and mobile apps. Brian and I will run the company in addition to our duties at Prime Design Solutions. We just hired our first employee last week, so that was rather exciting. The company was actually created last fall, but we're really just starting to ramp things up now that we have an employee to do the work.

One might wonder why on earth we'd start a new company and the reason is that there are some incentives available for new companies that we can't take advantage of with Prime Design Solutions because it's no longer "new". Plus it will give us the opportunity to branch out in different direction. 

Anyway, it should be interesting. 

Saturday, February 27

the border

I started this book last week and just finished it moments ago. Now, that's a mark of a good book! It was written by Robert McCammon, who is one of my favorite authors. It told the story of a handful of American survivors during a war between two alien nations that were using earth as their battleground. I am a sucker for a good post-apocalyptic story and this one fit the bill.

My rating: 4/5

Wednesday, February 24


In preparation for a possible future move and because our house is overflowing with stuff, we have been decluttering for the past six months. We've been taking stuff to the Salvation Army and selling stuff on eBay and Decluttr. Today, my last item will expire (or be sold) on eBay and I will be done for a bit. I'm sure we will find more things to get rid of, but it's not going to be a large amount by any means. Was it worth my time and effort? I'd say yes. I bet we made close to $1000, so that's not bad. We had a couple of winners in the sales category (such as Brian's old thrash cd collection and my rubber stamp collection), but there were also things that I expected to go for more money, that went for 99 cents. I guess you have to take the good with the bad. Overall, it was a positive, but time-consuming experience.

Sunday, February 21


This was an entertaining character study starring Lily Tomlin. I initially added it to my queue because I heard it was a comedy, but it was actually a dramedy. But, sometimes dramedies are funnier than comedies and that was certainly the case with this movie. Case in point: even Jake was laughing out loud at some of the dialog (I wasn't so sure he was going to like this).

Conservative alert: this movie deals with abortion, homosexuality, transgenderism and a host of other such topics that may offend your conservative ideals. If you had a negative reaction to any of the aforementioned topics, you're not going to like this movie.

My rating: 3.5/5

Saturday, February 20

lost souls

This was the 4th book in Dean Koontz's Frankenstein series. It felt like they never got to the actual story. I guess it'll be in the next one, but I'm going to have to take a break from these for a bit. While I read the book pretty quickly, this was my least favorite from the series thus far.

My rating: 3/5

Thursday, February 18

citrus fail

I got a lime tree last spring. As it turns out, citrus trees are very temperamental. When I first got it, it shed a bunch of leaves, but this apparently is to be expected as the plants do not like change. Once the weather warmed up, I put it outside so it would have full access to sunlight. By the end of the summer, it was full of leaves and blossoms and looking pretty good. I even got a tiny lime from it. But, when the weather turned cold again, I had to bring it inside and over time, it shed all of its leaves. And, then the branches started dying off. And now, all I'm left with is a stick in the dirt. So much for that experiment.

On the other hand, I cut the top off of a pineapple that I bought at the grocery store and put it in a pot of dirt and it sprouted roots, started growing, and looks fantastic. You would think that a tropical plant, such as pineapple, would be harder to grow than a citrus tree. You would be incorrect.

Wednesday, February 17

the wrapup

We wrapped up Brian's annual trifecta of birthday celebrations last night. It was the cap to a busy day. Brian and I started off the morning at the eye doctor's, where we both had our annual appointment. I also had a late day dentist appointment scheduled for Jake, but they called and asked if we could come in early due to the fact that they had a bunch of weather-related cancellations. So, I had to leave work earlier than expected to take him to his appointment. The only good thing was that we were going to have to take two vehicles to Brian's parents' house due to the timing of the appointment, but we were all able to go together since it ended up being earlier. The bad thing was that I had to leave work early and I've been quite busy at the office. Oh well, I guess the work will get done eventually.

Saturday, February 13

the shawshank redemption

This was another movie from our top 13. Jake liked it so much that he actually looked away from his phone and watched most of the movie. That is a rare occurrence.

My rating: 4/5

Saturday, February 6


For someone who doesn't like to paint, I sure find myself painting often enough. Today, I painted our upstairs bathroom (which is part of the overhaul of the upper floor of our house). I did a two-tone thing--a tan color and an off-white. It turned out nice--it looks so much better than before. It took longer than I was expecting, but isn't that always how that goes?

Now, Brian will be able to put down the floor in that room and we can finish things up in there.

Sunday, January 31


A couple of weeks ago, my upright freezer started acting up. After a few days of weirdness, it died. Luckily, we didn't have a lot of stuff in it (and also that I caught the problem while the food was still mostly frozen), so we transported the food to the freezers of our two refrigerators.

Shortly thereafter, we went to Krisay's to purchase a new freezer. Since the broken appliance was past its expected life expectancy, purchasing a new one, rather than getting the old one fixed, seemed like the better option.

We found one that we liked and they had it in stock, so we scheduled a day for delivery. The old freezer was a tight squeeze, so they had to take it apart in order to get it out of the room--not to mention that the door (and door stop) to the room had to be removed in order to get it out. We bought a slightly smaller capacity freezer, so we didn't think to check the dimensions when we made the purchase. As it turned out, the new freezer was even bigger than the old one and it would not fit through the entrance to the room (newer freezers have more insulation, so that's why it was bigger). At that point, they took the new freezer back and we needed to make a decision about what to do next.

After doing some research and finding out that there weren't any new freezers that were small enough to fit through the entrance, we made the decision to keep the freezer in the family room. Neither of us were thrilled with this idea, but there weren't really any other options.

Saturday, January 30

the winter people

This book was recommended to me by one of our employees. It's considered a ghost story, which is decidedly not my favorite genre of horror, but I gave it a shot and am glad that I did. It was quite a good story and was very original. I rather liked it.

My rating: 4/5

Saturday, January 23


While Snowpocalypse 2016 was going on outside, we figured it would be a good time to watch a movie. We were really looking forward to this one. While it was funny, it was nowhere near as funny as we were expecting. Maybe we're just over the rom-com? I don't know.

My rating: 3/5

Sunday, January 17

the switch

Jake recently inquired about moving his bedroom upstairs to the room that we call the office. The office is slightly larger than his bedroom and has a better layout, thus prompting the request.

Our upstairs has been in need of new flooring since we moved in. To kick off the project, we ordered some maple laminate flooring for the entire upstairs area. It came in last week and Brian and Jake installed the flooring in the new bedroom yesterday. We got everything moved up there today. We're still working on putting the office together in the room that was formerly his bedroom.

The goal is to finish the upstairs before the end of the winter. Besides the rest of the flooring, we're going to paint the bathroom and install new fixtures (it's just a half bath), install some bifold closet doors to replace the ones we removed 20 years ago (nothing like putting things off), replace some trim, install new railings around the stairs, and the biggest thing is to finish the library. I'm not entirely convinced this last thing will get accomplished by the end of winter, but I'm sure significant progress will occur. It's going to be so nice up there when we're done that we're not going to want to move.

jurassic world

Jake and I watched this movie last night. It was good for what it was. But, I think if we've learned anything from these Jurassic movies, it's that opening a dinosaur theme park is a horrible idea.

My rating: 3.5/5

Monday, January 11

outer dark

This was a rather bleak tale from Cormac McCarthy. The word "apocalyptic" was used on the back cover, when describing the book, so I'm afraid I got my hopes up too much. Definitely not one of my favorites, but, it was an interesting read, anyway.

My rating: 3/5

Saturday, January 9

groundhog day

This was another film from our top 13. Brian and I thought it held up pretty well. Jake didn't seem all that into it. Perhaps the humor wasn't juvenile enough? I guess it was more of a date-type movie.

At any rate, my rating stands:


Friday, January 8

birthday girl

Lizzy turned 14 yesterday on her observed birthday. We adopted her on September 7, 2002 and she was about 8 months old at the time, so we celebrate her birthday each January. 14 seems like quite a milestone--not many dogs make it to that age. While she has a few health problems, she's still pretty peppy--you'd never guess she's as old as she is.

Sunday, January 3


Jake was looking for something to watch last night and came upon this movie. I liked it so much when I was a teenager that I named one of my pets, a parakeet, after it. While the guys thought it was really funny, I was not as amused. But, given my previous affinity for the movie, I'll give it an extra half point.

My rating: 3/5

Saturday, January 2

feliz navidad

This evening, we had our annual Christmas get-together with Judy (and Ben) at El Jalisco. This restaurant is the brother of Rey Azteca. They both have the same menu and whatnot (and the food was just as good). But, I digress. We had a nice visit with the two of them. Plus, there were gifts!

Friday, January 1


2015 was an average year. There were good times and bad, but overall it was good.

Let's start with the negatives...

In an attempt to jump-start our move to the country, we attempted to sell our rental property, but to no avail. I guess this counts as more of a first world problem, but it would have been nice to sell it and get things in gear. On the plus side, it is rented out again, so at least we're getting some income from it (after being empty for a year). Down the road this is going to go one of two ways--we're either going to dump the property or buy some more.

On a sad note, we lost two of our pets this year. In October, it was our cat Marley and in November, our dog Alice. They both lived long lives, but it's always sad to lose a pet.

Now for the positives...

We vacationed in Forest County twice last year (and both times, we took Alice). That was a lot of fun. We did a winter weekend trip and our usual summer trip.

I don't really have a favorite book, movie or album for 2015. I watched a lot of good movies and read a lot of good books, but nothing stands out as a favorite. I didn't buy a whole lot of albums, though. But, we did get to see the Foo Fighters in concert and it was a great show (they are my current favorite band). As for television, I canceled cable, but that hasn't had much of an effect on our viewing habits (with the exception of NFL football). We have a digital antenna, Sling TV, Netflix and Amazon, so there's plenty to watch. My favorite find of the new year is the show The Americans. It's about two Soviet spies living in America during the cold war era and it's totally excellent.

The year had a lot of notable work news. 2015 marked Prime Design Solutions' 10th year in business, which was pretty exciting. We even had a party to celebrate. Earlier in the year, Brian was nominated for a Governor's ImPAct Award and the two of us got to go to Harrisburg for the event. And, I started a new company, the details of which will be coming soon. So, 2016 should prove to be interesting.