Saturday, January 31, 2009

My British Accent Stinks

subtitled, "You're Going to Hollywood!"

Cassie had her 7th birthday party tonight. For the first time since her third birthday, she decided not to have her birthday party at the Little Gym. I guess it was only a matter of time. It seems that when she had her second party in a row there, she became a bit of a celebrity. When she had her third in a row, she was given the key to the restoom.

She told us that she didn't want her party there this year. Instead, she informed us that she'd like a friend American Idol party at the house.

Her idea was to perform on stage with mom and I acting as the judges. Everyone would get the friendly Simon and the coherent Paula routine, and everyone would get to go to Hollywood. It sounded like a fun idea, it fit within our finances and Angie was willing to do much of the planning - so we said yes.

Cassie invited friends from school and a friend from the neighborhood. In all, seven children attended. Add Cassie, and we had eight kids running around and screaching all over the house.

As they arrived, they were given contestent numbers and practiced their singing with some Kareoke. Then, each child picked a song and performed it on the stage we set up. Dylan decided to be Randy "Dog" and we all gave the kids positive reviews. Each time we did, the screamed in that way that only first grade girls can.

I took pictures of the kids as they performed and we printed them out as part of their loot bags. Angie made English Muffin Pizzas and had several games ready for the kids. The ate jello and searched for bananas in whipped cream - all with no hands. That was funny as faces got real messy. The kids did presents and cake.

They finished with more singing on the stage.

It was a great time. Angie did a fabulous job keeping the kids busy for three hours and the all had a ball.

I'm just glad they are gone even though I can still hear the screaming.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009


The kids are sleeping, dreaming of God knows what...

...when they wake up they'll realize that one dream has come true. The ice/winter storm that hit last night was bad enough to close school.

It's currently 23o in Rowlett. That's pretty cold for Texas. Add the freezing rain and sleet from last night and the streets, lawn, driveway, cars, house, everything are covered with a nice layer of ice.

There is just no way to drive on this stuff. It's worse than if we got two feet of snow. At least with snow, there is something for your tires to grip. With this ice, there's nothing. The cities here put down sand, but that just makes sure your car gets dirty before sliding into some immovable object.

Since I'm in Texas, I've always had the option to work from home (either at my discretion or full-time). Ice storms were always a good reason to do so, and I would, so I've never really had to drive in this stuff too much. Except once. We were coming home from Amarillo (where some of Angie's family is). We hit an ice storm and what should have taken at hour, maybe an hour and a half drive from Denton to Dallas took seven. It was a white knuckle drive in which I asked the kids to be silent so I could concentrate on the road. We had my Cherokee those days, and even in 4-wheel drive low gear, we couldn't go faster than a slow crawl the whole way. We past cars spinning left and spinning right. I still don't know how we ever got over the interchange bridge that connected 35E South and 635 East, but we did.

It would be nice to be a kid today, where driving isn't a concern - and where staving off boredom is.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Food Snob

Angie and I had a date night on Saturday. Date nights for us are few and far between. They typically present a dilemma for us. The decision to go out to eat isn't the dilemma - where to eat is.

Since we don't go out often, we typically go to our standards and favorites. Usually, I will allow Angie the honor and we'll do the Blue Goose Cantina so she can get a fix of her favorite enchiladas. I'll get fajitas and we'll both enjoy a margarita or beer.

We're usually both stuffed and contented. Add a movie rental and some cuddling while we watch said rental and we're happy.

However, once in a while we'll stray off the path. In the past, our straying has led to Japanese buffet (not so good), and Wiener Schnitzel and Strudel at a local German restaurant (VERY good). Sometimes we'll sample a local new restaurant.

The one thing on which I feel strongly is that there is a real dearth of good Italian in our area. Angie likes Campisi's and Taste of Italy, but in my opinion, they both suck. In fact, not only is the Italian not good here, but the pizza sucks pretty bad, too. I'm from a part of the country where Pizza is made by guys with first names like Vito, Sal, or Guido. Last names vary, but typically end with a vowel.

I'm not saying there aren't Italian guys here in Texas. I am saying that there isn't good Italian food here. Angie thinks I've become a bit of a snob. Perhaps she's right. All I know is that I know what I like and I know what is good. For example, we tried a brand new Italian restaurant last night. We had salads, an appetizer of fried meat ravioli, and I had veal parmigiana for my entree. Angie had a pasta combo which included meat ravioli, manicotti, and lasagna. Add some Italian bread and a couple glasses of wine and the meal was complete.

The first thing we noticed was that the sauce was served MOLTEN hot. Sauce shouldn't remove layers of epidermal cells - it should be simmered over low hear for long periods of time.

Second, we noticed that we couldn't actually SEE our food. The put so much of the molten liquid on our plates, we couldn't see what we were eating. This is a telltale sign to me that the food isn't good. Truth be told, the food was ok. I found my veal thick and bland. The sauce was ok, but it didn't seem to have been slowed cooked. Again, it was bland.

In fact, other than for the wine, the food just didn't have a lot of taste to me. Some of this I blame on my snobbery. I spent the first 30 years of my life living in a place that is known for its municipal water. I truly believe that the water is so good in NY because it has a high mineral content, particularly chlorine. This mineral content comes out when you cook with it. I am still looking for bread down here that tastes anything like the bread you can get in NY. Same holds true for the marinara sauce. Combine both into a single food (eg., pizza) and now you know why I can't enjoy the pizza down here. Bagels, Italian breads, etc. These are the things that I jones for when I go back north.

I’ve heard rumors of an Italian place in Plano that had their sauce delivered from Jersey. I think there are some guys from Brooklyn in Quorum Circle in Addison. These are unsubstantiated rumors at this point.

Until I get to check them out, we’ll have to continue to consider me a snob.


Saturday, January 24, 2009


Angie and I were discussing the passing of time today...she marked Cassie's birthday with the incredulous, "I can't believe she's seven!"

I came from the other direction.

You see, in addition to marking time with my daughter in the normal way, I also look at it differently. I mark time with Cassie as relative to five and a half years.

That's because I was five and a half when my own father died.

I remember vividly when Cassie was five a half. Every day since then is a day more that she has with me than I got with my father. What's worse is that I also look at that from my perspective - I couldn't imagine only having five and a half years with her.

I can't imagine not seeing her become so smart. Her intelligence makes me feel stupid some times. She reads very well, but more importantly she can hold a conversation. Talking to her is pleasurable as she is able to communicate what she is thinking and she is capable of logical thought and abstract thinking. I can't imagine not seeing that.

I can't imagine not seeing her grow and learn more. I can't imagine not seeing her love and hurt, and running to her daddy when she needs a hug.

I hope to get many more birthdays, but I think I may start enjoying more each of the days in between.

The regret that my father never got to know her, or me, will never go away...but at least I can ensure that Cassie and I don't suffer the same.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Uniquely American

I don't know if the statement is true, but the news commentator called it, "Uniquely American".

The 'it' he was referring to was the transfer of power for the president. He said it when the Bushes and the Obamas stood on the north portico of the white house. From all reports, the Bush team has been working with the Obama team to make the transfer seamless and orderly.

The commentator went on to discuss how the way the United States transfers between outgoing and incoming administrations is not typical. It is an orderly and cooperative process involving no bloodshed. I figure that more and more countries are fortunate to have democratic elections, but we've been so blessed to be doing it for more that two hundred years.

It was said that we transfer power the way we do because we do not honor or follow single families, but an idea - and idea that is made real through our Constitution. Clearly, the Constitution of the United States is a remarkable document, written by remarkable men. Men that seemingly put what they thought as proper and right ahead of personal fortune and well being.

As I see the reaction of the people at the inauguration, I can only believe that this is their great hope - that the incoming administration will put the needs and the well being of the people, and the country, ahead of their own.

I don't know if we'll have politicians like that ever again...but as I ended my last post, the hope is certainly present (and welcome) today. It's the same hope that, as a country, we've held 43 times previously. However, this one is clearly different. As our first black president is sworn in, this country has undeniably taken a step forward. A step that says we are more united today than we were yesterday. A step that recognizes humanity, regardless of race.

Although I abhor the politics of the man, I am so proud that he is our president. Although I believe that the liberalism of an unbridled Congress run by Succubus Pelosi will spend us to oblivion, I also realize the amazing historic situation that President Obama represents.

I can only say that today, I am uniquely proud to be an American.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Separated at Birth...

...Bernard Madoff and Sesame Street's Count Dracula.

Bernie Madoff may or may not be news in your household, but he may go down in history as one of finances biggest scumbags - in a year of monumental scumbags.

He is responsible for perhaps the largest Ponzi scheme ever committed. That's not newsworthy. What is notable, is that we all now know what a "Ponzi scheme" is...

A Ponzi scheme is anytime a supposed investment pays earlier investors with newer investors money. Ultimately, there is no profit being made by the scheme. The scheme is inherently unstable and guaranteed to fail. The scheme is named after Charles Ponzi who perpetrated the first notable one in 1920. To me, it is a perfect example of the greed that seems to have taken over wall street and big business. How may billions do you need? Wouldn't a single billion suffice? For good 'ole Bernie, it seems that $50B wasn't quite enough.

So, as authorities dig into this some more, the victims are lining up. One has committed suicide after learning of $1.5B in losses. My beloved Mets are involved, as the owner (Fred Wilpon) may have had as much as $300M invested. Countless others will surface.

As I type this, the inauguration is on television. I am feeling an overwhelming sense of pride that this country has elected a black man as president. My cynical side didn't believe it could happen. I feel the hope and the energy that his presidency is causing. I think his politics are crap, but it is about hope right now.

And frankly, with bailouts surrounding us, necessitated by unbridled greed and general "scumbaggery", a little hope is a good thing right now.

Just watch out for the individuals pictured above...they'll both suck you dry.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

UnAmerican Idolatry

No sooner than I started typing this, Cassie and Marissa started fighting.

Prior to the pugilism within our household, we were having a family moment as we are all sitting on the couch watching the premier of season 8 of American Idol. We just watched the gollum lookalike butcher a song of the new judge. Then came up the walrus boy.

The kids love this show. If I want to connect with them, I need to watch it too. It gives us common ground with which to talk. I couldn't care less about this show, the contestents, or the results - but Dylan, Marissa, Cassie, and even Angie do. Therefore, so do I.

I can't remember the last time where everyone was interested in doing something together. Perhaps when we played "Scene It - Movie Edition" with the yankees in town.

It's kind of nice, but very hard to accomplish. Things that the younger girls like typically don't interest Dylan. Things he likes may not be interesting to the girls. We are in constant search of other activities that fall under the "everyone likes" category.

Got any suggestions?


Friday, January 09, 2009

Cookie Puss

Usually, I just buy and eat them. This year, I'm selling them. Actually, Cassie is since she is the second year Daisy Scout for troop 8459, Rowlett, Texas. Them being the perennial favorite - GIRL SCOUT COOKIES.

Since I don't really have an office to go into, I'm selling to my Internet family and friends. I'm not allowed to sell via the Internet, so send me an e-mail or give me a ring and I will hook you up.

Click HERE to see the menu

I'll ship anywhere (on your dime), or you can donate the amount to the troop or the cookies to our soldiers (my dime). Or, you can do what AMA does...tell everyone to pick out what they like so we can keep them local.

I vote that option. I'll take a box of Samoas.

And, thanks for your support. Our troop is almost fully funded by cookie sales.


Thursday, January 08, 2009

Packed With Protein

The other night Angie made a fine dinner consisting of protein provided entirely by my own hand.

We had fried Alaskan halibut and we had pan fried ham and deer steaks.

It was delicious and even the kids seemed to enjoy the meal. Marissa, not caring for the mammalian flesh, enjoyed the fish. Dylan and I enjoyed the hog. Cassie, Dylan and I enjoyed the deer. Angie tried the deer, but seemed to enjoy the halibut much more.

We used a recipe out of Ted Nugent's Kill It and Grill It (given to me for Christmas by my sister) which basically fried the meat in clarified butter. It was good, but dry. It seems that we continue to over-cook the meat in out effort to ensure that it is completely cooked.

Therefore, I am calling on you for help. Anyone have a recipe for wild game steaks? I'm saving the backstraps until I know we are gonna make them perfect.


N.B. - When Cassie shared the fact that she ate, and enjoyed, the deer with AMA, I was challenged to provide everything for the meal. This would entail starting a garden in the backyard. We have a little space not getting used and we've thought about gardening back there. I think this spring, we'll actually do it. I'm sure that will provide additional fodder for this blog.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Help a Virtual Brother

I am consistently entertained by the writing talent of Travis Erwin. His blog is a regular stop for me...he's talented, entertaining, extremely funny - and although I only know him through his blog and his comments on mine, he seems like a decent human being.

Why he follows my stupid site is beyond me.

If you follow my site, you've probably checked his out. Assuming that is true, than you probably have become a regular of his. Then, you might already know that his recent post on his blog was that his house burnt to the ground.

It's amazing to see the effect that something bad happening to "an Internet bud" can have. There have been over 125 comments from well wishers on his site. I am sure that many are like me - pleased that everyone is ok and morbidly curious as to what happened. Sort of like his multipart posts about when his infant son was sick and his subsequent breakdown. We were all hitting his site many times per day waiting for the next installment and weeping when it came.

I bet many are doing that waiting for an update.

In the meantime, some of his extended Internet family started a blog for donating to a fund to help Travis out. The price of a brick or two is insignificant to the value of his regular entertainment that he provides.

And, more importantly, to the help of a fellow human being and his family.

Here's the site, if you haven't already clicked the link above:


Monday, January 05, 2009

Yankees Invade Texas

I've been in Texas for eight years. In fact, I flew here with a one way ticket on December 28th, 1999 - just in time to celebrate the millenium New Years with Angie. We watched New Years ring in around the world.

It took my family some time to come down to visit. I know the trip isn't cheap, but it seemed like a long time to have visitors. My AMA came down first. She's been here the most. My nephew and sister received tickets as presents. My brother won his ticket. My sister has been down again since. My nephew has made stops and his odd jobs took him to Texas.

Several years ago, I started giving my cousin JP and his wife Jill the business for not having come. Their twin girls, Natalie and Cecile, play "Going to Texas" in their dining room. They've learned the words to "Deep in the Heart of Texas", but they've never been.

Until now.

The funny talking yankee foursome arrived last Monday.

MON: We didn't do much. We visited and relaxed. We toured the Rowlett police station as part of a girl scout meeting, and had the awesomest Tex-Mex in North Texas, the Blue Goose Cantina.

TUES: We went to the Dallas Arboretum and scavenger hunted animal statues and plantlife. The yanks experienced Sonic Drive In for snack and Dickie's Barbeque that evening for dinner.

WED: We relaxed for new years eve, attending the Lone Star Circus. It was surprisingly awesome. That evening we grilled steaks and halibut.

THURS: The adult yankees went to the Garland Shooting Range for some pistol and rifle shooting. The youngins got their nails done. Breakfast for dinner finished the evening.

FRI: Cowtown was calling. We experienced the Fort Worth Stockyards cattle drive and championship rodeo. Riscky's Steakhouse was selected for dinner. Yum.

SAT: We went to the country as the stop on which all New Yorker visitors must participate. We visited Angie's aunt and uncles and cousins around Bonham. We ate, shot clay pidgeons and fished. The kids pet Anibel the cow, the cow that thinks she is a dog.

Yesterday, the yanks had a 6:20am flight home. I'm still tired from the week, but we had a GREAT visit.

I can't wait until another eight years is done, so they can come back.


Sunday, January 04, 2009

Back in the Saddle

For the last twelve days, I haven't given too much thought about work. I've checked e-mail and even took care of a customer issue, but not much else. Because of this, I haven't been on my personal computer a lot, either. Add to this the fact that we've had New York family in town for the last week, and I've been busy playing tourist and host instead of blogging. I meant to remedy that today with a summary of my cousins' visit.

That'll have to wait until tomorrow.

Today, regular deer season ended and I spent the last four hours of the season at the lease.

I didn't have many expectations, as I hadn't seen game in over a month. But, I thought I would sit in the popup blind, out of the wind and in a comfy seat, to close out the season. My expectations were so low that I didn't even worry about the fact that I couldn't find my hunting knife. There wasn't going to be anything needing cutting, right?


The first hour and a half were spent more trying to stay awake than anything. In fact, I think I took a little nap. However, I eventually got a second wind, and started actively looking. There have been several times that actively looking (instead of just sitting there hoping something comes out into the open) has paid off. The first was when I saw a doe in the trees. She ended up coming into the feeder and I was in shooting position because I was alert. Had she been a buck, I would have had more venison in the freezer. That was a couple of weeks ago, but the same thing happened today.

I saw a glimmer of movement in the trees. This made me more alert. I saw more movement behind the brush in front of the feeder. It was a deer. I started looking for horns, but the deer never lifted its head to where I could see. Then, it was gone.

However, I kept alert. I saw more movement by the feeder. Except this time, I watched as a hog fed itself. Again, a shot didn't present itself, but I kept watching. It disappeared behind the brush and into the treeline. I kept alert and saw movement in the woods. As I tracked it's movement from left to right, I remained ready with my rifle up. I switched from one window in the blind to another, hoping that the hog would continue.

I was convinced I lost my opportunity when the hog appeared from behind some brush. I placed the cross-hairs behind its ear and fired. The shot was true and the hog dropped. After floundering for a minute or two it was still. I chambered another and kept my rifle on it for another several minutes.

Upon inspection, this hog was much larger than the first. It is perhaps three hundred pounds and not stinky. I called Angie's uncle and cousin as I needed help cleaning the hog (didn't have a knife) and lifting it into the truck.

They came and we took pictures and tried to field dress it. However, the knife they brought wasn't sharp enough to cut the thick tough hide. We called the processor and he told me to bring it over. We could use their knives or someone there would do it.

So, on the last day of deer season I got another hog.

Good thing, too, as we were running low on breakfast sausage.