Tuesday, December 30

 

Reunions

Tired of the remarkably average selection at the hulking corporate video store, this afternoon we joined Video Americain. (I smell haiku in the future.) While over in the West Coldspring Lane shopping district, we dropped in on the coffee shop across the street.

It's now called The Evergreen. If anybody remembers this place as Urban Grounds, believe me, it's on its way to becoming a much better coffee shop. Like, one you'd want to go to, not just because it's just nearby. It's owned by Mike, a former Key Coffee employee we met through working the Sunday markets. After ordering a cuppa, Mike came over and sat with us to chat. He's just open two months, so naturally, he was sleepless and busy learning how to bake all the muffins. I'm sure we'll be back to chart his progress.

Then we headed north to Towsontown Center to return a sweater. Once that was handled, we browsed Williams-Sonoma. Here, I was spied by Jen, friend of the Lockardugans. We hadn't seen her since their housewarming, so it was a nice to chat. Hopefully we'll run into her and her husband, Todd, at another Bill and Jen soiree.

Monday, December 29

 

Back to the saltimines.

Went to Breakaway for the first time since last Tuesday. It resembled a crypt, but with cleaned carpets and less cobwebs.

Today's highpoint was when I put up the Dogs Playing Poker calendar Heather picked out for me yesterday at Borders. I'm looking forward to a full year of anthropomorphised canine high-jinx. Kitsch, thy name is Coolidge.

Sunday, December 28

 

Movie review haiku

Since we knew it was a long holiday weekend, we rented some movies on Wednesday. We made it through the pile, so I figured I'd share some meditative thoughts on them. So align your shakras, light some incense and find your center...

Pirates of the Caribbean
Johnny acts like "Keef"
Big, dumb fun on the high seas
yep, the bad guys lose

The Affair of the Necklace
You can skip this one.
Miscast French costume drama
Hilary bored us.

The Quiet American
Fifties Viet Nam
love triangle, politics.
Nobody can win.

Whale Rider

Fighting tribal lore,
Kiwi girl comes of age
go rent this one now.

Saturday, December 27

 

Is it over yet?

Fed-up with the constant hanging-out in the living room surfing cable before mealtimes, we decided to get a sense of normalcy with a late morning shopping trip. Even at 10:30, the roads felt somewhat empty. We suppose lots of folks are still out of town or still entertaining guests.

First, we hit the Duron paint store out on Bel Air to get a gallon of Stonehenge Shadow. I know, I know, it sounds overly dramatic in a corny sorta sword and sorcery kinda way, but it's really a neutral sorta browny-taupe. We figure it would be a suitable backdrop for the mix of colors we have between the furniture, carpet and tchotchkes. We'll see.

Then we meandered through Ikea looking for a sheer blind for the upstairs landing window. Since we couldn't find one we settled on a blue plastic tray for the cats' food dishes. If they insist on playing 'kibble hockey', at least they'll have a proper arena for it. Trucking through the warehouse, I noticed their knock off metro shelving was on sale. Perhaps next week, once I have some liquidity, I'll begin to replace the crappy basement shelving that came with the house.

Not quite ready to head home, we browsed the appliance department at Sears. We're pricing dryers, since ours is dying a slow death in the utility room. Believe me, we didn't stay long, mostly for the NASCAR-iffic crowd that tends to frequent such a place. We quickly shuffled to Best Buy across the interstate, looking first at DVD players and then appliances. Seeing the stacked front loading washer/dryers made us revisit the plan to move the laundry room into the pantry/half-bath off the kitchen.

Anyone out there know a reliable plumber (who isn't nuts)?

Friday, December 26

 

My 25th.

Christmas morning began with yummy homemade hot cocoa and cinnamon toast. Santa and all his helpers (our relatives) hooked us up with a kinds of stuff. Some stand out items are bisque candlesticks from England, a handblown glass decanter, sweaters, loungewear, and a little bit of money

I got Heather a bookshelf stereo for the sewing/guest room. I reckon next time we have guests to sew something or stay the night, they can rock-out to NPR just like we do. My big gift from my sweetie is a Black and Decker electric jigsaw. Yeah, baby! Nothing like a power tool to feel like a man, people. By the way, we did get the cats some new toy mice and a rattle-ball thingy, but the excess boxes and tissue paper seem to hold the real joy of the season.

Around one, we visited Jon, Maria and baby Clara's house for a phenomenal prime rib dinner. It was very nice to catch up with Maria's Oma and sister Meg, plus Jon's mom was visiting, too. Before dessert, we exchanged gifts. Heather got some new 'woobie' pants and the new Jet CD. I got an enormous bottle Tangeray. (Memorial Day. About 2. Bring limes.)

The big payoff was giving Clara the Alice in Wonderland pop-up book (which was mostly for her parents) and Babo, one of the Uglydolls we found at wishingfish. She was so excited, she decided to start walking on her own. I guess when you meet a snuggly blue creature just about your size, major life events just happen.

Thursday, December 25

 

To all a good night.

Dinner last night at Petit Louis was absolutely phenomenal. Starting with two kir at the bar, the slight headache I had was whisked away by the time we were seated in the main dining room.

After a start of bacon-wrapped pate, Heather decided on the escargots, while I sampled an authentic French onion soup. How good was it? After Heather had a sample, she ordered her own. Our waiter, Matt, convinced me to try the leg-cut lamb steak with pomme fritte. More often than not, when I have lamb it comes out tough or a bit gamey. But not this time. Cooked medium-rare, it was tender, despite being a bit 'rustic' (a little fatty). Heather ordered pork medallions in garlic cream sauce. All this was accompanied by a bottle of Les Gerrigues Domaine Clavel ; deep red with overtones of berries. I finished the last of it over a chocolate pot de creme.

So I got a little drinky. Okay, a lot. Driving past some light diplays in Roland Park and Guilford, my spirits were bright, people.

Wednesday, December 24

 

A certain JE NE SAIS QUOIS

Our original plan to have Chinese food on Christmas Eve didn't quite work out. Our reconnaissance trip to Mr. Chan's last Saturday revealed it was less 'white tablecloth' and a little too much 'Styrofoam take-out'. Don't get me wrong; the food was decent, but the ambiance was lacking. We're hoping to find that ultimate Christmas Story ideal of Chinese restaurant for one holiday soon.

As a gift to ourselves, we're headed to Petit Louis for dinner. No slight to our pals at Chameleon, but Louis just has it down by law. Far and away the best, most consistent, attentive service and the comfiest French food anyone can find in the Baltimore area.

Afterward we'll take a holiday light tour of Roland Park. Joyeux Noel, mis amis.

Tuesday, December 23

 

Cooler than Elmo.

First through wishingfish we discovered the uglydolls. Then, Harry told us about the giant microbe dolls. Now, thanks to Jen, the trifecta is complete with scary stories. I'd say they're all distant relatives to the Naugas.

 

Can't...resist....bandwagon!

Found a link from the Rockhaus calling for a GRILLED CHEESE WAVE. Now I'm fi'in ta testify...

Of late, we've been hitting the grilled Cracker Barrel on fancy bread from Atwater's or Big Sky. Lot's of Plugra butter (a.k.a Meatbutter) in a screaming hot pan. Even if it gets a little too crisp, that's fine. It's still good with some tortilla chips.

Sunday, December 21

 

'Tis the Season, Part III

So Friday afternoon at work I asked Nathan if he could help me with some software at home. While figuring out a time and day, this snowballed into afternoon dinner plans with Nate, Kristen, Bill, Jen at our place. Even with an impromptu plan, Heather went above and beyond, setting the menu with a classic English Christmas dinner of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.

Now, growing up in suburban New Jersey, this was my first exposure to a savory pudding. If you ask me, pudding is for dessert and comes from a box. Maybe it has some rice in it. What came out of our kitchen today were these beautifully plump and moist muffin-like rolls. In some ways like a cinnamon bun with out the spice and frosting. Topped with thick slabs of rare beef, pan gravy and a dollop of horseradish sauce, it was like nothing else I've ever eaten. Absolutely amazing.

Before dessert was served, I played drinking devil. I plied our guests with ice-filled rock glasses and an assortment of whiskey, bourbon, and liquers. Folks were well lubricated once the pecan pie and coffee were out. Then it was time to break in our three blue bucket chairs for some chit-chat and candid snapshots with Bill's digital camera.

A nice cozy time. Thanks all.

Saturday, December 20

 
We made our run to Sam's Club this morning. This trip was mostly meat: frozen chicken breasts, obscene amounts of pork chops and 2 large beef roasts. I'm always tempted, but, no trampoline this time.

This afternoon was a trip to Tenpachi. Candace rocked the provebial mic and hooked me up with a style that would make Kyan swoon. Heather got a trim a little longer than last time, but just as saucy. Mr-rowr!

Taking the circuitous route home, we went to Belvedere Square just for laughs. We first hit the shoe store, but were pleased to see a new fancy wine shop, a forthcoming Italian store and the market looks well-stocked and much improved since our last visit.

Also, we're eagerly awaiting the Irish bar across the way to open. By Joyce's mustache, I would love a decent joint near the house where I could get a proper stout poured at the right temperature. And Heather could get a decent burger and fries.

Then I could get shitfaced, start a fight, and then have a good cry. Who's with me, lads?

Friday, December 19

 

Hello, Stranger.

Got an e-mail from a new reader named Rob. He's a Parkvillian and stumbled on my site and just started reading. Just like that. Huh! Who knew?

 

In case you're wondering.

I finally made first contact with my folks since last Saturday night. Mom pinged me with an e-mail at work wondering if I was going to call, so I did. It was not my finest hour. (Or rather, twenty minutes or so.)

To keep it good and vague, I managed to finally speak my mind about my dad's anger. This, naturally, opened the floodgates for hurt feelings, resentment and things left unsaid for quite some time were, um, said.

So, are we finished? God, no. It's just begun. This is going to take lots of talking, lots of time, lots of patience.

Even after all the words, and all the hurt, Mom and Dad still told me they loved me.

I love them too.



Thursday, December 18

 

Punch List

Since the rear tire blew last week, we've been a little nervous about it. Plus, yesterday Heather noticed the outside tread is worn away. With wet weather abound, we're considering checking out the all-weather radials from Sam's Cub. I gots me a line a credit, and, daggone it, I'm gonna use it.

We're planning to have our Christmas Eve meal at Mr. Chan's Szechuan in Pikesville. It's an old school fifties era Chinese restaurant that comes well reviewed. This Saturday we're making a trial run at dinnertime. Hopefully, if it hits the spot, it will become an alternative to Cafe Zen.

With Christmas closing in, I want to get a few more things for Heather, mostly so her stocking isn't so empty.

 

You know, that movie with all those little guys and the wizard...

Saw Return of the King yesterday. In my opinion, the best of the trilogy. It's just as pretty as the first two, but it moves much faster with amazing battle scenes. Hopefully I'm not accidentally spoiling it for anyone, but it also has a super-extra-happy epilogue ending that may have you reaching for a hankie. Just maybe.

Tuesday, December 16

 

Spinnin' the hits.

Bill brought in a 2 CD set of Smooth 70's. Some are pure trash, some are still classics near and dear to my heart. Most of the songs remind me of Summer vacations in Florida listening to FM stations all the way down 95. Then there's that one song my brother and I had as a 45 and we played over and over.

 

Schuper Schweet!

I just got my tickets for LOTR:ROTK for tomorrow. Work is footing the bill, so it's almost like a company holiday.

Now I just need to put the finishing touches on my Gandalf costume...

Monday, December 15

 

Hold the anchovies, Sahib.

Well at least we found a decent pizza around here. It turns out our usual Indian take-out place makes a damn fine white pizza, too. Sorry, Papa.

Sunday, December 14

 

How I spent my morning.

Happy Birthday little Clara.

 

...the shit has flown through the fan.

I wish I could say my parents' visit went well, just right, without a hitch. But that shit didn't happen.

Since Heather and I are planning our Christmas in town here together, our plan was to plan a special event with Mom and Dad here on our turf. So I got four tickets to the NSO Pops Christmas Concert for last night. I figured it would be a nice event rolled into little weekend trip.

Over the last few weeks, my dad bargained the weekend trip to the overnight stay, and then the long daytrip. Okay, fine. We'll just try to get an early meal in at The Chameleon and then drive to D.C. Even though we were in their first seating of the night, dinner took a little longer than expected. Alright. So were leaving later than expected.

Dad insisted on driving, so it was up to me to navigate. When the B/W Parkway met 495, I accidentally got us in the wrong direction. Luckily I caught it, and during the u-turn to the outer loop, quite simply, Dad blew his stack. This caused a very quiet and tense car ride to the symphony.

Dealing with my father's anger is a hobby I've had since I was a child. If you just let it wash over you, it'll be over soon, and, for God's sake, don't mention his behavior was inappropriate or upsetting. Just give the bully your milk money and everything will go smoothly.

So I took my usual stance during the show, ignoring the pink elephant in the middle of the living room (and his piles of shit). Besides, even though we showed up twenty minutes after curtain, I was gonna enjoy the show as much as possible. The ride home was no picnic either. Back here at the house, my folks decide to drive back that night. Not so much because of the weather, but because my dad can't deal with the silent treatment Heather's giving him. The way he left my house really got to me.

He wished me a "Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Easter --- I'll see ya when I see ya." He then got in the car, refused to speak with my wife and honked the horn waiting for Mom. Taking the luggage to the car, Mom tried to get him to come back inside. But he looked to me for support against Mom's advice and protesting.

"I don't have your back, Dad." He looked at me kinda puzzled, and then I re-explained, "You don't have my support."

Then he rolled-up his car window and drove away.





Thursday, December 11

 

*Thursday Three*

This one's all about personal work history.

1. What's the worst job you ever had?

Hands down my one month as a waiter. I was 20, in Baltimore over the Summer and needed to supplement my guarding hours at MICA. So one of the local dives on Charles Street re-christened itself as a lunchtime destination for the University of Baltimore crowd. Anyway, I had no experience, the kitchen was shared with the worst pizza joint around, and it was managed by a coked-up Greek homosexual. (It gets better.) Our work uniform was a pink bowtie with matching suspenders over a white shirt with black pants. In that short, horrible month I had a dine-and-dash, dealt with the owner's bitchy mistress and gained a deeper appreciation for the service industry. Since then, I almost always overtip at restaurants.

2. Ever been laid off?

Well, sorta. When I worked for E.A., the corporate office closed down our entire development group. Eleven jobs in one swoop.

3. What's your dream job?

Bon Vivant. Or maybe a T-shirt designer.

 

Hookey

On the way to work yesterday, Heather noticed a strange noise coming from the rear of the car. Once at the stoplight, I jumped out and saw our rear tire was flat. Swell. We hobbled to the nearest Pep Boys.

Most of the time we sat in the customer holding pen, played hangman and watched abominable morning TV. We did browse the store a bit. This was definitely the place to buy car accessories to trick-out your moms old Honda. Several styles of window tint, auto 'tattoos' and stickers, license plate frames, tire shine, and (our favorite) a buddha dashlight.

By the time it was fixed, the morning was shot, so, what-the-hell, we went Christmas shopping for family gifts at the Target. Adding to the bacchanalia, we feasted on Ikea meatballs. Then we ran through the showroom, mostly for the novelty of being there when it's half empty on a weekday.

Monday, December 8

 

Charity begins at home.

Today I have both American Veterans and the National Childrens' Coalition coming to the house today for donated things. Secretly, I hope that both truck drivers show up at the same time and then there would be some sort of West Side Story showdown in the front lawn. That would be cool.


Sunday, December 7

 

'Tis the Season, Part 2

Fed-up with cabin fever, Heather and I ventured out for some shopping today.

First, we did a test-run around the block. With all the slush re-frozen overnight, we'd hate to be stranded on the hill one block over or, worse, skidding into our neighbors' cars. Luckily, it was easily handled in second gear all the way.

Out at White Marsh, we visited our downmarket Mecca, Target. I found some cheap boots for bumping around the snow and such. Heather found some not-too-pimpy velour pants. (I think she's in love.) We also gathered the usual amount of sundries, odds and ends. Then we took a short trip to the Lowe's next door.

A quick browse in the tree lot convinced us this was not the place to buy. Most of their stock seemed decrepit and lopsided. We warmed-up inside, made a quick run to the tool corral and looked at some jigsaws. This is one of these things I think I need to have in the tool kit, but I'm not sure why. We figured Santa can hook me up with the light-duty Black and Decker model for about forty bucks. If I find myself loving it, and making a few puzzles in my spare time, I can graduate to a spiffier model later on.

On the way home, we found a seven-foot Frasier Fir waiting for us at Walther Gardens. We bought our tree from them last year and they have decent stock. Plus they're a Mom-and-Pop operation, so I feel just a little better dropping some cash there rather than another corporation.

Earlier this evening, we trimmed the tree. I'm now covered in pine sap and glitter, plus I'm doing my best to distract the cats from palying "ornament hockey". Fa-la-la, indeed.

Friday, December 5

 

Miracle on Tyndale Avenue

My tiny one-way streeted neighborhood was actually plowed today. I've only been here since '99, but I've heard from folks here ten/fifteen plus years saying our block never gets plowed. With more snow falling already, (and into tomorrow afternoon), perhaps lightning will strike twice. Or, the fine tradition of street shovelling will happen after breakfast on Saturday. We'll see.

 

Snow Day

Charm City is under 6 inches of dense, heavy snow.

Over my morning coffee, I noticed the (evil) bamboo in the backyard bent over by the weight of the weather. I also noticed several shoots leaning on some overhead lines to my neighbor's house. After quickly dressing, I performed some emergency gardening and cut about fifty shoots. For months I'd been talking about hacking down at the mess, and today I got a head start.

The rest of the day I've been drowsily lazing inside, occasionaly catching a West Wing rerun or eating some lunch.

Thursday, December 4

 

Thursday Three.

Miss Lis left this questionaire under the tree for me to open.

1. What was your favourite toy when you were a kid?

--- 'Classy Crashers'. They were t-zip cars like 'Smash-up Derby', but the cars were a Rolls Royce and a Lincoln Continental. Hours of fun running the toys into the rec room wall.

2. What is your favourite toy now?

--- Let's face it; the internet is my favorite toy. But, as far as actual toys and games, it's 'Scrabble'. I'm so lame.

3. What toy for kids do they have now that you wish they'd had when you were a kid? Or if you have kids, what will you be getting them for Xmas purely so YOU can play with it?

--- All the wide varieties of creepy action figures are pretty cool. Most of them are made by Spawn.com. I'd collect them if I really felt I had the space.

 

Let the hysteria begin.

We're expecting our first bit of Winter weather around here. The precipitation festivites begin tonight and continue until Saturday.

Unfortunately, Heather and I need to hit the grocery after work. That means elbowing Utz-fattened Cantonites for that last carton of milk. I'm ready; bring it on.

 

Another moment of unbounded excitement.

I have a brand new chair at work. woo.

Wednesday, December 3

 

No, I'm not dead.

It's just things seem to be moving at a glacial pace.

Here at work, the bigger wigs working on this non-violent protest trainer are reviewing the deliverables for a mini-milestone later this week. Basically we need to use smoke and mirrors to make our project look good for a video shoot on Friday. I'm just getting previous assets into the current texture style. That means less texture map files, and with a "well-used" look about the buildings.

I drove the Maxima in solo today. I'm still on the learning curve for driving a standard transmission. At least I didn't stall at any stoplights today... yet.

I'm also trying to get in touch with Bill of the BTM. When last I spoke to him, he had several plates in the air, most of them relating to his kitchen renovation. I want to get the brochure squared away by the end of the month, if not sooner.

Monday, December 1

 

'Tis the Season, part one

Today at lunch I hitched a ride with Bill first to the bank and then to the mighty Dollar Tree. I bought four star-shaped tree toppers and some red rubber miniature light covers. When I got home tonight, I 'christmastized' the blinking globe lights around the window and, after some creative extension cording, hung two stars on either side of our porch door. It's not exactly an award winner, but it's a start.

 

A place for my stuff.

Mostly another day of taking it slow yesterday. However, the ongoing process of furniture placement continued with moving our silvertone bookcase upstairs to our middle room. This forces me to re-edit my book collection. I have several formerly work-related books I can definitely part with. We've already begun a pile for the neighborhood yard sale next Spring, so books will stack nicely among the rest of the knick-knacks.

Mostly I need to make a decision with my graphic novels collection. I could shovel them in the basement. But then I get neurotic about mold and mildewing. I may take a hint from my art director and make room here on my bookshelf at work. At least I could see them everyday.

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