Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ah, the F*cking Holidays

Don't get me wrong. I don't mind the holidays to a certain extent. Past that threshold though I am decidedly un-festive.

Part of the reason for a "festive threshold" is the amount of time I get to "enjoy" with my children. They have the whole week off for Thanksgiving along with two full weeks for Christmas. It tends to be a lot of kid time for me. It goes better if there are activities, but I am not one to plan so far ahead so I get stuck and the kids end up at home with me doing nothing. This time was a little better.

The first weekend F had a birthday party to attend. We got his friend the requisite Lego kit as a present and then we had F make a birthday card. F claims his favorite subject in school is art - I don't believe it. I also don't think he has a future writing for Hallmark.

Thanksgiving is always a "festive" start to the holiday season. We have been hosting since we were first married so he have the whole show pretty well down and we don't deviate much from the script. (Mostly we stay to script because change tends to make A a little "nervous.")

This year was pretty uneventful, except for the one brief blow-up by me and the subsequent silent treatment from A (a marked improvement from past years.)

The table looked much better than last year.

Last year.

This year. (Great job, honey.)

This year I convinced A that we should do the turkey on the grill. Last year, when we had two turkeys we did one in the oven and one on the grill. People really liked the grilled turkey and I like to do stuff on the grill so hey, why not again this year?

I prepared the bird by stuffing with onions, leeks, shallots, garlic, carrots and apples. Then, the piece de resistance, I took Nueske's bacon and shoved six strips under the skin on the breasts and laid a few more strips on each of the legs. While watching Martha Stewart (who generally I abhor) on the Today show on Wednesday, she provided a wonderful tip - take cheese clothe and soak it in two sticks of melted butter and a bottle of white wine, then lay it like a blanket over the turkey covering the whole bird - no need to baste. It worked like a charm. You take it off for the last hour of cooking and the turkey turns a golden brown.

I set the coals up for indirect heat and put a pan of water and some of the leftover turkey stuffings in the middle.

Kingsford makes this awesome Hickory charcoal that gives it a wonderful flavor.

While the turkey was cooking away people were arriving. My aunt comes and always brings this great pheasant dip.

Each year she claims it's made with a different type of bird. This year it was allegedly made with Ivory Billed Woodpecker. Apparently, Ivory Billed Woodpecker is kind of spicy and really good.

After a little over four hours on the grill the thermometer hit 180 degrees and we were done. RIGHT. ON. TIME! I am very proud.

How beautiful is that!?

And then right before I carved it.

Then, after the carving was done.

And, on the platter.

F said a little prayer he wrote in school.

The kids were exiled to the kitchen table.

And then we ate. (No pictures - you don't want to see my family cramming food down their gullets and I didn't want to put down my fork to grab the camera.)

On Friday we went over to my sister's house for dinner. No one wanted leftovers so we opted for Chinese food. I, again, ate my rapidly increasing body weight in lo-mein and sesame chicken. At the end of the meal we cracked open the requisite fortune cookies. This was mine.

How incredibly accurate. (And it's even better if you add "in bed" after it.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hey, look!

So I feel like I need to post once a week or my adoring public will start to get upset and ditch me for other more interesting options. (Do you like how I assume that I have a "public", that it "adores" me and that I am even remotely "interesting" much less interesting enough to keep said "public" from pursuing other "options?" How presumptuous of me. But that's how I roll. Presumptuously.)

As you can probably tell by that first sentence I have nothing to say. As you have read my blog in the past (see, a presupposition) you know that having nothing to say never stops me from writing down a bunch of words. (Don't fear, I will not go down that mis-guided road of including zombies.)

The monsters (AKA - my kids) have the whole week off. That really screws with my schedule of drinking coffee, 45 minute showers, watching Ellen and napping mid-morning, but I have risen to the occasion. Monday, F had a Star Wars themed art class for most of the day so E and I hung around the house. E decided to have a birthday party for the dog so she insisted on having a cake. I am a terrible baker. A and I compromised. She would make the cake and I would frost it. Whew, Monday complete with little drama.

Tuesday, E had a pie making class with her little cousin. F is taking a squash class at the fitness club, but he can't hit a damn thing so I took him to hit balls for an hour. By the end he was doing much better. E had the neighbor kids over for the dog's birthday. They trashed the house. But the cake turned out pretty good.

When A got home from work I volunteered to go grocery shopping to get away from the disaster area that our home had become.

When I got the store it was a virtual Cougar den. I wish I could have taken a picture of this one woman in particular. I just couldn't get a good shot, so I will paint a "word picture" for you. Late 50's early 60's (I am a horrible judge of age so imagine a 25 year old) Too tight black jeans with rhinestone fleur-de-lis on the back pockets. Sateen jacket with rhinestones unzipped to reveal a too low-cut shirt with her unnaturally tan, liver-spotted, fake ta-tas on display. Make up applied by trowel and platinum white hair. She was trying WAY too hard. It was a fun spectacle to watch.

After dinner A notified me that she was too tired to take E to basketball practice and asked if I would be willing to. I said no I would not be willing to, but that I would do it anyway. When I got there the coach informed me that A had volunteered to be an assistant-coach-type-person and that since A wasn't there I would get to fill in. I immediately got on the phone to bitch my wife out for setting me up to embarrass myself in front of a group of 4th grade girls. (I bitched her out jokingly. At least it was jokingly to her as she was laughing on the other end.) This is something that you should know about me - I suck at ball-sports. Baseball, football, golf, tennis, volleyball,
ping pong, team handball, jai alai but especially basketball. I was just an embarrassment. I even caught one of the other dads looking at me like he might think I am retarded, sorry, I mean "other abled."

On a happy note - A informed me that many of the vacuous and obnoxious women on The Real Housewives of Orange County are broke and having their homes foreclosed on. Karma is a bitch!

Tomorrow is a big day for us. We have been hosting Thanksgiving since we were first married and in an apartment. Back then we ate in courses mostly because we completely mis-timed the preparation for every dish by at least a half hour. There were stern words exchanged, fingers pointed and "the silent treatment" after the guests left. This year everything should be done around the same time. Again, stern words will be exchanged along with finger pointing and the post guest "silent treatment." Don't you just love traditions? I know I do.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Running is Fun

I started running with a new group a few weeks ago after breaking up with my old ladies running group. (Yes, I intentionally wrote "old ladies." Mean, I know. But they are neither "old" nor "ladies" so it's all good. I do still owe them a phone call explaining it's me not them and that I had some baggage I didn't fully disclose and that we can still be friends.) The new running group is all men. I find that I don't talk nearly as comfortably with men as I do with women. Maybe it's my familiarity with Costco milk jugs, "lady parts," the kids' school and fashion that doesn't mesh easily with the men's conversations about "jugs", "man parts," kids' sports and work. Anyway.

On Sunday when we were in Chicago I ran 10 miles for the first time since before the marathon. And I ran it quick. At least on the way out. When I turned around I realized rather suddenly that I had a 14 mph wind at my back - that was now in my face. The return trip was a little slower and more work. This morning I was still feeling all fired up from my Sunday run and the conversation was lacking so on the second lap I kept pushing the pace. Well, that certainly quieted everyone down, but no one dropped. It was fun to run fast with other people who run fast. When we finished there was complaining, but whatever, it's not like I plan on doing that every day.

Now, if I could just get that fired up about riding my bike on the trainer.

Monday, November 16, 2009

We Took a Trip on an Airplane

We were out of town for the weekend. A had a CE conference in Chicago so we made a family trip of it to see A's brothers and kids. It was a fun busy weekend. We went to the Shedd Aquarium - one of my favorite museums - and saw the dolphin show - not one of my favorites. Maybe one of the reasons I like the museum so much is that it brings back fond memories of getting stoned my freshman year at Loyola University and staring at all the fish - good times, dude. (Sorry mom, I did that kind of stuff back then. But just that once.)

We flew down instead of driving and I have determined that there is not one worthwhile airline in America. We used to have to fly Northworst, but they have merged with Delta creating the largest and surliest airline in the world. Recently Southwest has started to fly from Minneapolis to Chicago. This makes me happy because it means that Delta now has to match Southwest's prices meaning every flight Delta sends to Chicago is a gargantuan money loser. Unfortunately, Southwest is also guilty of poor quality (read: crab-ass) flight attendants. They just go about it less venomously.

The kids had to go to the bathroom (in case you don't have kids - when they need to go, they fricking need to go. Especially, F - "The Boy with the Mustard Seed Sized Bladder.") On two occasions we made the mistake of asking a flight attendant if F could hit the head (they had put the seat belt sign on for turbulence and then as we were getting into position to land.) Both times they said, " Let's see, is that light on? [the fasten seat belt light.] Yes. Well, then that means "no." And there was "a tone." (Like, "you fucking idiots, the fucking fasten seat belt sign is illuminated, so no you can't get out of your fucking seats so your fucking snot-nosed kid can use the one fucking bathroom on this plane. We are fucking Southwest Airlines! It's a fucking privilege to fucking fly with us. Now, stop fucking bothering me. Oh, and fuck you!)

The most ironic part of the trip was in Midway Airport. There was a toy store the kids wanted to browse around in to kill time, so while they were looking at stuffed animals and Legos, I looked at the airline branded merchandise which I find incredibly funny because who doesn't want to be reminded of the worst time you have ever had stuck in an aluminum tube getting god-only-knows-what communicable diseases and being verbally and psychologically abused by airline personnel? So Delta, in their infinite marketing wisdom, is offering the queen mother of all airline souvenirs.

My guess is that after you buy it; Delta will charge you $100 to open the package. If you buy it as you are boarding a plane, Delta will charge you for the package (it has a zipper after all, it counts as a bag) and they will charge for the bag the attendant doll is carrying. This little souvenir will probably set you back over $300 by the time Delta finishes with you.

Then, after you open the package the doll will stare at you with a contemptuous look
. When the doll realizes you want to play with it, it will proceed to verbally abuse you, hassle you for even thinking of interacting with it and then proceed to completely ignore you while it instead giggles with Barbie and Skipper in the galley. Oh, and if you have TWO of these dolls, they will join forces to make your time with them a complete nightmare at the end of which you will wonder why you ever decided to pay money for this kind of abuse when for half the cost you could visit a dominatrix and get some actual pleasure from the whole encounter (or so I have heard.)

I met Tasha for coffee. The rest of the weekend was fun.

The End.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bike Question

I currently have a Trek Madone road bike with Shimano Ultegra components and clip-on aero bars. It's only a couple years old with not a ton of miles on it. It has served me very well as a tri bike. It fits great and is comfortable for long rides in the aero bars. Late next summer I will be doing my first full Ironman. The question I have is: With limited funds and a wife with a limited taste for more gear would I be better off buying a set of deep rim wheels (I have been riding with the crappy wheels the Madone came with) OR picking up a sale tri bike with a decent frame (like a Felt B16 w/105 components) and swapping components from the Madone? A gently used tri bike I guess would also be an option.

Thoughts and suggestions are welcome. Also welcome are recommendations for brands or models and potential outlets with good deals.

Sorry this will bore some of you to tears. Everyone else with helpful suggestions - thank you. (D - just move on, you're not needed here right now.)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Three Weeks to Gluttony

Every year since we were married A and I have hosted Thanksgiving at our house. This year will be no different. The big day is still three weeks away, but I am already starting to consider what to make. We always do a turkey - that's a given. Last year we did two. One we did in the oven and the other we did on the grill. Everyone LOVED the grilled turkey. I'd like to do it again this year, but we will only have one larger turkey rather than the two we had last year (we had more people last year.) In a blatant attempt to flush out lurkers on my blog I am looking for suggestions for turkey prep. At the very least I am willing to wrap it in Nueske's bacon (the best bacon in the world.) I am also looking for recommendations for stuffing. We won't do any stuffing in the bird, in the past we stuff it with tons of garlic, onions, and other delicious veggies. I have heard deep fried turkey is fabulous, but I am not willing to try something this "radical" - our family members and guests have a finite tolerance for change.

From there we are thinking about side dishes. My mom always brings sweet potatoes. She prepares them the only way any self-respecting northern Minnesotan or Wisconsinite would - with ample amounts of bourbon and marshmallows. We'll have mashed potatoes, but if anyone has a suggestion on how to improve these, that would be appreciated. Veggies have always been my mother-in-laws seven layer salad - again, an upper-midwest staple. (Unfortunately, this dish peaked in the 70's.) We'll also do either Szechuan green beans or asparagus, but those are the default options.

If anyone is looking for a turkey prep suggestion - last year one of the birds was stuffed with lemons, oranges and pineapple. I mean crammed tight. And boy was it good. That tends to lend itself more to oven preparation and I can't do it this year because it doesn't work for gravy production - which is an absolute requirement.

In other Thanksgiving prep news we have made some upgrades around the house. A relented and let me install a TV in the kitchen. This will make watching football much easier while cooking. We have also pulled the trigger and bought new dining chairs. After much investigation, sampling, hand wringing, test driving and procrastination we found some at West Elm. These are perfectly acceptable and inexpensive enough that if they don't last no one's heart will be broken. (You don't need pictures now, you'll have to wait three weeks until the table is set.)

As I sit here writing this post I can feel my ass getting bigger and my gut getting softer. I like the holidays but I really need to figure out a way to keep my weight under control. I guess we all have a cross to bear. Mine tends to be fork shaped at this time of year.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Triathlon Dreams

Oh, look - it's Wednesday, time for a blog post. My posting frequency has dwindled considerably I am realizing. Not for any profound reason. Life is just kind of regular. My dream world, on the other hand has been FREAKY.

I have been having triathlon dreams lately. Last night I dreamed I was going for a long run on some random tri course in the hot sun. All up hill. The day before the race. Then some dude comes cruising by me, no shirt, black shorts and a HRM, flinging sweat all over the place. I followed him to some high school where we walked into an administrator's office like we owned the place and this guy pulled an old dictionary off the shelf and handed it to me like I really needed to look up the definition of something. I do remember that the school was pretty cool. Kind of a raw concrete, brutalist style, with a funky carpet layout and lots of glass. Weird.

A couple of nights ago I had a dream that I was racing and I completely forgot what I was doing. I swam with my number bib on and it was made of printer paper so it came off in the water. Then I got to my bike and it was set up in a parking lot completely away from the other transition area - like it was transition overflow. So then I get to my bike, realize I don't have my number and have to go back to the swim exit to find. I see it lapping along the shore, but the pier I am standing on is too high so I can't reach it. I finally get it and run back to my bike and my shoes aren't compatible with my pedals. So I have to find a bike that I can use. I suddenly have a bike and I am running to the bike out in the opposite direction of everyone else. I never made it to the run, because the dog came in the room (that part wasn't in the dream, the dog actually came into the room which woke me up.)

I am sure that these dreams hold some symbolism beyond triathlon, but I am looking at it more literally. I need to be more vigilant in my off season training and I need to figure out my race schedule for the coming year.

Regarding training. I am into my second week running with "the men" rather then with "the ladies." It's going well. The guys are friendly, funny and fast. Only issue is that they have all their inside jokes and I am on the outside. It's not uncomfortable, it's just the way it is joining a group that has been together for quite a while. I'll get there. What I have learned is that vagina doctors and Costco's milk jugs hold no interest to men. Likewise, football, basketball and hockey holds no interest to women. The one subject that cuts across genders and nationalities (one of the guys in the group is from England) is poop. Men and women runners talk about poop with the same frequency, intensity and interest. It's the universal link that joins all runners. I truly believe that if you find yourself with a new group of runners and are looking for a way to break the ice or be accepted, just steer the conversation toward the last dump you took - good, bad or simply unsatisfying - and you are golden. Now, as with any subject, you can't talk about it on every run or monopolize the conversation by describing every bowel movement you have had the pleasure of experiencing. And it's probably not advisable to blatantly inquire about a stranger pooping on a run, but you will be surprised the kind of GI related information people volunteer once the subject has been broached.

I mentioned my GI issues at the end of the Twin Cities Marathon and it was good for two runs. Every port-a-potty was humorously pointed out for my benefit and stories of other's experiences with "the deuce" were volunteered for the pleasure of all. In this respect I am "in." It's a well I can go back to - just not too often.

My other training is ramping up slower. I biked on the trainer for an hour one time last week and have matched that so far this week. I am hoping for another session or two this week. I did discover that the first hour or so of "Armageddon" is actually pretty entertaining (or distracting anyway.) Luckily, I was done with my workout before they launched the titanium skinned super space shuttles and things got ridiculous. I also started my weight program. After just one time with low or no weights I am still sore. I hate this part of training and can't wait to be through the painful-stiffness cycle. One thing I do have to figure out is how to fit some yoga into the schedule. Since training specifically for the marathon after tri season wrapped up my hips have been tight which has led to piriformis pain, back tightness and even knee tweaks. I need to find a good class that I can go to consistently for awhile.

I was going to go into my goals and schedule for 2010, but I think I will save that for later. I am sure my reader has already dozed off and or moved on (thank you very little, mom.)