I am in line for champagne at Martin's liquor in Mount Laurel with 75 or so other procrastinators. I hope you have your happy juice by now!
Everyone party safely and Happy New Year to you and yours!!
I have stayed away from the presidential election primaries for the most part, but the Iowa caucuses are upon us and I guess it's time to begin thinking about the person who will succeed the moron-in-chief.
For the most part, I think that it's way too early, but the folks who want to be president have been bothering the good people of Iowa and New Hampshire since Labor Day, invading their diners and TV sets every day trying to dos something that will help them stick out from the crowd. I think the best way to note how ridiculous it is to begin political television ads 16 months before the election is to review this actual TV spot running in Iowa for for Republican Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor.
Yup, friends, that's an actual TV ad. And he's serious. You should vote for him because and actor playing a part says you should. Or he will punch you or something. Huckabee's plan for 'securing the borders' is Chuck Norris? Give me a fucking break. This is the front runner in the race for the Republican nomination? How can I be expected to take this group seriously?
As Family Week rolls to a conclusion and folks from all over head back to wherever the heck they came from, I take this moment to note that it's the last Sunday of the Year and that means .... The 11ths Annual Men's Lunch!!!
This blessed event combines, drinking, football, wings and ribald conversation in one robust afternoon. Oh and did I mention that it's traditionally held at Hooters?
For over a decade now, the men of Southern Delaware County and our friends have gathered on the final Sunday of the year to basically be MEN. We sit around, drink, eat and scratch ourselves. And look at orange-clad butts. We compare notes on who is married and divorced now, who won in fantasy football, who saw MRGG last, and the relative merits and educational backgrounds of our waitresses.
It's a blast and I am headed there now. so if you're in the Route 1 and 202 area, drop by Hooters. We'll be the group of 30 something guys watching football. Oh ..well ... It might be hard to pick us out in that crowd.
As we begin to wind down the year, I have started to upload the images from Christmas.
The set from Christmas Day itself is up on my Flickr site. Other photos will follow shortly.
Among my gifts this year was a Tamron 180-250mm IF lens. The GF made a big investment in my photo hobby and you can see in some of the images the wide range this lens has. It's way easier to shoot indoors and close with it, given the nice wide angle ability it gives me. It was a super thing to find under the tree!
I'll have a full round up of the gifts later after we rake out the living room and I find them all!
Whether you believe or not, this is some of the best writing that ever has been:
And it came to pass in those days that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, unto the City of David which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage of David)to be taxed with Mary, his espoused wife, who was great with child.
And so it was that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!"
And it came to pass, when the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, "Let us now go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which has come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us."
And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger
And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
And the mystery started there. 2008 or so years later we still celebrate this even with gatherings of great hope and joy. People gather from far and wide to spend time with their friends and family.
However you choose to celebrate, or even if you don't, my wishes to you for a wonderful and Mery Christmas!
Everything I am going to buy is bought, the food is ready for tomorrow and the kids are at their mom's. I've got some wrapping to do and the Christmas Cleanup Elf needs to visit, but otherwise, we're all see for St. Nick to visit.
The GF and I are headed off the my sister's shortly for the annual Christmas Eve Fish Extravaganza shortly. The food is always excellent and I will try to take notes this time so I don't forget who made what pie.
In the last few minutes, Santa has made his way across northern Africa and is now at Sabha, Lybia dropping a few presents for good boys, girls and former totalitarian dictators. Santa does not discriminate.
I hope everyone enjoys the evening and whatever makes it special for you and yours.
I take a good many photographs, About 1000 a month for the last year and a half. Having a digital camera and a big external hard drive helps a lot in terms of editing and storing the images. I also have about 2500 of the images up on the internet photo sharing site Flickr. There are sets of family photographs, travel photography, random shots and a few attempts at photographic art.
And now there is a new section for the family photo archives. I have a stack of photos that my mom and dad got from my father's aunt. They're black and whites from the 40s and 50s and show my father's family in various stiff post-war poses. There are photos of people I never met, including my grandmother, and photos of folks I never knew until much much later. There are also some shots my mom saved of my grandmother's extensive collection of photographs from the 60s, 70s and 80s. They are primarily fading color shots, with a few portraits and such worked in.
I started scanning the images on my Epson Perfection 4180 Photo scanner. The photographs are old and brittle, some in worse shape than others. If I don't start now, they will fade away to nothing. While there isn't much of historic value among the piles of photos I have to scan, they deserve to be preserved. People took the time to take the photos, paid a lot to have them developed, and saved them for all these years. They should be preserved.
So head on over to Flickr and see how the project is progressing. One note however - in the interveneing years, some of the names have been lost. If you know who someone is or where the shot may have been taken, please leave a comment so we can add the data.
Now back to the holiday preparations!
Hey there - I need your help!!!
My brother's great sports blog, the700level is in a sports blog tournament. They are the best philly sports blog on the planet. Period.
Please help them out by going to :
and voting for The700level
Thanks for yer support!
For all of my adult life until last year, I drove a full-size pickup. First I had a bright red 1994 Ford F-150 that went through a lot over the years, between me learning to drive the behemoth, Carin striping the sides, Kevin hitting the house and so much more. It was a great truck, always able to help friends move or to haul materials for one project or another. I still miss it.
Then I got "The Burgundy Dodge" as John called it. A 2003 Ram 1500, it helped me build the house in Speedwell, moved me there and then again to Moorestown. After I started working in Center City Philadelphia, it became impractical to keep a full-size truck and I traded it for the Honda CR-V I drive these days.
The CR-V is a nice compromise vehicle, small enough to park easily in the city but big enough for the kids and the GF and all their things. But it's not the kind of truck that you love like I loved the Ford or like John loved the Dodge.
Today I needed to move a piece of furniture and rented a brand-new midnight black 2008 Dodge Ram Big Horn 1500 with 20 inch wheels. It's got a 4.7 liter V-8 engine under the hood that is near-silent around town but snaps your head back when your hit the accelerator. There were only 408 miles on the odometer when I drove it off the lot. it still smells new.
With 4 doors it's plenty big enough for the family, but none to easy to park. It purrs along smoothly but only gets a greedy 13.5 mpg. And as you can see, it's a pretty hot looking ride! I've got to take it back tomorrow, but it felt pretty good to be back up high in a pickup again, even if it's just for today.
Thanks to those of you who checked in to find out how my visit to the oral surgeon today went. I guess it went as well as can be expected when a guy you never met uses pliers in your mouth.
On the positive note, there was no need to knock me out. On the negative side, I sure wish i was knocked out now.
With Christmas only a bit more than a week away, I decided I don't have enough going on in my life, so I went to the dentists for my once-a-century check. Turns out I need an emergency extraction. See - now that's why I don't go to the dentist! Whenever I go something bad happens.
I knew something was wrong actually, the inability to chew on that side of my mouth and the throbbing pain were kind of a dead giveaway.
So today I am going to pay some guy to knock me out (first time ever for that at least by a doctor)and then grab one of my teeth with pliers and pull as hard as he can. And for the privilege of all this, I get to fast for 6 hours. Have you ever gotten up in the morning and not gotten a drink of water? Yeah. It's hard.
I'll post later on how it all comes out!
Tuesday was the GF's birthday. A celebration was in order. In August she had taken me to XIX, the Park Hyatt's re-done version of the Bellvue-Stratford's Founder's Restaurant. In August the food was wonderful, the sunset amazing and the service solicitous. So it seemed that a return for her birthday was in order.
XIX (pronounced nineteen) is named for its placement on the hotel's 19th floor. It's probably better known as a quiet, rather elegant cocktail spot for the folks who occupy the commercial space below or visit the upscale hotel above. On none of my visits has the dining room been particularly busy. This may have to do with the circuitous route that you have to take to get to the place, going up an elevator 19 floors, wandering through corridors and rooms and past the bar before finally being seated.
Or maybe people have gone there, had our waiter Chuck serve them, and decided never to go back.
The food was very good. I had three Melpeque and three Raspberry Point oysters to start. They were fresh and wonderfully flavorful, but had been inexpertly shucked and had were still attached to the shell in places. The GF ordered her usual calamari, which was lightly battered, crispy and tender at the same time. The dipping sauces are nothing to write home about, (Homemade cocktail sauce is usually more than unmixed ketchup and horseradish. I guess they meant make it yourself cocktail sauce) but the appetizer course was moderately successful.
A word about the cocktails. This place us known as a good bar with well-made libations. I ordered my usual winter drink, an old-fashioned, I got club soda with a splash of whiskey, a ton of bitters and a cherry. No sugar, no orange. Drinking a club soda and bitters is definitely an odd experience. The GF's apple martini was well-received if the shortest we saw at our 3 stops that night.
For dinner I had the recommended "clay pot," a medley of seafood in a coconut milk and lemon infusion. The flavors were intense and unexpected in the cold of December, and the seafood was prepared perfectly. One large scallop, two mussels, a lobster claw and two pieces of snapper was $34. The GF had veal cheeks that were exceptional. Surrounded by root vegetables and a massively flavorful reduction sauce, the veal was tender and without a hint of fat. They were far better than the Monk's Cafe version. The portion size was very nice for $28.
All in all this would have been an excellent meal if not for Chuck. He alternately glowered at us or ignored us. I was left to hear abut the specials from his recitation at the next table. Luckily runners brought us good bread and kept the water glasses filled or we might have had to get it ourselves. When the appetizers where served, he hovered nearby , stopped table side for a moment, grunted and moved on. Yes Chuck, everything here is fine, thanks for asking!
He wasn't a bad waiter. I watched him give very good service to the table next to us. He just didn't like us. Can't say what was up about that, we were properly dressed, had reservations, they knew it was a special occasion. He was enough of a distraction that we skipped dessert and coffee. We didn't let it spoil the night, but maybe if you go you should think about specifying another server.
PS - I am definitely NOT allowed to talk about the fact that the GF is totally hilarious after 3 martinis!
Today is the culmination of the semester's work for the art ad design students here at work. It's really amazibg to see what they produce over four months.
5here is everything out there from a mock up of a wall and floor complete with molding and drywall compound to amazing metal work and sculptures.
This is an inspiring place to work even if I have to admit I don't get al of what they produce!
After a two-week hiatus, the Fantastic Four returns this week in full holiday mode!
What are your four favorite holiday traditions?
How about you? What tradition makes the season special for you?
While it's pretty much all gone now, last night marked the first real snow in Philadelphia this season. The late autumn storm brought between one and four inches of the white stuff across the area. it was enough to make driving a bit messy, though not really treacherous.
This morning, it was as cold as I can remember in a long time, with the thermometer showing 22 degrees when I got the CR-V started this morning. I uploaded a few images of Center City that I shot on the way home last night. The camera shake was desired this time, but I sure hope I get a monopod from Santa! I especially like the ghostly appearance of the lower portion of City Hall in the photo at the left.
Have a great day!
I have to post about the really great soup I had last night. I was on the run to my dad's house to see how he is doing since his discharge and needed something fast to eat. I stopped into Valanni on Spruce Street, one of my regular haunts to see what I could get on the run.
Chef Even Turney convinced me to sit down and relax for a minute and have a bowl of his soup special for the evening. I am thankful he took the time to slow me down. The soup was worth its weight in gold. Deep brown broth filled with caramelized onions and mushrooms, a piece of toasted French bread floated in the middle. I sat at the bar and relaxed as the bowl of hearty goodness warmed me and settled me down from a long work day. The magic was worked.
This is the second week in a row I have had a great bowl of soup at Valanni. Last week, Turney put out a wonderful butternut squash puree with lump crabmeat and grilled asparagus. I thought that would be hard to beat, but this week's Monday soup special blew me away! The onions fell apart in my mouth and the veal-base was perfectly salty and robust for the windy evening.
I eat out a good bit. At least once a week. As noted earlier, I eat at Valanni a good deal too. The reason is simple. The food is unfailingly excellent. There are other reasons too, but that's the basic one. Excellent food gets my attention all the time. The staff is top-shelf and it's easy for me to get in and out of there, but it's really the great stuff that comes out of the kitchen that ranks it at the top of the restaurant scene for me.
While he food is always wonderful and the place is fun, last night deserves a special mention.
PS - for all those who have asked, Dad is home and doing well. Thanks for your support!
Well the living room is cleaned and re-arranged, the tree is up and fluffed, the ornaments have been unpacked and hung, the train is set up and running. The kids are smiling and ready for the Great Red One's visit. And I am EXHAUSTED!!!
Since the kids will be away in St. Croix for a week for a family wedding, we decided it was best to get the place ready for Santa this weekend rather than trying to cram it in closer to the holiday. John especially enjoyed decorating the outside of the house with colored lights and candy canes. Emma is particularly interested in running the train.
We also saw Santa today and got our Christmas wishes in. In between all of the holiday festivities, the Eagles threw away a game they should have won.
A sprinkling of snow covers the ground this morning in Moorestown. It's just barely enough to say that it's snowed. The cars are covered, as is the tree that john and I decorated yesterday for Christmas. It's about 26 degrees and we are expecting a mix of snow sleet and rain as the day goes on.
We're off to get out picture with Santa, then decorate the tree while watching the Eagles beat the Seahawks this afternoon.
Unedited photos of Santa coming to Swarthmore last night are up here.
Have a great day!
For those of you who have expressed good thoughts and asked, here is a quick update on my dad's health.
He's doing well, but is still in the hospital. It's not looking like he will be released for a few more days. The atrial ablation procedure on Thursday went well, but took a longer time than most due to some unusual heart topography. There has been some concern that his heart rate has not dropped below 110 or so and that his blood pressure is somewhat elevated.
Currently the thinking is that the levels are high because he has a slight cold and some anxiety related to being in the hospital. After the cold passes and the Coumadin levels are adjusted, they will hopefully come down and he can come home.
John and I visited 'Pop' for a while today and he showed John around the wing, introducing him to the staff and showing him all the things the is hooked up to. Both of them seemed to enjoy the relaxation of hospital rules to allow a 7 year old to visit.
Hopefully things will normalize and he'll be home mid-week!