Monday, November 29, 2004

Pet Driving Peeves

4 out of the last 9 days, I spent approximately 8 hours on the road between here and Fort Wayne, IN.

32 hours.

Most of the time it's fine, and I don't let much stuff bother me. I usually let the more agressive drivers by me when reasonably possible, and I leave a decent cushion between me and the drivers in front of me so I can stop or get out of the way should something come up. I know where I want to be, I know where all the turns and exits are and which lane I need to be in and when I need to be in them.

That being said, here are a few things that really tick me off.

#1 Drivers who don't get out of the lane that's closing when there's construction ahead at the earliest reasonable opportunity. The worst are the ones who zoom ahead in the lane that's closing to the front of the line and then rely on people to let them in. This is what is actually slowing the traffic down to the level that frustrated them enough to do it in the first place. If everybody would just get over as soon as they see what's up ahead, traffic would not stop, and would in fact flow at a reasonable speed. They are not only a part of the problem, they are the biggest part of the problem.

Who do they think they are?

#2 Drivers who think the cushion I leave between me and the car in front of me, especially when I'm in the passing lane, is for them to zoom around in the other lane and squeeze into. Not only can they not seem to get in line and wait their turn, they create a hazard by getting in too close to the car in front of me, and by being too close in front of me for the speed we're all going.

Who do they think they are?

#3 Drivers who believe that they have a God-Given Right to break the speed limit at a faster rate than drivers in front of them. Dude, if I'm in the passing lane passing someone, tough! When I'm around, I'll get over and you can go as fast as the car currently in front of ME will let you. What, the guy in front of you is only breaking the speed limit by 8mph, and you want to break it by 15? I'm sure the judge will be all ears when you file your complaint.

Who do you think you are?

I had a person #2 me when I was actually following too close myself last night. I-70 was nearly bumper-to-bumper in both lanes with Holiday traffic. This guy in a white SUV comes zooming up next to me and there's no way anyone had any business trying to squeeze into the small gap between me and the car in front of me. And yet they turned their signal on and started squeezing in, their left tail light maybe a foot from my right headlight.

I don't usually do this, but I honked a loud honk at "him".

There was a pretty bad 4 car accident by Lake of The Woods that happend just before I got there. A white SUV was involved.

Now of course, I'll never know, but what are the chances, you think, that it was the same one?


Thanksgiving is one of my favorite Holidays. When Vicki and I first met, we'd have Thanksgiving at our house for friends in town who didn't have anywhere to go for Thanksgiving. At first we only had the kids every other year, and it was during their dad's primary custody period so he could pretty much make the rules any year.

However, since the kids have been grown it's been much different, and they have been over every Thanksgiving (except for Kevin when he lived in Michigan and was married to the UBfH) since. Their dad did have somewhere else to go this year, but the previous 4 or 5 years, we even had him over for dinner.

Now we don't cook full meals from scratch very often anymore. Once, maybe twice a week, and then we feed on leftovers the rest of the time. There's a lot of frozen and instant supplements as well.

However, Thanksgiving is different. It's about making everything right, and from the base ingredients. It's the day I celebrate Family, Friends, Food and the means to get it, and our ability to make it. It's almost fun -- it's an art in this day and age of pre-cooked turkey breasts and boxed stuffing, canned cranberry gel and frozen pie. I even make bread.

Now we have compromised a few things -- for instance, the pre-made-and-rolled-out Pilsbury pie crusts... but the filling is home made. Sure, you can make better pie crust, but not much better and with all of the other cooking that day, I consider it a fair compromise. And I do use the bread maker to mix and rise the dough, but then I transfer it to muffin pans or loaf pans for the final rise and baking.

I like to have acoustic background music heavily mixed to the instrumental folk side. Just loud enough so you know its there, but not loud enough to creep into conversation. Larry Pattis, Jerry Douglas, William Ackerman, Philip Aaberg, George Winston, Liz Story and the like -- hand selected stuff so that it's not comatose, but not too over-the-top lively either. I'm going for an autumnal harvest feel. Reflective. Introspective. Cozy. Then later on I try to mix in a little innocuous Christmas music that fits in with that feel

We also always hope for a cold Thanksgiving, because we like to have a fire in the fireplace. This Thanksgiving was perfect. We had a snowstorm the day before (and the leaves were still in full color on the trees in our neighborhood: It never got out of the 30's outside on Thanksgiving day, and we had a nice fire going all day.

It really was a great Thanksgiving. We had gone and picked Mom up from Fort Wayne the previous weekend and brought her back. Kevin and Brian were both there. Rob & Kathy and Daryl & Deb & Courtney came by for drinks, snacks, and afternoon chit-chat before they went to their Thanksgiving Dinner appointments. Sam & Connie came over for dinner.

Good dinner.

The bad part... I was too full for the pies Vicki had made -- and I consider it a sin not to have pumpkin pie (and real whipped cream, no Cool Whip) on Thanksgiving.

So, to keep from going to Holiday Hell, I had a bite before I went to bed :-)

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Gut Reaction

Well, this is Thanksgiving related, anyway, sort of.

We're not used to a lot of rich, fatty foods, but on Thanksgiving (I promise a post on Thanksgiving) we go for the traditional foods, cooked from scratch.

So, last night after taking Mom back, we had leftovers at her house, and of course they were good. I went to bed and fell sound asleep.

I woke up about 2:30am. For some reason, I got that Kinks song "Picture Book" that's being used on some commercial stuck in my head (bad commercial, my father-in-law would say, if you can't remember what it was for). Catchy tune.

Picture book
Pictures of your mama
Taken by your papa
A long time ago

My stomach felt pretty acidic. Vicki had handed me a roll of Rolaids -- but I wasn't sure where they ended up. I got up and rummaged through my bags. Not there. So I went into Mom's bathroom and started rummaging around for some pepto or something. Nada. I thought maybe a glass of water would help.

Picture book
Pictures of your mama
Taken by your papa
A long time ago

Drank the water, laid back down. Started feeling queasy. Went out to the car (34 degrees, boxer shorts, bare feet) to check the car for the roll of Rolaids. Nada. Back in the house, upstairs, to bed. I'm tough. I've toughed worse out. I can manage the night.

Picture book
Pictures of your mama
Taken by your papa
A long time ago

The burn was worse. There has to be something that would counteract the acid. Milk. No. Might make it worse. But it has calcium in it. Calcium! Surely mom takes calcium pills. They'd be down in the pantry, with the baking supplies. Baking Soda!!!!!!!

Mom used to have us mix baking soda and water and drink it for the sour burps when we were kids. Tasted awful. Should work, though... it's a base -- opposite of acid. Cool. Back down stairs (trounce, trounce, trounce trounce...)

Picture book
Pictures of your mama
Taken by your papa
A long time ago

There it is. Ok, used to do like a half teaspoon in a glass of water. Probably need a little more for this. Rounded teaspoon. Not too much water. The more water you have to drink, the longer you have to taste "that taste". Stir, stir...

Slug. Right down the hatch, hardly had to swallow.

Kids, I want you to try an experiment. You'll need an uninflated standard party balloon, about a tablespoon of vinegar, a tablespoon of water, and maybe a half teaspoon of baking soda. And a sink to do this over. And an eyedropper.

Mix the water and baking soda. Put the vinegar in the balloon. Fill the eyedropper with the baking soda/water solution. Hold the balloon in one hand curled in the thumb and forefinger of one hand so you can pinch it off quickly.

There's a valve in the top of your stomach that opens a lot easier into the stomach than the other way -- this keeps your food from coming up when you lay down.

Squirt the baking soda/water solution into the balloon and pinch it off to simulate that valve.

Now before we continue, let me assure you the baking soda worked.

Practically immediately, I felt my stomach begin to expand. And I remembered what else we used to do with baking soda and vinegar. We used to mix it with vinegar in bottles with tight caps to watch the gas build up pressure and blow the cap off.

I knew I'd better start burping, and fast.

Two decent ones, but I could still feel it swelling. I needed a big one, fast. I rushed toward the sink, and a huge bubble of gas blew a bit of food slurry out into the sink. Good one. That helped. A couple more (sans food), and I felt ok. Went upstairs. Went to bed.

Couple more small burps. My stomach felt great. And I fell asleep laughing.

Not even the picture book could keep me awake.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Crankin' Up the Hydro

I melted holes in 9 plastic cups to make baskets for growing media and my lettuce plugs, and cut holes in the lid of the tray I bought to fit them down in. Filled them with the clay "coco puffs" and put the seedlings in and set it up.

I had cracked the tray, I think, probably when I threw it down there, so I had to patch that with some silicon. At any rate, I put 5 gallons of solution in the tray, leaving it about an inch or so below the bottoms of the cup and I put a hypersonic fogger in there to atomize the solution and keep a general fog going in there to supply nutrients and moisture to the plants. We'll see how that works. If it does, I'll run it like that and run a re-supply loop from the bigger reservoir. If it doesn't, I'll do that anyway only I'll leave the water in the tray deeper.

Also finished painting the birdbath with swimming pool paint (the inside) and spray paint (the outside). It's all white now, like marble, and it's out there open for bird business.

I put some wall-sconce lights up on either side of the fireplace... Vick's been wanting those for a while and I saw some at Home Depot -- I bought them and put touch circuitry in them.

Need to go get Mom for Thanksgiving this weekend. And -- I'm off all next week. So there'll be plenty of time to "make it right". That is, Thanksgiving. One of my two favorite holidays. More on that later, probably.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Happy Birthday to Bri - So Long to Image

Went out to Mom and Dad's new place Saturday. We helped organize stuff around the house. I washed all the windows. A very nice young lady friend of theirs who is also a plumber came out as well to see about installing a kitchen faucet that mom can use (reach the handles).

I put up a "home" sign that says "The Leith's" on the porch, fixed the spring on one of the screen doors, and helped dad put up a pole to get the electric wire out to the goat shed off the ground. Dad also drove me around the place on "the Gator" -- basically a little John Deere golf-cart-pickup-truck. And to top it all off, we had a nice spaghetti dinner (with home made sauce, of course) and they sent us home with some goat milk.

Saw the outdoor wood furnace in action. It heats water for the water heater as well -- there's a bypass valve you can use to switch back and forth between tank-heated water and fire-heated water.

Dad says in this weather a furnace load of wood lasts about a day, and it keeps the house too warm. It was in the 50's on Saturday and we had all the windows opened most of the day to keep it cooler. The fire has to stay going enough not to go out, so there's a surplus of heat. When it gets colder that won't be a problem -- and they'll have to put wood in twice a day.

When no heat is called for, the dampers close and the fire smolders. When heat is called for, the dampers open and a blower fan comes on, whipping the fire up good and hot and the water pump pumps hot water into the house which the blower fan then blows through the ductwork. The air coming out of the ducts is very hot. The house, being half in the ground, is also going to be very efficient.

I took some more pictures and I'll stick them out with the others at this link.

Oh, Dad's pride and joy, Image (the Arabian stallion) died mysteriously after the move to Cooper Hill -- like within a week. He was healthy ... as a horse ... the night before, next morning, dead. Don't know if it was a heart attack, or something he ate or what. Dad sold at least one other horse, just leaving him with Symphony and Trinity.

I got the watercress going in the hydro garden, and the lettuce is coming up but I still haven't put my new tray system together.

I also put up two wall-sconce lamps, one on either side of the mantle of the fireplace -- that Vicki's always wanted. I need to install the touch circuitry tonight so we can turn them on and off with out unplugging them. They were made to be mounted to electrical boxes in the wall, but I modified them to hang on the wall so I didn't have to rip any drywall out.

Brian's birthday was yesterday. He and Carrie just split up, and she's back in Indiana. So, at 24, a fresh start for Brian. Kevin and Adrianne came to dinner and over to the house for key lime pie and we had a little fire in the fireplace. I think a heavy load has been lifted from Brian and he'll start to perk up here now -- and I hope the same is true for Carrie.

And with that -- adieu.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Busy weekend

Did a lot of house cleaning, fixed the phoneline that goes to downstairs, and got the hydroponic garden ready to go. Bought some lettuce and mustard lettuce and endive seed, and got some watercress at the grocery store to root and start in it's own little hydro bucket.

I'm switching from the 2" PVC setup I had to a tray setup, as this year I've decided to go with nothing but greens -- no other veggies. So a salad garden. Also put plants from the deck that I want to winter over down there as usual. It's not all set up yet, but the seeds are started.

Friday evening I made Chicken Poblano on the grill, and sat out with the neighbors around Ryans chiminea and had a cigar, drank beer. Boy stuff.

I also bought a little cheesy electric chainsaw for my minimal chainsaw needs. Making already cut wood shorter, trimming and pruning and the like. Haven't used it yet.

It was a beautiful weekend... 72 degrees yesterday, 65 today.

Goin' out to Mom & Dad's new place Saturday to help mom set up the kitchen so she can use it.

And that's about it for now.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Eureka Springs

We took off Thursday to go to Eureka Springs with our Friends/Neighbors Ryan and Kristy across the street. We stayed in a cottage up on Hillside right about at the intersection with Bridge St.

Stopped at the Bass Pro Shop in Springfield on the way down where I lusted after some very light and compact tents and sleeping bags. For about $500, Vicki and I could backpack anywhere in the Rockies and camp and stay warm with little effort. Ah, the back country!

Got down to Eureka Springs kind of mid-afternoonish and walked down Bridge Street to the Downtown area where we looked at a few shops, drank some Ace Pear Cider at a bar where apparently the bikers like to hang out. Ate at the "Local Flavor" restaurant, and walked back up to the cottage. After dark, we drove up to the Cresent Hotel and had a carriage ride (ghosts!) and looked at all the pretty Victorian houses and Halloween decorations.

Sacked out, got up and ate breakfast (we had our own little kitchen) and walked downtown again, did a little shopping. We walked back to the cottage briefly and back downtown again and browsed some more until it started to rain. After lunch at Geraldi's (very good pizza which was talked about for the rest of the trip) we went up to the Balcony at the Basin Hotel and had a couple of beers.

There was an "En Femme" conference/weekend going on at the Basin Thur-Sun, so there were lots of guys in drag -- there with their wives. Some with their mothers. A few with their sisters. And some with each other as well. Most of them were pretty obvious. A couple you had to look twice. The majority of them looked pretty "matronly" with very masculine features on their faces and broad shoulders. A couple had some pretty nice legs -- but 5-6" heels with do that for about anybody ;-) Most didn't walk or eat or talk like women. But they appeared to be having a good time... and gave people plenty to talk about.

Friday night we ate at DeVitos, a very nice Italian restaurant right downtown. Went home and sat around the fake fire and talked and went to bed.

Saturday we went and rode the local Eureka Springs Railroad train, then drove back downtown and hit a shop or two, ate at the Mud Street Cafe. I went and bought this glass cube with a 3-D Kamakura Buddha etched inside of it that sits on a rotating turntable with LED's. It's pretty cool.

At one point in the trip I remember driving up Mountain Street -- which has got to go up at about 35 degrees straight up the side of the "mountain". We hit a patch of wet leaves and wondered if we were going to make it there for a second.

Most of the shopping was light. We got an inexpensive nubuck jacket for Vicki. I got a cheap (well, inexpensive but pretty nice) lockblade knife, and Vicki got one of those little purses that converts to a backpack like Cami has. And Vicki bought a few gifts for the boys.

Anyway, Ryan and Kristy had a spa afternoon, and Vicki and I just started up Spring Street from downtown and looked at the town and houses ... eventually reaching the intersection with Hillside. The people at the Episcopal Church wanted to show us their stained glass windows and we went in there with the cleaning lady -- who goes to a different church but cleans this one (how odd is that). She also had the curious speech habit of saying " 'n-everything-else" at the end of at least every other sentence. Which was amusing... at first.

We walked up Spring Street to Crescent Dr, and went up that a little ways and found a trail that went through the woods up to the Hotel. We even saw Molly (Kristy's Ford Escape) and walked down the other side of the "mountain" on Spring Street, past Grotto Spring, around the NE side of the mountain and back "home".

We went to dinner at the Autumn Winds out on 62 somewhere and had very good food and this chocolate souflett that was nothing short of incredible. I'm gonna have to learn to make that.

And then Sunday we pretty much broke down camp and packed Molly up. Vicki and Kristy went for a morning walk (same one up over the mountain that Vicki and I took the day before only this time it didn't start downtown) , went to look at the big Jesus (Christ of the Ozarks, this huge white statue of Jesus with outstretched hands that looked directly at our cottage all weekend fromt he other side of the valley) and we took off for Springfield to eat at Lambert's (you know, the "throwed rolls" place with incredible tasting rolls and fried okra) and then had a pretty uneventful trip home through the rain.

So -- that was about it.