Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Phil's Top Christmas Albums

I really can't rank these.  These are just my favorites, and they are for various reasons.

I mentioned before I like classic jazz Christmas music, and for a Classic Jazz Christmas album, you cannot beat Columbia Records' "Jingle Bell Jazz".   I bought this album on vinyl years ago and I NEVER get tired of it.  The CD version dropped one track, but it was the track I liked the least, so I wasn't too bothered by that.  Dexter Gordon's "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is quite possibly my favorite version of this song, and Duke Ellington's "Jingle Bells" is hands down my favorite version of what is honestly at it's core a pretty dull song. But not when the Duke took it on. That cat layed that tune out and decked the hall for all time with it, and it kicks!  Plus Bob Dorough's "Merry X-Mas to Whom It May Concern" (w Miles Davis) is a "modern" classic. Gotta say I prefer the original vinyl cover art, though.

Vince Guaraldi's "A Charlie Brown Christmas".  This is consistently a top Christmas album every year.  It's classic jazz, and it has some songs that at least at first were not the same carols you hear over and over and over again -- but many have since been recorded and re-recorded and have become classics on their own -- most notably, "Christmastime is Here".  Even the standards have an off-kiltered innocence to them.  This is one reason I like Jazz Christmas music.  It's the same song ... but it's not!  Plus, this album is the source of the original song most associated with Peanuts, "Linus and Lucy".

Doris Day's "Personal Christmas Collection".  I just discovered this a few years ago after hearing "Old Saint Nicholas" on another great classic Christmas collection (a series of releases called "Ultra Lounge Christmas Cocktails") and I sought her album out.  This is a solid Christmas album.  There's a reason Doris Day was a popular singer - she had a great voice and knew how to use it!  It is easily one of my favorite Christmas albums.

The Ultra Lounge Christmas Cocktails Series.  Not so much an album but a series of albums.  Several original classic versions of classic Christmas songs.  Peggy Lee, Kay Starr, Dean Martin, Julie London, Nat Cole, June Christy, Les Brown, Stan Kenton, Johnny Mercer, Lena Horn  ... I mean ... what are you waiting for?

The Roches "We Three Kings".  I first saw a Roches ablum when I worked at Whizz Records back in my College days.  The self-titled "The Roches".  It was intriguing.  But then one night I saw them on Johnny Carson.  Quirky, irreverent, great harmonies (and they can also sing badly on purpose, which is harder than you think when you are good)... when they came out with a Christmas album I was torn.  I loved the group, but I don't like irreverent Christmas Music for the most part.  I thought this is either going to be really really good, or really really bad.  It is great.  Apparently also released with an alternate album cover.

Rhino Records' "Blue Yule".  Of my three Blues Christmas CD's, this was my first and still the best, album cover art notwithstanding.  Louis Jordan, Lightnin' Hopkins, Canned Heat, John Lee Hooker ...  My other two are the Alligator Records Christmas Collection, and Blues, Mistletoe, and Santa's Little Helper.

The Sixteen, "Christmas Music from Medieval and Renaissance Europe".  For when you need to remember the reason for the season, the real meaning of Christmas.  The later in the Christmas season, the more traditional I like my Christmas music until by Christmas I'm practially listening to Church Music, and I mean renaissance Catholic Cathedral music.  It doesn't get any more traditional than this, and "Quem Pastores Laudavere" still makes the hair on the back of my head stand on end.

King's College Choir, "Christmas at Kings".   Can't beat King's College for Choir Music.  This IS Christmas Music.  Real Christmas Music.  (Not Beethoven Christmas music - Lucy Van Pelt) ;-)   Wow, knock your socks off Christmas Music.  Yeah. 

Dean Shostak, "Crystal Carols".  Ever see anybody play the glass bowls - you know, like Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality?  Wet fingers, and glasses and glass bowls filled with varying levels of water?  Well, this is way better.  Benjamin Franklin invented an instrument called a Glass Armonica which was basically a spindle with different sizes of glass bowls on it that you spun and "played" with your fingers.  It makes one of the most ethereal sounds you'll ever hear, and it lends itself very well to Christmas Music.  Dean Shostak has obliged us.  I have a friend, though, who is looking for "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring" on Glass Armonica.  If you know of a version, drop me a line.

Rita Ford, "A Music Box Christmas".  Nothing says 19th Century Christmas like music boxes.  There's just something magical about them.  Simple and complex at the same time.  Details.  Precision.  And the stupid electronic music boxes of today are an insult to their memory.   I love this collection.

I discovered this one this year, Westminster Concert Bell Choir - "Christmas at Westminster".  Like music boxes, there's just something about the clear, ringing tones of metal, and these folks are real pro's.  A little organ music splashed in, but definitely in the background ... accompaniment to the bells, not out in front.  I'd like to find one that's JUST bells sometime, but this is good stuff!

Christmas With the Chicago Chamber Brass. I was at my brother's house over Christmas back in the early to mid 1980's and he had KWMU public radio on.  I was recording Christmas music on my tape recorder.  Later, when I listened to the tape, there was an incredible sequence of tunes all from this album, tracks 19 through 25 and it built and built and finished with a bang.  I looked for this album for years.  I mean like 10 or more years. Finally had a guy at a local independent record store order it for me.  2 weeks after it came in, the guy closed his doors for good.  Now you can order it easily on the net.  Great brass Christmas album, and nothing says Christmas like Brass!

Christmas Guitar, instrumental acoustic guitar ... is some of my favorite Christmas music. The warm sound of the wood resonator evokes a crackling fire in the fireplace and soft light of a Christmas tree on a winter's evening.  I bought a Christmas Guitar album back when I was in the Musical Heritage Society record club by Stephen Siktberg called "Christmas Guitar".  I can't find it anywhere on line, but it's my go-to guitar Christmas Album.

Doug Smith put out a beautiful guitar Christmas album.  John Fahey put out three or four, and one of my favorites is the instruction CD of Steve Kauffman that came with his Mel Bay Christmas Guitar book.  So I need to sort this one out, but an acoustic guitar Christmas album would about wrap this up.

This is by no means an exhaustive list.  But it's a pretty well balanced one.  There are other great ones like the Manhattan Transfer's Christmas Album, jazzy and lush, alternately and sometimes at the same time.  The Phil Spector (later-in-life murdering aside) Christmas Album, David Lanz's "Solstice", and the first "Merry Axemas" cd for rock guitar (Eric Johnson's "The First Nowell" alone is worth buying this album).  But.... that's all we're doing this year.

Merry Christmas!

Top Christmas Album Covers

That I own.

Obviously ... this comes from my love for classic pinup art ;-)

Coming it at #3, it's Diana Krall's "Christmas Songs" album, with her lavish green dress and just about perfectly shaped calves.  Plus, the music is mostly classic Krall -- piano trio jazz sound applied to Christmas music.  Good album.  Well done.

#2 is Blacktop Records' Blues, Mistletoe, and Santa's Little Helper.   Classic pinup pose with the feathery and red "Santa" suit.  For a while, at least, you could even get a poster of the album cover from them.  As a Bluesey Christmas album, it's pretty good.

And at #1, it's Blue Note Records' "Yule Struttin'", and we can all see why.  Any woman with a pair like that would have reason to strut.  The monochrome look compliments the classic jazz inside.  Again, good Christmas album as well.  I love Jazz Christmas music, especially early in the season.

However, this post is about album covers only.  Next post will be about my Top Christmas Albums -- musically speaking.

Update - See also: Phil's Top Christmas Albums

Friday, December 11, 2009


The other night I was having a dream.

In the dream, I was in a bed.  The room wasn't bright, but it wasn't dark either.  My back was to the room, and I had a sheet over me, pulled tight up to my neck.

I sensed an evil presence behind me.  I didn't want to, but I knew I had to face it and deal with it.  No idea what it was or what I was going to do about it, but it was a situation that needed assessing.

I tried to turn over.  I couldn't.  My muscles would tense up, but my body wouldn't move... just tiny bits that didn't amount to anything.  I was trying to stay calm, but the more I tried and failed to turn over, the more panicked I got.  The panic finally woke me up.

Vicki was behind me, here in real life, I had my back to her.  She was struggling and starting to panic.  As I normally do when she's in this state, I tried to wake her up, but she kept panicking more and more until she let out a very loud, terrified animal scream, sounding almost like a moose trumpeting.

My hair stood out, straight, I'm sure.  I reassured her it was nothing, that everything was ok.

She asked if I had been leaning over her.  I said no, not really, I had kind of sat up on one elbow and had tried to nudge her awake, but that was it.

She said in her dream she was on an white iron bed somewhere, and a man had her pinned down and was going to kill her.  So my trying to wake her up probably played right into that dream.

Usually it's spiders or snakes.  Not this time.

Anyway, it started to creep me out that I had a dream that my back was to an evil presence I needed to deal with, and at the same time Vicki was having a dream right behind me about someone trying to kill her.  I got goosebumps.  The possibility that some evil presence had triggered the simultaneous dreams seemed pretty real to me at the time.

Vicki asked if the door downstairs was locked -- Kevin and Marken had been there and they take the dogs out that way.  They're usually pretty good about locking.

Well after all that I had to get up and check, or there'd be NO going back to sleep.

I grabbed a gun and made my way through the house, clearing rooms, down to the back door downstairs.

It wasn't locked.

I locked it, and finished clearing the basement and re-checked upstairs before returning to bed.  Took a couple of hours for me to get back to a solid sleep after that.

I am "Papa"

Yay!  Finally. 

We had Thanksgiving Saturday with the boys and their families.   Started with the traditional Strawberry Crepes in the morning.   Turkey and pie in the late afternoon and evening.  Vicki made some homemade cranberry sauce and got some really really good frozen corn that Trenton loved (and surprisingly he was a big fan of the cranberries as well).

Also, right after dinner he was coming around the table and pointed at me and with very soft "p's" said "Papa".  First time.  And only time, so far.  But he got it right.  He's bursting with almost words.

"Bob" ... or "Robert the Construction Worker" as I call him, he's got down, as well as Nana, Dada, and Mama.  I think he's got "dog" down pretty well, too, and he's trying lots of others.

Kevin and Marken brought a Wii and we played a bit with that.  Trenton actually got interested in the bowling game when he saw how the remote makes things happen on the screen.  If he'd learn to use the button at the same time, he could probably actually bowl himself.  He has the swinging motion down.

We lined up for our Christmas picture, and I got to use my new LightSphere that Megan recoomended to me (Thanks, Megan!). 

Sunday Kevin and Marken left for St. Louis -- Kevin had a small job he needed to get to.   I went out the same time Brian and Kristin did to get a tree.  Got a nice one.  $80!!!   Is it really that nice?  Well, it is pretty nice.  A beautiful Noble Fir.

Got the lights up on it last night.

Tonight's Rob and Kathy's party, and this weekend will be a whirlwind of tree decorating, babysitting, cookie baking, candy making ... let the Christmas Music roll!!!! (I hold out until about this time for the most part, sneaking a few in only here and there.)

Thursday, December 03, 2009


On the way to work this morning.... a little traffic backup.  This is what caused it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I Am "Gah"!

Hear me roar.

Trenton is a little chatterbox. No words, yet, outside of Mama, Dada, Nana, and ... my name ... "Gah". /gäh/

We get to babysit regularly, and I'm still going to swimming "classes" with him, Mommy & Me classes that Kristin teaches at the F.I.T. Center.  So, in order to swim with Trenton, of course, I have to go as a Mommy, which is a little embarrassing, but at least I had to lose some weight to get into the little blue swim-dress.  I guess it makes the ladies at Females In Training (where the classes are held) more comfortable or something. 

And we won't talk about the surgery.  ;-)

But seriously, they do have a small men's locker room just for things like this, and thankfully, they're more focused on the babies than mommies, so right now in the class there's a dad, a nanny, and a "Gah" -- that would be me.  Kristin's trying to recruit more mommies.  And I actually get to wear regular trunks.  There's Trenton, Beckett, and his little baby sister Grier.  Mostly to get them used to being in the water and not be afraid of it. Learning to kick to move, and scoop their hands. And splash. And jump in. It's a lot of fun.

Got to babysit a little while last night, too, which is also a lot of fun.  Are you picking up on the theme here?

Finally got some sunshine today after 4 days of rain. And it looks like we'll be going to the Mizzou football game using John & Pam's tickets. Weather looks nice for it. And after that it looks like headlong into the holiday season. My parents for Thanksgiving, then go get mother-in-law from Fort Wayne, have our Thanksgiving Dec 5 with our boys and their families, Rob and Cathy's annual Christmas shindig, Vicki's birthday on the 18th, Christmas a week later, then New Years ... then to my parents in early January for our Christmas thing ... and then my birthday in late January followed by our anniversary Feb 1. It's always a whirlwind.

We took Brian and Kristin out for dinner for Brian's birthday Sunday.  Went back to their house afteward for cake with Grandma Jean, who was babysitting.  And I got the priviledge of reading Trenton to sleep.  I love doing that.  It's my favorite thing.  We were reading "Where the Wild Things Are", and when I got to the growling part, I asked him if he could growl.

He could.

He sure knows what he wants.  Nana lets him play in the kitchen sink, and he loves water.   He needs to stand on a chair and do it, so first thing he's in the kitchen pushing one of the chairs over to the sink.   We try to distract him from that as much as possible.  Well, until after dinner anyway.

He'll probably be saying his first "real" words before Christmas.  My bet is on "hotdog".  It's his favorite food group.  Well I don't know.  Candy corn seems to be up there, too as far as food goes.   I did notice that he's saying something closer to "tick-tock" for "clock", as opposed to "eh-ah", and he wants to know what the name of everything is even if he can't say the words yet.

He knows blue, red, yellow, and green very well. 

I think it's going to be a fun Christmas.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Trenton's First Walkabout

Trenton came over for a few hours yesterday after work while his mom got some things done. Heh. Always happy to take him out of her hair.

Vicki was pooped -- they're running her ragged at work, so I came home to be the primary attention-giver for while (and you know how much I just hate that!). It was a warm, cloudy evening. Figured he'd want to go to the park just down the block from us. Of course as soon as he saw where we were going. He loves climbing the steps and then going down the slide. It's a dual slide and I sit next to him on the way down and sort of hold him ... to keep him from falling ... while we go down.

A college kid came by walking his almost-grown Siberian Husky, and Trenton immediately bolted to pet it. After which he wanted to walk on the little woodside trail.

The undergrowth in the woods was mostly bright yellow, contrasting with the darker greens and browns of the larger trees along the edges, and after we played at woods' edge for a while I noted that most of the underbrush plants had lost their leaves and you could see a deer trail leading down the steep hill to a flatter area in the middle of the yellow trees.

I decided it was time to take Trenton for a walk in the open woods to explore new things.

He's only 18 months old and not really steady on his feet on rough terrain or steep hills, so I carried him. I had put him down to stand for a second while I took a picture.... he took a step and sort of fell in slow motion... but I caught him and helped him back up and we continued downhill on the deer trail.

We sat on a fallen tree for a bit while he inspected the wood fungus, and he walked on the flater area in what turned out to be an even prettier fall scene than I'd expected ... I'd never actually ventured down here. And I noticed a mostly dry creek bed that of course we had to go explore, so I carried him down to it.

Some of my best childhood memories involve dry creek beds and just sitting in them and soaking up the scenery or exploring them.

We found some clear puddles that he splashed his hands in ... it was all I could do to keep him from walking into them but I didn't want him to get that wet.

We felt moss on rocks, and rough tree bark, and moss on tree bark. Pulled berries off of some weeds and dropped them on the ground, and climbed on rocks... but they were mossy and slippery so he had to hold on to my hands. Eventually, before he got too dirty or too wet, I hiked him out up the gully wall.

It was harder than I expected, carrying him in one arm while I navigated the steep, soft hill -- choosing my footing carefully so as not to fall with him. Falling by myself would be one thing, it was absolutely imperative that I did not fall with him.

I was huffing and puffing and sweating profusely by the time we reached the top. He didn't want to leave. He wanted to go back down. So we sat on a log for a bit at the edge of the woods, and then walked through some brush, and back up to the slides where we went down one more time. And he was ready to go. Made a bee line for the sidewalk, and after walking about 20 feet toward the house he decided he'd rather ride in my arm.

Short, 30 minute, mini-walkabout. No fire or hotdogs. That'll come later..

I think he will enjoy the outdoors.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Rest of the Story

Went back yesterday to finish splitting the wood. Dropped by Orschelns to pick up a fiberglass maul handle, only to discover that you have to glue these on with an epoxy that takes 24 hours to cure. And I needed to finish splitting it yesterday.

So I bought a hickory handle and drove 15 miles up to Sam's place and started splitting. Two or three logs later... the hickory handle broke.

So I drove it back to Orschelns, and turned it in against a whole new maul, pre-glued maul with a fiberglass handle, and went back and split the rest of it.

Man, am I sore today.

I will go pick it up Friday.

Monday, October 05, 2009

September Flew By Like a Hummingbird

... chasing another hummingbird.

The hummingbirds are about gone. Fall is here, and the leaves are about ready to turn. In about a week, I expect spectacular showiness. Need to get the camera dusted off. Ok, who am I kidding? With Trenton around, it never needs dusting off.

Back in early September Trenton found the swiming pool hanging in the garage and wanted it out. It was just barely warm enough, so Vicki filled it with bathtub-warm water and he played one last time in it for the summer.

I've been going to his swim classes to help Kristin out (yeah, that's why... that's the only reason. ;-) ). They're "Mommy and Me" classes, but right now there are no actual mommies save Kristin, who is the instructor. Daddies can substitute for mommies, and apparently so can grandpas and nannies. It's a lot of fun playing with him in the water, trying to get him to learn to kick and paddle (which he's not doing so well at, yet, but he'll get there) ... and jumping in, and splashing.

He loves the little park near our house, and practically squeals as soon as he can see the colorful slide complex if we're out for a walk in our neighborhood. There's a dual slide, and we can go down the slide on one while he goes down on the one next to one of us ... and he's easy to hold onto while you do it.


We went for a little "nature" walk around the edge of the park where he got to see a box turtle open his shell and wallk away. He likes the outdoors, for sure.

A couple of weeks ago college friend Jeff Eissmann and his family and lots of friends invited us to their tailgate party before the Furman game. The Carleton Clan, including Kristin, Brian, and Trenton were out of town and needed to get rid of tickets, so Kevin, Marken, Vicki and I bought 4 of them and also went to the game. Mizzou won big (52-12), and we had a dandy time on a beautiful September afternoon.

Last weekend was the 3rd annual Roots & Blues & BBQ festival here in town. Wasn't as much of the varied festival atmosphere this time ... mostly music and beer & bbq. We went down Friday evening to see the Bel-Airs, a regionally popular boogie-musice dance band. Bought a couple of their CDs. Then we came back Saturday with Kristin just to get a feel for the festival, went home during a rain shower, and came back in the evening to see Booker T and then the Blind Boys from Alabama.

Been doing several things around the house I've been meaning to get done. Little things. Replace the 400 watt high pressure sodium grow-lights with 80 watts of flourescent ... just keeping outdoor deck plants alive through the winter doesn't require the mega-power. That should save about $10 a month on electricity. Got a couple of deck protectors... one to keep the grease off the deck, underneath the grill. The other, a concrete-impregnated fabric one to go under the chimnea. Got rid of the toxic waste stuff (batteries, paint cans, etc) at the toxic waste facility. Seems like there were a few other things as well -- little things that needed fixing).

Yesterday I went out to Sam's place to cut wood -- a big oak that died and fell right next to his pond a couple of years ago. He and Deb had started cutting on it a while back. I cut the big trunk up and started splitting, but the handle on my maul broke. I'll replace that and take it out this afternoon and finish splitting, then hopefully borrow Brian's truck to haul it all back home.

Vicki cooked beef and noodles for dinner last night and we had Brian, Kristin, and Trenton over for dinner -- always a good meal after a day of wood cutting.

The Buffalo Bill Pumpkin Ale is out. I bought my normal 2 cases to last through Thanksgiving. Awesome stuff.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Gratuitous Trenton Shots

Putting the Labor in Labor Day Weekend

So Vicki's off in Fort Wayne, visiting her mom and starting the packing process for her move down here next spring. And about two Novembers ago, I bought tiles and materials to do our front porch and two bathrooms. Got the front porch and the guest bathroom done, but didn't get to our bathroom by Thanksgiving. And there was no way I was doing it over The Holidays.

So almost two years later, here's the perfect opportunity to do the tiles in our master bath, the bathroom we use every day. I took Friday off, figuring this would work best as a 4 day project. Demolition & backerboard. Tile sizing and cutting. Tile laying. And Grouting. 4 steps. 4 days.

Day 1 went as planned. Of course, I fantasized about getting the tile cut that day as well. But I had a hair cut appointment at 2:00. And Kristin invited me over to their house for dinner ... and I'll not pass up a chance to hang with Trenton. Or them, really. We had a nice time. Kristin made burritos. They were tasty. And we had some margaritas. Played with Trenton. Watched a little TV. And I went home.

Got up, did coffee and breakfast ... and had to do some planning. Mizzou's first football game of the season with Illinois started at 2:40, and I'd invited BriKri & Trenton over to watch it on the big TV. So I needed to make sure we had food. And get all the tile cut by 2:30. Went to the store and bought 4 slabs of beef ribs & some potato salad (hey, no time to make potato salad) ... made a rub, slathered, got the charcoal going in the Big Green Egg (well, mine's a "medium" green egg) and threw the ribs in the little dutch oven (to protect from the radiative heat... cast iron, you know) and poured in the hickory chips and shut-er down to 200.

And started cutting tile. You have to figure out what "square" is going to be... and I wanted to do the brick pattern ... for one thing it helps make the room look bigger, and for another it lessens the visibility of slight errors on the seams. But it increases the number of cuts you have to make.

It started raining!!! There was a slight chance in the forecast, but ... well, we got it. I moved the wet saw back under the eaves and kept going. I mean, it's a wet saw, right? And I literally cut the last tile right at 2:25. Took a quick shower and was changing when Kristin and Trenton showed up. Had the game on the 1941 Philco in the living room (I love that ... old tube set, Mizzou football... feels all traditional and stuff... I grew up listening to the Tigers & the Cardinals on the radio).

Anyway, Brian had called ... Ken had invited them over to watch the game, so he called and asked if it was OK if Ken came along. It was. He showed up, I got the game on the TV downstairs. And we had a good time. Mizzou dominated, eventually winning 37-9. The ribs turned out great. And of course Trenton was a lot of fun. He was having fun with Grandpa Ken and Papa Phil and he really, for a 19 month old ... entertained himself pretty well a lot of the time.

After the game Kristin took Trenton home ... he was sooooo sleepy but too wound up with all the commotion at our house. Brian stayed and we watched the first half of the Oklahoma BYU game.

I was pretty tired by that time. I cleaned up a little and turned in early.

Got up, did the coffee and breakfast. And then mixed up the thin-set mortar and started laying tile. Got done about noon.

I had had to cut the plumbing to the toilet ... there was not enough play to lift the ring up to meet the new height of the floor. So I hit Lowes and bought a new toilet ring and a coupler and another elbow and a wax ring so I can put the plumbing back. Plus I bought some mildew retardant paint and painted the duct-board ductwork under the house. The foil outside has corroded and I suspect it's entraining some moldy air into the house. Might need to do a second coat tommorrow. Pleah.

Had a beer and a pipe, and then came and did this.

Grout tomorrow. Vicki back Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Blame it on Facebook

It has been pointed out that it has been a very long time since my last update.

I'm going to blame much of it on Facebook, which provides a way to give quick updates with little thought and the associated time investment put behind them. But there are others out there in my family and friends fold who are not on facebook ... plus, this makes a nice diary to go back to and see what was going on in my life.

Unfortunately, when you don't sit down soon after a seemingly trival event that is nonetheless the kind of thing life is all about, such as spending time with family and friends -- especially your grandchild :-) ....

you forget those poignant details .... which are really the only things that make this blog interesting at all in the first place. Which is really an argument for updating more often, then, isn't it?

And so here I sit, updating, lacking said details, but offering a summary.

As reported in my last post, or at least implied or suggested, or at the very least cooberatted... I've been riding my bicycle to work as often as reasonable for most of the summer.

The bad news, I haven't really lost any weight to speak of. The good news, I haven't gained any, either, and I've been able to drink higly caloric and tasty beer and eat good food. We've continued to be extremely lucky in getting to see our grandson far more often than probably most grandparents get to see theirs. And it is a joy each time. He's the smiliest little boy in the world.

One time we were babysitting over at their house this summer, and he had something in his eye. It looked a bit like mud to me... which would be bad. But his eye really wasn't red and he wasn't rubbing it ... it strangely didn't seem to be bothering him that much EXCEPT that he was uncharactaristically fussy. We suggested taking him to the doctor the next morning. But (and I can't blame them, if I were the parent I probably would have done the same thing) they couldn't stand it after they got home and ended up removing it ... it was a huge flying bug.

We went to the state fair a few weeks ago and putzed around like we usually do ... only Pam & Grandma Jean were there along with Brian, Kristin, and Trenton. We ran into them on purpose a few times, but mostly ended up on our own. I ended up buying some super glue type stuff and some "Sham Wow" type chamios' in the "Mr. Popeil" buildings, ate the requisite fair food, and had a nice time on an uncharactaristically not very hot day in August.

Thunderstorms moved in about the time we were ready to leave, and we drove Brian back to Columbia while Kristin and Trenton went back to spend another day with her parents.

Two weekends ago, Vicki's cousin Jim and his wife Carol (of Mt. Charleston and North Carolina fame) dropped by on their way from Mt. Charleston (Las Vegas) to Murphy, NC ... for a couple of days. We always have a great time with them. Carol, the pianist, was playing tunes on our little $3.00 Goodwill Special kiddie keyboard. We had our traditional happy hours, sat on the deck... we took them to the Rocheport Winery on saturday for another stunningly lovely August day with low humidity and temperatures in the 70's, where we sat at a table next to Kristin's brother Brian... had a couple of bottles of Norton, and went into Rocheport to look at the antique shops.

I wasn't planning on buying anything.

At Saunders, though, Jim and Carol sneakily bought us an espresso cup set, and I got Vicki a neclace she really liked ... but the most surprising thing was the ginormous clock.

We have had a huge blank wall on one end of our living room over the stairs. And at Saunders, above a fireplace was a huge, 50" iron clock.

Well you know me and clocks.

We have talked off and on over the years what to do with that wall, and just a couple of days before had been saying we need something really BIG.

Well there it was, and the price was pretty reasonable.

Budda bam! Ours.

I wish I would have been here the first time Trenton saw it. Clocks were the first objects he recognized and was able to articulate. I have multiple mechanical clocks in the house, which make the charactaristic "tick-tock" sound, and since he was about a year old, he would point to them, and pretty quickly anything with a "dial" on it and say "eh-ah!".

Well this is the world's largest eh-ah, as far as he's concerned, and he was duly impressed, apparently, according to Vicki. Ask him where the "big clock" is, and he points right to it.

No real words yet from him. "Nana" for Nana ... that's about the closest, and da-da for about any male authority figure. He used to mouth Ma-Ma a long time ago, but I think he's tormenting his mother by refraining from using that. It shouldn't be long now.

Last Sunday I went up north to the public rifle range with Brian and Brian and John. Sighted in my .22 at 100 yards, and John sighted in his 30.06. Those rounds are even bigger than the Monsin Nagant rounds. Big boom. And I found out I suck at 100 yards with the iron sights on the Mosin Nagant. Well... I wasn't hitting the 10" target, anyway.

This has been one of the coolest summers on record this year. The last weekend of August we had highs in the mid 60's, probably close to 25 degrees below normal and just freaking delightful weather.

Not complaining at all!