Monday, December 31, 2012

Eating Our Way Through The Holidays

This is one of the years where the various barbarian tribes that owe allegiance to the de-I Imperium passed on the ritual plundering of de-IHolm and remained on their respective Hemispheres.  (An interesting note, with one offspring in the Philippines, one in Amsterdam and, one in the East side of the San Francisco Bay the sun truly never does set on the de-I Imperium  - ha, take that British Monarchy!).  Hence it was just Wife and I here for the holidays.

A few years ago, this happened and Wife made some comment like, "well since no one will be here, we might as well not do anything (like decorate, celebrate, etc.)."  As I did not grow up with Christmas and don't have the 'Christmas go bonkers behavior' hard wired into my persona, I said, "That sounds great."  This led to about 2 weeks of trauma (a vast understatement) mostly centered on my not being the person she thought I was and worse.  I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer but you don't have to impale me with pike more than once for me to learn that wasn't the best response to make.

So this year when similar noises were made, I said in no uncertain terms that we were doing the holidays this year.  So we decorated and scheduled a number of get togethers with our various friends that were in town.  And, odd as it may seem, they all revolved around food and drink.

A couple of days before Christmas we had Wild Bill and Jill over for an Italian meal where we tried four different recipes from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Italian Cooking (you may remember that I am on a a quest to work my way through that cook book).  This was accompanied by the requisite 3 or so different wines with the courses.

Then on Christmas Eve I made a Wife a private meal of crab cocktail with a nice steak, and a cheese course accompanied by a very lovely 2000 Bordeaux.

Christmas Day we were at an open house of one of my business friends and ended up being the last ones there with another couple downing port and raki (a Balkan white lightning type of spirit that my friend's wife had brought back from Albania.  Evidently only de-I and one other friend of this guy will drink this stuff.  It was made by the Albanian guides mother and was in an unlabeled bottle.  Thus far I still have my eyesight).

On the 29th we went out with other friends for drinks and dinner because it was our anniversary!  We almost never do anything for our anniversary as you usually are done from the holiday season.  That's number 39 anniversary by the way for those who are counting.

Last night we had Gaius Derf and Agent W over and made pizza.  This was absolutely the best pizza we have ever made bar none!  (I'm planning a couple of foodie only posts with details following this.)

Tonight Wife and I are going to be making fried chicken from scratch using a recipe and technique developed by my father years ago.

And starting January 2 I will be posting on the joys of the lettuce and water diet.

Saturday, December 29, 2012


This is a catchup post from the week before Christmas.  I had to run out to Boston for a quick business trip.  I was fortunate that one of my companions grew up in Boston and has lots of contacts and relatives there still.  We were on our own for dinner without our client and he took me to the Union Lobster House, supposedly the oldest restaurant in the US still operating and a mecca for traditional New England seafood.  I love seafood especially all kinds of shellfish. 

As we were in business regalia, I decided I would forgo the traditional steamed lobster which is quite a mess to eat as you whack away on shells getting at the goodness inside.  I decided to go with some clams on the half shell and a sedate lobster scampi.  Figured I'd get my lobster meat without the work.

Here is what came out.

Fully a half a lobster on some linguine.  I was surprised but not upset.  And my friend had ordered a New England Seafood Soup.  Like this:

Hence we both put our bibs on and waded gleefully in.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Miracle

I went to a movie today.  With Wife.

Believe me this is a miracle.

Neither of us can remember the last time we were at a move together.  I don't like movies.  They mess with my emotions.  I don't like that.  They are too loud.  Have too much visual stimuli.  I don't like that.  They are either violent, inane, depressive, emotional, or some combination of the four.  I don't like that.  I don't even watch movies that are free on airplanes.  I don't like movies.

But Wife asked if I would go with her since we are by ourselves this Christmas.  And I kind of liked what I had been reading about Lincoln.  I loved it...even though it was a bit loud.  It was very interesting, the characters totally believable, and quite uplifting.  I would go to more movies if there were more like this.

We're actually doing this again on New Years Day as I'm a huge Tolkien fan and want to see the Hobbit.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Partial List of Things to do When World Does Not End

  • Tell all those people you dislike and and sent scathing emails figuring that the world was ending and there would be no reprecussions that someone hacked your computer
  • Bring the empty bottles of super expensive brandy back to the store and tell them that they were bad and you should have your money refunded
  • Put on the schedule all the deferred maintenance that was going to be unnecessary as the world went out in flames
  • Put stop payments on all the charge card charges for all the unnecessary toys, do-dads, and gizmos that you would never have bought if you knew you'd still be here.
  • Return all the survivalist gear that you really didn't have a clue on how to use anyway
  • Retrieve all the passwords that were going to be unnecessary. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I Fight the Gods

Yes.  I have just completed my last airplane trip of 2012.  And no I did not go on this trip quivering in fear of the power of the Magical Unicorn Pony God of Travel.  No, I have decided that I am not going to live in fear of this demi-immortal any longer.  Yes, de-I will now have it out with the Pointed Foil to travel well-being.  The Unicorn God and de-I...Mano a Little Equino and may the best one prevail.

I started with my full on assault in the sacrifice of mile of virgin snow this weekend.  Want to make unrealistic expectations of sacrifices Magical one?  I'll show you through the use of legalistic interpretations.  Even the Gods shake when the Bar shows up.

So how did my trip turn out?

I got to Albuquerque International Sunport on Monday morning with it all looking like a laughter in favor of the Magical Unicorn Pony God.  My flight was an hour late because of a late arriving crew the night before.  Then I was called and told I had a complementary DOWNGRADE from First Class back to Coach.  Seems that the plane that was sent was smaller than the one scheduled and they had fewer First Class seats.  But no.  I exerted my powers and ended up with A WHOLE ROW to myself in Economy Plus.  That's as good as First Class anytime when you're in the morning and not going to be drinking.  On my next flight to Boston, I had an empty seat next to me in the Exit isle on an otherwise packed flight. 

Going home today, my flight from Boston was full but on time.  The flight to Albuquerque I managed to get a seat when I checked in right behind the First Class cabin which on this particular aircraft HAS MORE LEG ROOM THAN THE FIRST CLASS SEATS!  And because of the bad head winds they needed six people to not take this flight.  I ended up with THE WHOLE ROW again!

Pretty much a total victory for de-I.  I'm having my lawyers research all kinds of virgin definitions to use in my battle.  Don't think I won't be using a lot of EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL before my next trip?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

First Snow Hike of the Season

I've waxed enthusiastically about hiking in the snow in prior years.  But we've had nothing but dryness since early fall.  Fortunately the storm tracks seem to finally be going a bit south so we had some precipitation during this week.

Now before certain fellow bloggers who live in the North and who listen to me say nothing good about snow comment, I want to point out as I have in the past that we have very respectful snow here that stays in the mountains where it belongs not cluttering up city streets causing people to have to shovel walks or schools to have to close.

Actually I didn't expect there to be any snow when I hiked because it didn't seem to be that much that came down.  But to my surprise there was snow from the very beginning all the way through.  Not too deep, just enough to make it soft and quiet. 

There were just one set of foot prints as I set out

Then I turned to go on this loop part of the trail and the foot prints went on.
I was left in virgin snow.  
Always the opportunist, I decided this was a gift to be offered in sacrifice to the Magical Unicorn Pony God of Travel (as I have to go to Boston on Monday) and I don't recall there being a strict definition of 'virgin'.

Then I took the opportunity for various 'artistic' shots

On nice thing about hiking at this time of year and in this weather is the lack of annoying other humans.

Scene at the parking lot both when I left and when I returned.  
Saw no one the whole time I was gone.

Bread Up

Wife has always baked bread, a fact that has added a lot of pleasure to our lives over the years.  But until recently I wouldn't say that she was into it as a hobby as say I am about cooking.  About a year ago I put on my list of things that I might want to get into if I ever get a chance to retire is baking.  Somehow this has tweaked a competitive gene in Wife and slowly but surely she has upped her baking game.

She has been on a quest to make a Kaiser Roll that she will find acceptable.  The ones in our local stores are just of very poor quality and the Kaiser Roll is Wife's preferred bread for a sandwich.  So she's been trying various techniques.  The latest attempt didn't make a very good Kaiser Roll but made a helluva good European Dinner Roll.

Recognize these?

If you've ever been to Europe and gone to the ubiquitous breakfast buffet at a hotel, these small hard rolls are de riguer.  The recipe calls for making a starter that sits over night, adding more flour and water, three rising/punch downs, forming rolls and letting them rest in the refrigerator.  Then my favorite instruction you, "make one decisive cut through the center of the roll."

They came out great.  We may not have our Kaiser Rolls yet but the breakfast buffet just to a step up. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Definition of One Foot in the Grave

That's what it feels like to me anyway.  What I'm referring to is that I am now officially on Medicare.  Just had my 65th birthday.  You are required by law to apply and put yourself in the Medicare pool 90 days before that event.  Then you get bombarded by a billion Medicare supplemental policy providers.  Right before your birthday you get your actual card - a crappy piece of cardboard that is to big to fit in your wallet - way to go government.

Then you go to the doctor and you have the wonderful experience of letting folks know you are now part of the aging falling of the cliff population - not happy.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Dare I Say 'No Problems?"

I had a quick trip to Phoenix.  Went out on Sunday and came back on Monday.  Going to Phoenix requires no plane changes.  Everything was on time and without problem.  I have one more trip to Boston this week and hopefully will get out of the year unscathed.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Only a Glancing Blow

Seems that the travel gods must have gotten distracted and were only able to send me part of the normal load of bad luck.  Maybe Agent W traveling the same day caused them to take their eye off the prize.

My flight out wasn't bad luck, just bad airline management.  We arrived in this tiny commuter plane as far out as is possible at the United terminal in Denver, have to wait for our bags and then hoof it for what they call a 50 minute connection.  But that's 50 minutes from our arrival time to the next flight departure time.  You will remember that flights board 30 minutes before departure and most often they close the doors 10 minutes before departure.  Fortunately my outbound flight was 15 minutes late.

On the way back, I was changing through Houston.  This is always a pain.  The main terminal is gigantic and the flight to Albuquerque is always in another commuter terminal which requires taking a train.  Our flight in Chicago loaded up on time and they we sat.  The captain finally told us that a cargo loader in the belly of the plane had issues, the crew working on it was at the end of their shift, so they just left it half fixed.  Then the next crew came on and they figured out it needed fixing.  This caused us to take off 30 minutes late.  Not really that terrible unless you have a 50 minute connection requiring long, long walks and trains.  They made up a lot of the time and I just barely made my flight.  Where upon I found that the light over my seat was broken.

Compared to the last few flights I guess I should be thankful.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Happiness is...

...Getting sweet, love notes hidden in your luggage for you to find even after 39 years of marriage :)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Old and New

I wouldn't exactly call Wife and I resistant to change but we aren't exactly early adopters either as I think I've written about before.  But every once in a while we just decided that we have to change some things.  Thus it was with some degree of shock when Wife came home this week with some new water glasses.

While we have 'nice glasses' for when we have guests, we don't really like them for day-to-day use because they are too heavy.  Our beloved day-to-day glasses are nice and light and have a lovely hand feel.  Unfortunately they are showing the signs of age and through gradual breakage we are getting rather low in number.

The old glass

It may look like this is a dirty glass but in fact is just the long slow effect of etching from being in the dishwasher a few times.  Actually more than a few as we bought these some time in the mid-1980's.  So I'm thinking these are at least 25 year old glasses.  They've done their duty well.

Wife broke one on Tuesday night and that was it.  She was in Target and found these for just a dollar a piece.

The new glass

Changing of the regime

The Glass is Dead...Long Live the Glass

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Public Service Announcement

Mr. de-I will be departing for Chicago on United Airlines on Tue Dec 4 and returning on same airline back to Albuquerque on Thu Dec 6.

In view of recent events involving de-I and airline industry, you are advised to check if you are traveling on the:
  • Same flights
  • Same days
  • Same airline
As Mr. de-I.

If you are affirmative to any of the above, Mr. de-I takes no responsibility for any abominable delays you may incur in route.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Evolution of Holiday

We had a very lovely Thanksgiving.  As I've often written, holidays can be a bit melancholy for Wife and I as our kids are so very far away and it is so hard for us to get together.  It is usually hit or miss with our friends since most often they are visiting their kids who are not so far away.  This year we had our good friends Gaius Derf and Agent W along with Cabinet Lady, Dr. Deb and DD's sister. 

It was most enjoyable.  The food came out great.  And everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves.  But what a difference in feeling from Thanksgiving as I knew for the first half of my life.  My mother had a family reunion type Thanksgiving that went on for some 50 years until her passing.  Usually there would be 20+ people with various relatives from around the country coming.  From the time I left home to the time my Mother died 6 years ago, I would trek to Connecticut either driving 7 or 8 hours from Maryland where we used to live or flying from Albuquerque.  For the last 8 years or so I was Mom's right hand person in the kitchen and pretty much took over all of the cooking at the end.  It was always a stressful period because my Dad hated these gatherings with a passion.  It was one of the few things I saw them really fight about and those last years I was always in the middle.  It got to a point where I dreaded the event but did it because I knew how important it was to my Mother. 

It was always a bit bacchanalian with the way my family loves eating.  People would have seconds or thirds of each dish.  We made massive amounts of food.  Now fast forward to this year.  All of us are at least over 50 with two couples over 60.  The event consisted of everyone taking a nice controlled (relatively speaking) plate of food, eating, and our sitting around and talking (with plenty of wine though - not much restraint there at least) for another few hours.  It was lovely, calm, sedate.  Not bad mind you, just very different from the memory temple of old.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Cooking Excitment

We are fortunate that we're going to have guests for this Thanksgiving.  With our family all over the world, that is never a given on a holiday.  And Thanksgiving was always a major get together for our extended family while my Mother was living.

Thanksgiving has a tendency to squelch creative cooking because there is such a desire by folks for what they grew up with.  This year I think I'm striking a nice balance between the traditional and some twists on the traditional.

I'm using a salt-curing technique for the turkey which I've done the last couple of years that is a lot easier than brining.  I'm trying a new dressing that is from an Italian tradition using Italian sausage.  I found a sweet potato/butternut squash recipe that has all the ingredients of traditional candied sweet potatoes but is in fact a Sephardic Jewish recipe from Spain (an homage to our recent trip).  And I made two cranberry sauces, the traditional, and a version I made up that is more hot (spicy), sweet and sour.

Should be a great dinner.   I've got the cooking spread out over the three days so I'm hoping to be nice a rested and enjoy our guests.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Avoid Flying on Dates I Am

Evidently my bad air travel karma is expanding.  Not only is it affecting the poor people that are traveling on planes with me but now it is extending to entire airlines!

I'm currently at the Albuquerque International Sunport (our rather grandiose name for our airport) waiting to get on our plane which is delayed because the entire airline's computer system is down!  No computer, no flight plans, no flights taking off.

My advice is that you cross check your future flight plans to make sure they are not on days that I am flying.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Things seem to be heading toward an end game with my Dad.  I say seem because in spite of an expressed desire to die, he does want to let go.  I've really thought about this.  Talked with those who've lost love ones.  And I'm pretty sure that he still has attachments to things/obligations/perceived obligations that are keeping him from letting go.

And there are caregiver issues that are hard to deal with from so far away.  And I'm the only one who can really deal with these so I'll be going back to CT on Thursday hoping to get some things settled but not overly optimistic that I will.

So I'm kind of blah which is not helping my work performance or my energy for exercising which I really need to do.  Nor inspiring my in the way of writing blog posts.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Magical Unicorn Pony God Still Pissed :(

Clearly I am on the Magical Unicorn Pony God shit list.

I was returning from scoping out the changes on the Father front (another post) connecting through Washington Dulles.  First leg was fine.  I had a couple of hours to kill.  Went to the gate.  Planes there.  Good.  But then suddenly they say you're leaving 45 minutes later and you're going to a different gate.  Turns out they commandeered the plane for a different flight.

Go to the other gate.  Plane is late coming in.  We're going to be more like an hour and a quarter later.  This is a flight that normally gets me in around 9 PM my time and I have a full schedule with four important meetings two of which I have already rescheduled.

We board the plane.  I get all settled.  Get my music and noise reducers on.  Get my book out.  Announcement.  There is FAA required maintenance check...has to be exceptions.  All of us have to deplane.  It's going to take around an hour and a half.  I learned my lesson from the Chicago trip and get on the phone and book the first flight out tomorrow morning. 

Go to the United Club and buy a nice glass of wine.  Intercom says flight to Albuquerque is boarding early.  Get to gate.  Gulp down wine.  Board the plane.  They tell me I've been upgraded to First.  Move from prior seat to front.  Get all settled.  Music and noise reducer are on.  Book is being read.  Announcement.  You all have to deplane.  Crew has timed out. 

In the gate area they say they are going to put us on a flight scheduled for LA and have the plane make an unscheduled stop in Albuquerque to drop us off!  I've never, ever heard of something like that.  We traipse over to the other gate.  Chaos.  LA passengers are PISSED.  The gate crew has no idea of how to actually get something like this in the system.  Takes them about 45 minutes to figure it all out.  We get on plane and take off around 4 hours late.

Told Wife to go to sleep, I'd take a cab home.  Forgot that cabs stop coming to airport after last scheduled flight comes in.  We aren't scheduled!  Go out at 1 AM and there are no cabs.  Fortunately a security guard calls one for me.  Get home at 1:30 so I can get up for my 7:30 meeting.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Pay It Forward

One of the neat things during our trip to Spain was how child friendly it was.  Almost every public place and restaurant always had families with kids.  People always looked at Munchkin with a smile.  We commented on how unlike the US it was.

I was in Chicago changing planes on my way to my Dad who is going down hill, in a pretty morose mood, and was having dinner.  It was crowded.  I was in a section of two tops with just one table next to me.  Along comes a mother with her son who was around 4.  He was clearly a high spirited lad.  Mom sat on the side next to me and had her son on the chair opposite. 

My first reaction was what it would have been prior to our Spain trip.  "Oh geez, I just want some peace and quiet" and would have been sending out all kinds of negative vibes.  But I was watching the Mom who was trying to have her son be quiet when he was clearly excited (I found out they were going to New York because his father had been scheduled to run in the now canceled NY Marathon).  So I told Mom it was totally OK for him to play, and told her of my traipsing my one year old granddaughter around just a few weeks ago.

So then the boy comes to our side (it was a bench).  He sits next to his mother...well not really sits more like perpetually wiggles.  He's pretty shy to begin with but I find out that his favorite thing is superheros.  I want to know who his favorite superhero is but he's more interested in finding out my name and he decides it would be cool if I were a superhero and I totally agree.

We were there another 15 or 20 minutes until we both had eaten.  I was starting to give him a few playful grabs and both he and Mom seemed very happy to be relaxed instead of worrying.  I got up to go and as I'm putting my bag together, the boy comes over and gives me a big hug.  I was glowing.  What a great way to put the blues behind.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Who Makes The Daylight Savings Time Decisions

What the heck is this with us going until Nov 4 before we can get rid of Daylight Savings Time.  It's fall.  I should be dark in the evening.  I have enough trouble getting going in the morning without having darkness until almost 8 AM for crying out loud.  Who makes these decisions any way.  Nobody asked me.  It used to be like the second weekend in October and then in April.  Now we're into November and it only goes until March.  I'd organize a protest if only I knew where to protest.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Magical Unicorn Pony God of Travel Why Have You Forsaken Me!

You're a good acolyte.  You find virgins and drop them in volcanoes (not the easiest thing to do in New Mexico).  You curse the amateur traveler in the name of the Magical Unicorn Pony God of Travel.  But you miss one month of virginal sacrifice because you're on vacation and under the bus you go.

So how long does it take to fly from Albuquerque to Chicago.  3 hours direct, 5 hours with a plane change or 14 hours if the Unicorn God is pissed off!

Part of it is my own fault.  I haven't been traveling as much over the last year or two and I've lost my edge.  There are certain things a frequent flyer should always do.  One of these is when your plane has mechanical problems and they make you get off the plane make alternative plans immediately.  Don't listen to them.  Don't trust them.  Get an alternative as soon as you can.

For some reason on Monday, I was trusting.  Bad mistake.  I flew from Albuquerque to Denver early and had a 10:17 flight from Denver to Chicago.  We got completely boarded when they announced they had an issue with plug and play part but that they weren't sure they had the part.  I should have paid attention to the ominous background music right then.  Instead I dithered and after 2+ hours of non-committal kicking the can down the road pronouncements from United Airlines (really, you don't have a part for one of your major aircraft in one of your major hubs?), I called to find my alternatives.  But on a Monday with other problems around the system happening the only availability was the last flight of the day which was going to get me in after midnight.

Fortunately for me, I also got wait listed for a flight at 5:40 which I managed to clear at the last moment AND even got a window, not middle seat.  Got into CHI at 9:30 so I had time to get some rest which was good because I had a talk to give in the morning the next day.

All you virgins living in my area, be on your guard.  The Magical Unicorn Pony God of Travel will be appeased!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Finishing Europe in Pictures - Part 5 (Finale) Alhambra Gardens and Water

And some of what I loved the best - the gardens and the use of water as a design element.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Finishing Europe in Pictures - Part 3 Alhambra Fortress and Ruins

All of these pictures are from the Alhambra in Granada as are those in the prior Part 2 and the ones in the next two posts.  They were all taken during our 5 hour tour.  It gives you just a glimpse at how magnificent this place must have been in its prime.