Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving Weekend

We have had a nice holiday weekend. There were ten of us Thanksgiving Day, including FDIL, as well as her parents, two great people who are already beginning to feel like family. Wife’s parents made the trip over from Arkansas and it was great to have them too. We are indeed blessed.

Wife once again pulled off a wonderful Thanksgiving Day meal, the presentation of which was beautiful and the taste of which was scrumptious. It is a great deal of work for one meal and the clean-up – my part – is lengthy.

Worth it? No question about that.


I have read a couple of items lately that are definitely signs of the times, as well as indicators of how out-of-touch (and old?!) I am becoming.

The first was a story about evolving manners of communication. Seems most younger folks send text messages more than they talk by telephone. Facebook messages are big too.

E-mail? It’s old fashioned, and the piece I read referred to it as “still used by many OLDER adults (emphasis mine).”

No additional comment needed on that.

The piece I read yesterday was about telephone directories, particularly the White Pages. Apparently, telephone service providers in a number of states are getting permission from the regulators to stop publishing them altogether. This is reportedly due to the fact that (a) people are eliminating their home phones (“land lines”) and moving to cell phones (numbers for which are generally not listed) at a rapid clip and (b) people rely on the Internet more and more to look up information previously provided by the telephone book (addresses and home phone numbers).

I am among those who use the Internet for these search functions. Here is the irony, though: with all the advances in communication and technology, I find that it's harder to locate people with whom I might not regularly communicate. Since most cell phones aren't "listed," I can't get a phone number for someone who has a cell number but not a land line. And it seems that many of the people who have both don't answer their home phones anymore.

Just a couple of days ago, Wife was wanting to contact one of her book club members. We were able to find an address but no phone number.

Wife has insisted that we keep our home phone service and even though she has a cell phone (an i-Phone, no less), the land line is still her preference when she's at home. As for me, I keep my cell in my pocket and have joined those who just let the home phone ring -- until Wife asks me to answer it.

I hope you have all had an enjoyable holiday weekend. We have watched football until our eyes blurred. We reached near hysteria yesterday when Auburn, after being down 24-0 at one point in the first half to its bitter rival Alabama (at which time you could hear a pin drop in our playroom where eight of us were gathered watching), roared back to an incredible 28-27 victory. This capped off a perfect 12-0 season and a berth in the SEC championship game vs. South Carolina next Saturday in Atlanta, where a victory will secure a spot in the BCS championship game.

The Cam Newton pay-for-play drama is as yet unresolved but, for now, we Auburn fans are euphoric.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Food facts

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. There are probably a lot of reasons for that, but it’s probably because it’s less commercial than Christmas has become, it’s in the fall which is my favorite season and so much of it centers around FOOD!

Thanksgiving dinner when I was growing up always consisted of the typical turkey and dressing, cranberry sauce and sides like sweet potatoes, corn pudding and green beans. Then there were the salads – tomato soup and strawberry. Tomato soup salad is not to be confused with tomato aspic which I don’t care for. Desserts were key, of course, and my favorite to this day is pecan pie.

I don’t like to think of myself as a picky eater (Wife is laughing hysterically as she reads this) but, rather, a discriminating one. To her credit, Wife has put up with my weird and sometimes changing preferences over the years. Thanksgiving, the holiday that so pertains to food, seems a good time to share some of those.

As for Thanksgiving dinner, I love, love, love turkey and dressing. “Dressing,” of course, is a regional thing and it has a lot of different incarnations. Here in the South, it’s cornbread dressing and one would never think of putting it inside the turkey. In other words, to us it’s not “stuffing.” I don’t make it myself but I know that one of the key spices is sage and that smell is wonderful. It always makes me think of my mother who made cornbread dressing very similar to how Wife makes it.

I don’t eat gravy of any kind, although it’s a main staple of the Thanksgiving dinner. To be quite candid, it just grosses me out. It grossed me out when my dad put it on turkey, dressing and rolls and it poured over into other food on his plate, and it grosses me out still. I know, that’s crazy, and many people that I love, love gravy, just as my dad – who I also loved, of course – did.

That leads me to other food things that gross me out, like ketchup. I eat it on the rare occasion I eat French fries or onion rings, and when I used to eat hamburgers I would put a little on a burger (more on that later). But I can’t stand to look at ketchup in any other way. Again, people I love will put it on hash brown potatoes or even scrambled eggs at breakfast and all I can do is look the other way. Kind of the same with baked beans – just can’t stand to look at them or eat them.

Texture has a lot to do with my food preferences. I can’t do things that are mushy and creamy (with the exception of desserts).

On to meat. I could probably be a vegetarian; I just don’t want to be. I don’t eat red meat of any kind except hamburger as part of the ingredients in spaghetti or lasagna, both of which I love. My preference would be to make it with ground turkey but since I don’t make it, I keep my mouth shut about that. I don’t like steak or beef of any kind and haven’t had a piece in years. My mother cooked a roast on many Sundays when I was growing up and maybe the repetition is what made me a non-beef eater.

The last hamburger I ate was in Chicago in 2006. We were downtown on a Sunday just before catching the el train to Wrigley Field for a Cubs game. It was about 11 a.m. and a lot of places were closed. We found a bar that would serve us and the owner of the place said their burgers were famous. Well, they might have been famous but they were also cooked medium rare and when I did eat red meat, I could not tolerate anything but well done. I ate about one-fourth of the burger and that was all I could do. So that was it with me and hamburgers. Call me un-American.

I like chicken and I prefer it grilled and very tender. I love fried chicken but don’t eat it very often. I do love it, though. I’ll eat fish of just about any kind, prepared just about any way. I’ll eat pork sparingly, my favorite being pork tenderloin, for which Wife has a number of outstanding recipes.

I like almost all fruits and most vegetables (but not squash, asparagus or Brussels sprouts). I love fresh vegetables from the garden in the summer and could eat my weight in tomatoes. I love bread of any kind but try to eat whole wheat as much as possible and really, I like it better. I love yeast rolls oozing with butter but I can pass on them pretty easily. I love pancakes and waffles for breakfast but I don’t care for eggs of any kind. Generally, I eat oatmeal for breakfast and believe it or not, I eat it dry with a little fruit and maybe a handful of walnuts. When it’s cooked, I get into that texture thing again. While we’re in the breads/grains group, I love pasta and much prefer red sauce over white. I love crackers and crunchy stuff too, likes nuts and granola bars.

I like potatoes, but not mashed (texture again). I don’t like sweet potatoes.

My favorite food on this earth is dessert. I have just an awful sweet tooth. Cakes, pies, ice cream, you name it. So while I can be smug and say how much I like fruits and vegetables, there is no doubt how much I love sweets and I wish I didn’t.

I like casseroles OK but they are not high on my list, except for Wife's incredible chicken spaghetti that our friends and friends of our children drool over.

As for drinks, I have never acquired the taste for coffee and neither has Wife. Just can’t stand the taste of it. We got a coffee maker when we got married and used it for our guests until about two years ago when we replaced it with an updated model. The fact is I rarely drink anything hot unless it’s very, very cold outside and then I’ll drink a cup of tea or cider. I love wine and beer, in moderation of course, but have never cared for the hard stuff. I also love milk (and its byproduct, cheese!)

Funny thing about "soft drinks" in the South. We call them all "Cokes." "Let's have a Coke" can mean a literal Coca-Cola, but can also mean Pepsi, Sprite, 7-UP -- you get the picture. Depending on where you live, you might call it soda, pop or soda pop. I drink a Diet Coke most days and I think the caffeine gives me the lift a lot of folks get from coffee.

Most of you reading this are probably thanking your lucky stars you don't have to live with me and all these quirks. Can't say I blame you.

But I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving and hope you will enjoy some very good food!

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Haven't said a lot here lately. I've had a nasty cold that I'm just getting over and I promptly gave it to Wife, who was not at all appreciative. She is about three days behind me and we have been sleeping apart for our own good.


I wrote a long post last week about a trip I took to a used piano store and when I went back and read it, it bored me to tears so, in deference to those of you who are kind enough to drop by here from time to time, I decided not to bore YOU with that.

But to give you the condensed version, I took a couple of old dining room chairs, which I inherited from my parents, to a furniture repair shop I located on the Internet. The chairs are ancient. One had literally fallen apart and one was well on its way. New chairs are not in the budget. Wife and I know we want to replace both table and chairs at some point but again, not going to happen soon.

I delivered them last Thursday and to my delight, the proprietor of the furniture repair shop deals in old pianos that he buys, restores and re-sells. He also sells some on consignment.

After telling him about the chairs and after his telling me he thought he could repair them or sub them out to someone who can, we began to talk about his pianos. As someone who has played the piano since the age of six, this was incredibly interesting and fun for me. He had two baby grands that were made in the 1920s, several uprights, including a Steinway signed by Theodore Steinway, and a few studio pianos.

He told me stories on almost each piano and insisted I play a few notes. The sounds they made were heavenly.

So that's the story. It was an unexpectedly fun experience for me and I can't wait to go back and pick up the chairs and see what new instruments he might have.


You know what a college football fan I am. Once Older Son went to Auburn University in 2004, we all became ravenous fans. I laughingly say that I have purchased my allegiance, with Older Son, then Daughter, matriculating there, and Younger Son headed that direction next fall.

It's been a storybook season for the Auburn Tigers. They're 11-0 . They have clinched the SEC West and their quarterback, Cam Newton, has taken the place by storm and is the clear front runner for the Heisman Trophy.

Only now it looks like Cam's daddy "shopped" him around when he was leaving Junior College and looking for a place to land which is, of course, a huge no-no. The NCAA is all over it and the whole season could go down the drain if it's found that Cam Newton was in fact ineligible.

Not that it's all about me, but this is the story of my life with regard to the athletic teams I have supported over my lifetime. Always so close, always getting to the point of winning the big prize, only to have something like this happen. Makes one want to look for a new hobby.

Friday, November 12, 2010

You gotta read this one

FDIL is also a blogger. Her blog has a theme: it's all quotes from her fifth grade students. It's hilarious and you simply must read the most recent entry about the "Jingle Pills." You can read it here:

Trust me, it'll make you laugh.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Friday Night Lights: A Retrospective

It's a cold Saturday morning and we had a frost last night, the first hard one of the season. We finally turned the heat on, just two days after running the air conditioning. And of course around these parts, we could have the AC humming again in a couple of days.

Younger Son's football season -- and his football playing days -- came to an end last night. It was the first round of the playoffs and, unfortunately, we were never really in the game against a powerhouse neighboring county team at their home field. This year's playoff system had two district champs playing each other so a good team (us) got knocked out early.

Younger Son was a bit teary when Wife and I met him on the field after the game, as were most of the senior players. These young athletes, so big and seemingly mature, still have a lot of "boy" in them (thankfully) and the emotion of losing their first playoff game and having their last season end so rudely played itself out in their hearts and on their faces, as it should. God gave them those emotions and they're nothing of which to be ashamed.

Wife and I experienced our own emotions on the ride home last night. Younger Son was our only football player in the family and he started when he was in sixth grade, playing in our local city league. We've been going to his football games for seven seasons.

He and I cut a family beach vacation short a couple of days to get him home for his first ever football practice in the late summer of 2004. Earlier that summer we had gone over to the league field house and gotten his equipment -- the helmet, practice pants and jersey, and pads.

As I remember, we arrived home from the beach a couple of hours before the practice was to start. I thought that, since I had not been a football player, I had better study all of this and make sure I knew how to get all of it on him. There appeared to be pads that were inserted into slots in his pants that appeared to correspond with his thighs, knees and butt.

Only I could not figure out what went where, how the belt was to feed through the belt loops or much of anything else for that matter. Younger Son was more helpless than I. I called a neighbor boy who had just graduated from high school with Older Son, a football player, and enlisted his help. He was over in minutes, got it all assembled and we soon had Younger Son outfitted. He walked awkwardly, kind of like the little boy from the movie "Christmas Story" who was so decked out in layers of apparel to keep him warm that he can hardly walk, and when he got pushed over he fell flat and couldn't get up.

The rest, as they say, is history, and Younger Son went on to play for two years in the city league, a year in middle school and four years in high school. He has had his ups and downs along the way and there has definitely been some associated heartache, especially in the high school years. We have had conversations about whether he would continue. I never tried to persuade him one way or the other; it was always his decision. As time went on a lot of his friends on the team called it quits and, consequently, he missed some activities in which he would have liked to participate and he ended up with only a few good friends on the team.

His perseverance and dedication were total and, unfortunately, that wasn't always rewarded. As his dad, that was tough to watch at times. And I know that my speeches on character building and life lessons got tiresome. I told him more than once that, despite feelings to the contrary, it would all go very fast.

Last Friday night, our last home game where we captured the district title, was Senior Night. Before the game, Wife and I walked on the field on either side of him right after he had presented Wife with a yellow rose and both of us with a note he had written, in which he thanked us for sticking by him through all of this.

And last night it ended. After he had gotten back to the school and changed, he called me. He was fine and said he was going to come home and shower, then go meet some of his friends.

Wife and I both hugged him again when he got home. I asked him if it was a somber ride back to the school and he said not really, that most of them realized they had had a good season and there was no use dwelling on it.

He showered quickly. He came downstairs and told us goodbye. He opened the door to leave, looked back over at me and said, "It flew, didn't it?"

"What's that?" I asked.


"Yes," I said quietly. "It sure did."


Here are some shots from the season:

On the offensive line

With his bro and sis

With his proud mom and dad

The "fam"

(BELOW:) the night he was captain; number 70

With his buds

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Election Returns

Some thoughts from this week’s mid-term elections (and I’ll stay off of politics for a while after this):

The news analysts are going crazy trying to figure out what kind of impact the Tea Party and “Tea Party candidates” had on the elections. It boosted Republicans but also hurt them, they’re telling us. Well, maybe. Ultimately, though, it comes down to – shock of shocks – voter preference.

As I have said before, I generally vote Republican but not always. If I lived in Delaware, I would not have voted for Republican Christine O’Donnel. If I lived in Florida I would have voted for Charlie Crist, who ran as an independent, instead of the Republican Marco Rubio. And if I had been an Alaskan voter, I would have written in Lisa Murkowski’s name. I’m not really too concerned about whether a candidate is part of the so called Tea Party or not, a movement with which I have some sympathies but also some differences.

Like any movement or group, there are strong and weak candidates. But obviously, this is a force to be reckoned with. More important is the fact that it’s the independent voter who is calling the shots in this country. As I read somewhere, “Yes we can” has met head on with, “Oh no you don’t.”


I had been kind of excited about Tuesday night and thought it would be fun hearing the reports coming in from around the country and hearing the pundits babble a bit. Ultimately, though, it was the same tired rhetoric and not that interesting. Whether it was Fox, CNN, or one of the other networks, the talking heads were telling us the same thing with perhaps a different spin here and there. They seemed more excited about the cool special effects – touch-screen poll results, stand-alone graphs that seem to pop up out of the floor, etc. -- than anything very substantive.

And the candidates? Would someone please give them some new material? How many times over the course of my life watching election returns have I heard from every corner and every political persuasion something equivalent to, “The people have spoken and we are taking this country back?” Back from who? Back from what? Again, try something new.


I’m done with rock-star politicians. I had a lot of respect and admiration for Sarah Palin when John McCain picked her as his running mate. I think she did a decent job in the campaign. I realize, especially after reading the book Game Change and other accounts of the 2008 election, that she was in way over her head and of course the media crucified her. In hindsight, she probably wasn’t the best pick for McCain. Still, I think she gave it a good run, and in my continuing quest to believe the best in people, I like to believe she had the best interest of the country at heart. (I even believe that about Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank -- really).

If only she would have gone back to Alaska and finished the job to which she had been elected, I might still be one of her defenders. But I believe that she turned her back on the citizens of Alaska when she resigned as their governor and she lost me as a supporter when she did it. That was the job to which she had been elected and she should have fulfilled her commitment (unless, of course, she had actually gone on to be vice president). When she made the announcement that she was resigning, she said something totally nonsensical about not continuing “politics as usual,” as if that catch phrase was supposed to explain why she was abandoning the people who elected her.

She was barely out of the governor’s office before she was writing a book, touring the country on a bus and signing on with Fox News. I’ve heard that her daughter is on Dancing With the Stars and I don’t know if she’s considered a star or she dances with one (I’ve never seen the show). And of course a run for the presidency in a couple of years is probable. Her style is not unlike that of Barack Obama himself, once the darling of a certain brand of up-and-comers. She’s the darling of a whole different and diametrically opposed brand of them, of course, but the similarities are there.

And this ilk of politics – and politician -- turns me off.