Not nearly enough snow…

Again, I love snow.  I am in full glory when we get 12+ inches.  Over the weekend we got big snow on Saturday and then a couple more inches on Sunday.  Good times.

Here is Rummy, enjoy the fresh snow Saturday morning:

blogbigsnow

I thought that S should wait to dig us out until after the snow stopped, but she had other ideas.  She actually enjoys shoveling snow.

blogsshovel

The owner (I think) of the little gas station around the corner from us is a very industrious man.  He has a Jeep and this winter he put a plow on it so he could run a side business plowing driveways.  I want to hire him on the days that we get ton of snow, but S wants to do it all by herself.  Seriously?  This picture only shows half of our driveway:

blogneedaplow

All day Sunday S complained about how much her arm and back muscles hurt.  I had very little sympathy.

Rested and ready, part four…

Also during my blogging absence, we hosted our first Thanksgiving in our new house.  Last year, even though we had just moved into the house we spent the holiday with my family in Wheeling.  But this year my mother came to visit for the holiday as did my brother, MK, and his girlfriend, Ginni

It was really nice to get to do all of the cooking again.  And I am so happy that we re-did the counters and the sink before I attempted to cook a big meal here.  The old kitchen would have grossed me out for food prep.  It was nice to find out that our kitchen is big enough to cook a holiday meal in without being cramped.  My mother bought me a huge roaster which I cooked the turkey in and that freed up the oven for pies and side dishes.  I have to say that the turkey prepared in the roaster was the best I have ever tasted.  When it was first done cooking and had rested for 30 minutes, I cut into it and all this juice poured out.  I feared that it wasn’t done or something, but no, that is what a truly moist turkey is supposed to be like.

And take a look at this magnificent pecan pie that I made…

pecanpie

Good times.  In fact, I would hope to get to host Thanksgiving for the rest of my life in this house.  It was so homey.  I think this might actually be one of the most perfect holiday homes ever.

But then there is Christmas…  Christmas belongs to the S family.  It always has and I fear that it always will.  Christmas Eve is really the big thing for them.  There is a family party at the home of S’s grandparents.  They decorate the house full of Christmas splendor and they spend weeks making their special pierogies, which are the main Christmas food.  We always unwrap some gifts at their house and we play Christmas Memory for the Christmas Cup.  Oh, yeah, and we drink a lot.  This year S and Bud added a new holiday twist with a musical performance of Christmas tunes.  S  played her sax and Bud played her flute and we all sang along through five songs.  I taped it and made a dvd for everyone in the family.  Good times.

We always stay past midnight on Christmas Eve, which means it is too late to travel anywhere else.  S’s brothers now have wives and houses not far from the parents, so they get to go home at the end of the night.  But we have to stay with her parents in the most uncomfortable guest bed ever.  In the morning Gil and Bud come back over to the house and we unwrap gifts and have a special breakfast.  Because of these activities, we don’t get around to seeing my family until late in the day on Christmas.  Sometimes it makes me sad but I would never ask S to give up Christmas Eve with her grandparents.

I hate that we might never get to celebrate Christmas in our own home.  And even though we have lots of decorations, I can’t really get into decorating for Christmas because we aren’t here to enjoy it.  This year we didn’t even get a tree until the 22nd and even then, I didn’t so much want one.  I only went out to get it because S really wanted a real tree for our house.

rummytree

That’s Rummy wondering why we brought nature into her house.

The one real Christmassy thing I did this year was bake.  I baked dozens upon dozens of cookies.  S took some of them to school and gave them away as gifts.  We took some to her family and some to my family.  And on one fateful evening, Emma and Rummy got into the cookies while we were out.  They ate about six dozen cookies.

cookies

You cannot tell me that those are not perfect peanut blossoms…  Rummy says they tasted great too.

We had a wrapping paper theme again this year.  We went with a plain, brown postal paper and then tied the packages with lovely ribbons.  Classy.

xmaswrap

The best gift we gave this year went to S’s mom.  We gave her a very easy to use MP3 player, bringing her into the digital age.  Nobody else would have given it to her, having no faith that she would be able to use it, but we had the faith.  We pre-loaded it with some music so that she would have something to lsiten to before she gets comfortable enough to download music on her own.  She loved it.  And she loved it all the more because we believed she’s be able to handle it.

The second best gift we gave went to my niece, Shaggy.  She is four and maybe the gift is a bit too old for her, but she seemed to be ready.  We got her a remote controlled dragon fly from Radio Shack.  It zips and zooms in the air.  She seemed to really like it.  And her older sister was jealous, so we knew for sure that we had picked the right thing.

xmasdk

This picture was taken at DK the Asshat’s house Christmas evening.  The dragonfly had gotten off track and flown into the Christmas tree.

Okay, so now the blog is all caught up.

Random thoughts…

We went to the ‘Burgh last weekend to meet Lil Bud.  She is pretty damned cute.  We took tons of pictures.  I don’t mind saying, thank G_d she looks more like her mother than her father.

Again, driving into Pittsburgh was complete Hell.  I-79 South is being closed for 10 minutes at a time off and on during the day which causes major traffic congestion.  When we finally got to S’s parent’s house, I vowed that we were never again driving to Pittsburgh, but I am sure that vow will be broken.

Trying to leave Pittsburgh is also Hell, no matter what the time of day.

Why doesn’t John McCain have rallies at times when it would be easy for me to attend?

S and I filled out our mail-in ballots last week.  I am going to take them to the Board of Elections office instead of putting them in the mail.  I do not trust the mail.

We both voted NO on all of the ballot issues.  There were five.  Two biggies… one to shut down the Pay-Day lending institutions and one to allow a casino down in Columbus.  I’m against gambling but not against allowing people to get short term loans at outrageous interest rates.

I just remembered that I was supposed to call our vet today.  Totally forgot.  Emma has a huge lump growing on her chest (the size of a turkey breast).  It is probably a fatty tumor, which is common in Labs.  She had one two years ago on her side and had to have surgery.  She seems healthy and it doesn’t seem to be impeding her movement at all, so I haven’t been too worried about it.  But S started freaking out about it this weekend.

Driving around Pittsburgh…

Let me start by saying that I really did love the years that I spent living in Pittsburgh.  It is my adopted home town considering I lived there for over a decade.  I loved going to college there.  I loved being a young adult there.  I loved the sports there (still do).  I loved the different neighborhoods there.  I loved the architecture there.  But I never, ever loved driving there.

Pittsburgh is a city that was designed by a bunch of drunken, retarded monkeys.  Someone must have given them booze and pencils and commanded them to create the various roads, bridges and tunnels.  There is no possible way that the city was planned by sober human beings.  I also firmly believe that the planning and scheduling of road/bridge/tunnel construction is done by the great-great, in-bred, offspring of the drunken retarded monkeys.  There is no other possible way to explain the Pittsburgh roadways.

Yesterday we left Cleveland, which is the #1 dying city in the country, with relative ease.  Hardly any traffic congestion even through the construction zones.  The Cleveland area hardly ever has horrific driving conditions, even during lake effect snow storms.  Sure, sometimes traffic will get backed up by a large accident, but all of the main highways have three or four lanes, so you can almost always get around the accidents.  The only real slow downs are caused by people wanting to see the accident as they drive by as slow as possible.  Driving in and around Cleveland is kind of easy for a big city.  Even with pot holes and construction, this city is easy to traverse.

We took the Ohio/Pennsylvania turnpike after we got out of Cleveland.  There was hardly any traffic on the turnpike, which was nice.  I didn’t really see much construction in either OH or PA on our way going east.  We got off of the turnpike in Cranberry, PA and hooked up with I-79 South.  Construction and some minor slow downs.  We then hooked up with I-279 South, heading into Pittsburgh from the area known as the North Hills.  Generally speaking, you should take this road at night because it gives you a brilliant view of the emerging city as you get closer and closer, although the best “opening shot” is through the Fort Pitt tunnels, night or day.

Anyway, there was a ton of construction on 279 South.  The regular lanes were closed off and we were directed through the HOV lanes.  The HOV lanes are just two lanes which most of 279 (north and south) are three lanes, which caused some of the bottle neck effect.  We took 279 to the Veterans Bridge, at which point it becomes 376 East.  It was already 4:00 on a Friday and a Steelers game day, so I wanted off of the Parkway and onto the side streets.  I intended to get off the Parkway downtown, near the Civic Arena (Go Pens!) but traffic was so thick that I couldn’t get over.

If you can’t get off of the Parkway at that point you get stuck in the swirling vortex that is the Liberty Bridge/Tunnel.  It is a notorious traffic hell hole in Pittsburgh.  And of course, we got stuck in it on a Friday during rush hour.  Bastards.  That lost us about 30 minutes, just sitting idle in traffic.  Once I navigated through it, I thought I could just continue on 376 E to the Blvd of the Allies in Oakland.  Not the worst thing in the world since it is a very nice view of the city.

What I didn’t know, but probably should have expected, is that the Blvd of the Allies was closed for construction, which meant I couldn’t take that exit.  And by not being able to take that exit, I was not able to hit the proper side roads to catch the Hot Metal Bridge from Oakland (Go Pitt!) over to the South Side.

That’s a picture of the Hot Metal Bridge, taken from NOT the road I needed to be on.  So we just passed it on by, continuing on 376 E, heading towards Monroeville.  This has to be the worst stretch of road in the United States.  It is a three lane highway that feeds into a two lane tunnel in Squirrel Hill.  Time comes to a complete standstill on this road.  In my 10+ years living in Pittsburgh, I avoided this stretch of road unless it was 4:00 in the morning, which is the only time cars are able to move at speeds higher than 2 mph.

While I was having mini strokes brought on by trying to navigate Pittsburgh, S thought it would be fun to document our detour hell in pictures.  What she didn’t know at the time was that I was seriously considering driving all the way out to Monroeville on 376 E so that I could hook back up with the turnpike and get us back to the sanity that is, sadly enough, Cleveland.  One more detour sign and I was totally going to pull the trigger on my escape route.

This is a picture that gives you the essence of Pittsburgh.  Lots of hills and winding side roads with houses built into the hills. 

Thankfully I was able to get off of 376 E in Squirrel Hill (the best neighborhood in the ‘Burgh), but that meant I had to meander my way through Homestead, which nobody should ever have to do.  It also meant that I had gone way past where I needed to be and so had to double back, once I got across the river.  Homestead is depressing.  Here is the photographic proof:

After we did the Homestead meander, we finally made it to the S Family home.  Now, I would like to remind you that we got into Pittsburgh proper at 4:00 pm.  We finally got to our destination at 5:45 pm.  That is just sad.  And it all stems from a poorly designed city.

The great reward for our perseverance was giving Mr. S his birthday t-shirt:

Mr. S is a fisherman.  He loves to fish and he owns a dozen fishing t-shirts, but until yesterday, he didn’t own one that said “Feeling Crappie“.  We also gave him a Crocodile Dundee movie set that contains all three Dundee movies.  Honestly, I didn’t even know it was a trilogy.  He seemed thrilled.

However, I think his favorite gift was this:

It is a Steelers astro-turf can coozie, given to him by el Jeffe.

And no birthday party would be complete without a picture of the S Family wiener dog, Leopold.

I shall conclude with a brief summation:  Pittsburgh sucks if you are in a car.  Dundee Trilogy?  Can coozie good.  Leopold is old.

The Rum watch…

During our evening walks, we have been seeing the stray cat that I named Chopstick, sleeping on various doorsteps around the neighborhood.  He’s a cute cat, though a lot less cute after months and months of being homeless.  His fur isn’t sleek and beautiful like it once wad.  And he has lost weight. 

The other day we found him sleeping on a tree stump in our driveway.

He slept there for a couple of hours and the entire time, Rummy watched with baited breath from the farthest reaches of her tie-out chain.

The best part of having a roaming cat like Chopstick is that we have been finding lots of dead mice around our yard and garage.  Dead mice found outside means no live mice to be found inside.

Good things…

In effort to prove my contention that I am not an angry person, I will post a few of the things that I am happy about this week.

1. Looking over my current DirecTV bill I found that my NFL Sunday Ticket has automatically been renewed, at the early purchase discount rate, no less.  Yeah!  You have no idea just how much I love football.  Or just how much I love my Pittsburgh Steelers.  If it had not been automatically renewed, I might have had some purchasing guilt over it again this year like I did last year.  It’s kind of a lot of money to spend on watching football when there is really just the one football fan in the house.  Sure, S likes watching Steelers games, but she does not live and die with them like I do.  But, the decision has sort of been made for me and I have a little less guilt.

2.  I am totally enjoying our evening walks with the dogs.  And the dogs are quite pleased as well.  During the walks we’ve gotten to meet more and more of our neighbors and a local police officer who lives on the next street up from ours.  I like participating in the community, even if it is just in a small way.  Also, S has started taking Rummy jogging in the afternoons and they both seem to be enjoying that.  Emma and I get to stay home, which pleases both of us.

3.  The county fairs start next week!  We love county fairs.  Oh, the corn dogs I will be eating…

4.  We found a decent local pie place and last night we tried out some pies.  We bought four different slices to share and sample and they were all pretty good.  When we lived on the other side of town we had a great dessert place that we indulged in, but it is now way too far away for the indulgence.  But now we can at least get a pie fix on this side of town.

5. This morning we watched the trailer for the new Harry Potter movie, due out in November.  Brilliant from the looks of it so far.  The Tom Riddle boy seems like perfect casting.

6. Last Thursday I purchased and then grilled to perfection a Porterhouse steak.  Life is good, very good. 

7.  We are having house guests this weekend, S’s brother and his wife.  Which means we get to show off the house again and I do love that.

8.  A family has moved into the house next door to us.  Mother, father and children.  The house has been vacant since before we bought our house and while I enjoyed the quiet and the privacy, I worried about living next to a somewhat run-down, empty house. 

I thought I would have ten things, but no.  Oh wait, I started reading a really good book last night.  Yeah, that’s #9.  Oh, and in the past two weeks I read biographies of James Madison, James Monroe and John Tyler, so there, that’s #10.

Colonel Mustard…

Back on March 26th, I wrote a post called Random Thoughts, which really was chock full ‘o’ random thoughts.  A few of those thoughts focused on how our yard has become Mecca to all the loose dogs in the neighborhood.  One of those regular visitors is Colonel Mustard, a little Scotty dog who lives across the street with a little old woman and a bunch of teenagers. 

Colonel Mustard’s teenagers don’t keep a real good eye on him during the day when his little old lady is away.  He gets out of their house and comes over to our yard to relieve his bladder and bowels.  When he first started visiting I worried quite a bit that he might come over when our dogs are outside and there would be lots of fur and spittle.  Perhaps there would be blood.  Sometimes I would chase him off but often he would just stand in my yard and bark at me like I was the intruder.  That pissed me off, so I stopped worrying so much about his saftey in MY yard.

Apparently I shouldn’t have ever worried at all…

That’s Colonel Mustard sneaking up on EmmaEmma is not so much of a gaurd dog though.

Usually Emma is such a wuss, she runs away from any sign of trouble.  If she so much as smells a skunk nearby, she demands to be let into the house.  But she played with Colonel Mustard.  They romped around with one another and did the sniffing thing. 

When Rummy relaized there was a yard visitor, she wanted to be let outside.  I thought she might chase Colonel Mustard off, but no.  They sniffed one another several times and then she followed him around while he marked our yard as his territory.