Oh the hats in Chi – happy new year

The beginning. Pajama party. The end. 2013. You have been good to me. Challenging. But good. Thank you 2013. Dear 2014, you better be fucking amazing. And epic. And completely amazing. And epic. My third year in Chi for New Years, I wouldn't have it any other way. It's snowing out, the air is thick with alcohol. It's New Year's! It's a stay in party. An all week prep for a warm cozy night with old friends and new friends, all good friends. I love this crowd. Especially when they put up with my southern ways. What a spread. The food, simply amazing. The wine. The beer. The whiskey (see, they do know the southern boy). North side Chi-town hardwood floors. Perfectly cleaned with love and elbow grease. The reward. Purple Cowboy! The whole place smelled of heaven. It's the end of the year. It's actually an end to a lot more. It's a start of a new year. A start of a new adventure. They say you can either sink or swim. And I say that you cannot do either if you don't get in the water. So I jump in. My life is changing drastically in the next few weeks, and in times like these, traditions of being with true friends as the ball drops, yeah - that's what keeps me alive and awake. He drinks a whisky drink The future is not always certain. But I do know that the days will march on. And if I choose to not react and simply let time fly by. And if I choose to have no passion. And if I choose to be in the audience rather than the show. Well, then. Fuck me, I'm screwed. He drinks a vodka drink People are real. I swear. Cross my heart. I just found out myself, therefore will completely understand if you have a hard time believing me. Really, they are living and breathing the same air as you. Even in 3D (without any special glasses), which is pretty cool if you ask me. But because of this, it also means they can get hurt. Which also means that they will bleed. It can happen. He drinks a lager drink Men shoveling snow. It's still snowing. Are you chasing your tail? Is anything ever complete? Back home it is leaves. Do I rake every time a leaf falls or do I wait until they are all laying dead on the ground.  If you wait, will the sun melt the snow, the wind blow the leaves away. I don't have time to wait. It must be now. He drinks a cider drink Smile. Do you know how fucking much it means to someone when you smile at them. Even if it's just a friendly passing smile in the airport. There's energy. Compassion. Love. A simple "Hey, how are you.?" Get your heads out of your text message. In person. Be there. In the NOW! He sings the songs that remind him I think this year has taught me one big lesson Love me, hate me, I don't care. But regardless, I will love you in some capacity. I've had the deepest conversations with people I had never met before. Partially because I just wanted to talk. Something on my mind. I'll never see them again, so what does it matter. I no longer believe in bull shit. Let it come out. You have friends and family when it becomes a life issue. But really, who is to say that a random stranger can't offer another view point that opens up the reality and help. Unbiased. Honest. True. Brutal sometimes. Of the good times Southern comfort. Some nights. I count my blessings every day that I wake up in a bed. And every cup of coffee I pour myself. And every pair of jeans I pull over my tired feet. He sings the songs that remind him Maybe I don't have the best plan. But I have a plan. And that plan is to work hard and play hard. And worker harder. And I refuse to go down without trying. And if I fail. Well. Then I try again. And if I fail. Well. Then I try again. And one day... Of the better times The year 2014 will not be easy. If it were easy, everyone would do it. But. It will be real. And real is what I want. Need. Crave. So here's my real. Right in front of me. And I cannot do this without family and friends. Those that listen to my crazy ideas and support me. They may not believe in ny ideas, but they believe in me. It's balls to the wall. It's try to keep up or I'll leave you in my dust. To the hats in Chi, I love you. I live on the edge of insanity. You put up with me. I may act irresponsible. I'm the most grounded person you will probably ever meet. I got this shit. Yes, I fuck up often. I'll admit that when it happens. I'm out there. Trying. For me. If you want to go for a ride, hop in. Cheers & Happy New Year, Me (10)

Merry Christmas 2013

"And so this is Christmas…" I jumped up this morning from a happy dream into a cold sweat. The next few months are going to be tight, how am I going to make it? That's all I could think about. And then it kicked in. The drive. So I put on a pot of extra strong coffee and sat down to fight deep copy versus shallow copy on javascript arrays. Yes, I was working. And the coffee was excellent. Santa hasn't made it here yet. I suppose he is waiting for me to go pick up the kids since I was up half the night. My tree looks like shit, but has character thanks to the cat. And I am OK with this. IMG_20131225_112302_282 After resolving a few bugs, I decided it was time to make the phone calls and text messages and FaceBook messages to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. The work can wait. Well, no, it really can't wait. But, family and friends come first, and long after the kids are worn out this evening and well on their way to dream land, I will be up. Working. But until then, I think that I should really put it down and see how my skills with wrapping paper and tape are this year. Probably not any better than the last 10 years. The kids will be here in a few hours, and although this year is *light* - it will still be a good time. I had a weird, sinking feeling yesterday. This is the first year since the divorce that I have not taken the kids to Orlando for Christmas. With the way Christmas fell on Wednesday and their school holiday schedule, it just didn't make sense. Usually I'm writing this from warmer weather, and it kind of makes me sad. The kiddos understand, but this is our thing. Last year peppered our vacation with 24 hour stomach bugs, but we got through it and made the best of it with trying to find Lego Santas in LegoLand. And then there is the whole waking up on Christmas morning to presents under the tree. It's become a coming over at 3 PM to find presents under the tree. I suppose that it does relieve Santa of some pressure to get here in the middle of the night. He's a busy guy, for sure! Well, maybe it doesn't really matter. I mean, it's Christmas. And what ever we do together is what is important. I'll spend the afternoon and evening with the kids, the dog, the cat. And I'll probably cook a horrible dinner tonight because I don't feel like cooking. But that is OK, we are together. So to all of you out there... Merry Christmas!

Dad wants pie

Well, he does! I suggested that I would bring the normal drunken pumpkin pie for dinner tonight. And then I called him the other day and told him about the mamey sapote I had ordered for what I hope to be the last batch of wine this year (no, that's a lie, lavender is also happening this year) and somehow he got on the subject of sweet potatoes. And raisins. So the request changed to "Dad wants sweet potato pie with raisins" and my Caribbean rum loving self says, "and rum." Because what pie isn't better with rum! So yesterday, off to the store for sweet potatoes, milk and eggs. Yeah, no, I came back with all sorts of goodies. Ground lamb for chili tomorrow (unless Mom sends home leftovers and then it's Saturday chili night). Oh, and raisins. Which reminds me once when my sister and I were much younger, still living in Ohio, Mom had these little pie dishes and we made raisin pie. I don't recall if they were good or not, my 6 or 7 year old taste buds probably thought they were delicious. Or maybe it was just the fact that I was baking with my sister. I think we also made Cheerio pie once, who knows. Which then got me to thinking about where I am now. And yes, also about the Thanksgiving holiday. If there really even is one. I mean Black Friday was bad enough, only once in my life did I venture out. But no, now it's Fucking Thursday. And I don't mean the thing that happens in bed (or on the kitchen counter). Sure, you go line up at 7 PM at that Wally place to get your $69 LCD TV and your  $10 deep fryer. Because you know, that shit is more important. Damn, just come to my house and you can have my TV for free. But you will stay and have a drink and we can chat and hang out because I could give 10 shits about my TV, but I give a shit ton about you. All of you. Those people in my life that are friends, family, acquaintances. No, I don't "need" the holidays. I need my kids, my family, my friends, the people that make life rich and full of awesome sauce. The ones I would drop anything for and they would drop anything for me. That is what I am thankful for. And I can celebrate that every day of the year. But I am looking forward to sweet potato pie.

Thanksgiving 2012

No crazy duck theme Thanksgiving this year, the themed dinners are now every other year. You see, I won't have the kids tomorrow, and I should be sad, but I'm not. We just moved our Thanksgiving to Friday. We be flexible like that! So what shall I do tomorrow? I could sit around and drink beer and watch football. No. I'm going to be out in the yard working on my landscaping project that gets larger every time I look at it. It's going to be a beautiful weekend, why not take advantage of it? (And hey, there's always the possibility of redefining sexy through Carolina clay and sweat and white T-Shirts) It's a trade off, really. The kid's school schedule is all in a tangle this year for Christmas, only one week off. So I give a little (for Thanksgiving). And take a little (for Christmas). It's all good! I guess the only down side is that Lola has to go to the doggie hotel on Sunday before Christmas since they are closed for drop off on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We leave for our vacation on the 26th at the wonderful hour of 5 AM. Wow, that will be fun waking the kids up. Anyways, I guess the point is that it pays to be flexible and not "keep score." It makes a much better life. What am I thankful for? You silly women with these "secret" posts on Facebook, yeah, a month of "Day xx: I'm thankful for..." I get it, but seriously, the dudes are thankful for shit too! So here we go, I'm not doing every day in November, I'm exercising just10things: 1. Spandex - No, I'm kidding (maybe). Hoodies, cause it has gotten down right chilly out there 2. Kids - they just freaking rock. Sometimes they aren't the most well behaved, but I love them unconditionally 3. Family - I've learned a lot from them and they continue to enrich my life 4. Friends - Uh, TRUE friends. Repeat, TRUE friends! 5. Simplicity - because complex is a pain in the back side 6. A roof over my head 7. Food on the table 8. The truth - you never know how important it is to you until it's a lie 9. My drunkin' punkin' pie recipe, except I forgot the pie shell 10. To be alive and to being surrounded by friends and family Cheers my friends, Happy Thanksgiving!

Ducksgiving in (hopefully) 10 easy steps

It has been some time since I've entertained in the multi course dinner arena, so what better time to test my skills than with a themed Thanksgiving dinner using an ingredient I've never cooked with. (Quack) Three days before: 1. Salt, pepper, 8 sprigs of thyme, diced shallots and minced garlic 1/2 under and 1/2 over 4 duck legs and thighs skin up covered and in the fridge for 2 days.  In the mean time, assemble grocery list and don't forget anything.  Have a glass of wine. One day before: 2. Preheat oven to 240°, melt 4-5 cups of duck fat in a sauce pan.  Brush seasonings off of duck pieces and pat dry with a paper towel.  Arrange them snug in a casserole dish and pour the duck fat in, be sure to cover the pieces entirely.  Take a sip of wine.  Place the dish in the oven for 2-3 hours, making sure that you have only a slow bubble (reduce or raise temperature if needed).  Have a glass of wine.  When the timer goes off, remove from oven and allow to cool.  Have a glass of wine.  Cover and store in the fridge.  Have a glass of wine and curl up on the couch with a book 3. Make some pumpkin pies and a pecan pie (actually, make some pumpkin pies and since you bought a frozen pecan pie, read the directions to determine when it needs to come out of the freezer).  Have a glass of wine. Turkey Day: 4. Have a glass of wine.  Wash arugula and pat dry.  Julienne carrots, wash off mushrooms and remove stems, slice into happy size chunks. Shred red cabbage into hearty size pieces.  Remove duck prosciutto from fridge and wonder how to slice it.  Cut baguettes diagonally and put them in the oven for toasting purposes, toast another glass of wine. 5. Boil some potatoes until they are squishy, smash 'em up and mix in some heavy cream, duck fat, minced garlic, salt and pepper to taste and 1/2 package of cream cheese softened then stir, or get a kid to stir for you.  Don't forget about removing the pecan pie from the freezer.  Take a sip of wine, it's getting a little warm in here.  Take the duck confit out of the fridge, need to get it at room temperature before final rendering. Have a glass of wine. 6. Arrange the baguettes on a serving platter and do something creative with the prosciutto, pipe some black truffle butter is a dish and provide a sip of wine, I mean, butter knife to the arrangement.  Hiccup.  Saucepan time, mix in a bit of walnut oil, white wine vinegar, pinch of salt, spoon of sugar, handful of dried cherries and a bit of dijon mustard.  You'll know when it's done.  Have a sip of wine.  Sliced smoked duck breast into 1/4 inch think pieces and arrange 2-3 slices per plate.  Arrange arugula on the plates, sprinkle with finely ground walnuts, drizzle with the stuff you just, hiccup, made and then some good quality Parmesan cheese.  Have a sip of wine and serve. 7. Boil gnocchi, in a skillet, throw in some duck fat, sage and 1/2 cup of pumpkin pie filling.  Once the gnocchi are done, add them to the mix and stir until the gnocchi have a slight brownish color to them.  Serve in a shallow bowl, pipe some pumpkin pie filling and a sprig of parsley.  Time for a sip of wine and serve. 8. Take the smashed taters and, using an ice cream scoop, arrange mounds on parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Preheat oven to 400°.  Have a sip of wine. In a saute pan, more duck fat and the carrots.  Cook until soft, but still crunchy and then add cabbage and mushrooms.  Plate and drizzle with a reduced balsamic sauce.  Remove pieces of duck from confit, place the mashed potato mounds in the over for 10 minutes.  Brown the duck pieces in a saute pan and then place in an over proof dish, these guys go in for about 15 minutes.  Have a sip, hiccup, of wine. 9. If the kids haven't touched anything yet, make some Mac 'n' Cheese.  Have a glass of wine as you plate the mashed potato mounds and the duck, garnish with something green and serve with wine.  Put the pecan pie in the oven if needed. 10. Celebrate Thanksgiving dinner with family and a glass of wine.  Hopefully, everything turned out OK.  Eat pie, then have another glass of hiccup, wine, hiccup.  Hire someone to clean up the mess tomorrow. Hiccup!  

Christmas decorations

It’s just been hectic times preventing 10 Things posts.  Fourth quarter is taking it’s toll on my love of airplanes and the amount of work saved for hotel desk evenings is piling up fast.  In theory, I only have 8 working days left this year, then vacation to round out a roller coaster year.
  1. Christmas decorations make me cheery (for the first time in a long time, maybe it’s minimalistic approach for decorating this year rather than previous years where it was a contest to squeeze as many decorations as possible into a 3 bedroom house)
  2. Dust will accumulate which keeps Swifter in business (it is a conspiracy)
  3. Children love a Popsicle even when Mother Nature is layering snowflakes on the ground
  4. My first apartment (duplex) after high school on St. Mary’s Street was torn down
  5. “Dinosaurs lived one hundred minnillion years ago” (Quote from my 4 year old)
  6. I miss the artistic side of me
  7. NCDOT has difficult procedures for titling restoration vehicles
  8. Most falls can be turned around through laughter
  9. I really need to cut down the ornamental grass in the front flower bed.  Every time the wind blows, it catches my eye
  10. Double check your payment method when you purchase items online from Amazon, oops, wrong card – my fault
This weeks downloaded tunes:
  1. Little Lion Men by Mumford & Sons
  2. Sometime Around Midnight by The Airborne Toxic Event
  3. Soul Meets Body by Death Cab For Cuties
  4. If I Die Young by The Band Perry