Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bizzy Bizzy Bizzy!!!

Buffett came to town on Tuesday and, OF COURSE, we were there!!! I did my standard (awesome) Pre-Show Tailgate Party (but didn't make The Parking Lot Video this time, unfortunately).

I have much to Ramble about regarding the Buffett Show, but don't have much time - so I'll have to post updates later...

But, suffice it to say, it was an AWESOME SHOW and I had a freakin' blast!!!

In other news: I'm going to be taking a brief hiatus starting this Saturday. Mom, BFF Sharon (we've been friends since Elementary School), and I are piling into mom's car and heading for So-Cal. On Sunday, we'll board Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas and spend seven days cruising Mexico!

I actually booked this cruise while I was on my last cruise in April of this year: The Hogs on the High Seas Rally Cruise, and this is actually the EXACT SAME cruise. Same ship. Same Ports of Call. Except that on the HOHS Rally, instead of "Formal Nights" they had "Leather Required Nights!" (and the entire atmosphere is MUCH more relaxed!). But anyway, I booked it b/c I found a good deal on a Balcony Room and, between the three of us, it was actually *quite* reasonably priced... (appx $800 pp for a week-long cruise - which included Trip Cancellation Insurance). I would have preferred a suite, but it just didn't work out that way...

Anyway - Cool thing about this particular cruise is that we'll get to celebrate Halloween at sea. And I've always been a bit of a Halloween Freak (to the point where mom kept asking me "When are you going to outgrow this?!!" "Uhh, Never?!")

I used to be pretty notorious w/my Halloween Costumes and/or decorations - to the point of utter tastelessness. I recall one year, back in my BofA Daze [when I was a manager - no less!] my Team was totally on-board with the idea of an Anti-Christmas Vignette. So we decorated a Christmas Tree w/severed doll-parts and set-up Santa on a guillotine! (Yes, Extremely Tasteless!!!!).

Also, we've been very non-PC in the past. Back in the 80's - during some Middle-Eastern Crisis - Sharon and I dressed up as Terrorists (complete w/flak jackets from the local Army-Surplus store, and berets, and toy M-16's). Back in those days, we were NCR Operators (NCR = National Cash Register. Those were the machines that would "encode" those little computer numbers on the bottoms of your checks). We'd spray-painted the office with "NCR Non-Conformist-Revolution - JOIN US OR DIE!!!" propaganda.

Luckily, a pair of our co-workers had shown up, dressed up as Arab Oil Sheiks, so we took them hostage!

Yes, decidedly Non-PC! (I think, nowadays, we'd be called in to HR for the antics we used to pull!!!)

Hell, I could probably post dozens of stories from our heyday, but maybe another time...

For now, I'll post the latest in my "Shopping [Mis]Adventures" related to Halloween 2008 (However "pedestrian" it may be!!!).

So, Halloween will be celebrated while we on our cruise... I still actually have several "Elaborate" costumes in storage - but mom's car has limited storage capacity (and no trailer hitch!!!). So I'm having to dial-it-back significantly...

So I've settled on being a Witch for Halloween (:::YAWN:::). Hey, I've got the gear - and it's readily accessible (I found it in my closet!). And it won't require much room to pack!

So... I already had the hat (black velvet) and cape (also black velvet), but needed add'l accoutrements... And here's an excerpt of an email to Sharon that I wanted to share.............

Oooh! Long's Drugs had Halloween sh*t on-sale!!!

I got a long black wig (w/white streaks), some green face-paint (the greasy stuff), some ultra-light colored "regular" foundation (that I can mix w/the green-greasy stuff) and assorted other make-up items (mostly regular stuff - but some halloweeny crap, too).

And I found a cool little witches broom. Black w/orange mylar broomy-stuff and spider-webs at the bottom (hope it'll fit in my suitcase!!!).

So I did all this shopping at Long's. Prob'ly took me about 15-20 minutes to select all my stuff, right?

Took me OVER THIRTY MINUTES to get checked out!!!

It's like, all the Halloween Shelves have signs on them saying "40% Off!" "50% Off!" So when I go to check-out, I've got this nice little retirement-aged lady at the register. Things ring up and I ask - "Was that on sale?" "No. It didn't ring up as On-Sale. Should it have?" (Don't you just HATE getting behind people like me?!!).

"Well, the signs on the shelves said they were on sale - Let me go double-check" (since the Halloween Aisle was "Right There!")

"Oh, I'll come with you" says little-old-lady.

(And the people behind me in-line huffed and wandered off to a different line!!!)

(Yeah, I hate getting behind people like me, too!!!)

So we wander over to the Halloween Aisle and - sure-as-sh*t - everything's supposed to be 40-50% off "With In-Store Coupon."

So we wander back to the register and pore through the In-Store Ads to find the coupons. Yep. 50% off all Halloween Costumes. 40% off all Halloween Wigs, Make-up and Accessories...

So we have to back EVERYTHING out of the register, and key them in, individually w/the discounts, right?

Then we get to the fake tattoos (Like panty-hose for arms... Army hose???), And the mylar broom thingie... And we have to call over another check-out clerk to determine if these are part of the sale, as well... A deep, philosophical discussion ensues and it is determined that the Army Hose *must* be a costume (so 50% off).

But we're not sure about the broom, right?

"Is this a Halloween Accessory?" wonders the check-out lady

"I would THINK so" I replied. (What the hell else WOULD it be???)

Well, second check-out lady was consulted again, and she seemed to agree (And, hey, that was the Big Ticket item @ $7.99!!!), so I got that at 40% off!!!

Jeezus H. Jehosaphat!!!

(Actually, it was worth it in the end, b/c I think I got close to $20 knocked off the total)

Anyway... I think I'm all set for Halloween, now! Found my witches hat and my black cape in the closet. I can wear those with black leggings and a black tank top (Gawd - for a middle-aged woman who sweats like a pig, going to a warm-vacation-destination, I seem to be packing an inordinate quantity of Black Velvet outfits!)

Hey - You've got the Daily Log Thingies from our last cruise, right? Which nights were "Formal?" If one of 'em was Friday, then we're off the hook for formal-wear (I think/hope!)

Okay, I'm "Officially" getting excited now (it's about damned time!!!). All I gotta do is finish laundry (only 1.5 loads to go!) and get packing!

So, that's about All the News that's Fit to Print (or at least All the News that I've got Time to Report!!!). I haven't decided whether I'll bring my laptop on the cruise or not (depends upon luggage space, I think!). I do know that WiFi on this particular ship... Well... "Sucks" for lack of a better term!!! They do have an internet cafe, but they charge "by the minute" and I'm pretty damned cheap! So I may not have anything to post until we get back!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Jimmy's Comin'!!!

Yep. Jimmy Buffett in concert next Tuesday 10/21 @ Shoreline Amphitheathre!!!

Yep!!! Got my Tickets and I'm a Happy Camper!!!!!!

As usual, I ordered my "original" $300+ tix on the day, at the very frickin' moment, they went on-sale...

200 section, Natch!

Not *horrible* - but not great, either!

I kept going back to TicketB@$stard's site and - about a month before the show - scored 100 section tix and had to unload my previous tix (at a LOSS!) on Craigslist :::sigh:::

But - when JB tix go on-sale, I take-on a Tazz-like personna where I go into full-blown DT's and Depression if I *don't* have Tix, in-hand...

Yes, every year, I go back and review just HOW MUCH I PAID for Tix - and tell myself I'd be better off just skipping the "Day-of-Sale" BS on TicketB@$stard - and just pay thru the nose for Primo Tix thru eBay (or, or whatever!). In the long run, it'd be cheaper to go that route - but I just *can't* seem to retrain myself!!!

(A lesson to be learned, for sure - as I'm trying to train Tazz to drop the ball "In-The-Bucket!" Ball = JB Tix!!!).

Anyway.... I did manage to unload my extra JB tix at *only* a $100 loss, this year (a vast improvement over previous years, actually!). And I've got my "Lowers" in-hand, so I'm a Happy Camper!

I just need to drag out all the Tiki-Truck Regalia: Including "The Margarator!" and a Tiki Umbrella, + Hula-skirt + "License to Chill" plate + Gawd-knows what-else I'll bring along this time!!!

Couple-three-four-years ago, I'd totally planned on "doing it up right" for a JB show and Rog was all "rolling his eyes" and stuff...

(although - by that time, he'd learned to just "give up" and let me run w/it - as opposed to one of our first years going to a JB show when he took on this whole "You're not wearing THAT are you?!" Attitude with me. "Uh yeah! Got a problem wit' dat?!! Get OVER IT ALREADY!!!")

So anyway, I'd planned on doing it up - and was yammering endlessly, in the truck (on the way there) about how my goal was to "Make it onto the Parking Lot Video!!!"

Well, damned if I didn't make it onto the video!!! Truck-bed got fully converted to a Tiki Bar and I was all done-up in Flamingo-Paraphernalia. The JB Crew was wandering thru the parking lot looking for "outrageous" set-ups and, yes, we MADE the video!!! (I think I yammered about that in a previous post - but I still consider if one of the few "High Points" in my pathetic little existence!!!)

Not sure if we'll manage a "Repeat" - but I'm willing to give it a try!!!

Anyway, I think tomorrow I'll start digging thru the shed for the Buffett Decor...

Aaack... Just learned I'll be tailgating alone - at least initially...

More to follow, later........................................

Kitchen Conundrum (Avoid Alliterations Always!)

Okay... I've gathered my bids already!!!

And my sister says I "oughtta write a book!" Because, as always, the pitfalls have wrought numerous story-telling opportunities...

Let's see... I've spoken to Kitchenworks, MasterCraft Home Design, Kitchen Concepts, Kitchen Tune-Up, Sears, and Home Depot (Ooooops! Haven't "changed the names to protect the guilty!")

I figure 6 bids oughtta be sufficient.

Hate to say it, but I'm trying to stick with those who "specialize" in the whole Kitchen-Refacing field b/c of the alleged "buying power" that goes along with it (as opposed to "buying the materials ourselves" and hiring Juan, or Pablo, or Miguel, or whomever-of-questionable-residency-status" - which might cut-us a price-break). Normally, we prefer the "independent contractor" kinda guy - but in this case it seems to make more sense to go with someone who's "in the business" of doing this sorta thing...

My "Last Bid" came yesterday afternoon, from D***** of Home Depot.

And, again (after kvetching to the In-Store HD Rep about the "No-Show"), I had to go through the whole "Will your husband be there?" B.S...

"No, he won't. I am the 'Decision-Maker.'"

"So are you saying that if we install something that he doesn't like, that he'll just have to live with it?" (again, with that hint of derision!!!!!!!)

"Actually, pretty much - yes!" was my reply (Jeezus H. Jehosaphat Christ!!!)

So I got an appt scheduled with D*****, a Sales Rep from Home Depot. To be fair, he actually had the courtesy to call me when he was running late due to traffic (Understandable - given that it was 4:00pm on Friday afternoon during PEAK Rush-Hour Traffic - which is INSANE in Silicon Valley). I did appreciate the call...

Well, D***** comes in and wants to do a "walk-thru" of our house to "get a feel" for our taste - or whatever (probably more like "get a feel" for our income-level!). "So, who's the Piano Player?" "Me." "What kinda dogs do you have?" "Dachshunds." "My girlfriend loves dachshunds!" Yada-Yada....

He even looked outside and saw the Tropical Resort (and yes, I admitted that we'd put the pool in. And yes, *I* did the landscaping, thankyouverymuch)...

Seems D***** (who appeared to be about 16 yrs old - turns out he was 25, which isn't THAT much more, IMHO - as I'm learning to "Embrace my Inner Curmudgeon!"), *just* completed his Sales-Training from Home Depot. So I was subjected to the full-on Sales-Pitch - complete w/ PowerPoint Presentation delivered via tree-based paper-booklet.

"Why Choose Home Depot? - We are the largest Home-Improvement Supplier IN-THE-WORLD..."

"Can you turn the page?"

(I turned the page)

"Do you know how many ceiling fans we sold last year?"

"Oh, I dunno... Eight gazillion?!"

"Close! We sold seven MILLION ceiling fans last year."


("What's the freakin' bid already?!!" screams my inner-curmudgeon)

So I endured the entire sales-pitch. And we talked about my "wants" and "budget" and I made it Crystal-Clear that I was shooting for a number in the "As-Close-As-Possible to the Four-Range."

"Four thousand?"


No-frills, yada-yada. Nope, don't need pull-outs... Nope. No Lazy Susans... "Yes, I got a bid from Home Depot a few yrs ago... Nope, don't remember the exact number but it was 'somewhere in the middle.'"

Well, after a bit of hesitation on D******'s part "Well, our prices have gone up since then."

"Well, I didn't think that a three-year-0ld bid would be 'binding'..."

Anyway... Bottom Line... Bid du jour came in at (drum-roll please!!!) OVER Eight Thousand Dollars!!!!

Well, after D***** had done such a "FINE JOB" of establishing a rapport/interpersonal relationship, I felt no compunction as I laughed, outright, in his face!

"Wow!" I laughed "You're the highest bid, so far!!!"

Well, he went back and re-worked it a bit (Now mind you, I was pretty cognizant of the "Add-on's" like pull-outs, upgraded drawers, lazy-susans, etc. - and pretty-much LEFT THEM OFF of the bid, right?!!). His "revised" number came in, immediately, @ $7200.00 - which (while still more than $1K less than his original bid) was still pretty OUTRAGEOUS...

Side-note: I'd *just* gone through a similar "dance" with another Kitchen Refacer where the initial bid went from $6300.00 to $4900.00 - based, simply, on the fact that I'd raised my eyebrows! (Making me wonder how much the price would have dropped had I actually *scowled!*).

Well, D***** was prepared to offer me the "IVD" discount (Initial Visit Discount) of $300.00 - IF I would sign-the-contract right-then-and-there!

Yeah, right!

"No, that's not gonna happen. As I already explained, I am gathering MULTIPLE bids and will discuss them with my husband...."

"Well, when does he come home?" he queried (still hoping for the "IVD" discount, no doubt!).

"Could be any minute now - but I assure you you want to be LONG-GONE before he gets here. See... He backed our truck into his Classic Car last night and the LAST THING HE WANTS TO HEAR ABOUT is an $8,000.00 bid for a Home Improvement Project!")

True Story, BTW: Thursday night is "Garbage Night" and I dutifully dragged the trash and recycling bins out to the street - and parked the Truck in the driveway (which is de rigeur for Thursday Nights, BTW). When Rog got home, late Thursday night, he'd temporarily parked 'Scarlet' - his pristine ("Show Quality") '88 Corvette behind 'Red,' my '97 "Old-Beater" Pontiac Sunfire Convertible. When he backed Willie (our '00 Toyota Tundra) out of the driveway, he managed to scrape the sh*t outta Willie (and f**ked up the bumper), but did a SERIOUS NUMBER on Scarlet's rear quarter-panel (we're talking SO bad, he's gonna have to buy a whole new hunk 'o fiberglass, unfortunately - So "Garage Queen" Scarlet is no longer "Show-Quality").

So anyway, I figured that D*****'s presence probably would NOT be welcomed. Nor did I think that "this weekend" was the opportune time to drag Rog into ANY discussions about Kitchen Upgrade Projects. What with unexpected Car-Repairs on the docket, ya know?!!

So, our $300 "IVD" Discount is toast. But D*****'s price was simply freaking outrageous anyway!!! (And I'm sorry, but if you've got such a hard-on for getting us to sign-on during the First Visit, well, "Screw You!!!")

Soooooooo... Kitchen Tune-Up is *still* the front-runner and I need to schedule our appt (to include Rog this time) w/them.

That'll have to wait 'til I get back from the Girl's Vacation, week-after-next...

So that's the Latest from Nancy-Ville....

Last Daze of Summer...

Okay, I think this is "officially" going to be my last poolside blogging day ("Waaaaaahhhhhhh!!!!").

Temps are supposed to hit the mid-70's today (which translates to mid-80's in our backyard microclimate), and we've turned on the pool heater and removed the solar cover. So I'll definitely get a swim (or two) in today...

Next weekend, I'll be on a Road-Trip: Girl's-Only Vacation!!! Mom, bff Sharon, and myself are piling into the car, driving down to L.A. and embarking on a week-long Mexican Riviera Cruise! Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas... (Sux to be me!!!)

So poor, lonely, DH Rog will busy himself with shutting down the pool, completely, while I'm gone...

For today, I've dragged out the hundred-dollar-laptop and the boombox and mp3 player (full o' Jimmy Buffett tunes!) - and I'll post a couple-three blog updates!

Stay tuned!!!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Tazz got a New Toy

Subtitle (However gross, but true nonetheless):

"Party 'til you Puke"

I blame Kathie for this. Kathie's my Joysey Colleague/Partner in Crime. She's come and stayed with us a couple of times and she's met the quadrupeds... And Tazz is particularly "Memorable!"

Tazz has a *serious* problem with Tennis Ball Addiction (so much so, she actually experiences the DT's when we take the ball away from her - and goes into full-blown depression for days afterward!). Kathie sent me a link - a couple of years ago - to this site: Go Dog Go. They've got some simply hysterical videos of the toy in action!

My initial reaction was "How COOL!" But then I saw the price...................

Tazz doesn't get tennis balls anymore. She just gets too worked-up over 'em. And she destroys anything else that we give to her (actually, she "skins" tennis-balls, too). Pretty much, if any company is advertising a toy that is INDESTRUCTIBLE, well, they need to contract Tazz to confirm that fact!

The closest we've come to an indestructible toy is this: Tire Toy - and even this isn't indestructible - it just takes her several weeks (as opposed to minutes) to destroy it!

Anyway, I finally broke down and bought the damned thing at Buy Go-Dog-Go. Turns out there was an excess of orders/shortage of stock, and everything was on back-order, so they were offering discounts if you were willing to wait (which is about as close as I'm gonna get to finding this thing for less $$!). So I went-ahead and ordered it.

It arrived today - and Tazz abso-freaking-lutely LOVES it!!!

It's basically just a low-powered tennis-ball launcher - with a bucket on top for holding extra balls (up to 15). It also comes with a Remote Control (which'll tickles Roger's whole X-Y Chromosome thing!). The launch distance is adjustable (I've left it at 15'). And it has an "Automatic Launch" setting. All told, it's a really cool Dog-Toy!

Of course, the thing is waaaay bigger (and taller) than Tazz. So I set it up on the lawn, next to the porch in front of the shed which, conveniently, has an AC electrical outlet (although it will run on batteries as well). Tazz is gonna need the porch in order to be able to drop the retrieved balls into the bucket (Whenever we reach the point where we can set it on Auto-Pilot)...

Presently, we're running with three tennis balls. Three dogs, three balls, right?

Well, when I first set-it-up, it was pure pandemonium! Three dogs attacking the toy simultaneously (and stealing tennis balls) was a bit much for me! So I ended up locking Annie and Dynah in the house so Tazz and I could have some One-On-One time.

She's getting the general jist of it - and knows not to steal the balls from the track (That was a BIG hurdle!). It makes *some* noise ("hum" preceding a "THWONK!"), so we've got the whole Pavlovian Response thing kickin'. The "Challenge" (not surprisingly) is to get her to drop the ball in the bucket. She's never been fond of giving up the ball (or ANY toy, for that matter!). The bucket is particularly puzzling to her, because when the ball is dropped in, it swirls around and :::gasp::: disappears! (Scary Stuff - for a little canine mind!!!). So we're still working on the "Drop it [in the Bucket]" command...

When she does (albeit - with assistance!), she's rewarded with a fresh "Hummm-THWONK!!!" and a tennis ball arcing nicely through the air (Boy, she's got "Reverse" down-pat!!!)

We've had three "training sessions" so far. Session #1 was fine (before their dinner). Afterward, she ran up to me and licked my knees gratefully before - literally - flopping down and passing out on the floor!

Session #2: She got herself sooooo worked up, she was literally nauseous - eating grass frantically (I refused to let her back into the house 'til she'd finished her Binge 'N Purge).

Session #3: I wanted to skip - but Rog came home and wanted to see the new toy. That was a short session but, evidently, she's forgotten how overly-excited (and sick) she got last time 'cuz she's whining at the back door, begging for more!!!

I suspect Tazz is gonna Sleep Like the Dead tonight! I just hope she doesn't go through DT's again!!!

Anyway - Tazz gives it a Big Dewclaw's-Up! If you're a Dog-Owner and in the market to drop a C-Note and a Half, we highly recommend this product!!!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Truly Amazing Woman...

I stumbled onto this blog - just three days ago. It was linked from an article that linked from another link from another blog sorta situation...

Diary of a Dying Mom

I don't even know this woman - yet, at the same time, I feel that I do...

The link, above, points to the beginning of her posts (scroll to the bottom to read "up" in chronological order).

What I found ironic was that, at some point in her blog, she'd made mention of the fact that she, an avid reader, would frequently skip to the final pages of a book to find out the ending - before she'd decide whether to read it.

I thought: "I would NEVER do that!"

Yet, in this case, I did. Even though I knew the final outcome.

I spent much of my past three days reading the entire thing - start-to-finish. It was like a book I couldn't put down. I literally laughed... And cried...

It's like a book that I hoped would never end...

It's a story that's definitely worth a read..........

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Cool Weather... Warm Food...

It's a Slow-Mo Day today. It's sunny out - but cold :::sigh:::

Autumn is upon us. Temp was 48* when I woke up (Brrrrr!!!). I think it might hit 70 this afternoon, but it's been staying mostly in the 60's and it's quite windy.

I'm not feeling motivated enough to go out and do anything in the yard - plus I'm feeling a little sniffly (though I don't think I have a cold coming on - I sure as hell better NOT!).

Anyway - Cooler days mean I turn more toward "nesting" tendencies. Hence the whole "Fix-Up-The-House" mindset, of late. Today I've decided I need to cook some "Comfort Food" (which actually isn't good for the whole Diet Thing! But "Oh, well!").

Earlier this week, Rog was out of town (he still is, actually. Well, he's in the air at this moment, heading home). I was hungry for real (but low-carb) food, and I didn't want to cook, so I picked up a Rotisserie Chicken at the grocery store. I nibbled at it for most of the week, but then got bored with it.

Thought about stripping the last of the meat and making chicken salad today, but that didn't sound appealing. I wanted something heartier. And I know Rog loves a good home-cooked meal (on the rare occasion that cook!). I really didn't want to toss the half-eaten chicken so I did end up stripping the meat off and now the remainder is boiling in a pot of water, herbs, garlic, onion, celery and carrots. Yep, I'm trying my hand at making Chicken Stock! I've never actually done that before - so it'll be interesting to see how it comes out.

The ultimate goal is to make Chicken and Dumplings. If not today, then maybe tomorrow. Seems like the boiling of the carcass is going to take several hours...

I normally "cheat" and make crock-pot C&D using a package of frozen "Crock Pot Classics" Chicken and Dumplings. But I HATE the frozen dumplings in those packaged products - so I usually make Bisquick dumplings (or - at the very least - use a tube of those refrigerator biscuits).

This time I'm going for "mostly homemade." Yeah, I'll probably toss-in a can or two of Cream of Chicken Soup - but it'll be "mostly" homemade. Chicken breasts were on sale, so I'll use those to add more meat the mix...

Oughtta be yummy!

Postscript: It was quite yummy! I wasn't sure if Rog was gonna be hungry when he got home, so I held off on making the dumplings until I knew for sure (he was very hungry and appreciative).

Recipe (kinda/sorta).

Nan's Chicken & Dumplings (This is how *I* did it - Not necessarily "correctly" but it came out just fine!)

Leftover Rotisserie Chicken
2 fresh (or frozen/thawed) half-breasts (mine had bones and skin)
Small bag of Baby Carrots
1/2 head of Celery
2-3 cups of Frozen Mixed Veggies
1 cup sliced Mushrooms (I used fresh button mushrooms)
1 Onion
2-3 cloves Garlic
1-2 tsps Poultry Seasoning
Salt & Pepper

1 cup Bisquick
1/3 cup milk

Optional (if needed and good to have on-hand)
Small can of Chicken Broth (if you end up needing more liquid)
Small can of condensed Cream of Chicken Soup + Milk (or Half & Half)
White (or Marsala) cooking wine

Strip all the salvageable meat off of last week's Rotisserie Chicken. Set meat aside in the fridge.
Put the carcass in a big pot. Toss in a couple-three handfuls each of whole baby carrots and coarsely chopped celery (coarse - as in 2-3" long chunks). Half an onion and a clove or two of fresh garlic (again, big chunks). For this go-round, we're using the veggies to flavor the water. They'll be strained off and discarded later.

Add water (I nearly filled the 5-6 qt stock pot) and add 1 tsp Poultry Seasoning. Set uncovered pot on stove @ med-high heat until it starts to boil, then turn it down. Let it simmer for an hour.

About an hour into it, I added the two half breasts. Turned the heat up to med-high and got it boiling again, then I turned it back down to "simmer." I left the breasts in for about 2 hours. Then I removed 'em, set them aside to cool (I returned the skin and bones to the pot).

Let the pot continue to simmer for another hour (all told, it was right around 4 hours).

The recipes I'd read said you should skim off the scummy stuff as it cooks, but I never got any scummy stuff.

Using a strainer, pour the liquid into another pot, bowl, whatever. You'll find that about 2/3 of the liquid will have evaporated off, and the remaining chicken stock should be quite tasty and flavorful (*Much* better than canned chicken stock, IMHO!).

Now's the fun part: Sifting through the strained stuff! It helps to let it cool for awhile (I poured the stock back into the original pot and set it back on the stove with the burner turned off). I managed to salvage quite a bit of meat (which went back in the pot). Bones and fat get thrown out. Mushy veggies could be pureed in a blender or food processor and tossed back in, but I wasn't feeling that industrious (I bet it'd be tasty though!).

I put all the chicken back in the pot (rotisserie chicken leftovers, and the half breasts). Then I added more fresh veggies: Carrots, Celery, Onion, Garlic (chopped in smaller pieces this time around - this time it's meant for eating!). Personal Note: I prefer my veggies to retain some semblance of their original color and texture - that's why I prefer to save most of 'em til the end of cooking...

The soup, at this point, was looking really thick 'n chunky, so I added a small can of chicken broth, a can of Cream of Chicken Soup, and one can of Half & Half. Add Salt, Pepper and Poultry Seasoning to taste.

Turned on the burner (medium) and brought it back up to a rolling boil. Add the frozen mixed veggies and sliced mushrooms at this point and a splash or two of wine. Then set it back to simmer for about 30 minutes. Toward the end of that you may or may not want to add some sort of "thickener" to the soup (corn starch or a flour roux). You don't want it too thick b/c the dumplings will absorb some of the liquid.

Now it's time for dumplings: In a small bowl, add 1/3 cup milk to 1 cup Bisquick. Mix with a fork til well-moistened. Batter should be pretty "sticky." Using a tablespoon, gently plop batter blops onto the top of the soup. Don't worry if it seems like there's not enough dumplings - they'll expand as they cook!

Cook 10 minutes uncovered, then cook an add'l 10 minutes covered.

Serve and Enjoy!

BTW - This made a huuuuuge batch. It would easily serve a family of four. So now we've got leftovers for lunch! (Unfortunately, dumplings are never quite as good the next day - but the soup should be very good!)

Random Ramblings on "Projects"

Ya know - it may not *sound* like it - but I'm generally at my happiest when I'm working on "some" sorta project...

Yeah, I b*tch and moan a bit - but I consider that my birthright!

The Sailing Dink Restoration (Warning: It has sound!) was my last "Big" project and I had a total blast with it - Honestly! In fact, I enjoyed restoring the boat almost-more than I enjoy sailing in it!!! (How weird is that?!!)

The "Kitchen Update" Project seems to suit me now, since it doesn't really involve any physical labor on my part (mental aggravation is a different story)! But damned if these Salesdroids (excuse me "Kitchen Design Consultants" or what-EVAH) aren't going to be the death of me!!!

So, so far, I've had two No-Shows - right? And I keep getting the same ridiculous "Will your husband be there?" spiel as I generate new inquiries... Which I find almost-insulting, in a way. Does the fact that I have ovaries mean I am somehow unqualified to deal with "Construction Professionals?" (Or maybe I'm just being overly sensitive...)

Come to think of it - I got similar treatment at a Harley Dealership when I was shopping for new pipes for Phoenix, my shiny-new Heritage. I started out talking to their, ummm, "Chrome Consultant" (yes, that really was his title!) about the merits (Price-wise, Sound-wise, and Performance-wise) of Slip-ons vs. New Pipes - and the add'l Stage One modifications required: Power Commander vs. Race Tuners, Costs, yada yada (BTW, I *do* understand what all of this stuff *is!*). Rog wandered up about midway through the conversation and all of a sudden, said "Chrome Consultant" directed all of his answers to DH - even when it was ME asking the questions!

Like, somehow, I need a MAN to "translate" all of this technical stuff for me???

That just irked the hell out of me and - Needless to say - no purchases were made THAT day!

(Actually, I ended up leaving the exhaust system "stock" b/c I much prefer to listen to my after-market stereo! Rog's bike makes more than enough noise for both of us!)

Anyway, as is typical, I am digressing yet again!!!

Okay, back to the story at hand: After No-Show #2, I put in a few more online inquiries to some of the other Kitchen Refacers. I actually prefer to deal with those who offer online quotes - primarily because I do most of my web-research late at night. When I'm working from home during the day, I usually get too caught-up in whatever I'm doing to remember to call these places during normal business hours. It's just easier to fill-out the online form, provide the measurements, and wait for a call back...

<---My "Before "

Neighbor's "After"--->

So the latest place - I got an email response first thing the next morning. Complete with "Before and After" pictures of one of their jobs. Cool! And I wrote back, in kind, and included a couple of my "Before and After" pictures of My Kitchen vs. the Neighbors Kitchen. And included the particulars of what I was aiming for, and ALSO provided my availability for a meeting next week. "Will any of these times work for you?"

My email was then forwarded to "Hi, I'm so-and-so, I'll be your Design Consultant should you choose to go with us..." And I got the Ya-Ya we provide this (along with a suggestion of a very fine Laminated Cabinet product called LaLaLa), and we do this, and we offer that, and blah-blah-blah. And "Our biggest competitors in your area are XXX and YYY and we are generally ZZ% less than them and we do better work" Blah-Blah. And "What is your budget?"

I noted that I've already spoken to AAA, BBB and CCC, and I'm planning to speak to others, as well. And I don't want laminate, and I don't need Yada-Yada. This is what I want. And this is the number I'm shooting for, if not less. Closing with "Here is my availability for next week. Will any of these times work for you? Please let me know because I'd like to get the time blocked on my calendar (which tends to fill-up rather quickly)..."

The emails continued to fly - with no commitment for when our "Design Consultant" would be willing to grace me with his presence. The email part didn't bother me so much b/c it IS good to impart as much info, ahead-of-time, as possible - I'm sure... It was the "Failure to Commit" part that was starting to grate on my nerves. To say nothing of the ongoing Sales-Pitch he was throwing into every email (But I can get past that - it *is* his job, after all).

Well, the kicker came in one of his last emails. Here's an excerpt:

...based on the measurements you provided, I think we could come pretty close to your number. Here's the catch . . . like YYY we realize that a considerable amount of money is saved if you are able to commit on the first meeting. If we don't have to make a second trip to pick out styles, colors and fill out 20 minutes worth of paperwork we can do the job for less. Often this usually requires the presence of all decision makers. Would it be possible to schedule this at a time your husband could be there too? I could come on a Saturday if that would work for you.

Oh, crap. Here we go again!!!

Firstly, this guy is a Salesdroid, and I'd be willing to bet he works primarily on commission. So I don't believe, for one minute, that it costs The Company one red cent to have him come out a second time (it may cost him - but not the company!). But that's kinda beside the point. As for the "commit on the first meeting" part (Funny how he wants to push for commitment when he can't commit to a meeting time... Gotta love irony!!), well I'd already made it quite clear that I was in the process of gathering "multiple bids" so ain't nuthin' gonna get signed/agreed-to on the first meeting, regardless! I'd also mentioned (maybe my mistake, but whatever!) "My husband has charged me with the task of doing all the legwork and gathering all the bids" in a previous email...

Excerpt of my response:

As far as scheduling the appt/obtaining the bid goes, here's "My" Catch:

- The "Aesthetic" decision-making is 100% up to me - so whatever I decide, is what we'll get. There won't be a need for a second trip to review the cabinet-selection with my husband. He knows I'll make the appropriate choices.

- The "Financial" decision-making will be a joint effort. And that decision won't happen during the first visit because I am still in the process of obtaining (multiple) bids...

As I'd mentioned, my husband has assigned me with the task of gathering the bids and doing the "legwork" (Checking references, licensing board, BBB, etc.). The reasons for that are twofold: 1) I work in Project Management and do this sort of thing for a living and 2) Hubbie's job involves about 85%+ travel and he just-plain doesn't have the time to get involved (I think I've seen him maybe 4 days in the last 3 weeks!).
When he's at home, he just doesn't want to deal with this stuff - Especially on the weekends.

Trust me, he's made that
painfully clear!!!

So, pretty-much, I need to collect the bids (which should be "detailed" - Hubbie is an Engineer!), and you can do whatever measuring/note-taking/paperwork you need to do while you're here. Then hubbie and I will discuss and compare all of the bids, and all of my research, and then we'll make our selection...

When we're ready to proceed (which should be "very soon." I'm thinking "within weeks"), we'll present whatever $$ and sign whatever contractual paperwork is needed (even via fax), at that time... Hubbie won't be involved in it - at all (other than signing whatever needs to be signed)

Good Gawd! What's it gonna take to freakin' schedule an appointment?!! Seriously, the Economy positively sucks right now. Housing prices are dropping like flies. People AREN'T spending money on ANYTHING beyond the bare essentials right now. It seems to me that these guys oughtta be kissing my @$$ in gratitude over the possibility of getting some BUSINESS!

Or maybe I'm just delusional!

I stopped shy of mentioning the fact that I pretty-much Project-Managed the entire Pool Building Saga (which I never did capture on my webpage, unfortunately). I figured that'd be overkill! But it does make for another nice segue...

I'll admit, Rog was a bit more involved on the front-end of the Pool Project - but that was a MUCH bigger and FAR more expensive endeavor @ $50K+ (versus Under-$5k for a measly kitchen re-face.). Plus, there was "mechanical and electronic gee-gaw" selection involved. Again, I did all the pre-work and research: Bought a 3D landscaping program; designed the size/shape of the pool (and future-plantings) on my PC; Surfed the net extensively and bought several books on pool-building, maintenance, and design.

And even when it came to the "Equipment" part of it, I'd provided Rog with the "Cliff-Notes" ahead of time: A pool of AA length x BB width x C depth typically holds XX,XXX gallons, and needs a pump of at least YY horsepower and a filter of ZZ size, minimum. Rog *did* take care of the Solar Heating research (I had my plate full - with all of the other research).

At the time we went into the "gathering bids" stage, we did exercise full-on Teamwork during the Sales presentations. I probably knew at least as much about the Filter and Pump part of it - as Rog did. But it was easier to let him "Take the Lead" there. If the Salesguy ended up trying to sell us something under-powered, I'd hold my tongue until after the presentation and let Rog take it as an "Action Item" later.

The contractor who came in with the lowest bid made the Fatal Mistake of ignoring me (entirely) during our conversations in the Sales Office. So that one got Ix-Nayed in a hurry (in my book). Of course, he was also trying to push sub-standard equipment as well. We had no dificulty in selecting the bid that was pretty-much "in the middle" of all the bids we'd received.

And we're EXTREMELY happy with the final product.

But, even during the construction phase - I was home, most of the time. I was the one who went outside on the day the Bobcat showed up and the PM had drawn out the perimeter of the hole in neon-orange paint. I was the one who directed "No, let's widen it here, and this edge should be a little further from there..."

When we got hit with a rainstorm, and their blue-tarps and sump-pump weren't doing an adequate job of keeping the hole intact, I was the one who had to make the appropriate calls/raise the appropriate flags to indicate that we had a muddy swamp developing in our backyard ("and it looks like the walls are going to start caving in!")...

And, after the hole was dug and they were getting ready to pump the gunite and had marked out the location of the steps, *I* was the one who had to sign the "Change Control" document when I disagreed with the size/shape of the top step.

So the process wasn't entirely without hiccups - but I was "on the scene" and kept tabs on everything, every step of the way. And, like I say, we are EXTREMELY happy with the final product!

That's not to say that Roger wasn't involved at all. He definitely was. In fact, he made a very good "Bad Cop" to my (generally) "Good Cop" personna. One phase of the pool-project was the landscaping (actually Lawn- and Sprinkler-installation). This was scheduled to happen concurrent with the last week or two of pool construction - before the hardscape went in - because there was a planter-box that would be surrounded by a sea of concrete and we wanted all the sprinkler pipes laid before we lost access...

We'd hired a man we dubbed "Uncle Numbnuts" to handle the sprinklers and laying of sod. Uncle Numbnuts was an older man, of asian descent (Korean or Vietnamese - not exactly sure - but it's probably not relevent), and didn't speak English very well - if at all. His nephew showed up for the initial "bid" and handled all of the translations.

Now, I'd printed out my landscape plan and had marked where different things were going to go - in the yard (The new shed, which hadn't arrived yet - and the mid-height lattice fence which would be the future "Secret Garden." But it, too, wasn't set-up yet). My Landscape Plan clearly showed where the various planter-areas were going to be (versus lawn). And I'd drawn in where we wanted the drip systems to be, etc. Rog gave him carte blanche on the lawn-sprinkler system - just as long as there was sufficient coverage (a serious problem with the previous sprinkler system).

Uncle Numbnuts got to keep the printout and we basically turned him loose in the yard...

To be fair, he did do an awesome job on the lawn and lawn-sprinklers. We have plenty of overlapping coverage on the sprinklers (very important since it gets so bloody hot and blazingly sunny in our backyard). And he did lay the drip system where I wanted it. He used very cheap emitters and sprinkler heads (that would break off if you *looked* at them!), but that was easily fixed, later...

But one afternoon, I wandered out and saw him laying benderboard - marking the boundaries of my planter-beds around the lawn. I wanted to make sure things were going where I wanted them - so I'm damned glad I did! Overall, he did fine, except he was putting one "run" of benderboard in the wrong place - up *against* where the fence was going to go - not 24" fwd of it (like I'd marked!). In other words, I wouldn't have had room for my planter-bed. I attempted to communicate with him. *I* thought, pretty clearly between "No. Here" and associated hand-gestures (and a smile, I might add), but he was clearly annoyed. And I think it was less of a language barrier than a cultural thing. He seemed particularly annoyed at having me tell him what to do and he waved me off, rather angrily.


I had no choice but to sic Rog on him. Of course, Rog was at work and Uncle Numbnuts' nephew was unreachable. So later that night, phone calls were made, words were exchanged, and the very next day Uncle Numbnuts had to come out and remove the benderboard, re-trench, and install it a second time... I'm sure he was none too pleased about THAT!

In the end, it all came together. Rog is very pleased with his lawn and, over time, I think I've done a pretty damned good job of putting together a rather lovely Tropical Resort. Yes, I am the "Gardener" of the house. Rog handles Mow 'N Blow and is The Pool Guy (although now that he travels so much, I am Parttime Pool Gal).

It was funny. After the pool and lawn went in, Rog proudly announced that "The yard is DONE!" I looked at him incredulously "Are you kidding me?! It's barely even STARTED!"

He just didn't "get" that the REAL landscaping was going to be the pièce de résistance to make the yard TRULY complete!

Of course, NOW he "gets it!" In fact, he's very proud to tell anyone, who "Ooohs and Ahhhhhs" over our yard, that *I* was the one who made it all happen (which is actually a very nice thing!).

In fact, several times after the pool went in, Lifetime Pools (Eh, I'll give 'em a plug!) sent other prospective customers over to see our finished pool and, more than once, the wives were all "This is GREAT! Who did your landscaping?" and Rog would proudly point to me.

So yeah, that was nice (I rarely get to hear kudos from Rog. I know he says good things about me - just not in my presence!!!).

Anyway... Of all the projects I've tackled - that was certainly one of the most gratifying! It was a ton of work, and had it's stressful moments, but I enjoyed it.

Wedding Planning was another BIG project, of course. But that's a story for another time, I think... (FWIW - I feel compelled to note that I was never was a Bridezilla!!!!)

Anyway... I like having some kinda "Project" going to keep me occupied. Certainly helps stave off the boredom! Especially during the dark months of winter!

I think I've yammered enough for one day!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Deja Vu All Over Again...

Scheduled another "bid" appointment for the Kitchen Reface...

The guy was supposed to show up at 1:00pm...

It's 2:20pm. No Salesdroid. No phone call. No nuthin'!


Now one would *think* - what with the economy being what it is and all - that businesses/contractors would be pretty hungry for business right about now.

Okay then, scratch this one off the list as well!

Monday, October 6, 2008

"WYWO" Dealing with Sales Pitches...

Okay, so I've officially killed the "While You Were Out" Thread - but the Home Improvement saga is ongoing...

When we last left our hero(ine), she had cunningly convinced Dear Hubbie that "Home Improvements" didn't have to be OUTRAGEOUSLY expensive and that, perhaps, MORE could be done to bring the place "Up To Snuff."

And, of course, she was SOOOOO cunning, it came out as "Hubbie's Most-Brilliant Idea!" (That's the Beauty of "Cunning!")

(The "Wisdom" part kicks in when you just shut-up and let DH believe it's HIS idea!).

So, DH charged DW with gathering bids for the Kitchen Re-facing Project, right?

And Cunning DW (aka "Moi!") dutifully surfed the internet and signed onto various sites offering "Kitchen Remodeling/Refacing" Services.

Now, in the meantime, I've already gathered photos, off the internet, to illustrate to DH exactly what I'd like to achieve. And ("Strike while the iron's hot!") I'd sent them to him the day after he came up with the brilliant idea to do *something* with the cabinets.

Nothing Super-High-End. We're talking plain ol' Maple (or Beechwood) "Shaker" style cabinets w/"natural" (colorless) wood-stain. Much lighter, brighter and "cleaner" than the ugly, Life-Force-Sucking dark oak cabinets we've got now...

So, I got some responses to my inquiries. The first place, Kitchen Tune-Up in Fremont, is the front-runner. I'd already gotten "partway" thru their sales process a couple-three years ago. They *did* respond to my email, this time around, and gave me a "sight-unseen" estimate of appx $4,200.00 (after I'd provided measurements and requirements).

I have been to their showroom (the "Showroom" appt happens before the in-home measuring/"Final" estimate), and - from what I've seen - I really like how they conduct business (No "Hard-Sell" Tactics). I also checked 'em out on and haven't found any complaints. All good indicators... So I've put 'em "Last" on my list, for now b/c they're the Front-Runner (Odd logic, I know. But I need to get "other" bids before I drag Rog into it)

I'd also gotten a bid from Sears. Sears only offers Rigid Thermofoil cabinet-refacing (Not wood - basically cheesy apartment-grade crap, IMHO). That was a couple of yrs ago, and since it wasn't real wood, I tossed the estimate...

I'd ALSO gotten a bid from Home Depot - which was "high" as I recall. But they were hesitant to deal w/me without my husband present (Not a good business tactic - IMHO). I tried to get a "fresher" bid, but they were a No-Show...

Today, I met with a (cough-cough) "Kitchen Designer" from Kitchenw****. Again, when I'd originally contacted them, they wanted to insist on having Spouse or Significant Other present for the - umm - "Presentation." Again, I expressed that this was not only unnecessary, but potentially detrimental to their business.

"Well, we just want to make certain that he'll like whatever is selected."

"Trust me, he'll like it! He has no choice!"

Anyway, Salesdroid showed up this afternoon. Boy, talk about a Sales Pitch! He'd started out, earlier, on the phone by indicating that he normally requires about four hours to "design" a kitchen (What are you kidding me?!!). "Well, I was figuring on more like an hour - I already have a pretty good idea of what I want."

So, when he arrives, he starts with the Schmoozing routine right away, right? "Wow - Your living room's been recently painted - it looks GREAT! Looks like about a $2,500.00 job!"

I'm too nice to roll my eyes visibly, of course...

"Yeah well, Hubbie travels a lot and when he's out of town, I like to redecorate..."

So then he comes in, sets down his briefcase and starts his spiel, right? "I'm supposed to spend half an hour telling you about how wonderful our company is... How we were voted Most Yada-Yada by Such-and-Such, blah-blah-blah"

"Yeah, well. You can skip that part. Hubbie will be home soon and I'd like to get the estimate" :::Big Smile:::

"Well," he begins "Had you considered...?" as he starts with the suggestions....

"Actually, I already have a good idea of what my Dream Kitchen looks like - but I can't have that. So I ALSO have an idea of what I'd *like* to do to make THIS kitchen less of a nightmare, as inexpensively as possible."

"Oh, well PLEASE tell me about your Dream Kitchen"

Okay, fine. I actually have pictures that *look* like "Before and Afters." A neighbor of ours, in the exact same house, re-did his kitchen and I had the Good Fortune of being able to snap photos of it. And I put it in a Powerpoint Presentation which I showed to said Salesdroid...

Then I reminded him: "This isn't in the budget! I'd like a bid on what it would cost to re-face THESE cabinets - 'As-Is' - in a natural maple-shaker..."

Well, he immediately zoned in on the granite countertops in my neighbor's kitchen and ASSURED me he could get me an EXCELLENT price on that - "Less than Laminate!"

"Okay, fine. Go ahead and quote that, too - but SEPARATELY b/c I already *know* hubbie's not gonna go for that. Let's just concentrate on the cabinets for Phase I"

Then I get the whole "Well, if you're looking for inexpensive cabinets" (with a hint of derision, I might add) and he hands me the IKEA catalog.

I stopped shy of saying "Don't insult me" - instead I'd said "Yes, I'm familiar with their stuff. THAT'S why I'm talking to YOU." as I handed the catalog back (Puhhh-LEEEZ!)

(Not that IKEA is *bad* mind you. But I know that the "foundation" of our cabinets is actually pretty damned good solid-wood [as opposed to new IKEA cabinets which are made of veneers over MDF and/or particle board]. Re-facing is actually the BEST option for us)

Then I got the whole "Well, we're more expensive than some of the other ya-ya-yas, but we're worth it because blah-blah-blah, and some of the other companies do yada-yada-yada..." Ad nauseum.

Again, I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. I'm just thinkin' "What's the price already?"

At some point, toward the end of the Sales Presentation, after I'd seen the doors (none of which really blew-my-socks-off, BTW), but BEFORE the final quote came in, DH drove up and Salesdroid had to move his car...

(And we broke The Cardinal Rule: Don't let contractors/handymen/anyone "bidding" for any household job see the contents of the garage [Classic Corvette and three Harleys!] lest we end up with a ridiculously high bid!)

So SD comes back in and pores over his Quote sheet and calculator... DH walks in and we gotta do the whole "Hi, I'm so-and-so, pleezdameetcha" bit...

DH wanders off to the bedroom, after announcing, to SalesDroid that *I* was "in charge of gathering bids."

SD finishes his calculating and scribbling and turns to me to announce the Final Tally...

Well, stupidly, he starts off by yakking about the granite countertops and suddenly DH appears in the kitchen saying "Granite?!!!"

NOW I'm rolling my eyes visibly and I mutter to SD: "Now you're getting me in trouble - I *told* you to quote that completely separately!!!!"

"Granite?!! Nobody said anything about GRANITE!"

I waved DH off, as SD starts back-pedaling and indicating that the granite doesn't have to be done right away - that can come later...

("Damn Skippy!")

"And we offer zero-percent financing - Same-as-Cash...." (Again, earlier on, I made it clear that THAT wasn't something we'd be willing to pursue either!) (Read I don't think I'm contributing to the Credit Crisis - which *is* relevant! See the "Scary Zero Percent" section. This falls under that category!!!)

Anyway - Bottom Line: Quote for *just* the cabinet-refacing came in at roughly $7,700.00 (Total tally - including granite - was over $10K! I prob'ly don't hafta tell you how Rog reacted to THAT!!!!)

Waaaaaaaay the hell more than the $4200 preliminary bid I'd gotten from KTU (Grant you, it IS "preliminary"). Actually, waaaaaaay the hell more than Home Depot, even.

In other words, I don't think that Kitchenw**** - despite their glowing "Most Yada-Yada Rating from Such-and-Such" is going to win the bid.

Particularly after such a glaring fubar on the part of the SalesDroid - yakking about the Granite Countertops that I didn't even request!!! (And, even though I AGREED to accept a bid for Granite, I made it pretty-damned-clear that that *wasn't* gonna fly w/DH).

Anyway.... I did get the "Official" bid. And now Rog is balking less at the original quote I'd fwded to him!

I do have an appt on Weds to get another Quote from another Refacer - so we'll see how that goes!

Stay tuned... Film at Eleven... Yada Yada!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

"I don't get out much" - San Benito County Fair & 19th Hole Saloon in Tres Pinos

Yeah, so we went to the San Benito County Fair - as you may have inferred from my earlier post.

It's a Small "Country" type fair (about as "Country" as we get in this area, anyway!).

Now, bear in mind that I am the product of a purely Suburban Upbringing. When I was a kid, the Big Deal every fall was to attend the San Mateo County Fair and Floral Fiesta. And it was fun - don't get me wrong - although I wasn't allowed nearly enough time in the midway! The "Big Draws" at the SMC Fair were the Floral and Garden Displays (which were actually quite nice - but lost on me - in my "surly teenager days"), and Horse Racing (see my earlier musings inspired by Bay Meadows' closing Musings on being Middle Class - although it's only "distantly" related to the subject at-hand...)

Most of our time, however, was spent perusing the Commercial buildings where we'd dutifully watch every demonstration of every new "Household Convenience" (à la Creepy-Vince of ShamWow!). Mom would purchase these gee-gaws every year (and they'd end up stuffed in the hall closet - never to be seen again!).

Interestingly enough - I inherited one of these gee-gaws: A "Streamstress" by Osrow (Who?!!). It's got to be at least thirty years old! Amazingly (or perhaps not!) I just found one on eBay (No clue how long that link will work, but "Oh, well!"). It's basically a plastic hand-held steamer thingie that looks a little like an iron. You fill it with water and a pinch of salt, plug it in, and it produces steam. I Actually Used The Thing on Saturday night (And THAT, my friends, oughtta be a fine example of Just How Exciting my life is!!). It did a fine job of eliminating the fold-creases on my new curtains!

Oops - But I digress!

Anyway, my overall impression of County Fairs is that they're just an avenue for marginal businesses to sell mostly-useless krep........

Over time, I'd gone to bigger County Fairs. Back in the 80's Santa Clara put on a pretty good one, actually. There was still "some" agriculture down here. But the county fair has deteriorated so badly over time, that this year they actually cancelled it outright! Plus it was a little unnerving to observe the Law-Enforcement:Patron Ratio. Ditto the Alameda County Fair!

* * * * *
Years ago, back in the Heyday of Rog 'N Nan's New Millenium Romance, we'd gone "back east" to meet Roger's family and friends in Connecticut. As we were driving thru the pastoral countryside one afternoon, we'd stumbled onto the Goshen County Fair.

Now *that* was a REAL Country Fair!!! It looked like it was set-up in some farmer's pasture! We're talking Pigs and Cows and Chickens and Goats; Home-made pie contests; Quilts; Honest-To-Gawd Local Community (Brass) Bands playing in the central Gazebo; Demonstrations of fancy-decorated draft horses pulling fancy-decorated wagons; Tractor Pulls - the whole nine-yards! Almost NO commercial krep and their midway consisted of, maybe, six rides and about the same # of Lose-Your-Money-For-A-Chance-To-Win-Cheap-Stuffed-Animals booths. It was soooooooo cool!!! It was totally like stepping back-in-time, into a chapter of "Charlotte's Web" (Or maybe a "Hidden Valley Ranch" commercial!) - I kid you not!

I *loved* every minute of it!

So yeah, I have a Soft-Spot in my heart for cheesy, honest-to-gawd "Country" style fairs! And the San Benito County Fair fits the bill.

* * * * *
It's definitely "off-the-beaten-path!" It's 8 miles south of Hollister which - @ appx 50 miles south of San Jose - is also "off-the-beaten path!"

The drive (or Ride, since we frequently take the Harleys) *to* Hollister is pretty dull: Mostly freeway, and an aromatic (stinky!)-staightaway down hwy 25 - past all the hedgerows (where San Jose's 'Green' Waste ends up, ultimately becoming compost). Downtown Hollister is kinda stuck in a Timewarp, and they're in the process of "Quaint-ifying" it. Hollister's okay, but really only *interesting* when the big Motorcycle Rally (Excuse me, Baby-Stroller Rally) is in town (early July).

Once you get past Hollister, the route gets more visually-interesting. Hwy 25 becomes Airline Highway, and the surrounding geography gets really rugged-looking, Wild-West-ish if-ya-know-what-I-mean. It's tucked behind some craggy hills, covered with chaparral; scrub-oak and sage-brush (yet there are a couple-three glaringly green golf courses along the way! Oh, and several de rigeur multi-million-dollar golf-course/retirement communities!). Pretty much, once you're past Hollister, you're on your way to NOWHERE! Ain't nuthin' after Bolado Park (well, except for Pinnacles National Monument which is also a pretty cool destination, if you're into rugged rock-climbing). After that, it's miles-and-miles of nothing - but it'd make a nice "scenic side-route" to Southern Cal if you were lookin' to make a motorcycle trek (the roads - at least *to* Pinnacles - are in very good shape. Can't speak for *past* Pinnacles since I've never ridden there - but traffic is virtually nonexistent, so I can't imagine that the roads have seen much wear 'n tear).........

But I digress (AGAIN!!!)... Okay, back to the fair!

* * * * *
Last year (or was it the year before?) we went and had our "Miller's Margaritaville" sign custom-carved at one of the few commercial booths @ the SBCF. While we were waiting, we wandered over to the bandstand and sat down. We watched the band start setting up - having NO clue who would be playing. Well, the band started playing... They were doing lots of Jefferson Starship tunes and I'd remarked to Rog that "Hey, they sound pretty good!" Rog agreed they were *quite* good for a Cover-Band. "But why all the Starship, I wonder?" "Yeah, well, they sound JUST like 'em!" Well... Sumunabeech!!! It was freakin' Jefferson Starship (with Mickey Thomas). I was, like, stunned and amazed! They put on a very good show - and it was a MUCH bigger 'Act' than one would expect at such a godforsaken location (Kinda-almost sad, if you think about it - but I choose not to!)

We had an AWESOME time!

I think, what I like best, aside from the fact that the Commercial Krep is pretty minimal, is that it's a pretty small place. They have a decent midway and a handful of rides. And they DO have a pretty big arena where they have horse-shows, rodeos, demolition derbies, truck-pulls and mud-racing (we passed on the mud-racing this afternoon!).

But they also have a HUGE area for the 4H & FFA stuff. Lots of pigs, sheep, dairy and beef cattle, goats, etc. I *love* that stuff!!!

We did it "right" this time. We ate lunch BEFORE going to pet the critters. Although lunch was... Well, it was "Fair Food" so expectations weren't exactly high! We had BBQ Tri-Tip Sandwiches that were very chewy (which is about the nicest adjective I can apply to the meal!!). Followed by soft-serve ice-cream-cones for dessert (No chocolate dipped cones - Bummer!!!). Still yummy though! (Yes, I paid for it later!)

My biggest disappointment: NO Fair-Corn!!!! (I guess that just means we need to do ONE more BBQ this year so I can get my Grilled-Corn-Jones sated!)

:::Sigh::: (/Begin Rant) As you've already seen, I was pretty-much disgusted over the "Warning" sign that greeted us as we approached the critter barns. Yeah, I'm sure it's due to some Stupid-@$$ Legal Requirement because of some Stupid-@$$ person(s) who did some Stupid-@$$ thing (probably letting their toddler run wild, scooping up a pile o' poop, eating it, getting a tummyache, and trying to sue the damned fair organizers).

That kinda Stupid-@$$ stuff just IRKS ME to no end!!!! (/End Rant)

I couldn't help but giggle over the fact that Animals were Pooping Freely in our midst! :::gasp:::

Actually, the 4H/FFA kids were ALWAYS right on top of it with rakes and shovels. Practically CATCHING the poop before it even hit the ground!

The place was really, really clean! (I thought!).

...And this is an "Educated Opinion" even! I've HAD critters: Horses, chickens, geese, AND an FFA steer - but that's a story for another time.......

So anyway... Yeah, the fair was fun! No Big-Name Bands this year (actually, it looked like the fair was a lot smaller than the last one we'd attended). But the local "Cover Band" was pretty decent. We killed several hours, wandering around. And, all-told, we only spent about $30 apiece for a day's worth of entertainment! Not bad!

* * * * *
On the way back, we stopped in Tres Pinos and hit the "19th Hole" Saloon. Now THAT'S a VERY cool, VERY old bar. It's a "Must-Stop" if you're ever in the area (however unlikely that may be!). It definitely has an authentic old Western-Saloon Vibe. We'd stopped there, many times in the past, when we were on Motorcycle rides and it's always been a bit of a dive - but a VERY cool dive.

Well, I'm thinkin' they're under new ownership now because - even as we drove past it heading toward the fair - it looked like it had been "cleaned up" a bit. I viewed that as a Very Bad Sign! I know almost-nothing of the history of the place, but it looks like it was built back in the late 1800's or something. It's full of old hunting rifles, and very old photos pasted to the walls, and dead-animal-heads, and an old water-damaged (peeling) ceiling, with hundreds of dollar-bills stuck-up there... TONS of "character," ya-know?

Anyone trying to "update" the place is BOUND to screw it up!

Well, I'm pleased to report that - while it HAS been updated - it's been done VERY WELL! They've definitely held-true to the "history" of the place. And they've expanded it (somewhat) to include a restaurant. Haven't partaken of the food, but I did find another blogger's post about it here: 19th Hole - Tres Pinos, CA (I don't know Melissa, and I don't follow her blog, but she seem quite accurate in her assessment of the place!).

Ooh, here's a news article and more pictures of the place...

And the beers are still cheap ($4.00@ for a draft microbrew), and they had $2.00 margaritas!

The weird/sad thing is: They no longer allow smoking in the bar (of course, it was illegal when they *did* allow it!), and the place was PACKED with patrons - which was just really, really weird!!! Not BAD, mind you - I'm sure it's VERY good for the proprietors! But every time we've wandered in in the past, we've been practically the ONLY people in the joint!

Anyway - they "Done Good" with the update. I'm glad there's still at least ONE good, old dive-bar that's still "intact" in the South-Of-South-Bay Area!

"And now for something completely different!"

Posted at the gate leading to the FFA/4H Livestock Section of the San Benito County Fair:

I'm sorry, but if you're SOOOO - umm - "intellectually-challenged" that you need a Warning Sign (assuming, of course, that you'll even bother to READ it), perhaps you're better off just staying home!

Just my opinion...............

Thursday, October 2, 2008

"While You Were Out" Part XVI - Time to kill this thread, huh?

Okay, as promised - Here is a shot of the "Work in Progress" (Not quite complete - but "Getting there!"):

The living room *does* look about a zillion times better now! It's not exactly the way I want it - yet - but it's definitely headed in the right direction!

Yeah, the furniture's still pretty "80's looking" (all my furniture was very "Cutting Edge" - back in the day!!!) - but that's not likely to change anytime soon.

But it's still pass-able, I think. I'm kinda "stuck" with the black lacquer+marble tables since I've got a big 'ol black piano in the living room. I did go w/a black picture frame on the beachy-painting, so it still kinda goes together.

I've ordered new lampshades (generic beige), so that oughtta brighten things up a bit. I've also got new drapes on order (those cheesy-cheap floral things are UGGGGG-LY! - But I need *some* privacy for now!). I also ordered a silk palm tree off eBay - about 6' tall - which'll go in the corner next to the piano. I'll use that to add a little "drama" to the room. I've got an up-light I'll put behind it so it should cast some cool shadows on the walls/ceiling.

I also stopped by my storage locker today and pulled out an old black Asian chest-thingie to put on the "Hall-Wall." It's a little too narrow, visually, for the space, but it's what I've got to work with, for now. I'd really like something "bigger"/wider there - but I've put a moratorium on spending!

We've got a blank wall opposite the sofa and it's basically the "hall" that leads from the front-door to the kitchen, hence the name: "Hall Wall ". So I put the chest on that wall and hung a mirror over that. I also put one of my hand-made (by Moi!) Tiki lamps on the chest so we've got a bit more light in there.

Not sure if I can embed another pic in this post, but I'll try:

Cool! It worked!

It kinda breaks up the huge-expanse-of-wall - so it's an improvement (and yes, I know I need to clean the mirror again. Camera-flashes can be so unforgiving!!!).

Anyway - it's all coming together!

* * * * *
Now - As for the "Big-Picture Goal" - things seem to be heading in the right direction! Rog (after his initial dismay at witnessing the aftermath of "Hurricane Nan!") has admitted that the room looks a whole helluva lot better. And, in the scheme of things, it really didn't require THAT much in the way of effort or money to realize a significant improvement!

Annnnnnnnddddd... (Bwahahahaha!!!) He even opined that maybe we should look into doing *something* with the kitchen cabinets!!! (Yes, my Evil Plan is coming together!!!). See, the kitchen is open to the living room - so when you walk in, it's "nice" to see a fresh, crisp paint-job in the living room - but then you look fwd to the kitchen and see these HIDEOUS cabinets and get the very life sucked out of you!!!

He'd asked if there was anything the painters could do to improve them: "Maybe put something shiny on them?" "No." I assured him "There is NOTHING they can do to help these cabinets - other than PAINT them." Well Rog, like many men, seems to think that wood should never be painted :::shrug:::

There was a point where I'd actually attempted to strip the varnish/stain off of one of the cabinet doors (on the back-side of one of the lesser-used doors - where it wouldn't be visible) - and, well, there's just no getting around the fact that 1973-vintage, builders-grade, ugly DARK oak cabinets will ALWAYS be 1973-vintage, builders-grade, ugly DARK oak cabinets!!!

Here's what I'm talking about:

BTW - the monstrously ugly range *has* been replaced. It barely worked. One burner was "mostly functional" with two different heat-settings: 'Tepid' and 'Thermonuclear Meltdown.' The other three burners were "dicey-at-best" and usually arced when you'd turn them on! The new range is a "bisque" colored glass cooktop model - MUCH better!

So anyway... Now I'm in the process of gathering bids for Cabinet-Refacing. Rog seems "reluctantly agreeable" to the idea. I figure we can hit the Home Equity Line for that (that's what HELOC's are for, right?!!), and we can split the cost...

Not sure if it's gonna happen, but it's certainly worth looking into. Especially if I can pull this off for less-than $5K (I think that's do-able - given the fact that most of these contractors are probably pretty "hungry" for business right-about-now!)

Much as I'd love to "gut" the kitchen and start over - we just can't justify the expense - Ya know, what with the Economy being in the tank and all that (Thanks, George Dubyah)! Our kitchen is actually HUGE in terms of floor-space - but it's very poorly designed. A neighbor of ours (in the exact same model house) completely re-did his kitchen and I took pics of it. But he was a "Good" DIY-er - and he installed Custom Cabinets, granite countertops, stainless appliances, yada yada. He did a gorgeous job - but Rog and I are NOT DIY-ers (not without one of us ending up in prison, anyway!), and we just can't fork over that much capital!

At this point, I'd be happy with a simple cosmetic face-lift in the kitchen. I'm thinking a simple "Re-face" job w/plain 'ol Shaker-style cabinets doors in a light maple finish - oughtta do the trick (and, of course, a fresh coat of paint on the walls).

I'm gathering bids now...................

I'm just glad that I was successful at "planting the seed" for some more interior Home Improvement projects. The place really could use a bit of a face-lift! So all the pain and agony (both figurative AND literal!) may well have been worth-it!!!

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