The gift tally

Really good holiday this year (by which I count my birthday and the Christmas days together), with good gifts but especially with family and good friends. My birthday was fairly low-key, with just the family and a boozy theme: a gift card to the Brew Shop, a giant bottle of Jack Daniels, a magnum bottle of Anchor’s 2010 Christmas Ale, a bottle of German mulled wine.

(Update—forgot to mention a new computer chair for the office as well.)

Christmas Eve was the first of the big parties: we hosted at our house (which we do every year), with homemade pulled pork sandwiches, lots of potluck food, lots of candies and cookies, and of course lots of good drinks. I warmed the mulled wine in a saucepan, and we had plenty of beer (both homebrewed and specialty bottles our friends Paul and Sandi brought over), wine, and some mixed drinks going on (our friend Karen brought over some homemade vanilla schnapps she had received).

Food was great, the company was greater. Besides Paul and Sandi and Karen, Shannon and Brian and their son joined us (and of course my family was here as well). Everything went off without a hitch and everyone had a great time (I hope!).

Then of course, Christmas day. Which began really, really early (does it start any other way when you have kids though?)—the kids were up at 6:45 checking their stockings (that’s an arbitrary time we’d set up long ago), but I had mostly been awake since around 6. (Plus, the dog had woken us up at 2am, barking briefly at something we couldn’t figure out. Maybe Santa?)

After opening presents, we had homemade crème brûlée French toast and bacon for breakfast. Yes, it was pretty much as good as it sounds.

For Christmas, I got:

  • Candies and chocolates, a flask funnel, mini bottles of coconut rum and cinnamon whiskey, Guinness-flavored BBQ sauce, and lottery Scratch-Its in my stocking. (“What’s in Santa’s Beard” is the weirdest Scratch-It game ever.)
  • Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas Tree
  • A gift set of Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage bourbon, with a combination cigar holder/flask
  • Four specialty beers
  • A belt
  • A bottle drying rack (for cleaning beer bottles for homebrewing)
  • A homemade calendar day planner (my daughter made it)
  • Money

The gifts are awesome, but it was spending Christmas out at Mom and Dad’s with everyone (Paul and Sandi and Karen joined us again, as well as some other old friends we seen once a year) that really made the holiday for me. My parents put together a fantastic dinner and party and it was perfect. There was so much good food and drink that food coma had set in by the time we got home. But we couldn’t have asked for a better Christmas.

I hope everyone else had a great holiday this year too!

Mortality

One year and two weeks after we lost our first cat, we lost our second cat today. We had to have him put to sleep, the same as before; he was essentially end-stage advanced urinary tract disease. We’d spent the last two weeks doing everything we could for him.

This was our cat Lucifer. He was 13. We’d also raised him from a kitten. He was a big Maine coon, with six toes on each of his front paws; he looked like he was wearing mittens. He was also the sweetest cat you would ever meet.

Yes, it sucks. It’s like that, sometimes. But at 13, he lived a full, happy, loving life with no complaints; there’s not much more you can ask for.

Obligatory post-Christmas post

Okay, I freely admit I stole the title from Jake. Everyone have a good holiday? Mostly? Good.

There’s no denying it, Christmas is for the kids. We had more presents under the tree than ever, I think, almost all for them. And, they’re just at that age now where Christmas is a Big Deal, possibly the Biggest Deal of the Whole Year, so it was full frontal X-Mas this year. (Yeah, I chose that phrase deliberately, just to weed out the pervs. I’m watching you.)

So, here’s a (mostly boring) list of what I got this year, both for my birthday and Christmas (no particular order):

After the morning of opening presents and ooh-ing and ahh-ing over new toys and cleaning up and everything, we went out to my parents’ house to spend the rest of the day eating and visiting in our traditional Christmas manner. This is actually my favorite part of Christmas, I think, family and friends getting together to celebrate the holiday.

This year we caught up with a family friend we hadn’t seen in four years, with an interesting backstory: he’s a forensic criminalist based in Ontario, Oregon. That’s right, he’s a CSI, although, as he put it, without the guns, the drama, or anything like that. He wants to get transferred to Portland because there’s not enough homicides in Eastern Oregon… seriously. Mostly it’s lab work, identifying meth and other similar drugs.

What’s funny is that I was under the impression for years now that he was a forensic psychologist, which is what I’d been telling people. Doesn’t that seem more exciting or interesting somehow? I don’t know, but I was pretty amused by the thought of him matching wits with the Hannibal Lecters of Eastern Oregon…

Ah, such is Christmas. The most wonderful time of the year!

Throwing a party

I haven’t posted anything lately because I’m still recovering from this past weekend. You see, we threw a big party.

This is the year both of my parents are turning 60, so myself and my two brothers decided earlier in the year that we were going to invite all their oldest friends and throw a surprise party for them. Somehow, we pulled it off; even with the unexpected weather, we had a lot of the guests show up (some were coming over the mountain passes and couldn’t make it), and everything went off without a hitch.

We rented the Parish House at the Old St. Francis School, and that turned out to be the perfect place for a party—not only were we able to accomodate everyone that showed up, but my parents, my brother and his wife, and two old friends were able to stay the night. McMenamins was really accomodating, too, even though we didn’t have them cater the party; we used Costco for all the food and drink.

So, my brother and sister-in-law got to town Thursday afternoon (from San Diego), keeping a low profile so as not to ruin the surprise (we don’t see them very often, obviously). Friday I left work at noon and we ran around getting ready for the party, and then Saturday was the big day. Getting the food, decorating the cottage, setting everything up, and then getting my parents down there without telling them what was up. (They knew something was up—we’d cryptically told them to clear the calendar for the weekend and to meet us at our house Saturday late afternoon.)

They never saw it coming.

It was awesome. Tell the truth, I’m a little surprised we were able to pull something like this off. We’d been planning for months, plenty of opportunity for it to get out, but it didn’t. I’d never tried to organize a big party like that before, but all went well.

And renting the cottage at McMenamins turned out to be a great move; it was cheaper that many of the other spaces we looked at (conference/banquet rooms in hotels, for example), and it was perfect for anyone needing to spend the night—we weren’t on a time schedule to get out of there. There’s enough of a kitchen to be useful (no stove or microwave though), and if you wanted to get out for a smoke, or a drink, or fresh air, you can just step out the back and step into O’Kane’s or stay by the outdoor fire they had going. I’d recommend it for anyone looking to do something similar.

Sunday we cleaned up and went out to my parents’ house with all the leftover food and alcohol and got together with the family again before my brother and his wife had to leave Monday. By that night, winding down, I could feel it creeping up on me: this weekend kicked my ass. Yesterday I was feeling really run down and dragging at work, today is the same but not so bad.

But don’t get me wrong—it was totally worth it and I’d do it again, in a heartbeat. One of the best weekends, ever.

Off to Florida tomorrow

Ah, we’re quite the travelers this year: tomorrow we’re flying out to Florida for a week. We’ll be visiting my wife’s grandparents near Fort Lauderdale and yes, taking some time to drive up to Orlando for Disney World.

It probably goes without saying that I won’t be online much, or at all. We’re taking the laptop, but time and connectivity may not permit much. I’m not too devastated by this.

See y’all on the other side.

Corno’s Market

According to Metroblogging Portland, Corno’s Food Market is going to be torn down. Wow.

I say “wow” because there’s a more personal connection for me: my grandfather is one of the Cornos that used to run the place. Granted, it’s been closed for something like 10 or more years, and my grandfather hadn’t worked there for longer than that, but it’s still kind of a shock. (In fact, I think my dad may have mentioned to me that Corno’s was going to be destroyed.)

During the holidays, we’d always get the gift box from my grandparents full of (among other things) fresh fruit and nuts and such from the Market. One of the perks. And before that—well before that, before I was even born (or at least too young to remember)—we’d get the hookup from my grandfather when he ran the meat department. Yep, cheap meat.