Sunday, December 17, 2006

A Birthday Celebrated!

In the birthday girl's own words:

"I had a wonderful Birthday!"

"We went to church this morning, than I had a nap and a bath with a bath fizzie my mom made. (It was pink, smelled like peppermint and had dried mint stuck in it.)"

"At six I had made reservations at a Japanese restaurant for the Habichi Tables, (we've never done that before.) It was so much fun watching our chef fry stuff up in the middle of the table."

"Afterwords we came home to a Coldstone Creamery cake with devils food cake, chocolate mint ice cream and fudge ganace."

"With cake like that who couldn't have a good day?"

"Thank you all so much for your wishes and prayers, I really appreciate them!"

For another view (mine) of this exuberant celebration - herewith:

1. This was NOT a meal - it was performance art with food! The chef whirls his spatulas, ignites a "volcano" made of onion rings, "launches" shrimp or rice balls from his spatula at the mouths of willing patrons (like throwing food to a dog - Mossflower and Jean failed, Rob - see below - caught his expertly) and generally keeps up a patter of conversation for the 1/2 hour it takes to grill the food for 8 people.

The atmosphere - party-like due to whoops and cheers as well as applause for the chefs' performances (there are at least 4 of them cooking simultaneously). It is LOUD to say the least. But at least it isn't due to bad music - just celebratory families and friends having a good time fueled by lots of food, fun, and of course, plenty of alcohol (though none of our family consumed alcoholic beverages).

2. If you don't like Fried Rice, don't go to this restaurant! The fried rice was perpared on the grill in the center of the "table" that seats 8 (our 6 plus Rob and Holly from up near Sugar Loaf who came down to Portland for shopping and entertainment). The steamed rice portion I got in a very small bowl was miserly compared with the generous servings of fried rice grilled at the table.

3. I did not recognize anything on the menu except Sierra Mist (which I got) and steamed rice. Everything else was very, very foreign.

I believe that I was served Miso soup as an appetizer - fortunately for me, tofu sinks so I ladled the broth off the top and left the 6 or so very small pieces of tofu to their well-deserved fate in the bottom of the bowl.

We also had some kind of noodles that came with some vegetables mixed in and grilled - my wife ended up with a serving nearly twice the size of mine.

We also had a vegetarian veggie assortment that was grilled which had carrots (I did not get ANY carrots in my very meager serving - all the women got much more than I did), zucchini squash slices, celery, onions and I recognized the spine of chinese cabbage diced up and grilled.

3. The place settings contained a large plate (mine never got more than 1/2 the surface used) and a set of paper wrapped chop sticks, which I did not open. We had to request a fork for me twice before one finally appeared 20 minutes after the first request. I entertained myself watching the chef perform and sipping my soup in the interim. We also had to request the rice that was supposed to be included with my meal - they ASSUMED that I was having fried rice (can't stand eggs that are visible in any way or that can be tasted individually) I guess.

4. The house salad was good but miniscule.

I had plenty to eat but thought that the service left considerable to be desired. I wished that I had Sarah to guide me through the menu, though my daughters, who have been there before, basically decided what I could eat. They also had veggie sushi and some other (? Tempura?) type of veggie stuff that I didn't even attempt.

It was a VERY educational evening and well enjoyed by all. Had it not been Mossflower's birthday, I wouldn't have gone at all. But I am currently in the process of listening to Ruth Reichl's book Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise she likes this type of food so I had a bit of a hint what might be coming before we went.

Great night. Food - not what I would have selected to eat but we were with family and I survived and was well over nourished and at least I can now say I have 'been there' and 'done that.' Presentation - very good. Service - fair at best (we waited 40 minutes for seating, and 30 minutes after our scheduled table time), the server (though I thought she was somewhat cute) was not real attentive (tips are "automatically included in your bill").

Fuji Restaurant: 2 1/2 stars

Thursday, November 23, 2006

And We Are Thankful... thanks always for all things...

This year we are thankful for many, many things:
1. Friends and family - who shared this holiday with us
2. Music - that we sing and perform on instruments
3. Children - who excel in all they do
4. Health & modern Healthcare - that relieves the ills of us all
5. Sunlight - especially coming through my window at work
6. My Manager - a Christian who is very good at what she does
7. Paid Time Off - a real and unexpected luxury!
8. Our Church Family - for the wonderful worship and fellowship
9. Jean - who is the vital support that makes everything that I do possible
10. God's Wonderful Gift - freely given to be passed just as freely on to others.

*Ephesians 5:20

Friday, November 10, 2006

I'm Moving! (Again) & Other Musings

1. Corporate business being what it is my whole department is being moved. I will still have a "window seat" but it will be a small single cubicle and not the nice double cubicle I currently have. I will be "in" my new "home" when I return to work next week. Hopefully a photo to follow.

2. Time Off. I knew that I had scheduled to have used all my time off just before the end of the year. Then they issued hard-copy pay stubs when the corporate website was being "revamped." Upshot: I have much more time off than I realized. Sometime earlier this year I was given extra time that I was not notifed about. I was off yesterday and today on floating holidays accumulated and will be off on Monday and Tuesday as well for my last floating holiday and an additional paid leave day. I will get ALL of the time off I had previously scheduled and thought that I had forfeited by going to Qwerty's rescue in September AND still have an additional 3 days to either take or donate to a bank that the company maintains for those who have medical illness and no PTO. Nice surprise.

3. Time off. Home projects. That last two days have allowed me to catch up on a variety of projects that needed doing. Today we moved Mossflower's 43" wide-screen rear-projection TV and base unit out of her apartment and into the Upper Room. She gave Applebee's certificates to the two kind young men who "volunteered" to help.

4. Clarinets. While I was off I had the time to call the clarinet repair tech to see if we could get Allie's clarinet fixed and if so, what the cost might be. I called at 3:30 PM yesterday and he was in his shop for another hour. I left right away and made it there in 45 minutes (he stayed a few minutes late to accomodate me). He fixed her clarinet in <5 minutes and didn't charge for it! It PLAYS again! He took my old Buffet clarinet to work on: "This will be a big job..." and will cost several hundred dollars to get it in playing condition again. He was very interested to find that it has a much larger bore than most Buffet clarinets today - but it was made in 1942. That may explain why it has a really full, rich lower register. It won't be home any time soon. Stay tuned.

5. Other projects included assembling our Black & Decker Workmate 225 portable workbench and clamping tool. This will be the platform for Jean's new Craftsman 10" Miter Saw. We will mount the saw on a plywood base with a 2x4 screwed to the bottom and clamp the 2x4 in the jaws of the Workmate to hold it in position for use. (Theorectically, we can mount other power tools such as a power grinder, etc. in the same manner and change them off as needed.)

Today I also re-caulked the garden window - it leaked when we had heavy rains driven by gale force winds a week or two ago. It's approaching 10 years that we have had this window and the caulking had broken down and needed to be refreshed.

The children's rope swing in the tree on the front lawn got taken in today. I haven't taken in the front garden hose - we had 60 degree weather two days in a row and I am still hoping to wash my car - Jean had it all day today having left at 8:30 AM for her art class and returned from it at 4 PM. No car wash/wax today! Also in the 'get ready for winter' mode was to take our bicycles upstairs and store them in the attic for the winter. Done. Check.

Other things accomplished have included: credit card statement reconciled, bills paid, charges entered in the Money program (for 2 weeks).

Last Sunday I raked at the church (fall work bee) for 2 1/2 hours and after returning mowed/mulched leaves into our lawn and then Jean and I helped a church friend make over 20 quarts of apple sauce. It's been a busy week.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Something New, Something Blue...

Today was the day that I swapped off our Netgear FVS318v3 VPN Firewall/Router for the new version that I bought Friday afternoon at Staples - in person, to be sure that I got the "new" faster processor. I was very pleased that the switch over went very well and did not take very long at all. I even installed a firmware upgrade without disturbing its normal functioning. The old one I have donated to the church member who works in the computer field to use at the local Seventh-day Adventist day academy to be able to access the network from home via VPN.

What DID take longer was trying to remedy some issues with the new Westell Versalink DSL modem that I installed during the week when we didn't have any internet or email access. It turned out we didn't actually need a new one (I had inadvertently changed the password the modem and router needed when I tried unsuccessfully to sign up for another year of reduced fee DSL the previous night). But we had it on hand after renewing our contract last year and tech support told us our old modem was at fault (it wasn't) and walked me through the change over.

The tech left us with an unsecured wireless network (the modem includes a wireless router/LAN Switch/Firewall as well as being a modem) AND left me with user name 'admin' and password 'admin'. Grrr. I fussed with the setup software for about 45 minutes to get the wireless router disabled and the password changed AND get the wireless connection restarted.

In addition to that activity today, I have been blessed to get our lawn mowed and the leaves on the ground after the storm Friday night mulched into the lawn. After a brief rest (~1/2 hour) Jean and I tackled painting our daughter's room in the color that she chose this morning: (Sherwin-William's Reticence #6046).

Jean taped and I cut in after which she started cleaning the brushes while I rolled the walls. All together it took about 2 hours this evening. That doesn't count the hour or so this morning we spent wiping the walls down and mopping the floor to be ready for the painting later today. But it's done - at least for now.

My lunch is made for tomorrow and I've had supper and now I'm off to talk with my sister, whose birthday was this week.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Second

And just how many different meanings can be construed from that title? Hmmm...

Time - a very short period of time on a stop watch

Parlimentary - another individual supporting one's motion

Supper - more mashed potatoes (or turnip, depending on the season and the fickleness of one's parental unit(s))

Or...lifetime paid vocal artist(s) concerts attended.

Courtesy of our DD #2 who gifted Jean and I with tickets we attended Bill Gaither's 10th Anniversary Homecoming Concert on Saturday night. It was his first concert in Maine since 1983 "We haven't come to Maine for quite a few years..." Right, Bill. Got that. Worcester, MA is the closest he has brought his group in recent years. Attendees who have been to concerts both in Worcester and here (this concert) found the resonance of the hockey arena a bit...overwhelming. I believe it! We were 'supposed' to be in "nosebleed" seats but were only about half way up in the stands right at center ice/court as the case might be and right behind the sound board. That sound man kept the instrumental channels "redlined" most of the night! It made it a bit difficult to understand words at times but many of the songs were very familiar and sung by familiar artists including:

Joy Gardner
Gaither Vocal Band
Signature Sound
Ben Speer (his 50 yr. old daughter just died - he was visibly affected)
Jessy Dixon
Jeff & Sheri Easter (and their "oops - Surprise, Surprise, Surprise! baby)
Lynda Randale

Gloria Gaither stayed home with other obligations this weekend.

It was a rousing great time and only slightly tempered by an elderly church friend getting lost in the crowd of ~6,000+ people leaving the concert afterwards - Jean found her in the parking lot looking for her friend who drove her - and a late night search for a 24-hour gas station to buy some oil for another concert goer. All arrived home safely, though. We saw many of our church friends at the concert as well.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

We Are Blessed - Good Friends

We are so blessed to have good friends. I realized this a few weeks ago when we re-started our visitation program after taking the summer off (as is typical in our church community). The elderly woman I visited up through the summer break got hospitalized and no longer lives alone as she moved in with her son. I told Jean that I wanted to begin visiting someone new and we started by visiting an ill church member whose wife is a member of our Sabbath School class. He has not been able to come to church due to his medical conditions (multiple). We went to visit them mid-afternoon and they had us stay for popcorn and fruit salad and then games that night. We ALL had a great time and it wasn't like we were "visiting" but rather just like hanging out with great friends!

Last weekend while we were in the greater Chattanooga, TN area we were invited to go to church on Sabbath with a colleage who used to live in Maine and now works at my company's home office in Chattanooga. We were friends before they moved to TN just under two years ago (I actually am doing the job he vacated when he moved south). We went to their church with our college-aged daughter who goes there every other week and joined their Sabbath School class, worshipped with them during church and went to their Sabbath School class' potluck in the afternoon. When that broke up we were invited to our friend's house for conversation, a walk, supper and more conversation.

This Sabbath afternoon we went and visited our friends here in Maine again and I had contacted another Sabbath School classmate who has an infirm friend whom she cares for who came over as well and we all shared popcorn and fruit salad with time to discuss our various concerns, joys and prayed for the burdens and challenges that are looming for one of our friends. We just got home!

What a blessing it is to have friends to fellowship with, to pray with and to just spend time together with on Sabbath.

On an unrelated side note, our pastor introduced us to a lovely new song in church today: The Power of Your Love by Geoff Bullock - her son had the words matched with wonderful photos and graphics in the worship PowerPoint program.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Life...and Stuff

Unplanned Vacation

Jean and I received a call for assistance from our daughter in the Chattanooga, TN, area where she is attending school on Monday (nearly 2 weeks ago now) and with some quick phone calls cancelled all our plans for that week, packed what we needed for a week or so, loaded the items she needed us to bring and were on the road by 7:45 AM the next morning.

"Bummer," I can hear some saying. But I enjoy traveling and can drive for long periods of time simply enjoying the country side go by while listening to an audio book. In this case Jean and I talked for quite a few hours of the trip, though we also listened to The Splendid Solution, a biography of Jonas Salk, who developed the first (and safest) polio vaccine during the 1950s to halt a raging epidemic that Jean and I both lived through. We were lucky recipients of his vaccine ("Go behind the screen, lower your pants and the doctor will give you your shot" - this in the highschool gymnasium) when we were about 10 years old.

Our trip (both going and coming back) were uneventful except that we drove 16 hours straight coming back, managing to get all the way to just northeast of Hartford, CT, before stopping for the night on the way home. That left us a very short, very manageable drive that got us home just after 1 PM.

Working In Chattanooga

After we got our daughter's needs cared for, we had a "spare" day - Friday - which was not sufficient to get us home to our own church for Sabbath. I had taken my work laptop so that I could look up a file if contacted by one of my nurses by logging in at our motel, or so I thought. I couldn't make it work when I tried as I had somehow forgotten the code for connecting to the corporate VPN. That spare day looked like a way to "save" a vacation day by slipping over to my company's Chattanooga office, connecting directly into their intranet and working from there for a day.

We got directions to the office, stopped by AAA to pick up a downtown map of Chattanooga, and made me a lunch in a WalMart bag from our cooler to take with me. A good friend of mine formerly from Maine but now working at the Chattanooga office found me an open office where I could work right beside him and I put in a full day's work. The tour of the office that he gave me was eye opening! And he showed me more efficient ways to do my work, which I have brought home and shared with my manager. I suspect that we will implement several points that I was shown down in Chattanooga.

I am thinking that it might even be possible to work out of the Chattanooga office for a block of time during the winter months. I planned to talk about it with my manager today when I met with her. When I sat down to eat, I found that Jean had left this article open at my place at the table when she went to bed last night - it had arrived in the mail yesterday. Nice to be part of a new 'megatrend.'

Let There Be Light...

In other work-related news, it is coming the time of year that I dread: the end of Daylight Savings Time. I get up in the dark, drive to work in the dark, [work in my windowless 'dungeon' of an office] drive home in the dark, walk in the dark...You get the picture. If we have a stormy weekend, I may not actually see daylight for a couple weeks at a time.

Ever since arriving at my current position I have requested a window seat: "I'll cheerfully give up the office for a cubicle by the windows." The answer was: "We want you in the office where you will not be disturbed." That was that. I figured it's worth it to try again. So I asked today - 'You wouldn't by any chance be willing to give up YOUR window cubicle in exchange for my office?' She would not but, there is an empty double cubicle right next to hers which she will see if she can secure for my use!!! If people are disturbing me, she will help me run herd control. She suggested a motel doorknob tag: "Do Not Disturb" when I need to concentrate. I'm excited about the possibility of having a southeast exposure waist to ceiling window-wall this winter to keep the 'blahs' at bay!!!