Snow Jam 2016

This blog post was supposed be about my monster truck appetizer before we headed out to Daytona for the Rolex 24. But a winter storm with the same name as a trio of pop-singing brothers had other ideas and dropped more than two feet of snow on the area. So instead of some awesome photos of Grave Digger, you get this photo of our cars buried under feet of snow:

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Instead of the almost 1,500 horsepower that a monster truck generates, I give you the 8-horsepower beast that Matt used to clean our driveway. Here’s one from Saturday afternoon. I call it Man With Snowblower:

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Or this one from Sunday morning:

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But what will you get instead? A photo of the comb over on the front of our house:

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Happy Labor Day Weekend!

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Happy Labor Day! The unofficial end of summer is here. Well, except for that heat wave we’re expecting the next couple days.

This year, we continued our five-year Labor Day tradition (OK, four out of five since we went to the Baltimore Grand Prix one of those year) of smoking meat. Lots of meat. Six pounds of brisket. Eight pounds of pork shoulder. Two racks of ribs. And three chicken breasts.

I know what you’re thinking. Jen, that’s a lot of meat for two people. Where’s my invitation to the BBQ? And usually we like to share. But after two days of prep and actual cooking, we keep the fruits of our labor for ourselves. Most of it will go straight into the freezer. So when there’s feet of snow on ground and we can’t remember what the backyard looks like, we can defrost a piece of summer for dinner.

So summer is coming to a close. By Tuesday or Wednesday, everyone will be back to school, and my commute will turn back into bumper-to-bumper traffic. Football is only a couple days away, and the temperatures will (eventually) turn cooler. Until next year, summer.

Things I Like This Week … The Return Edition

Tix1. Our season tickets are here! Yesterday, I headed over to the Prudential Center to pick up our Devils season tickets. Picking up the box meant that the return of the hockey season is right around the corner. And I’d like to believe there is more than just tickets in that box. I think there’s also the excitement and hope that each new season brings. Each team starts with a clean slate, with the same chance at winning the Stanley Cup. Fingers crossed it’s a good season.

2. The Mindy Project is back. One of my favorite shows last season was The Mindy Project. And it’s not just because I’d like to be Mindy Kaling when I grow up (even though she’s almost 10 years younger than me). The show really hit its stride in the second half of last season, and I can’t wait to see what happens now that Mindy and Danny are dating. It really has become must-see TV for me. Speaking of returning shows …

3. Boardwalk Empire. I’ve been watching Boardwalk Empire since it started. Now that we’re down to the final eight episodes (OK, six now), I’m tuning in every Sunday night at 9 to see how this drama is going to end. This is probably the right time for the show to end. With everything he has done, Nucky Thompson can’t live forever, right?

4. Bryan Cranston’s one-man baseball show. Baseball’s post-season returns in a couple weeks. While last season’s post-season was magical (thanks to a Red Sox World Series win), this year’s post-season means nothing (thanks to a horrible Red Sox regular season). Bryan Cranston’s new video about his one-man baseball show pays homage to some of the greatest baseball moments (and has an appearance from a former Red Sox). I think this will tide me over until next season.

 

Things I Like This Week … Back in the Saddle Edition

Aerosmith full stage

Photos by Matthew Lowell Thompson

Dream on

1. Aerosmith. Aerosmith was the latest stop in our Last Chance Tour (as in this might be the last chance to see them). The Last Chance Tour is kind of a crapshoot—you never know exactly what you’re going to get. The big question is always this—are they going to sound as good as they used to? Sometimes you’re disappointed, and sometimes you’re surprised. And on Wednesday night, Aerosmith did not disappoint. Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, and the rest of the band have not lost a beat. To Matt’s delight, they played some of their older songs. The best past of the night? Now I can cross off “Seeing Aerosmith perform Dream On live” off my bucket list.

SLASH2. Slash. Slash, who opened for Aerosmith, was a reminder that Matt and I will not be seeing Guns N’ Roses on the Last Chance Tour. But we did get a nice G N’ R substitute Wednesday night when Slash, performing with Myles Kennedy, played a few songs from the past, including Sweet Child ‘O Mine and Paradise City. We got to see one of the best guitar players ever play some of the greatest guitar riffs ever. Not a bad little appetizer for the Aerosmith show. Not bad, indeed.

3. Football is back! I may not have grown up as a football fan, but I sure am one now. In our house, we’ll be rooting for the Patriots (we’re deep in enemy territory) and the Panthers (that’s where Matt’s cousin plays). Not following the home team means that we don’t always get the game on TV. Thankfully, we have SiriusXM to fill the void.

4. The family football pool. It’s become an annual tradition. Aunts, uncles, and cousins gather together online to pick the winner of every NFL game every week. To keep things interesting, there may be a small wager on the outcome. But what’s a little competition among family members, right?

Things I Like This Week … Labor Day Edition

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Will Power on his way to victory in the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix./Photo by Matthew Lowell Thompson

1. Will Power, IndyCar Champion. If you’re an IndyCar fan, there’s only two opinions of Will Power—you love him or you hate him. Our house falls in the pro-Will Power camp, so we were happy (and relieved) to see Will finally win the IndyCar championship on Saturday night (which we didn’t watch until Sunday morning because there was no way I could stay up that late). Will didn’t have the championship wrapped up until the last few laps. Just one more indication of how competitive the IndyCar series was this season. Too bad the season had to end so early.

2. Cirque du Soleil. It’s a staple on the Vegas strip. While I’ve been to Vegas a couple times, I’ve never taken in the show. So when Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai took up residence at the Prudential Center for a few days, I had to go. And it did not disappoint. I know I overuse the word “amazing,” but it is the only word I can think of to describe the performance. Aerial acts, tumblers, hand balancers. There were times I didn’t know what direction to look in.

3. Guardians of the Galaxy. Matt and I rarely go to the movies. But  we thought Guardians of the Galaxy was one of those movies we should see on the big screen. We were right. Fun story and characters. Chris Pratt is hysterical. Catchy soundtrack (which I purchased today). And two sub-things I like? The AMC Fork and Dine Theater (where you can catch the movie while having a beer and eating dinner) and 3D movies (which apparently I have been missing out on).

4. I am Alain Prost. There are all kinds of quizzes out there on the Internet. Thanks to McLaren, now you can take a quiz to figure out which F1 driver you are.

Alexis

Photo by Matthew Lowell Thompson

Eddie K

Photo by Matthew Lowell Thompson

5. U.S. Nationals. It’s the biggest race of the year for the NHRA. It’s the one that every driver wants to win. And it’s always on Labor Day weekend. So in preparation for the busy fall that’s coming, we’re spending a lazy Monday afternoon watching ESPN’s six hours of coverage of the U.S. Nationals. And counting down the 30 days until we get to see these cars live and in person.

Things I Like This Week … Oak Tree Edition

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Photo by Matthew Lowell Thompson

1. Return of the Son of Oak Tree. OK, this may sound like a bad horror or sci-fi movie, but it’s actually good news to me and other racing fans. Last summer I lamented the loss of the Oak Tree at Virginia International Raceway. But on Sunday morning, I was very pleased to wake up to an article from Racer that VIR had found a descendant of the original oak tree and that it would be moved from its current location to to the Oak Tree turn at VIR (on the outside of the track though) in November. Welcome back, Son of Oak Tree!

2. The Knick. It sounds like many of the medical dramas on television today—talented and dedicated surgeon who can only function while under the influence of cocaine, hospital administrators trying to keep the institution afloat, and doctors trying to save lives. What makes The Knick different is that it is set in 1900, not present day. Surgery techniques are rudimentary and experimental. Directed by Steven Soderbergh (one of my favorites), The Knick is visually stunning. (Another visually stunning work? The Grand Budapest Hotel, which we watched this past weekend. There’s a bonus thing I like.)

3. Oh, so that’s how the Chase works. All season long, I’ve been hearing about the new Chase format works. I know you have win to get in, but that was about all I got. Well, now NASCAR has a video from some of your favorite drivers explaining how the new format works. (Side note: is the format too complicated if we need a video to explain it?) The video is fun, and the format could be interesting. I know I’ll be tuning in to see what happens.

4. The Emmys. The Emmy are tonight! It’s my second favorite awards show after the Golden Globes (the lack of tables and lack of alcohol at said tables drops it down a notch). I watch a lot of television, so I enjoy watching my favorite shows get rewarded for a job well done. My pick for best drama? Breaking Bad, by far. Most interesting category? Best actor in a drama. Bryan Cranston gave an amazing performance in his last season as Walter White, but Matthew McConaughey’s portrayal of Rust Cohle in True Detective was just the latest step in the McConaissance.

5. My new favorite F1 driver. I’ve admitted in the past that I am a relatively new F1 fan. I enjoy watching the F1 race every Sunday morning. I know the drivers like and the ones I don’t. But I never had a favorite F1 driver. Until today. The Vettel dominance is a thing of the past. The drama at Mercedes and Ferrari is compelling. But what I’ve enjoyed the most this season is watching Daniel Ricciardo win. So it’s official—Ricciardo is my new driver.

Things I Like This Week … Summer Edition

As summer winds down, here are some of the things I like this week (and this past season)…

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1. Summer traffic. Sure, there’s all kinds of traffic heading down the shore or other vacation destinations. But with everyone on vacation, that means less traffic on the morning commute. Less traffic means the Angry Orange and I are almost happy to make the trip every morning (yes, I named my car the Angry Orange). I know my days of an easy commute are numbered, but I’ll enjoy it while I can.

corn2. The farmers market. Every spring, I count down the days until the local farmers market opens. I love the fruits fresh off the farm—peaches, blueberries, watermelons, and cantaloupes. The past two summers I’ve pickled cucumbers to enjoy during the winter. But the thing I anticipate the most is the Jersey corn. It’s so sweet that it leaves your hands sticky and there’s no need for butter. Next weekend I’ll be freezing some for the winter.

flips3. My J. Crew pink skull-and-crossbones flip flops. These flip flops started my small skull-and-crossbones collection. I’ve had them for years, and I wear them as soon as it gets warm (or when I travel to warmer climates). Sadly, these flip flops are reaching the end of their life and J.Crew doesn’t make them anymore. But the good news I was smart enough to by another pair. Guess I’ll have to break those in next summer.

avoidable-contact4. Avoidable Contact by Tammy Kaehler. Summertime means summer reading. And my recommendation to my race fans (and non-race fans too) is the Kate Reilly Mysteries. Avoidable Contact is the third book in the series, which follows racecar driver Kate Reilly through her life in sportscar racing and the murder mysteries that seem to follow her. These suspenseful stories are peppered with racing details that make you feel you are at the track with Kate. Avoidable Contact unfolds during the Rolex 24 in a minute-by-minute format. Very compelling reading.

Things I Like This Week … Premiere Edition

I feel like I spend too much of my time focusing on the negative, so it’s time for a change. A time to focus on the positive and the things I like this week. This is the premiere edition.

1. Cousins. Growing up, I spent many of my Saturdays at my grandfather’s house, hanging out with my cousins. We played Cops and Robbers, used the backyard as our Whiffle ball field, and may have learned how to pour a beer at an early age. We’re all grown now, and life has taken us in different directions. But every once in while, we find ourselves back together again. This weekend, it was for cousin Meredith’s wedding. We picked up right where we left off. And we may have put our beer-pouring skills to work.

2. Formula 1. At Monaco this year, all the talk was whether Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg could sweep the season. But the very next race, Daniel Riccardo won Montreal and the streak ended. And things haven’t been the same since. The last two races—Germany and Hungary—had me on the edge of my seat. Maybe it’s because Lewis Hamilton had to race his way to through the field due to incidents during qualifying (a crash into a tire wall one week and a burning car the next). Maybe the rest of the field is catching Mercedes. And now it’s three long weeks until the next race. But the fact that it’s Spa doesn’t hurt.

3. Drunk History. I’m not sure how I went this long without this in my life. The premise of Drunk History (Tuesdays, Comedy Central) is quite simple—a drunk person tells a story from history and Derek Waters and his famous friends act it out for us. Below is the story of Claudette Colvin and her role in the civil rights movement:

4. Devils re-sign Andy Greene to a long-term deal. This is just one of the moves that Devils have made this busy off-season. Despite the fact that we are headed into the post-Brodeur era, I’m cautiously optimistic about this season. Only 66 days until the Devils open their season. But who’s counting, right?

5. The things drivers will do for their sponsors. Part of a driver’s job is talking about the sponsor’s products. And sometimes that product is toilet paper and other, um, personal hygiene products. Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon take one for the team in this commercial:

 

Good Advice

jarWhen Matt and I got married (seven years ago today — woot!), my mom bought us a marriage advice jar. We put the jar out at my shower and the wedding. People could write their advice on a little sheet of paper and deposit it in the jar for our future reading. As with anything, the advice varied.

There were the tried-and-true pieces of advice—

  • “Never go to bed angry.”
  • “Communicate, communicate, communicate!”
  • “Always listen to each other.”
  • “Never forget what you love about each other.”
  • “Get mad and get over it.”

And a variation on the tried and true—

  • “Never go to bed angry—and alcohol helps!”

There was some practical advice—

  • “Always have a spare bedroom!”
  • “Don’t try the silent treatment. It only works twice!”

Good thing Matt and I have a sense of humor. Otherwise these wouldn’t work—

  • “Give and take. And most of all laugh!”
  • “You need to laugh every day — no matter what!!”

There was the contracting advice on sleep. One person said—

  • “Wake his butt up!”

While another person said—

  • “LET HIM SLEEP IN!”

And who exactly is right? You can’t go wrong with any of these—

  • “Always remember that you are always right!”
  • “Remember — your partner is always right.”
  • “Just tell him he’s right even though he’s wrong (which is most of the time!!).”

Um, I kind of wish I knew who gave us this advice—

  • “For a good time, call Dr. Phil.”

There was the anti-advice advice—

  • “The best advice is not to give advice. Love one another as well as you can!”

This is just good advice, marriage or not—

  • “NO MORE SHOTS!”

And there was the delusional advice—

  • “GO YANKEES! The season ain’t over yet!” (The funny thing is the Red Sox won the World Series that year.)

But the best advice I got turned up in my jar after my shower—

  •  “Marry Matt!”

Successful Garage Sale? You Be the Judge.

garage saleWe have a lot of stuff in our house, but that’s what happens when two pack rats marry each other. We are starting to hit max capacity, so that means one thing — garage sale.

I’m not so good at the whole garage sale thing — negotiating and dealing with customers are not my bag. But in addition to being a pack rat, Matt is also a natural-born salesman (So much so that he followed someone down the street to another garage sale to let her know about the floor matts we had for her car. And of course she bought them.). So he handles the selling and I handle the merchandising and security.

I’ve found there are two types of garage sale shoppers. First, there are the hunters. They are on the lookout for very specific items. For instance, this weekend’s hunters were searching for jewelry, perfumes, old cameras, video games, Zippo lighters, and gold (aren’t we all?).

And then there are browsers. Some browsers buy, but most don’t. And whether it’s real or imagined, it feels like the browsers are judging my stuff.

The browsers take several forms. There are the thorough browsers who inspect (and often touch) every item on display. There are the speedy browsers who practically jog up and down the driveway, quickly scanning everything along the way and hightailing it out of there because there are many more garage sales to hit. There are the friendly browsers who say hello and chat about the weather. Then there are the frosty browsers who don’t say a thing or make eye contact. Maybe it’s because they can’t look me in the eye when they’re dismissing my personal items.

But the browsers who made me feel the worst are the drive-by browsers. They slow roll by the house, taking a quick glance at the items in the driveway. If they don’t like what they see, they floor it and head on to the next sale down the street. Talk about a snap judgment. I know it’s not rational, but for a split second, it hurts my feelings.

But on Sunday morning, Matt and I were the ones making the snap judgment. A car pulled up across the street from our house. Two potential customers! But the two women stayed in the car. For almost a half hour. Bags were being passed back and forth. The two women never looked up from what they were doing. Matt and I started to think there was a drug deal going down on our quiet suburban street. But they eventually got out of the car and came across the street (turns out they were hunters for 60s toys). Our guess is they stopped to eat breakfast. They were breaking bread, notbreaking bad.

Not too long after that, we wound the garage sale down the weekend. While we were successful getting rid of some stuff and making some money in the process, I can wait a few years before we have our next one.

P.S. – On the Saturday of the garage sale, one of my former classmates posted on Facebook that it was 25 years to the day that we had graduated from high school. I can’t say I remember what I was thinking about on the day of my graduation. But if I had any thoughts about where I would be in 25 years, I’m sure it didn’t involve a garage sale.