Fantastic Weekend

We had such a great weekend this weekend that I felt that I just had to write about it. Something other than beer and book reviews for a change, how about that?
It started off on Thursday night. Our curling club has an internal bonspiel designed to get some of the newer players to compete. We had 12 teams playing, and I was vice skip for our team. Our first game was Thursday, and we won fairly easily. Thankfully, I played a lot better than I had played on Sunday, and a bit better than Wednesday. It was a good start to the weekend. On Saturday morning, I woke up to rain and had to drive up to the curling club for our second game. Sometime while I was out on the ice, the rain changed to snow, and it started piling up pretty quickly. We went on to win our second game, and had to wait for the result of one of the later games to find out if we would advance directly to the final via tie-breaking procedures. As it turned out, we did win the tie-breaker, and qualified for the final on Sunday morning. Unfortunately, prior plans did not allow me to play Sunday, but my team did win, and I got one of these nifty wooden “stones” as a trophy! (Mine is the second from the left, that guy subbed for me on Sunday.)

I headed back home in the snowpocalyptic storm, and surprisingly the roads had not come to a screeching halt. After Lisa and the kids got back from the firehouse breakfast and dropping off Ellie’s friend, we went outside to make snowmen/women. The snow was absolutely perfect for making snowpeople. You could roll the snowballs around, and the snow would stick to the snowball and keep building up bigger and bigger. It was so easy we made two! Ellie and Evan had a blast and even toughed it out for quite a while before complaining about the cold and lobbying for hot chocolate. We went back inside to warm up. I managed to hang new IKEA blinds in the kids’ room with a minimum amount of cursing (mainly reserved for IKEA not including screws!). Later on, we had cheese fondue for dinner and roasted marshmallows over the fire to make smores.
The next morning we headed up to Baltimore to see Uncle Bill and Aunt Maria. We got there in plenty of time and took the light rail up to Woodberry Kitchen to have brunch. That was the most expensive brunch I’ve ever had, but it was definitely worth it. We had the Bake Shop Basket (with extra Lemon Glazed Doughnuts) to start. Everything in there was delicious, especially the doughnuts (they even gave us an extra order for free). The kids were devouring everything we put in front of them. Uncle Bill got the “Full Monty”: a Bloody Mary with shrimp, candied bacon and Natty Boh chaser, which he gave a wholehearted endorsement. Bill and I got the Hangtown Fry: shrimp, oysters and bacon with scrambled eggs. Lisa and Maria got the Morning After: two eggs, BBQ pork, potatoes and biscuit. The kids both got the challah French Toast. Everything was very good yet again. And then we somehow found room to share a CMP: ice cream topped with chocolate sauce, marshmallow fluff, and peanuts. Ellie got to crack the hard sugar top and nearly cracked the glass! We all dipped our spoons deep into the glass and pulled out the gooey goodness. The perfect ending to a great meal.
We finished eating just in time to walk up the hill to see the (scandalized) Baltimore Mayor’s parade. A crazy sound wafted down the hill toward us and we looked up to see a big steam calliope going by. We found a nice spot to sit in the sun and watched the many sights, including the “country’s only realistic Lone Ranger look-alike,” some Mummers groups, and more flamboyantly gay black men dancing than I’ve ever seen in one place before. The local Shriners had more vehicles than I’d seen before, including flying carpet cars, balloon wheeled ATVs and dune buggies. There were plenty of motorcycles (and mopeds!), fire engines, but sadly, no bagpipes. And of course, Santa to top it all off.
We rushed back from the parade to drive down to the curling club for my regular league game. I got there just in time, only to find I had forgotten my change of clothes and had to play in my street clothes. We fell behind early, but managed to get a couple of big scoring ends and went into the last end down by one point, but with the critical last rock advantage. When my last shot came up, I had to make a takeout through a tight spot to knock out the opponent’s rock. Instead, I came out heavy and wide, but luckily we adjusted to the shot quickly and played a promote to take out the opponent rock after all, and we won our game by one point in thrilling fashion.
Finally, we straggled home after a long day. I watched the end of the Redskins’ spectacular loss on our DVR, and watched the Giants pull out a victory over the hated Cowboys, meaning I can taunt our seven-year-old neighbor yet again.
Fantastic.

Curling? Curling!

I haven’t posted too much about curling so far this season. I’m only playing one day a week and haven’t had too much to post about. But it looks like I could be curling in Detroit January 2-4, so that could be fun.
Yesterday’s game was a classic. My team got down 5-0 early, thanks to me coming up short on a draw to lose 3 on a steal in the second end. But we bounced back and were set up well in the third end. Unfortunately, a great shot by the other skip put me back in danger of losing another point to a steal. But on my last shot of the end, I managed to push his rock out and score a big three points. We continued to claw our way back and were down by one in the 7th end. We forced the other skip to make a fabulous shot to barely manage to take his one point, and we needed to score two points to tie in the 8th end. We actually did so fairly easily, and even looked like we might have a shot at 3 for the win. Alas, they took out one of our rocks, and I made a simple hit and stick to score two and send us to an extra end, much to the chagrin of everyone who wanted to go warm up and eat our pizza. So we went into the extra end tied, but without the last rock advantage. We played aggressively, getting two rocks in the house and somewhat covered. From there, my vice and I played to guard those two and get the steal. They managed to take one of ours out, but the other was still protected just past the tee line. My last rock was a good guard that made sure the middle of the ice was covered, and our rock was also under cover. The other skip was forced to go way outside to try to draw around to us, but the rock never curled back in, and we took a thrilling victory. It really was a heck of a game, with both skips making great shots. Well, at least they were great for the usual Sunday league play anyway.
I watched through the window as the Giants beat the Cardinals. Last year at this time, they were still struggling to make the playoffs. This year, they look like (knock on wood) the best team in football, even with the losses on the defensive line, and playing most of yesterday without Plaxico Burress and Brandon Jacobs.
The Spartans are who I thought they were. They still cannot get up for the big game.
And yet, my weekend was made by college football. I never got tired of watching ESPN scroll the stats of how epic Notre Dame and Michigan’s losing seasons have been. Awesome.

Twenty Five Dollars

What a fun weekend. On Saturday, we went to the La Maison Fran├žaise at the French Embassy to see a Czech performer doing a show with bubbles. Yeah, the soap bubble kind. It was really cool, and Ellie and Evan LOVED it. I came home to catch up on the Michigan State game, and promptly scared the kids with my yelling at the TV. It would have been fine if the MSU receivers could have caught the freakin’ ball a little more often! Still, a win is a win, and we’re unbelievably 8-2 right now, with Purdue at home next, before the big game at Penn State on November 22. It’s a pretty exciting time for MSU football, shockingly enough.
We finally decided on Saturday to pull up the old crappy carpet on the stairs, so that we could get rid of the drywall that’s been sitting around forever. I pulled the carpet up on Saturday evening, and there were actually pretty nice hardwood stairs underneath! A little TLC, and they’ll look really nice. On Sunday morning, I tore down the paneling on one side of the stairs, so I could drop the drywall in. The demolition was fun (Lisa remarked that she’s glad I have protective eyewear: there were a lot of splinters flying around!). It was a little frustrating though, just because there always seem to be gotchas whenever we try to redo something around our house. But we ended up managing to get the drywall mostly in place before I had to leave for curling.
Yes, the curling season has begun. For most people, it even started a couple of weeks ago, but I scaled back my schedule, so I’m only playing on Sundays. My team jumped out to a 3-0 lead, then a 6-1 lead, before wrapping up the win at 12-2. It’s Pizza League though, so I wouldn’t say I played great, or read anything into the results. We could just as easily get killed next week. But it is fun, which is how I like it right now. And it was especially fun coming home and watching the Giants whip the Cowboys. Man, do they need Tony Romo back or what?
So, to the subject of this post. Our local Safeway has a gas station. They give you $0.10 per gallon off for every $100 you spend in the store, or $0.03 just for being a member. We apparently had been racking up the credits and had spent $400 in the past couple of weeks, so we got a $0.40 discount. Off the $2.44 price. So we paid $2.04 per gallon. Wow. We spent only $25 to fill up the tank of our Odyssey, just a few months after routinely paying double that. Crazy.

A Fine Fall Weekend

The weekend actually worked out fairly perfectly, all things considered. On Friday night, we had tickets to go to “Boo at the Zoo”: trick-or-treating at the National Zoo. It was already pretty crowded by the time we got there, but the lines weren’t all that long. Thankfully, there were a few monkeys awake for Evan to see (read: freak out about). And while the pandas were asleep, they are cute when asleep. Plus, we got a lot of candy. I don’t think we need to go around to the neighborhood at this point.
It rained pretty much all day Saturday, which was okay because we had indoor activities planned for the most part. Unfortunately, Ellie also had to go to the doctor, but she seems to be perfectly fine now. It was her friend Claire’s birthday party that day, so she had some fun playing there, and then we were off to the “Air and Scare” at the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space museum. Not as fun as the zoo, but way more crowded due to it being free (aside from parking). We were lucky to get there early, because by the time we left a little before 6pm, the line to get into the place was insanely long, almost 2 miles backed up onto the road to get in. And there was nowhere to park once you got in either. So lucky us for getting there early. After that, since it was still pouring rain, it seemed like a good night to head to an Irish pub for dinner. I had fish and chips and a Guinness, and they were good enough to put the MSU-UM game on the TV for me, so I got to see the fourth quarter and MSU close out a big win. Loved the look on Rich Rodriguez’s face every time the Wolverines made another stupid play. Thankfully, the idiot replay official’s call on the first U-M touchdown didn’t cost us either.
Finally, yesterday was a beautiful fall day for another birthday party, which wrapped up just in time for us to head home and catch the Giants beat the Steelers. I was so worried that the Giants would dominate every statistic and yet find a way to lose thanks to two big plays by the Steelers, but they managed to do just enough to pull out the victory. It was a big win, as they are about to head into an absolutely brutal stretch of games to end the season.
This should be another busy week for us. The Town of Vienna’s Halloween parade is on Wednesday, Halloween itself is on Friday. And curling starts on Sunday! Oh, and Guitar Hero is scheduled for delivery on Tuesday. Aw yeah.

Bamboozled

I wasn’t particularly looking forward to fantasy football this year. Somehow, miraculously, we managed to get all 10 players together to draft last night, and it went very well, finishing up in a record 2.5 hours. But what really excited me was the hour leading up to the draft.
See, I got the #3 pick for something like the 8th year in a row. At #3, I figured to have Brian Westbrook available. A solid pick, but not one that gets you excited. Then, along comes the new guy, Cleo, talking about how he might want to trade down out of the #1 overall pick. We ended up making a trade: his #1 overall and his 7th round pick, for my #3 and my 4th rounder. That meant I was able to select the stud of studs for the past 5 years, LaDainian Tomlinson. It also meant that I didn’t have my core 6 guys (QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, and flex) filled out until the 7th round, but I think I ended up with a good team (round selected in parens):
QB: Drew Brees (2), Brett Favre (6), Jason Campbell (11)
RB: LT (1), Ryan Grant (3), Edgerrin James (7), Rudi Johnson (9), Darren Sproles (12)
WR: Wes Welker (5), Roy Williams (7 via trade), Dwayne Bowe (8), Donald Driver (10), Isaac Bruce (14)
TE: Todd Heap (13)
K: Phil Dawson (15)
D: Bills (16)
I think it’ll be a good squad if one of the other RBs steps up to help out LT. Even so, it’ll be exciting to watch him play this year!

For the Patriots

I meant to post this prior to the Super Bowl, but I’ll go ahead and post it now anyway.

“You got no fear of the underdog, that’s why you will not survive.”

I’m off to Schenectady this afternoon for the big Dykes Bonspiel. 40 teams comprised of curlers with less than 5 years of experience. I think we have a really good chance of winning the whole thing, but I’m not going to get too cocky about it. I have no idea if you can follow any of the results online, but here’s the Schenectady club’s website anyway.

Greatest Spoiler Ever

39 seconds to play, Eli Manning in the shotgun. A roar comes up from the other room. Eli takes the snap, looks left to Plaxico, the defender slips, Eli throws, he’s wide open, TOUCHDOWN!
The big TV screen was set up with the HD feed which started off about a second behind the analog feed, and gradually got slower throughout the game, so that at the end it was at least 6 seconds off, meaning that anyone watching in the other room saw the touchdown before the ball was snapped on the big TV. So I knew the touchdown was coming, and it was still fantastic.
Other thoughts: When the Giants got the ball back after the Patriots took the lead with 2:42 to go, I was still confident. Last year, I would have figured that there was no way they would drive down to win the game, but this year, Eli had led them on game-winning drives several times, and I really did think they could do it. I will admit that my confidence was shaken though when Eli nearly threw the game away on the sidelines, but the Patriots defender couldn’t bring the ball in. Then came the play that will go down as downright legendary in Giants’ history. On third and five, Eli was pressured, and it looked like he was going to get sacked, but somehow he found an elusiveness that he has never had and slipped away. Just long enough to heave the ball down the middle of the field (NO! What a stupid throw) for David Tyree to climb the ladder, pin the ball with one hand against his helmet, and somehow get his second hand over his head on the ball and keep the ball from touching the ground. Amazing freaking play, first down. Then they were in range, and to me, it was only a matter of when they would score. A nice first down pickup on a dumpoff to Steve Smith (who finally caught some key passes in the last two drives after dropping them earlier in the game). And then the TD pass to Burress (From? Michigan State!).
Keys to the game: controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides: getting pressure on Tom Brady, even with a four man rush, while keeping the rush off Eli.
If you had told the Patriots they would hold the Giants to 3 points through 3 quarters, they would have probably said they’d be killing them. And yet the Giants D kept them in it to the end, even if they were dog tired on the second-to-last drive.
Credit to the Giants’ coaching staff. For the last 5 games (four playoff games and the last regular season game against the Pats), they put together superior gameplans, and they WON the games, rather than the opposition losing them.
Amazing. I’m still in shock. But now I have a year of gloating over all the Redskin fans, and that I will do.
New York Giants: Super Bowl XLII champs!

Cliff Notes Version

Since that last post rambled a bit, here’s the short version.
We finished with a winning record, maybe should have even done better than we did, but we’re still happy.
Go Giants!
I hate stupid kickers.

What a Long Strange Trip

That was hard.
We went up to Connecticut this weekend to play in the Men’s Club National Playdowns with modest goals. First was to get some experience playing together as a team. With 7 games in 4 days, we definitely accomplished that goal. Next was to win a game. We accomplished that in our first game. We were a bit fortunate in that the other team didn’t start playing well until later in the tournament, but it was a win. The other two goals were to beat the other teams from our club and to finish with a winning record. We came out in our second game against the #1 seed and had them on the ropes, but let them off the hook. My memory of that bleary 8am game (the first of three that day) is fuzzy, but we had the lead all the way through, and I even had a shot in the final end that would have had us sitting pretty for the win, but we were overzealous on the sweeping and the shot went through and we lost. But we came back nicely that afternoon and had a lot of fun beating one of the Potomac teams. Unfortunately, we had to rush to eat dinner and get back on the ice for our 8pm game, which we lost in a close battle. Our opponent also had three games that day, but they were able to defeat their second opponent in only 6 ends instead of 10, so they had a good bit more rest, and that may have been the difference. We were just beat after a long Friday. Even so, we were sitting at 2-2, with two winnable games on Saturday.
We slept in a bit on Saturday morning and got to the club for our noon game. It was a tight one all the way down, but we were still down by two points in the 9th end, and we were in trouble. With our skip’s first shot, we had a difficult shot called, but our opponent for some reason was talking quite loudly behind me that there was a better shot that we should be playing. I called down to my skip and we changed to that shot (the opposing skip even showed us the line to play it!), and even though he missed, it enabled us to score one point and make the game close. In the 10th end, we made some great shots and aggressively went for the steal of a point, which we made and forced an extra end. In the extra end, we had to do the same thing, and we did exactly that, playing our guards and getting our one rock buried behind, for the win.
After a thrilling victory, we again had a short time to grab some sustenance and get back on the ice for another game. Luckily, or so we thought, this game was against the team that hadn’t won a game all tournament. So of course, we proceeded to play our worst game of the weekend, and they managed to force us to an extra end. I absolutely sucked the extra end, missing both of my shots, but we still had our rock in position to score our point. Then came the crucial decision for our team: with our rock still on the button, and the opposition with a rock sitting about 8 feet in front of it for a possible “run back,” what do we do? I’m still not sure what the best shot would have been, but the shot we picked was probably the wrong one: the try to guard our middle rock. The idea with the last rock advantage when you only need to score one point is to keep the middle open for your last shot, and we effectively blocked that. Sure enough, the other skip made his run back, and the crowd at the club went wild. Since it was Saturday night, and we were the only teams left playing, it was probably the biggest crowd of the weekend. So that left us with a virtually identical run back shot of our own rock for the win. It was close the whole way down, but our sweepers managed to keep the shot straight when I yelled at them to sweep, and we made the shot for a thrilling win, guaranteeing ourselves a winning record.
In our last game at 8am on Sunday morning, we had the chance to play spoiler and prevent the other Potomac team from getting into a tiebreaker. It was a double knockout round robin, so even though one team was undefeated, the one loss team had to get a second loss to be knocked out. Unfortunately, they just outplayed us, and it was not to be. Still, we finished 4-3, a winning record, and also finished well above our 6th place seed, in third place. Our only losses were to the top two teams, and in that grueling third game on Friday. We were quite happy with our results, and we are definitely psyched up for the Dykes bonspiel in a couple of weeks.
I also have to mention that it was great having my family there to cheer me on. The couple of times when I might have gotten down on myself after a bad game, it was great to come off the ice and get a hug from the kids and mom. The kids were pretty good too, even if they didn’t want to take naps to let Lisa have a rest. Lisa should definitely be nominated for sainthood for getting through the weekend with the two kids mostly by herself.
After our 8am game yesterday was over, we stopped by my grandparents’ place in New York, since it was pretty much on the way home. We had a nice visit, and the kids charmed them like they had charmed the state of Connecticut all weekend long. Soon enough though, we were back on the road, with shockingly little traffic. We made it all the way into Maryland before Evan woke up hungry from his nap. Then we made it about 5 minutes from our house before he started getting cranky from being in his car seat so long.
We unpacked some of the stuff from the car, and I went downstairs to watch the big NFC Championship game. Luckily, I actually remembered to set the Tivo to record it, so I quickly caught up on the first half action. From what I saw, the Giants were dominating the game, except for one Favre to Driver 90 yard TD catch and run. Ridiculous how open he was and how that changes a game. Watching the second half live was a torment. McQuarters picks off Favre but fumbles it right back! Aargh! Tynes misses two field goals, including the game winner! Aaaaarrrrgh! I couldn’t even watch the last field goal, but I was bouncing off the ceiling after it went through. The Super Bowl should be a lot of fun. I think the Giants’ coaching staff has done a heck of a job getting them to this point, and I hope that they can come up with the game plan to keep the game close, with a chance to win at the end. Either way, our neighbors who usually host the Super Bowl party are big Giants fans, so I will be joined in glee or misery for the game.
So now it’s back to reality. My sore muscles are already thanking me for not sweeping today. Work is quiet due to the federal holiday (that we don’t get off but nearly everyone else does). And the busted dryer and dishwasher beckon me to call an electrician to take a look. Sigh. It was fun while it lasted.

When It Rains…

Since we’ve gotten back from our holiday break, this is what we’ve had to deal with:

  • Garbage disposal jammed; I managed to clear the jam and get it working again.
  • Sink backed up, possibly due to disposal jam? I snaked the drain pipe all the way as far as the snake would go, and never hit anything, but must have managed to clear some junk out somewhere.
  • Yesterday, two more things happened, possibly related.
  • The clothes dryer stopped working; this was not a big surprise, the thing is ancient, and we’ve managed to put off getting a new one for a long time.
  • The dishwasher also stopped working.

Both the dryer and dishwasher stopped working in mid-cycle, which seems bizarre. It’s possible that it’s something electrical, though as far as I can tell, they are not on the same circuit. Unfortunately, when figuring out what is attached to which fuse/circuit breaker, I never accounted for the appliances, and it’s not obvious that any fuses were blown or circuits tripped, so we may have to call in an electrician. Nice timing since we’ve got holiday bills coming due, and we’re taking a trip up to Connecticut for the curling tournament this weekend. Sigh.
But hey, how bout them Giants?!?! Somehow Eli strung together his third straight 100+ QB rating, for the first time in his career. It seems to me that Plaxico Burress is obviously not 100% and has no ability to stretch the field on defenders, so the Giants are somewhat lucky that the opposition hasn’t taken advantage of that. Going up to Green Bay is going to be tough, and I think it’ll come down to who runs the ball better. Hopefully we can get back from CT in time to catch the game!