Monday, August 31, 2009

New Word of the Day (2)

Bloggiversary: The anniversary of starting a blog.

I'm surely not the first one to come up with that one, but needed a good excuse to mention it and post a couple links to the first couple of entertaining posts.

First post: 8/28/08: Open House ~ Still waiting for those pics?

Second post: 8/29/08: Every Day is What You Make Of It

Third post: 8/31/08: Day O' Fun ~ This is worth a re-read, in my opinion.

We're all getting ready for the start of school... should have some good tales to tell sooner or later.


Click here to read Word of the Day (1)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Warning: This is really long, but hopefully entertaining.

The grand finale of our "Week Without Kids" hit the inevitable crescendo when we arrived at the Tulalip Casino on Saturday night for a stimulating round of Bingo.

This was my first time playing Bingo somewhere other than a) someones personal residence or b) a school function.

Apparently, playing Bingo in a casino is a lot different than playing "Clifford Bingo" at home with the kids.

For those of you without kids, now might be a good time for me to compare & contrast a few of the differences between Clifford Bingo (Clifford) and Casino Bingo (Casino).

Clifford: It's fun & entertaining!
Casino: It's fun & entertaining!

Clifford: You can use more than one Bingo card at a time.
Casino: You can use more than one Bingo card at a time.

Clifford: Does not have a "Free" Space in the middle.
Casino: Has a "Free" space in the middle, but it's not always used.

Clifford: Playing is Free!
Casino: For only $6 you can be easily entertained for about 3 hours.

Clifford: Games last about 5 to 10 minutes. If you're lucky.
Casino: Allow about 3 hours to get your moneys worth.

Clifford: Everybody Wins. Every time.
Casino: One person wins. Sometimes two or three win, but not very often. And it's not you.

Clifford: Prize: A sense of accomplishment (assuming that you don't mind knowing untrained monkeys would also be winning if they were playing, which they aren't, of course, because at least they realize that picking bugs off their monkey friends offers better rewards than Clifford Bingo).
Casino: Prize: Cash! Prizes (at Tulalip) range between a couple hundred dollars to a sizable fraction of my annual income.

As I mentioned earlier, this was my first time playing Bingo in a casino.
Tanya, on the other hand, claimed to have done this before.
Unfortunately, she seemed even more confused than I was and this fact alone had me completely baffled. Side note: somebody please remind me to post the 1992 Water skiing Incident story on the blog sometime - it's relevant, but is also long and deserves its own post.

We entered the Casino and were met with a wall of cigarette smoke. By the time we reached the Cashier windows my lungs had already turned two shades closer to black. This Casino does have a Smoke Free room, but to visit the cashier, get food or use the restroom you are required to pass through the main (smoke filled) casino area. We did determine that the Smoke Free room does have it's own entrance, but the bushes outside are not to be considered as nature-break opportunities.

The Cashier greeted us with questions that we didn't know how to answer... so she answered them herself.

The conversation went something like this:

Cashier: "Greetings! Welcome to the Tulalip Casino! How can I help you?"
She didn't actually say this but if she didn't have her mouth full of food she might have said something like it.
Eric (E): "Hi. We'd like to play Bingo."
Cashier (C): "Would you like to play Blackout?"
E: "Uh..... .... ..."
C: "They just started the blackout game. You can play if you want. You only need to catch up on five numbers."
E: Looks at T, questioningly.
C: "Six numbers."
E: "No, we'll just play Bingo for now, thanks."
C: "Would you like the Specials?"
E: "Uh... no thanks. We just ate."
C: "Would you like to play doubles? (beginning to clue in that we are complete idiots) It doubles your winnings."
E: "No, not yet, thanks."
C: "Would you like two pads?"
E: "What do you mean?"
C: "You can use two pads and have twice as many game boards."
E & T: Look at the boards... then look at the cashier, quizzically.
C: Confirming that we're idiots, announces "No, you can't keep up. You better just get one pad. That's $6. Each."
T opens her purse and whips out the Credit Card.
C: "Sorry. We only take cash."
T: Rummages around in her purse and pulls out her $12. Her only $12. We're now broke.
C: Hands us our Bingo pads and a sheet of paper which lists which games are played in what order.

We make our way to the Smoke Free room and find a couple open seats between "Fast Food Family" (FFF), "Little Old Lady" (LOL) and just behind "Good Luck Lady" (GLL).

Blackout was still being played... but we didn't really understand what we were supposed to do. We were confused. Tanya felt embarrassed. She offered to go sit in the car and read her book.

I took charge. "First," I said, ""We need something to mark our cards with so we know which numbers have been called." We looked around the room and noticed that everyone had Bingo Daubers. In fact, most people had more than one dauber. Most seemed to have at least four... all in different colors.

We have Daubers at home.
We didn't bring them.
Since we used our cash for the Bingo pads we had to get creative.
"How about just using a pen?" I suggested.
Tanya seemed open to that idea. She shuffled through her purse and pulled out a pen.
"Do you have another one?" More shuffling.

It became clear that with the speed in which they were rattling off numbers, we were going to have a hard time sharing a pen between us and both our pads. Each pad has six game boards on it.

Very quickly we were wishing this was "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" instead of "Bingo" because we were obviously going to need some life-lines here.

At that point, Tanya claimed she 'had to go to the bathroom'. I didn't know it at the time, but in this situation "go to the bathroom" actually meant she had decided to use a lifeline: Phone a friend.

Once in the bathroom, and after recovering from holding her breath through the smokey room, T called her friend Karicell (K) for advice.
K suggested we buy some Daubers at the casino.
T reminded her that we don't have any cash.
K was out of suggestions.
T held her breath again and made a break back to the smoke free room.

Now it was my turn to use a lifeline: Ask the Audience (aka Cashier).
I figured she probably had experience with playing this game and might be able to offer some answers to obvious questions.
She politely explained that the Bingo pads were color coded and get played in the same order as the schedule (which was printed on a pink sheet of paper).
The schedule also shows the blackout games and the specials that she mentioned earlier.
Since we weren't playing the Blackouts or Specials we would just wait patiently when those games came up and then resume our play with the next color. It made complete sense.

She also explained that all the games weren't just traditional Bingo... they often included other shapes or designs as well, all of which was clearly shown on the schedule. Oh, if I only learned to read!

There was no way I could leave without two more important questions being answered:
1) Do we have to use Daubers to mark off the pads? No. A regular pen is fine as long as you can read the number beneath the ink.
2) When people win Bingo do they really yell it out loud? Yes, they do. Not always loud and obnoxious, but definitely verbal.

Feeling much more comfortable, I returned to T in the Smoke Free room.

After explaining my new learnings to T (who is now even more embarrassed than ever) is when Little Old Lady (LOL), next to me, leaned over and initiated a brief conversation:

LOL: "Do you have something to mark your cards with?"
E: Proudly holding up our one single pen (which is also an advertisement for Epi-Pen) announced, much to Tanya's embarrassment, "Yep! We have a pen!"
LOL: Clearly recognizing that we were Bingo idiots, knew we'd have trouble trying to share a single ballpoint pen. She kindly reached into her magic cooler bag and pulled out not one, but TWO daubers that she let us borrow for the next three hours. Teal and Maroon.
E: "Oh, thank you very much! We really appreciate it." Then, just to make sure everyone was aware, announced "This is our first time playing Bingo."
LOL just nodded her head politely while Tanya pretended that she was in no way part of this conversation.

Shortly thereafter, the Blackout game was completed and we actually started to play Bingo.

Unfortunately, neither of us won anything, but I think we did learn things.

We learned that the Bingo crowd is a whole lot different than the 'real world'.

There is a lot of smoking going on, but there weren't any alcoholic beverages that we saw.

There is free ice water and coffee.

It's really quiet in the Bingo Room. Everyone is focusing on their game boards.

There is a snack bar that lets you order from your table, pay from your table and they'll deliver to your table. For cash of course.

Some people really, really, really get into Bingo.
The Good Luck Charm Lady (GLC) in front of us had her seat all decked out.
Her table top was chock full of various stuffed animals and a multitude of daubers.
She even had a dauber with a picture of Elvis on it.
It's not clear how much good luck the GLC gets from her stockpile, but she didn't have any luck while we were in attendance.

Fast Food Family (FFF) to the left of us had numerous plates of food piled around them, and lots of daubers, but for some reason they weren't interested in throwing away their used Bingo sheets. Instead, they just piled up on top of the food/garbage.

We can easily imagine that some of these people spend an entire day here playing Bingo. That's more than I could handle, but three hours at a time, once in a while, might be fun.

Maybe the next time I get rained out of a hike I'll load my backpack with Daubers and set up camp in the Bingo Hall.

All in all, it was a fun experience. The only downsides were a) the smokey room, b) feeling like temporary idiots and c) we didn't win anything.

So, the next time you just can't come up with something fun to do and you're ready to give up hope... give Bingo a chance. Even if you don't win, it's still fun and costs much less than going to see a movie.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

What did we do?

Most of this week T & I have been discussing what 'fun stuff' we could do together before the kids came home on Sunday.

It seems that most of the ideas were things that either I would enjoy or things that Tanya would enjoy.
Hiking? Vetoed
Scrap booking? Vetoed
Biking? Vetoed
Go to a library... in a different city? Vetoed

The ideas we had that we did agree on were things that we really should be doing with the kids.
Aquarium? Need to take the kids.
Zoo? Need to take the kids.
Science Center? Need to take the kids.
San Juan Islands? Need to take the kids.

It's true you don't really need kids to go to these places but we would just end up going back sometime with the kids so it would be wise to choose something else.

So... "What did we do?" you may be asking yourself.

It's good that you asked because we ended up having a really fun day.

The day started at about 8:30 a.m.
I got up... and started painting the downstairs (it was on 'my to-do list' if you remember)
Tanya got up and made us some breakfast.

Keep reading. It gets better.

We painted & straightened the house until about 11:30 a.m. or so and then had lunch at home.

Alyssa showed up to take the dogs out for a walk while I worked on assembling a hammock in the backyard.

At 1:00 p.m. or so we headed out to Deception Pass State Park to take a boat ride with Deception Pass Tours. One of T's scrap booking buddies suggested this tour and we agree that it was well worth it... highly recommended.

We saw bald eagles, sea porpoises and seals... plus a few tourists. The weather was perfect and we learned some interesting things about Deception Pass.

One interesting fact was that it cost more to paint the bridge in the mid 1980's than it cost to build the bridge in 1935 ($482,000). Also, the bridge was built within a 12 month period.

Here is a feeble attempt to make my photos & videos from this tour interesting:

After this perfect excursion we made a stop at the Dollar Store, went home to let the dogs fertilize the yard and then cruised down to the Seattle Premium Outlets in Snohomish County for a little bit of school clothes shopping.

Tune in later to read all about our final activity of the night... what a story it is.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Happy Birthday Tanya! Sorry about the cake.

Today was Tanya's birthday (Aug 20th if you are holding a writing utensil and looking at your calendar).

We enjoyed a nice, quiet dinner at Max Dale's in Mt. Vernon together. Their Prime Rib is FANTASTIC and the marionberry Cheesecake was awesome. Two thumbs up.

Even though we had cheesecake with dinner, we still came home to enjoy (a few hours later) some birthday cake.

Maybe you've seen some of the recent TV series, such as Ace of Cakes on television lately. Well, when Tanya politely asked me if I was planning on making a strawberry cake for her (peanut free version is available at Fred Meyer she said) I of course said "Of course!".

Immediately my mind turned to those cool cake shows I saw on TV where they create those awesome cakes that are anything but normal.

There is no reason I couldn't make one of those things.
Technically speaking.
Did you by chance see the results of my creativity put into play when I made my pine cone gnome? (That blog entry is here.)

Here is my vision:

First task is to get the peanut-free strawberry cake mix from Fred Meyer. Well, it turns out they no longer sell that flavor. Whoops.

Luckily, Tanya picked out an alternate flavor from Safeway on Wednesday. Thanks honey. Sorry about that. It's unfair when you have to buy your own cake mix for your own birthday. She even bought the frosting.

Finally, at about 9:00pm the cake went into the oven. It cooked up just like it was supposed to. Then it had to cool. Well, it was getting late so I resigned to frost it and put the finishing touches on it in the morning before work.

Tanya offered to help do the frosting for me, but I felt bad... it's just not right to have to frost your own birthday cake.

So, I started the frosting process at about 6:45a.m. on Thursday. At about 6:46a.m. I became frustrated when the cake started peeling apart as I tried to spread the frosting. At about 6:50a.m. I cleaned up the mess I had made and left a lovely note to T, asking her to finish the frosting job if she had time.

She did an excellent job fixing up the disaster I left... and the cake tasted great.

Here's what my vision turned into:

Let me clarify that without T's help this thing would have just been a big cake sandwich: one layer of frosting between two unfrosted cake layers.

Maybe next year will work out a little better for both of us.

Love, Eric

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Our To Do List (The Kids Are Gone Version)

The kids are currently living the good life down in Arizona. They split town as soon as the fair was over.
I'm assuming they're doing fine.
They don't call me.
They don't even txt me.

LOL again after I re-read that sentence.
jk, it wasn't that funny.
idk why they don't call.

Maybe they're embarrassed that all my knowledge of texting comes from Verizon commercials.

Anyway, they've been missing some wild times up here. They're truly missing out.
Not really. As it turns out, we're mostly grown up now and even without the kids there is still a lot of 'stuff' that needs to get done.

So... here is my exciting list of stuff to do while the kids are away.
  1. Paint the living room. Status: We bought some paint, some tape, some brushes. We painted about 1 entire square foot. Twice. It's now a waiting game to see who is going to actually tape off the area so we can start some real painting.
  2. Clean the carpets. Status: Done!
  3. Post the Fair results on the Blog. Status: There is a half-legible half-complete list in the drawer here that I think says what some of the awards were. All I can figure out is that they both won a ton of ribbons and we'll be in Puyallup for at least two days.
  4. Rent a movie, or two. Status: Rented two. Started watching Slumdog Millionaire on the bedroom TV since it was the only TV that had furniture in front of it after cleaning the carpets, but it's so small and so far away we couldn't read the subtitles and ultimately turned it off. Finished it the next day downstairs.
  5. Mow the Grass. Status: I decided to just pick that blade of grass that was bugging me. Everything else is dead except for a small corner of flowering clovers... and a 1 foot wide strip along the south side of the property next to my neighbors sprinkler system.
  6. Rearrange furniture in T's classroom. Status: Done! No permanent injuries.
  7. Rearrange the living room furniture. Status: Will happen as soon as everything else is painted except the unreachable spot behind the TV.
  8. Switch the Office and the Playroom. Status: Are you kidding me? We might need to invite some people over 'for dinner' since the neighbors have started to pretend they aren't home whenever I come knocking.
  9. Plan Soccer Practices. Status: Well, practice is in about 17 hours and right now I'm busy typing a blog entry... so my lunch tomorrow will likely involve soccer planning.
  10. Meet with the church Audit Committee. Status: Done! They have great air conditioning in there which really hit the spot tonight.
  11. Shop for T's B-day present. Status: It's hard to find time to shop when you're either 1) at work or 2) always with the birthday girl. I was able to do a little browsing between work and audit committee tonight... but that doesn't mean I'm done. **Now would be a great time for you to email me any suggestions you may have!**
  12. Go to the District Soccer Coaches Meeting. Status: That is Wed. p.m... we get our schedules and uniforms. Woo Hoo!
  13. Schedule a date to summit Mount Saint Helens this fall. Status: Yeah... need to find a calendar. And a good meteorologist. And get in shape.
  14. Get in shape to summit Mount Saint Helens. Status: No comment.
  15. Book a hotel for our time down in Puyallup. Status: DOH!
Ok. It might be a wise choice to go do something else right now instead of coming up with more things for my list. When I started this list there were only going to be four things on it.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Did You See Us?

The girls have survived two full days at the Skagit County Fair.
Two days of dogs.
Not really what I pictured when people refer to the 'dog days of summer'.

Both the kids are having fun and are doing pretty well.
I suppose the dogs are having fun also: hanging out with their canine buds all day instead of sitting around the house, barking at speed walkers and watching the cat nap.

Here is a pic of 'the bench' where the girls and dogs spend most of their time when they aren't in 'the ring'.

Here are a couple of pictures showing the ribbons they had won on Day 1:

There are more ribbons coming for Day 2 and Day 3, so I'll summarize the results in a few days.

Mikaya has 'qualified' to show at the State Fair in Puyallup, but due to the limited number of spots we aren't sure if she has enough points to rank high enough to make the final list. We'll probably find out Saturday night.

Alexia isn't eligible to show at the State Fair due to her age. Next year she will have that opportunity.

Here are pics of the girls posters, photos and exhibitor info:

So... two days done... two more to go.
Friday the girls will be doing a couple cooking demonstrations (fruit smoothies & blueberry muffins) at the Fair and Saturday is the final awards.

The dogs are done showing so they can resume their normal summer activities.

The dog barn at the fair will be occupied by a whole bunch of different dogs for the next two days, but if you hang around a bit there is a high liklihood that the family will be passing through there sometime.

Otherwise, if you are tired of waiting for them you can go look for my book which is on display in Building D.

I actually won a ribbon... I guess that makes it an OFFICIAL AWARD WINNING BOOK!
Woo Hoo!

Hey kids, I'm famous!

Never mind that it seems to have lost to a patriotic looking birdhouse.
Ignore the fact that it tied with a psychadelic birdhouse for color-blind parakeets.

Next year maybe I'll enter some photographs.

Or maybe some pine cone gnomes.

Glued on a stick.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Alexia's Amazing Animals - Part 1

The girls have discovered the 'video' function on the digital cameras.

I've discovered that if this keeps up we're going to need a faster computer to keep up with their creativity.

Last week Alexia made a couple attempts at creating her own animal-related video. I offered her a few helpful pointers and also offered to hold the camera while she did the talking.

A few more attempts were made. I suggested she write down what she would like to say on paper. A script... like the people on TV use. She apparently thought that was a pretty cool idea and immediately sat down to write it out - she wasn't at all bothered that it was 10:30. PM.

Finally, she informed me that she was ready to go. She even had her script taped up onto the whiteboard that I could hold up for her as we moved from spot to spot.

It's not clear whether she wants you to see this video or not... but if I don't post it here, no one else will ever see it.

Except maybe some poor computer hacker.

Just in case you have limited time to view this right now, my suggestions are as follows:
1) turn up the volume as she talks a little quietly in some parts.
2) turn it up a little further just before the 0:45 second mark and listen carefully
3) the 30 seconds from 1:45 to 2:15 made me laugh. Praise the Lord for video editing because this 30 seconds of video = 5 minutes in real life. You're welcome.

Thanks in advance for viewing this Pilot episode.

Sorry... no transcripts are available at this time.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Great Wolf Lodge - 08/06 to 08/07/09

Late last week the gals bounded off to Grand Mound, WA to meet some friends at the Great Wolf Lodge for a couple days of indoor recreation.

They had great timing since the weather was much more Washington-like than it has been for the last two months.

Near as I can tell, they had a fun time. In fact, it was so fun that Tanya actually took some pictures. Thanks Honey!

Here are the girls at the entrance to the water park:

Here is your chance to play Where's Waldo? Both kids are in here somewhere... can you spot them?

Well, nice effort, but you can probably do better next time. The next two are a little easier.

Here is Alexia crossing an obstacle lily pad course:

Here are the kids coming down a fun ride:

The girls over the wave pool:

The consensus was that it was fun, but two full days and one night is plenty of time to fully enjoy most of the attractions.

By the time they returned Friday night they were all exhausted. So tired, in fact, that they decided to skip going to the Seattle Aquarium on Sunday and chose to lounge around the house instead.

Now its time to get prepped for the fair. Registration is on Tuesday and the Fair opens on Wednesday. The next seven days will be hectic for sure.

C'mon up and see us at the Skagit County Fair!