Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Report: That's a Wrap...

Well, 2011 was a good year for us, regardless of any issues we may have encountered with the health of family members, relationships, or the usual stuff we complain about because we don't have anything worse to complain about.  In the grand scheme of things, we never went hungry, we didn't miss any car payments, and nobody had anything amputated.  When you look at it from that perspective, I think it is only fair and reasonable to conclude the life has been good out here.

I gave up making new year resolutions a long time ago.  You won't find me at Gold's on Tuesday looking to get in on a new health club membership only to forget the address a few months later, and I sure as hell don't plan to stop watching cable TV.  You wouldn't be shocked to learn that I also don't participate in Lent, though I'm not offended in any way by those who do.

I do want to state that, in no way related to a new years resolution, Eva and I have both resolved, er, agreed between ourselves to get our fat asses back on the treadmill in 2012, and I personally need to lose the 15 or so pounds I gained this year.  You can learn a quick lesson from me:  Low carb ice cream does not work if you eat a Jethro-sized bowl every night.  I am done with ice cream, for the near future anyway.  That regular sized chocolate malt I had from Sonic this afternoon was my last one for the year, and for a while.

Eat less, exercise more.  But I won't stop eating burgers when I need to. And pizza if it is necessary.  And ribs.  Catfish is not fattening.

I often hear people say that beginning in the new year, they are not going to take crap from anyone.  I think this is a bad resolution to make.  It sets you up from the word go, to look for any opportunity to fight.  I will tell you this; I am going to try to stop worrying about what other people think of me.  Not in a way of purposely hurting the feelings of others, but in a way that considers my feelings as well as others, and a willingness to consider that my feelings may be more important to me than another person's.  You may not know this about me, but I get along with everyone.  I bend over backwards to consider the other person's point of view, and frankly, I wish more people were like me.  But since they aren't, I hope to put my own feelings into consideration in 2012.  But if I fail at that, you should know that I don't make new years resolutions.

The biggest disappointment of 2011 for Eva and I was that we have not been able to enjoy more time with our granddaughter.  This often happens in military life when families live far from home, and it also happens when relationships are strained.  And sometimes, it is both.  Like I say, I'm not here to make resolutions for the new year, but I'm hoping for a better 2012. 

In 2012, I will not purchase my wife anything pink.  I know this probably sounds silly.  I am a huge fan of the entire Breast Cancer awareness thing and all the pink ribbons and NFL uniforms and such.  I support it fully.  But I made the mistake of purchasing Eva a pink digital camera (several years ago) so she could take more pictures on her own to contribute to the blog.  I go through at least one camera a year, so between cameras, I end up using hers.  The pink one.  You won't find any masculinity issues here, and in fact, I often wear pinks, yellows, and other pastel colored shirts to work, but there is something about borrowing her pink camera or heaven forbid, needing to make a call on her pink iPhone.  Just this evening, the last day of the month in the last month of 2011, I dropped my camera on the patio and it did not survive the fall.  Any pictures I take until I can find a suitable replacement will be taken with a pink camera, and that just doesn't seem like something I want to do in 2012.  

Do you suppose a hundred years from tonight we will all get sick of that Rush album, 2112?  I like to think I'm a hip guy and have enjoyed a Prince album from time to time, but can we all agree that by new years eve going into 2000, we were all tired of partying like it was 1999?  

I hope that whatever resolutions you make or don't make, you'll continue to stop by from time to time and read what has been going on out here, and maybe leave a comment.

My Daily Deer...

We get a lot of deer visiting to have their pictures taken and enjoy a quick nibble from the yard.  It is funny how we are able to recognize some of them from markings (mostly injuries) and their racks.  The other day when we pulled into the driveway, one of the smaller bucks slowly walked away from the fence with a serious limp.  We couldn't see any blood, but he definitely had experienced a leg injury. 
 No visible injury here, but this big guy is one of my new favorites.  It is just so amazing how much larger he is compared to some of the regulars.
 Of course, we still enjoy the smaller ones.
 Hey, ya wanna close-up?
 How about a profile?
This one really makes me giggle.  She first hears the click of the camera and her ears are straight up.
Then, one frame later, she really perks up and her ears are out wide.  


I walked into the living room and saw that the Saturday morning news on KENS-TV was on, and this caught me off guard.
Is it just me, or does it look like Natalie Tejeda is towering over Jared Silverman and some fitness lady?  Maybe it was the angle, but holy cow!


Friday, December 30, 2011

Updated: Constantino's in Somerset...

I finally got around to trying the calzone at Constantino's in Somerset and made a delicious update to the original post.

If you don't feel the urge to clickity-click, I'll just let you know: Wonderful!

Yard Work...

I found a little bit of sunshine is all it takes to turn a dreary December day into a the perfect opportunity for yard work.  
I intend to pick up all of the loose branches and sticks that might find their way in the path of my new mower blades, and this is the perfect time to do it.
It isn't the view you might see in the mountains or in some of the more colorful states, but I'll take T-shirts and shorts over cold weather any day of the year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mowing Sand...

Our neighbor a few lots up from us told me when I first started mowing the rough terrain of our freshly cleared lot this time last year, that I would go through blades on the mower very quickly due to the sand and such.  I figured that was an easy price to pay given the amount of bull-dozing I was doing to level things off and most importantly, establish a pattern of mowing.  A yard has to be trained, ya know.

I do know at some point in time, it seemed like I was mowing sand more than any weeds or even hints of grass.  I also know that I hit my share of small stumps, limbs, more cacti than I can count, and the occasional rock.  
 But, I have to admit, a year later, the yard is fairly tame and aside from dodging the huge holes that our dog Gracie has dug trying to locate and befriend Mr. Gopher, mowing has been smooth.  

Interestingly, even if you get a smooth ride, it doesn't mean that the grass is actually cut.  I noticed a while back that I was having to go over some areas of grass two and three times to make the grass lay down flat.  No, actually cutting the grass didn't seem to be an option, but making it lay flight was possible with lots of skill.

Please keep in mind, I'm not talking about the newly sodded areas with the Bermuda Tif; I use the push mower for that - I wouldn't want to take a chance on hurting the beautiful little blades with the riding mower, and of course, I can use the exercise.  
So anyway, I went down to Lowe's and bought new blades for both mowers, thinking I would make this an annual event.  After swapping blades on the push mower, it was going to be a little bit more of a task for the rider.  Thankfully, Eva picked up some spiffy ramps for the truck, so I could get in a better position to pull the blades off.
When I actually got a view under the mower deck, I was shocked at how short the blades were.  And just so you know, there was not a sharp edge anywhere.  It was like two little hunks of metal spinning around, no doubt being taunted by thin blades of grass with each subsequent pass through the yard.
Clearly, I was doing a little too much bull dozing for a regular residential strength yard mower.  This is one of the replacement blades next to one of the mangled originals.  Uh.... Oops?

My Daily Deer...

I found some older ones in my vast selection of deer pictures.  I'm not quite sure how these slipped through the first time around, but enjoy.
I love the daytime shots in color.  These alone are like hitting the lottery for me. Interestingly, I had come home from work early on this day and this little guy actually stood there looking at me as I pulled into the driveway.  He didn't make a hasty retreat until I got out of the truck and pulled out my regular digital camera. 
This is a larger buck that I don't recall seeing before.  Unfortunately, I think this one was taken before I realized I should clean the lens from time to time.  I'd like to see this one some more - hopefully he wasn't someone's Christmas dinner.

Monday, December 26, 2011

This is How Husbands Get in Trouble...

Okay, you be the judge of this situation.  And don't worry, I have already done live interviews with other women to see how this will turn out, so I know the answer, but just play along if you will.
If you saw this small little box sitting under the tree for a week, is there anything in particular that you would expect to be inside of it?  I mean, it is obviously smaller than a bread box.  Is there anything about the size, shape or wrapping of the box that would immediately make you think that there was something bright and shiny inside?
Well, like my wife, you'd be wrong, too.  If the let down of not finding a bracelet or some nice earrings wasn't enough, Eva was quick to report that there isn't even a Starbucks anywhere near the Devine / Natalia / Lytle tri-city metropolis. 
To me, this box is perfectly built to hold a gift card.  See how the card slides securely into the felt covered display tray?  I mean, kudos to the guy who invented this.  But I suppose that's the problem; it was clearly a man who invented this, not a woman.  This is the last time I shop at Dollar Tree for gift wrap.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Season's Greetings: Enjoy...

It is the holiday season – Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and such – and in spite of the all the commercials and the shopping and the lights, and the efforts my wife especially, has made to make our home an inviting and happy place for this time of year, I’m just not feeling it.  Not to worry; this is normal for me.  
It serves no purpose to try to analyze it, to try to explain it or even fake it.  I spent years genuinely enjoying this time of year when our kids were little, but right about the time the kids themselves began to lose the enthusiasm you see from 4-year-olds (they were in their teens, actually), the thrill was gone for me.  I am comforted in knowing that I am not alone in just wishing that we could skip from late-October to early January. 

 It isn’t my intent to be a Debbie Downer about it, and let's face it, it wont stop me from gorging myself on samples of the fudge, cookies, snicker doodles and date nut bars that Eva pumps out for the occasion. I even plan to make some jalapeno cheese squares, some deviled eggs, a turkey and a ham, and I plan to enjoy the day with family and friends.

I could just as well leave it at this, but I feel the urge to get something off my chest, and I hope those of you who read the blog will indulge me for just a few more paragraphs. 

Eva and I have been blessed in so many ways, but above all, we have been blessed to have two incredibly wonderful children who have grown into adulthood and, thankfully, have bypassed all of the stages and problems that we and many parents fear.   As they approached middle and high school, we feared there would be forces outside our span of control that might lead them down the wrong paths.  We knew that our influence could only go so far, and at some point the kids would have to make decisions on their own.  We weren't alone as parents who feared the decisions that could include drug use, gang activity, dropping out of school or just getting in with the wrong crowd. I cannot tell you the number of times we had friends or acquaintances who told of the problems with their own kids, and all we could do was be so incredibly thankful that neither of our kids had taken that path.

In particular, I had a co-worker who openly talked of his drug addicted daughter in her early twenties.  He and his wife were no longer grandparents, happy to babysit a few nights a month so the daughter could go out for an evening.  Instead, they were forced to take responsibility as full time guardians for the innocent child while the addict went in and out of treatment, or just went away.  You hear someone you know tell of this misfortune, and all you can do is be thankful that your own children have not chosen that course.   And, trying not to be obvious about it, you feel pride in your own kids for making the right decisions.

We all do stupid things and there is no crime in that.  You learn from it and you move on.  Experience can often be an extremely painful thing to gain, and sometimes it comes at a heavy price for more than just the person learning the lesson.   But there is also the saying about a every cloud having a silver lining.  The co-worker with the drug-addicted daughter and a grandchild living at home full-time knows both sides of this all too well.  

So as we contemplate what Christmas means to each of us, I just wanted to share with the readers here that the greatest gifts you receive will not necessarily come in the form of a gift card or a hard fought for package from the mall.  They may not be found inside a stocking hanging from the mantel or neatly wrapped under a tree on Christmas morning.  Your greatest gifts could be across town or hundreds of miles away.  Don't wait for one day out of the year, enjoy them when you can.

Season’s Greetings

My Misspent Youth...

I got a message from one of my closest friends growing up through junior high and high school the other day.  He and his wife are coming to San Antonio to see their son graduate from Basic Military Training.  While here, we plan to get together, and it will be nice to enjoy some great memories.

I am amazed at how the childhood I had differs so greatly from the childhoods of my own kids.  A single generation was so overwhelmingly changed by cable TV, cell phones, computers and the media.  I'm not suggesting that children of previous generations were exactly the same up until the invention of MTV and The Cartoon Network;  My dad was born during the depression and looked at joining the military as the only way to get out of overalls and off the farm.  For me, joining the military was simply an option.  

But aside from that, I think many people my age will recall that we went outside an played for hours and hours at a time.  Consider just a few memories from when I was a second or third grader living in Oklahoma.  I would leave the house either on bike or on foot, and head down to a small creek where kids would fish for crawdads.  I'm sure it wasn't far from home, but I was allowed to play in a creek bed unsupervised.  Little kids wandered all over the place, exploring, looking for and imagining adventures from whatever surroundings we found.  When we drove by the same little creek I used to play in during a visit to see my son in Oklahoma, I noticed that there was a sign on the bridge that read "off limits".  I'm sure some nervous mother instigated that, fearing that a child might somehow come in contact with running water, or worse, a live crawdad.

When I was in junior high, we had acres and acres of beautiful woods surrounding our neighborhood.  We actually put on heavy jackets, split up into teams and had BB gun wars.  The only rule was, try not to shoot a kid in the eye, because that might get someone in trouble.  My friend Scott and his younger brother Brett learned the hard way about always assuming a gun is loaded.  Naturally, we all came up with some brilliant story about an unknown sniper hiding behind a tree before Scott's mom raced poor Brett off to the emergency room to have a BB removed from his back.  That'll teach you to run faster when your brother aims a gun at you.  These days, those woods are filled with beautiful homes whose owners probably can't imagine the times we had riding bikes, climbing trees, and smoking the occasional cigarette in their yard.

The miles I put on my bike as a primary mode of transportation, back at a time before Lance Armstrong rode as a sport, kept the candy bars and cokes from being an issue.  We played football - tackle football a lot, and when we didn't have enough for two teams, we'd play street football two on two.  I don't think I really gained any weight until I got a car and there was no need to walk or ride a bike, or time to shoot hoops, play football or chase friends through the woods.  

This isn't for a minute to suggest that the parents of those days didn't care about the kids; but I do think that they and their parents before them came from a time when people really were forced to fend for themselves at an earlier age.  People had lots of kids because that meant more labor on the farm.  We freak-out now when the news reports little kids working in factories, and that is sad from our point of view, but I suspect some would look at our children sitting idle watching Nickelodeon for 8 hours straight to be a form of abuse as well.  We were watching something on the History Channel yesterday about The Plague.  They mentioned about a princess in the 1300's being married off at the age of 13.  Yikes!  But I can bet nobody raised an eyebrow about that, back then*.  In fact, it wasn't even a century or two ago that in this country, people married off their kids just so they wouldn't have to support them any more.  Say Sally, now that you're pushing 14, you need to get out there and start looking for a good man. * I'm not advocating for 13 year-old kids to get married. 

Interestingly, our kids today have been exposed to so much more, because of TV.  Why the hell would you go outside and play football when Snooki is right there in your living room?  Stuff that I wondered about and probably consulted with the older boys in the neighborhood on are now immediately available via the Internet.  If we went out and pretended to be wrestlers, there is game you can play on PS3 that is a lot more realistic without the bloody nose.  

It's not that I'm playing the "back in my day we walked to school uphill and in the snow" card, it's just that I think we did more - and our parents did even more than us.  When I sat down in front of the TV to watch "Our Gang" and saw Spanky and Alfalfa getting involved in some little adventure, I genuinely wanted to go out and do the same things.  I suspect kids today would just as soon flip the channels looking for reruns of 16 and Pregnant.

Ah, the good old days.  It will be nice to visit with my friend in a few weeks.  Hopefully his mother doesn't search the Google attempting to locate the sniper and stumble upon the truth.  

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Who Doesn't Like Deer Pictures?

Going through the disk pulled from the deer cam this morning, I thought a few of these might be worth sharing with the group.
It's hard not to be impressed with this guy.  He is one of the bigger fellas that comes around for a little snack.
I know what it looks like, but that's just the angle of the shot.  These guys were not butting heads, but it is a neat looking picture anyway. 
Proof that our deer are friendly diners, they don't seem to mind sharing with the smaller crowd.
I really do enjoy it when they stop and pose for the camera.  Good sports!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Book Review: Follow-up...

You'll recall not long ago, I posted my first book review of sorts telling about Nadine Hays Pisani's Happier Than a Billionaire.  Well, I should write a few more reviews because the author was kind enough to stumble upon the blog and send me an e-mail thanking me for the blog entry.  Isn't the Google an amazing thing?

I don't want to sound like Oprah, but I'm actually working on three different books at the moment.  A Larry McMurtry follow-up to The Last Picture Show (which I loved) called Texasville; a book of essays about John Hughes called Don't You Forget About Me, and finally, a book that probably really fits me called The Texas Hamburger by Rick Vanderpool.   

One of these books is really good and I can't wait to purchase the movie.  One of these books is interesting (if you are a big John Hughes fan, like me), and one of these books looks extremely disorganized, really seems like it is cut & paste from a lot of different sources, and does not fit me as well as you would think.  But I won't necessarily give you the details on which book is which until I finish reading them.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Deers...

I think I need to put in some new batteries.  I left the cam out for most of the week and only got a few daytime shots and not a single overnight look.  There are always deer out in the morning when I leave for work, so no telling what good times we missed on film.
But, here are a few nice ones anyway.  They must have liked the orange slices I put out.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Search Words: Ursula and Randy...

Every once in a while, I go into my Sitemeter account and check to see what sort of search words people are using to locate my little place(s) on the Internet.  I use my account to show both the old SilverCreek78250 blog which is still quite popular with the Google search engine, in spite of the fact that I haven't posted there in over a year, and the new version, Living Out Here.  Anyway, over the last few months, I have noticed this abundance of people searching about Ursula Pari and Randy Beamer and their divorce. 
For the love of God, these people got divorced years ago.  Why do you still care? 

Santa? Is That You?

I saw this cool cat on Highway 90 near I-35.  Good times. 

Pizza Report: Constantino's in Somerset...

I can't recall who it was who told us about Constantino's, a pizza place located off of south 1604 in Somerset, but thanks!
We made the short trek earlier in the week and decided to try out a pizza, just for a change of pace.  As seems to be the case for a lot of places out here, Constantino's has built a restaurant in a large manufactured home.
Inside, it had the feel of a lodge of some sort.  A large open seating area with a few TV's around the place, license plate decor, and a few old school video games up against a wall.  We had quick service and from the time we ordered to the time our pizza was presented to us, it was very quick.
We ordered a 14 inch pepperoni and pineapple with the idea of taking several pieces home to use as lunch the next day.  Not a chance of that.  And not because I am such a huge pig, either; it was just so good I couldn't help myself!  The pizza crust was thin with this really soft, very gooey and delicious outer edge that was just incredibly wonderful.  Pizza is so filling that if I don't love the crust, I don't waste my time on it.  This outer edge really added to the enjoyment, and truly enhanced the entire scarfing down experience.  The pizza itself was not overwhelmed with sauce, it wasn't overcooked and the ingredients seemed fresh.  The pineapple may have been canned, I'm not sure, but if it was, it didn't take away from the taste. 

While Constantino's does offer a salad, they don't have a salad bar which we had hoped for.  They do however sell Calzones (which we will try on our next visit), wings, burgers, a wide selection of sandwiches and a line of Italian dishes like spaghetti, lasagna and chicken Parmesan. 
With all those choices, just don't lose sight of the fact that the pizza is a must try.  I'm sure you'll agree, Constantino's is a Tasty Treat.
UPDATE: We have been back to Constantino's several times since this post and I was able to try the huge Calzone.  Take note, it will easily feed two people.
 I ordered one with pepperoni, sausage, and black olives.  Like the pizza, the soft doughy delicious crust is simply wonderful.  The calzone was quite manageable when cut into smaller pieces and though it came with a choice of marinara and Ranch dipping sauces, there was really no need.  It was that good.  This is worth a drive.