Saturday, November 12, 2005

Post-Party Report

OK, despite the timestamp on this blog entry, the party actually ended about four hours ago... but I'm getting ahead of myself!

The day began with my uncharacteristically waking up about 6 am (you may recall my usual wake-up time is closer to 8 am, although Saturdays I'm up at 7 for Weight Watchers). I had a Diet Mountain Dew, checked the status of the veggie spaghetti sauce (which I think I left the crock pot set on "high" too long for -- I should've turned it down to "low" before going to bed Friday night -- but it worked out fine), read emails, and basically took my time getting ready for Weight Watchers.

I had briefly stepped on the scale when I got up, and it showed good news -- however, I wasn't dressed yet, wearing sweat pants instead of jeans (which is my usual attire for WW weigh-in, and I like to be consistant). When I came in to the meeting, and stepped on the scale there, I'd lost 1.4 lbs -- which was just over what I need to earn a new celebration -- 95 lbs. lost since joining! Huzzah!

While waiting for the official meeting to start, a few people we'd invited to the party let me know they weren't going to be able to make it (well, three of them). Our friends Dan and Amanda confirmed they would be going, and our friend Alysse also confirmed (although, strangely, she never showed, and we weren't able to reach her to find out what happened). Pam, our meeting leader, wasn't sure if she would be able to make it or not, so she gave me my birthday card at the meeting.

As it turned out, after my parents, Pam was the first to arrive, and Dan and Amanada arrived after she did... but again, I'm getting ahead of myself!

So, we left the meeting, and stopped by the store for ice and more whole wheat flour (because I needed it to make the rest of the cupcakes). Alas, I'd not double-checked to be sure I had enough Splenda (an artificial sweetner) for the second batch of cupcakes, to say nothing of the frosting! I discovered this problem when I got home and started making the cupcake batter while breakfast cooked. A quick call to my mother (who, as I suspected, hadn't gone to the store yet to get what she needed for the veggie and fruit trays she offered to bring -- so she was able to get some while she was there, sparing me another trip to the store. My nice Christi, who lives at my parents house, is diabetic, so Splenda is something they use there anyway).

An interjection here -- our friend Kathy, who wasn't originally going to make it to the party because of attending a family wedding, was feeling ill, but her boxer, Jaeger, was full of energy, so we offered to take him off her hands for an hour, figuring that he, Krypto and KO would tire each other out. It was a nice idea, anyway.

So, I got the cupcakes in the oven, and began working on the appetizer trays, which went along swimmingly. Once those were done, I pulled out the pizza dough I'd made the night before.

This ended up being the second disaster -- the dough had completely hardened the night before, and nothing I could do could soften it! So I whipped up a fresh batch, and pitched what I'd made. Oh, well... such is life. Once the dough was ready, I made up the pizzas, and put them in the fridge. Then I cleaned the kitchen, and grabbed a shower.

Post-shower, I started setting chairs up, as well as the table, transferring the crock pot to the table with the rest of the food, and doing other set-up. Mom and Dad hadn't arrived yet -- they were stuck in traffic -- but they did get there at about 1:30, half an hour before the party was to start. I had already started cooking the pasta for the spaghetti sauce by that point.

I made up the frosting according to the directions, and discovered that the yield was way, way higher than expected -- as it is, I have enough frosting left over to frost another whole cake, if need be! I ended up with 60 cupcakes, of which I left about a half-dozen unfrosted (so those who were lactose-intolerant, such as my mother, could still enjoy a cupcake).

I was going to wait until people started showing to make the first pizza and appetizer trays, but when nobody had shown up by 2:15 or so, I decided to go ahead and bake the first pizza -- a turkey pepperoni pizza. This came out of the oven about the time Pam showed up, and I popped in a batch of the pigs in a blanket.

Pam was very impressed with the range of food we were offering, not only with the different kinds of food, and not only the reduced calories, but also with the taste (she especially liked the pizza dough). Dan and Amanda, when they showed up, were likewise impressed.

The next to show was my boss, Serena, and her husband, Sean. They also seemed very impressed with the food, and of course, introductions were made all around. I believe the next group to arrive were my sister Sandy, her husband Bob, and their four girls -- and the youngest got Krypto a bit over-excited, and he had to go in his crate to calm down for a bit. I think the next to arrive were our friends Paul and Bridget (who also have a white boxer), followed by another co-worker, Chelsey and her boyfriend Greg, then my brother Jeff, and yet another co-worker, Lee (who bicycled there). I could have that order entirely wrong, not that it matters! Lee wasn't able to stay very long, and neither were Paul and Bridget. Actually, not long after they left, those members of my family who arrived had to head out, too -- my sister Debi's oldest daughter was involved with some school auction thing, which is why she and her kids weren't at the party, and everyone else had to go to that, too. Oh, and I can't forget Sybil (Jessi's "adopted mom") showed up with her daughter, whom I apologize to (even though she'll never read this) for forgetting her name.

Oh, actually, before everyone started leaving, I opened cards and presents. Dan and Amanda gave me these three huge helium balloons and the latest issue of Cooking Light (Krypto does not like those balloons -- he barked at them several times this evening). Lee gave me a combination lock for the bike (for when I ride it to work). Serena and Sean gave me a bottle of wine (which I'm not sure when I'll open it -- I actually have a bottle in the cupboard that I've had for over a year). All other non-family members gave me cards that gave me anything, which was fine -- I had said in the invitations to them no gifts (I also said to bring your own drinks, but nobody appeared to do that -- fortunately I'd stocked up on plenty of Safeway Select Diet Cola!).

My family's gifts were as follows: Debi, I probably mentioned before, gave me a JC Penney gift card in the amount of $30, and Jeff and his wife Kristi (she wasn't able to make it, apparently) did the same. Sandy and her family had $40 cash in their card to me, and my parents added $60 to that. Oh! Damn, I forgot -- Paul and Bridget gave me a gift card to Barnes & Noble!

Anyway... before long, it was Serena and Sean, Pam, Dan and Amanda, Chelsey and Greg, and of course, Jessi and I. Chelsey, Greg, and Dan joined me in the garage for a smoke, and then everyone left except for Dan and Amanda. We enjoyed a nice visit with them, and since it looked like nobody else was going to show, I started packing up the food and putting it in the fridge.

I ended up with two pizzas I didn't even cook, plenty of leftover chicken nuggets, popcorn shrimp, and pigs in a blanket, loads of veggies and fruit, enough veggie spaghetti to last us a while, and a tray of sushi I never even got out of the fridge. There were lots of green olives left over, too -- silly me, I got the kind that still had the seed in 'em, and I'll probably pitch the jar, to be honest.

The party went very well, overall, despite the large number of people who didn't show... there were still over two dozen cupcakes left, but I'd rather have too much food than not enough, you know? As was the case with Jessi's graduation party from last spring, I got oodles and oodles of compliments -- including a few comments that I should've been a chef, but I'm pretty sure this is something I couldn't enjoy doing professionally.

After everyone had gone, we invited our next door neighbors, Ned and Jane, to come over for some veggie spaghetti and cupcakes. They had been invited, but apparently their invitation, which I'd wedged in their door when they weren't home, got lost or destroyed.

Jessi and I then enjoyed a nice, quiet evening... we were tempted to go out and do a little shopping, but since I'd told people the open house was until 10, we kind of had to stick around!

For those who were invited but didn't show up -- well, they missed some great food!


Friday, November 11, 2005

Friday Night...

And preparations for tomorrow's party have begun!

I did three... well, four... shopping trips today. First, I headed to this Cash and Carry Grocery Outlet, where I stocked up on cooking spray (I also got a serving tray to put the cupcakes on). Then, I went to Albertson's to buy everything I needed that didn't require refrigerating. From there, I went to work.

At my lunch break, I took into the house what I'd bought in the morning, and after work, hit Safeway up for the refrigerated stuff. I got home, and began the spaghetti sauce in the crock-pot... where I discovered that I didn't have enough homemade tomato sauce! So, I combined everything I had, and got to work on the pizza dough, which rose very nicely.

The fourth trip was to the Dollar Store, where I got more tomato sauce and a few other things we needed. Then, back home, so I could get to work on the cupcakes (oh, we had dinner from Subway when I got home from work). I made a quadruple batch, hoping to yield 48 cupcakes from that... but I only got 24. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough flour left to do the remaining 24, so I'll be making stop #5 Saturday morning after Weight Watchers -- guess that means I'll be doing that first, so they have a chance to properly cool!

So, tomorrow's plan... Weight Watchers, then the grocery store for flour and ice (I think I may also get some additional Parmesean cheese, just to be safe). Then home to make breakfast, and I can get the mixer going on a second batch of cake batter while breakfast is cooking. After breakfast, bake the last 24 cupcakes.

While the cupcakes bake, I'll prepare the other finger foods for the party... probably starting with the pigs in a blanket, as I'd imagine the chicken won't be thawed yet, so I'll have to throw that in a bowl of water for fast thawing. I've already prepared a large batch of my breading mixture, so once the chicken's thawed, I'll be able to cut them into finger-size pieces and get 'em coated quickly. The shrimp will be next, after that, as that involves much the same procedure.

Once those are done, and in the fridge, it'll be pizza-making time! I made a double batch of dough, which should be enough for 8 pizzas, but I'll start with four or five... a pepperoni, a ham and pineapple, a combo, and another pepperoni, at least. I may do a second ham and pineapple. Once those are all ready and in the fridge (and you have to understand I'll need to re-arrange things in the fridge during all this, too), I'll make up the frosting for the cupcakes. If I time things correctly, when my mom arrives, I can recruit her to frost the cupcakes for me!

The last thing will be, naturally, cooking the spaghetti... trying to time it so it's ready when people start arriving at 2!

We'll likely have some kind of late morning snack, just enough to tide us over... probably just a granola bar or something like that. Lord knows there'll be enough food for the rest of the day!

Anyway... time for me to grab a final smoke of the night, and head off to bed... next time I blog, it'll be post-party, no doubt, and I'll recap how it went!


Thursday, November 10, 2005

Thursday Night...

So, here it is, Thursday night. I've hit all my nightly blogs (the blogs that tend to have updates at this time of night, that is), and have also written up the shopping list for my birthday party.

I may as well come "clean" on what was possibly going to happen on Friday, in case I didn't blurt it out before. A friend of Jessi's let her know they were signing up volunteers to help with an Extreme Makeover: Home Edition that was going to happen around Port Orchard, and since we're fans of the show, Jessi signed us up! We were looking forward to it, despite how it was going to put a cramp in things party-wise.

However, they were overwhelmed with volunteers, and we didn't get on the list before the cut-off.

Anyway... this frees us up to start prepping for the party Friday night after I get off work (and in Jessi's case, since she has Friday off, a chance to start on the clean-up that I didn't get to on Monday).

The menu for the party will be as follows:

Veggie Spaghetti - with homemade sauce, including mushrooms, black olives, and onions, Morningstar Farms "meat" crumbles, with whole wheat spaghetti pasta.

Homemade Pizza - with homemade sauce, whole-wheat crust, low and non-fat cheddar and mozzerella cheese. I'll be making turkey pepperoni, ham and pineapple, and combo.

Pigs in a Blanket - Using fat-free hot dogs and Phyllo dough.

Chicken Nuggets - Using my "famous" breading comprised of Special K and Fiber 1.

California Sushi Roll - courtesy of the local Safeway! (hey, I don't know how to make *everything* you know!)

Olive, Veggie and Fruit Trays

Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting - homemade from scratch!

And maybe, if it doesn't look like there'll be enough food, Popcorn Shrimp!

Sounds filling, doesn't it? But it'll all be healthy!

So, I'll be running to the grocery store in the morning to get stuff on the shopping list, then after bringing it all home and putting it away, I'll be off to work! I'll likely be done at work by 5:30-6:00, and then I'll head home and start on the prep.

The first thing on the list will probably be making the cupcakes. I'm making 4 dozen, and I only have one muffin tin with a capacity of 18, so it'll be three batches. While those are baking, I'll get the spaghetti sauce started in the crock-pot. Once the spaghetti sauce is started, I'll get going on the pizza dough.

Somewhere in all this, dinner will be prepared, unless I cheat and get Subway for dinner (which I probably will).

Then, Saturday morning, after Weight Watchers, we'll get home, have breakfast, and I'll do more prep... getting the chicken nuggets breaded and panned, preparing the pigs in a blanket, frosting the cupcakes, making the pizzas, and getting the shrimp ready if need be. The plan is to have everything that needs to be baked ready to come out of the fridge and go right into the oven, which will mean rearranging the fridge, natch!

Oh, almost forgot... first thing after WW will be to get a few bags of ice!

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah... once all that stuff is done, if there's time, I'll relax a bit before getting the spaghetti pasta cooked (the party starts at 2, so I'll probably cook the pasta starting at 1:30 or so).

And boy, do I hope there'll be time to relax... I may even take a short nap if there's time! But if not, I'll just get a fresh shower before people start to arrive.

The sad thing is, I really don't know for sure how many people are coming. My entire family was invited, which usually means 14 people, but my sister Debi and her three kids won't be there. I invited all my co-workers, but I know some of them will be out of town. I invited a number of our friends as well, including a few from Weight Watchers. I'm basically planning on food for 48 people (hence the 48 cupcakes). If there aren't that many, or they aren't that hungry, there'll be leftovers -- which isn't a bad thing, you know?

Anyway... it's very sad, but it's only 10:30, and I'm feeling sleepy, even though I'm usually up until midnight... so I'm off to bed!


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Reflection Time...

So, as I start writing this blog entry, I've got less than two hours left of my "official" birthday (although the celebration will really be on Saturday)... and as birthdays often do, it causes me to reflect on where I've come in my life so far.

And you know, it's been a pretty good life so far, all things considered... especially compared to three years before, when I turned 40, or even 39, for that matter!

On my 39th birthday, I was terribly depressed... my wife, Barbara, had passed away the previous August, I was living in Greenfield, Wisconsin, two-thirds of a country away from the majority of my family, and I had no friends in the area at all. I was working a job that I absolutely hated, but I was sticking it out, knowing that the following August, I'd be returning back home to Washington State. I had boxes and boxes of Barbara's possessions yet to sort through, and my social life was pretty much nil.

The saving grace for me at that time was comics, as well as the internet. One mistake I made at the time, I think, was taking time away from transcribing as I tried to re-establish my plans, which had been shot to hell. But between getting new comics every two weeks, the occasional comics show, and internet mailing lists and websites, I was able to keep going.

My 40th birthday, I was very depressed... I'd moved back to Washington, and had been completely unsuccessful in finding work so far. I was also foolishly trying to get some romance going in my life again (unsuccessfully), but I had rediscovered karaoke, which I was doing a lot (I made contact with my old karaoke buddies from before I'd moved to Wisconsin, which did help). The party my family had for me and the karaoke night definitely made me feel a lot better... but I was still, really, in a downward spiral.

Between my 40th and 41st birthdays, I got involved with a single mom who was bi-polar, and who had one child who was, frankly, a crybaby, and another one who was ADD... and I was even more miserable when I was involved with her. That began right after my 40th birthday, and by March or April, I was thinking about how I could get out of the relationship, which finally ended in May.

Another saving grace during all that was my friend Vicki, whom I had regular chats with online. Like me, she had dealt with the passing away of someone close to her, so she could relate to what I'd been going through. I don't think she realizes how much her support meant to me.

My 41st birthday rolled around, and the downward spiral was becoming even more rapid. To make a living, I'd been selling on eBay, but when things slowed down (and I started running out of things to sell), I switched to selling at the local swap meets, getting to the point where I was forced to sell all sorts of stuff I never intended to sell... like all my video tapes and DVDs, nearly all my comics and books, CDs... it was all going, and at prices that were way, way too low. I was having a hard time making the rent from month to month (I really should've gotten into a much cheaper place when I moved back here, but I was thinking I'd find a job much faster). Things hit the low point at the end of that year.

The new year began with my having to break the lease on my apartment, and I put all my remaining stuff in storage and stayed at my parents' house for a time.

And that is when the light appeared at the end of the tunnel.

I got the job at the newspaper that I still have, and still love it. A few months after moving out of my parents' house and into my own place again, in Olympia, I met Jessi, and it wasn't long after that I fell in love with her, and she with me. We bought Krypto, and in April, as you know, we moved in together.

Also during all this, I got involved with Emerald City Comic-Con, doing the trivia contest there, which went very well... I also started the Cover Stories column at WF Comics, and began this blog. Thanks to Andy Mangels, I got back into doing transcription work again, and despite the current ridiculously slow sales on eBay, I've done the auction thing again.

And you know what? This has been a pretty damn good year... certainly much better than I ever expected I would have after Barbara died.

Do I still have goals that are unrealized? Oh, certainly... I have yet to write a comic book. I have yet to buy a house. I haven't replaced my Beatles CDs and DVDs yet, but that will come. There's probably a hundred things or more that I've always wanted to do or accomplish, and likely 99 of them will never happen. There are friends I've lost touch with over the years that I may never get back in touch with.

But you know what? I'm not obsessing over what I could've done differently. I'm happy with my life, and really, isn't that the best birthday present you could really ask for?


So It's My Birthday...

And I figure, hey, I can get away with this...

Every little bit helps, y'know...


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Tuesday Night...

I don't know if I mentioned this before, but I'm not feeling quite 100% today. All day long, I've felt like I haven't slept in a few days, which of course, is not true at all (the closest was the short amount of sleep I got Saturday). Got a little case of sniffles, and a relatively productive cough. There is some kind of bug going around, though, and that's probably it.

What sucks most about it, in my opinion, is that Wednesday, as in tomorrow (or, realistically, today as most of you are reading this), is my 43rd birthday, for which I have nothing special planned, but still, one hates to be sick on one's birthday.

Birthdays are a funny thing as an adult. Kids always look forward to them, adults less so... especially the older one gets. Myself, I'm trying to make this one a positive one, what with the party on Saturday and all.

I'm not expecting anything from Jessi tomorrow... after all, when we got Krypto, she paid for half of him (no, I won't make a joke about which half), and I told her that would cover my birthday present for that year (and, apparently, my Christmas present). However, I wouldn't be surprised if she got me a little something anyway. Not that I'm expecting it, mind you!

Speaking of Jessi, I have good news... I'm sure I've blogged before about how she'd been trying to get this new position where she works (or have I? I don't feel like slogging through prior entries to see if I did or didn't... if I haven't, just play along and nod like you know what I'm talking about, okay?). She'd been actually doing this new job on a part-time basis for a few weeks, and had a second interview last Wednesday, and today, she got the call that she was going to get the new job permanently -- at least once they transition her completely out of her original job. She's very excited about this new job -- it doesn't pay much more than what she'd been doing, but she'll enjoy it thousands of times more.

She was definitely in a celebratory mood tonight... she had a friend over while waiting for me to get finished at work, and instead of the swordfish steaks I'd had marinating, she wanted pizza... so she bought some Papa Murphy's pizzas for us (and her friend, and her friend's daughter), and they were already in the oven when I got home from work. And, I'll be honest... I ate way too much... but it was so good, with all that ham and pineapple (have I mentioned before that's my favorite pizza?). And chances are, I'll have at least a slight gain this week because of it. Oh, well, such is life, and I won't abandon my weight loss goals just because I pigged out for one evening.

Still working on that transcription job... finished up tape 2, and started on tape 3! I'm hoping to get it finished by the time I go to bed Sunday night (I've mentioned that before, haven't I?). It's still very interesting, and I'd share stuff from it, but that's against The Transcriber's Code of Ethics and Conduct (not that such a code literally exists, mind you). But you know, if you've gone to the Charlton Spotlight website (scroll down a bit if you haven't), you can make sure to be kept informed as to when the next issue comes out, right?

My eBay auctions still suck... even the very nifty dog collars, like the one Krypto is wearing in this photo!

krypto collar

I'm still leaning towards just trying to sell the entire buch that's left as a single lot, and let someone else take the time to sell 'em off individually... but we'll see what happens. Maybe I just need to wait until after the holidays (note to self: When money is getting tight, don't spend it on stuff on clearance that you think you can resell quickly -- nothing resells quickly when you want it to!).

Anyway, I think that's about it for tonight's reporting... we did see the Biggest Loser, naturally... but once again skipped Commander-In-Chief. I think it's going to be completely off our tv-watching radar at this rate, if is isn't already!


Tuesday Lunch Break

Yes, that's right... it's 3:25 in the afternoon, and I'm on my lunch break, which started at 3.

Anyhoo... eBay continues to disappoint. One item sold of the 12+ auctions that closed last night... for $2.00. I'll be lucky if I end up breaking even on that particular item... especially since the winner has yet to pay for the auction! It was for one of those dog collars that I've been hawking, and to be honest, I'm about ready to just take the entire bunch that I'd been trying to sell individually, and just offer them all up in a group to anyone who wants to re-sell them individually! As it is, I did relist a few of them, just to see what happens.

Work continues apace on the Joe Gill transcription for Charlton Spotlight... this morning, before going to work, I nearly finished side 2 of tape 2. Tonight, I'll undoubtedly wrap that up, and then go on to tape 3, side 1 -- and I have no idea how much of that tape is recorded on!

Just to give you guys an idea of how much I've done... these are 90 minute tapes, and I've done nearly three "sides" of 45 minutes each, for a total of 135 minutes, or 2 hours and 15 minutes. If Tape 3 is only recorded on 1 side, it'll make for an even 3 hours... but could be a grand total of 3 hours 45 minutes.

And I started working on these yesterday.


Monday, November 07, 2005

Monday Evening...

As dinner cooks, I'm making a short blog entry.

The thing on Friday that I refer to in the post below this one? Not happening, so there will be a more relaxed timetable for preparing for Saturday's party.

I still have lots of auctions on eBay, and no bids. Bizarrely enough, one auction, which starts at $2.00, is on someone's watchlist.

Who in their right mind bothers putting a $2.00 item on their watchlist?!?!?! It seems to me it would make more sense to just go ahead and place a bid (or use the buy it now option, which is only $4.00). It's for a brand-new dog collar, which sells for $10 on the shelf.

I tell you, sometimes I just don't understand some of these people on eBay.


Monday Mid-Afternoon...

Just taking a break from my latest transcribing gig, an interview with prolific comic book writer Joe Gill, for Charlton Spotlight. You can check out the website for this magazine at this link, and be sure to tell Michael Ambrose that I sent ya, okay?

It's been a fairly productive day here... I'm nearly through the first side of tape 2 of 3 (the first tape was recorded on one side only), and I should finish that within a half hour or so after I get back to it, then it'll be on to side 2, probably tonight sometime!

Aside from that, I've done some house cleaning... well, I've worked on the carpets, anyway. I mentioned I bought some Oxi Clean (misspelled Oxy Clean in previous posts), and I've taken a scoop of that and put it in a pitcher full of hot water, mixed it up, and applied it directly to the carpets, then sucked the water up with my carpet cleaner. The results have been rather mixed, to say the least... the places that I definitely covered look great... other areas don't look quite so good, and so I'll probably need to either a) Hit the missed spots more directly, or b) Try to get someone in here on Friday to do the carpets professionally. If my steam cleaner worked correctly, I'd have had no problem getting all the carpets cleaned in half the time it took, and they wouldn't still be drying!

As it is, I'll likely be doing more housecleaning in the mornings before going to work Tuesday through Thursday, in order to ensure the place is clean on Saturday, with those evenings after Jessi's gone to sleep devoted to transcribing the Joe Gill interview (which, by the way, is very interesting!).

Friday is going to be a ridiculously busy day... I may have to get up earlier than normal to get done what I'll need to do before heading in to work. Friday is payday for me, and I'll be grocery shopping for the party (for that matter, I'll have to take some time on Thursday to write the shopping list out so I don't forget anything). When I get back from the grocery store, I have to start the spaghetti sauce going in the crockpot, and get the pizza dough started in the mixer, so it has time to rise before I stuff it in the fridge until the day of the party.

Friday I'm hoping to be able to leave work a bit earlier than normal, but it doesn't help with the party at all -- there's something special that Jessi and I are going to be doing, and I'm not supposed to talk about it yet (and I hope I didn't already spill the beans here... I suppose I should check the last several posts, eh?). We won't be done with that until midnight Friday, and we may not be home until 1 am.

So... Saturday morning we'll be getting up at about 6:30 to get ready for Weight Watchers, go to the meeting, then rush home so I can get back to cooking for the party. My plan is to have to do as little cooking during the party as I can -- the crockpot will, of course, be on the entire time to keep the sauce hot!

Among the food we'll have is the aforementioned spaghetti (the pasta will be cooked just before people arrive, and when the sauce is low enough, it'll go in the crockpot) and pizza (which will be rolled out and topped Saturday morning so I just have to pop them in the oven as needed), there'll be low-calorie pigs in a blanket, which I may pre-bake, so they only have to be warmed up, as well as a few other things... which I'm blanking on right now!

Oh, almost forgot... Saturday morning I have to make the low-calorie cupcakes, so they'll ahve time to cool so I can frost them before people get here!

Going to be an extraordinarily busy day, but hopefully, once the party starts, all I have to worry about is putting pizza in the oven, taking it out when it's done, and cutting them!


Sunday, November 06, 2005

Sunday Night Update!

OK... so at this time, I think I'm down to about $5 left of my profits from Saturday's Hold-Em tourney (if you have no idea what I'm talking about, read the following post first).

So... after posting earlier today... geez, what did I do? Oh, yeah. Jessi took a nap, and I went to work on my vacuum cleaner, which had a major clog in it that prevented it from vacuuming. That took a bit of doing, but I finally got it cleared, and vacuumed the living room and hallway, as well as the carpets in the kitchen.

Afterwards, it was time to wake Jessi up so we could get ready to go to the party... yeah, the first Sunday of the month is usually our Boxer Meet-Up, at 2:00 p.m., but my family never remembers that... so they schedule family gatherings (such as birthday parties) for Sundays starting at 3.

What you may not know is that on Sunday afternoons, at some point in the day, traffic heading northbound to Tacoma gets backed up bigtime... so we have to plan extra time to get where we want to go, in order to be on time!

So, we ended up leaving at 12:30 for a 3:00 party... but we needed to pick up my niece's birthday present anyway (Jessi had already bought a card -- is it just me, or is it just plain silly to buy a birthday card for a 2-year-old?). My plan was to hit Big Lots, as they're a great source for finding toddler toys at good prices. We ended up getting Andrea an Elmo toy that was sort of a Mr. Potato Head. This Elmo, a solid plastic toy, came with a few sets of disguises you could snap on him, such as a chicken costume, an elephant costume, and a few others. In addition, he talks... constantly... as you put things on or take them off, and it recognizes what you've put on him! So she should have fun with that. We also got a gift bag and tissue to wrap it in.

A bonus find at Big Lots was some multi-pack variety bags of 100 Calorie snacks, which I picked up two of, plus a Diet Coke for each of us. Total cost, about $27. Add in the $13 I already gave Jessi for the leather coat I sold for her, I was down to about $25 of the $65 I had in profit from cards.

So we headed up north to Puyallup... and traffic was astonishingly light (we must've been on the way ahead of when the back-up starts). When we got to Puyallup, we were about an hour and a half early, so we stopped at the South Hill Mall to do a little bit of real shopping, and a lot of window shopping. The real shopping was at Target.

The first priority at Target was to get some Oxy Clean. From the first day we moved into this house, there had been stains on the carpet, and a few had been added since then. Since we're having my birthday party here on Saturday, we needed to do something about the carpet -- and since my carpet steam cleaner hasn't dispensed cleaner in some time, something had to be done! My plan was to buy the Oxy Clean, put a solution of that on the carpet, let it soak in, and then suck up the water with the steam cleaner (which could still do that). As a bonus, I got the final Justice League Unlimited 3-pack I needed of the current release! (Yay me! Of course, now I have to wait and see if they even announce the next release)

We did a bit of window shopping after that, as I alluded to... and didn't buy anything. Then we left the mall, with a plan to stop at a convenience store to get more sodas (I really wanted a Diet Mountain Dew or two for the party). Well, I pulled into an Arco, but it wasn't an AM/PM, so we stopped in the next-door Walgreen's -- except they didn't have Diet Dew. We ended up going to the Safeway further down the street, and as luck would have it, we arrived at the party on time.

For a change, most of the food at a family function was fairly healthy -- so long as we didn't think too much about the calories for the real mayo used in the potato salad and pasta salad! But we were still using a few flex points, so we were good there.

Andrea, at 2, still doesn't quite get the whole birthday card thing.... but she understands presents!

Jessi and I ended up leaving at about 5:30-6:00, because we were both tired and needed to get home.

When we got home, I worked on cleaning the bedroom carpet with the Oxy Clean, then we watched Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and then Law & Order: Criminal Intent (a special two-hour episode, which Jessi stayed up for). Then Jessi went to bed, and I went to the computer!

And if you're reading this on Monday... do yourself a favor and check out today's installment of Dial B for Blog -- Robby Reed's started the first installment of a classic Power Records book and record set, using MP3's to provide the sound! Check it out!


You've Got To Know When To (Texas) Hold 'Em...

It's time to update everyone on the latest here!

First of all, there's a new Cover Stories column up at World Famous Comics... this week's covers feature a boxing theme!

But of course, you knew that already, because you check that out faithfully every Sunday, don't you?

So... Saturday, as I think I mentioned, I did a bunch of revisions on the current auctions. I changed all the ones that were fixed-price (as in first bid wins 'em) so that there was a lower starting price, and updated some descriptions, too. I've sold one more item -- one of Jessi's leather jackets.

After the revisions, Jessi and I had to leave for our friend Dan's birthday party. As I've probably mentioned before, Dan and his wife Amanda are friends of ours from Weight Watchers. This was celebrating Dan's 40th birthday, and the theme was Texas Hold 'Em, with a 20-person tournament (with a $25 buy-in), with Mexican food, including fajitas, available for dinner and snacking.

Dan's present from us was of two parts: The first part was his own hoodie, which he'd left in my car when we went to the Portland Comic Book Show (Amanda told us that Dan's always losing his coats, so this was a good present in and of himself!). The second part was the paperback edition of "The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told," which I'd bought at that same Portland convention, forgetting that I'd already bought a hardback copy. Dan loved both presents!

Jessi and I had planned on skipping the Hold 'Em tournament -- neither of us had played the game before, and frankly, we didn't have the buy-in. Dan, however, was adamant... it was his birthday party, and we were going to play -- so he staked us. I figured that we would be amongst the first to be eliminated.

I neglected to take into account the phenomenom of Beginner's Luck.

The tourney began with two tables of 10 people at each table. There was a low blind/high blind situation -- which, for the uninitiated, works as follows: The first round, the low blind was $25, the high blind was $50 (the $25 buy-in got you $2000 of chips). The low blind was the person to the left of the dealer, high blind was the person next to the dealer. Before the hand was dealt, the low blind would put in $25, the high blind would put in $50 (this was in lieu of an ante). The first two cards are dealt to each player face-down, the players look at their two cards, and the first bet goes to the person to the left of the high blind, who had to bet a mininum of $50 to stay in the hand. Betting continues like with regular poker, based on those two cards, but when it gets to the low blind, they only have to put a minimum of $25 in to stay in (assuming nobody raised), while the high blind was already in.

Then, three cards are dealt face-up on the table -- this is called the "flop". Those three cards are part of everyone's hand in an attempt to come up with the best hand possible. Betting goes around again, with a mininum bet of $50. The next round, another card is dealt face-up, called the "turn," another round of betting, and then the final card is dealt face-up, called the "river." From the five cards dealt face-up plus the two cards in each player's hand, they bet on who has the best hand -- at least, among those players who haven't folded.

The low blind/high blind situation helps make sure that there's always some money in the pot, and helps to eliminate players from the tournament. The first round at the $25/$50 level lasted 45 minutes, followed by a break, and the second round went to a $50/$100 level. Succeeding rounds of the game were a little shorter, and the low blind and high blind got up there!

Another aspect of the game is "all in" -- which is when a player bets all his chips. Depending on when a player goes all in, he may be playing for the entire pot, or if someone raised that player, the remaining raises go into a "side pot," but you may be getting confused already.

So, Jessi and I were at the same table, and at one point, I thought Jessi was going to be out, as she went all in -- but won the hand, and was still in it! We were both amazed to be doing as well as we were... especially at the last hand before it was down to one table, and I knocked three players out in one hand (on an ace-high flush, if you can believe that!).

Jessi and I both moved to the final table. We were both hanging in there, as was our host, Dan, as another player or two were knocked out. It got to the last six players, and Jessi, Dan and I were still in it. Unfortunately, Jessi was #6, being eliminated shortly after that. When it was down to 5 players, we were all "in the money" because the best player got 50% of the pot, second place got 25%, and third, fourth and fifth split the remaining 25% (this was the percentage of the entire buy-in pot, not any hand's pot). Dan was knocked out next, so it was me and three others... then another got knocked out, and it was down to three, including me!

The pressure was on... and I was getting terrible hands. By folding often, I stayed in, and finally, the third person was knocked out! It was down to me and one other person, and they had a lot more chips than I did at that point! (at this stage, the low blind was $1,000 and high blind was $2,000) It ended up coming down to one hand, and to keep us from being there all night, I went all in -- I figured that I was at least going to be second place, right?

Well, that's where I ended up, winning about $125 -- of which $50 went back to Dan for staking us.

Still, that's doing pretty good, winning $75 in my first-ever Texas Hold-Em tournament, isn't it? And I can definitely see how people could be addicted to the game.

No, I won't be playing every week, or even every two or three weeks... but I told Dan next time he wanted to do a Texas Hold-Em tournament, to let us know!

Jessi also had a good time, even though she didn't win.