Thoughts and assorted philosophical musing about: Family, Friends, Fun, Hobbies, & other everyday things.
My continuing efforts to serve as a First Sergeant (Top) in the Army of God.
My latest interest is in Letterboxing.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Packzi, Turkey, and Frozen Letterboxes

Sunday while we were at church some local letterboxers came by to try and score on the two boxes hidden on my property. The "Nest" covering them over was frozen to the ground and they were concerned about breaking it, so they left them for another time. I broke it loose with a shovel in case they return or someone else gives it a try. Of course it will be frozen in place again if the hot and cold cycles we have been having continue. I am sorry that they were unsuccessful.

It has remained too cold to do much of anything outside so this week has been devoted primarily to filing my taxes, and cooking. Monday I fixed a Pork Roast and Yesterday, using a new recipe from Penzeys, I prepared what turned out to be a very large batch of yummy and meaty chili. As stated previously, I am a foodie. I absolutely love preparing, learning about, and especially eating great food, and like eating almost any food. I have had to stop baking except for bread and special occasion cookies because I was getting too fat.

The Cleveland area has a large population with roots in Poland. In their culture the traditional food baked to clear the fats and sweets from the pantry prior to lent was a type of filled donuts called (spelling varies) "Packzi". Now yesterday was Fat Tuesday. Needing a few ingredients for the chili, yesterday's agenda included a quick trip to the market. Everyplace you looked in the store there were piles of boxes containing Packzi. The mind is strong but the spirit is week... The Devil made me do it!!

We love smoked turkey. About two weeks ago on a warm day I smoked a breast, but it did not last very long. We always make soup from the carcass, that too was delicious, but we gave most of it away to a sick friend. This morning it was finally warm enough to fire up the smoker again so I have had a turkey (less the wings and legs), in there for several hours now. The technique that I use is to marinate it in brine made from apple cider, smoke it for three or four hours, then finish it in the oven. Turkey is on the menu for tonight!!

I guess that I just like celebrating holidays. Several years back, for reasons that I don't recall, I began to collect recipes, facts, jokes, sayings. activities, and trivia about St. Patrick's day. Next on my "To Do" list is getting things together for that event. A stamp needs to be carved for my seasonal box, I need to settle on a theme for here, and I will review my file of recipes and activities.

With luck I also hope to squeeze in some time to get out and do some letterboxing this week or next.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

How much is enough?

With all of the recent financial turmoil in the USA it seems that folks are always talking about the causes and solutions. While reading opinions and comments about greed and capitalism I have seen allusions to an apocryphal remark which has been variously ascribed to at least two members of the Rockefeller clan as well as to JP Morgan. The gist of it is that when asked by a reporter "How much is enough!", the interviewed financier replied "Just a little bit more!".

The last week I have been unhappily musing about the long stretch of winter weather that we have been enduring. Apparently the "Just a little bit more" remark has been lingering in the back of my mind. I have come to repeatedly ask no one in particular -- HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH!, and the unpleasant conclusion seems inevitably to be --- JUST A LITTLE BIT MORE.

The thaw we experienced last week served to buoy hopes of getting out and about soon. I had even put out two of my letterboxes, and made plans to plant several others, as well as preparing to seek several that I have been anxious to get.

These hopes and plans have been dashed upon the rocks as more snow and cold Arctic air found it's way into our region. My recently planted box Marge, and her temporary coop mate Bart, are now embedded in snow and struggling to stay warm as winter has returned.

I am unlikely to get out letterboxing anytime soon.

This must by the curse of the groundhog!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Do you hear the Queen purring?

Yesterday we returned home after our long Valentines Day weekend outing. Most of the planning played out very well resulting in a very pleasing and relaxing experience. The arranged destination was a hotel located at the Chautauqua Institute in New York. We arrived late Friday night and discovered that the hotel's owner had done her best to minimize the enjoyment of our weekend. I will not go into the whole story here, but take my advice you do not want to stay at the Spencer Hotel. I have submitted reviews at appropriate places on line and will pursue my complaint further through the BBB and various state agencies. We have traveled the world and experienced situations that you would not believe. Consequently we did not find it difficult to simply overlook these disappointments and preceded to have a good time in spite of her.

Getting up Saturday morning we had a very nice breakfast at 9, then Donna had a facial, manicure, lunch, and massage, which took nearly all day. Except for hiding more gifts and candy around the room for her to discover I just relaxed while she was out. Dinner had been arranged for 6:15 at Mac Duff's, a highly rated restaurant in nearby Jamestown. The quality of both the food and service at dinner was very disappointing... far below the quality expected from a facility with their reputation. Again we managed to overlook it and have a good time. However, two disappointing episodes in a single weekend was a bit more that I like to deal with.

Sunday morning we again enjoyed our 9am breakfast then went to church. After church Donna again enjoyed the Spa. This time she had a pedicure. Dinner was at Andriaccio's a very good Italian Restaurant which is practically across the street from the main gate.

Then Monday it was another wonderful breakfast. The Spencer does serve good food, and except for the owner herself, the staff members are all very pleasant and accommodating. Then we packed up and headed home. We arrived back around 2 p.m.

Overall it was a nice quite, relaxing, and romantic weekend. Donna tells me that I made her feel like a queen. I think I could hear her purring!!

No letterboxing, but I think I have a good idea for a new stamp for next Valentine's Day.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Marge in her Coop and Conniving Cupid.

Well all of you letterboxers living near Cleveland's Southwest side now have a new adventure. After weeks of suffering from cabin fever and banging your head against the walls, it has finally thawed out and I was able to place the cache containing "Marjorie's Nest". She is still a few feet from her final destination but close enough that you should be able to locate her by following the very easy puzzle found on her clue page. The chicken coup where she is sitting will also be used for additional seasonal letterboxes. Her current room mate, "Berea Bart", is very late getting out due to the weather. I will probably replace Bart in a few weeks.

Valentine's day is such a great time to let romance bloom in your relationship. A few years ago I discovered how much fun it is to plan romantic surprises for Donna, my long time wife and only lover. To start the week off she received a personalized candy jar full of Hershey's Kisses. Then came a box containing one of her favorite perfumes. There is more coming as we go off Friday Night on a four day (three night) romance getaway weekend.

But today cupid arranged a very special surprise that should spread the romance bug among her colleagues at work. I had a nice bouquet of white lilies and red roses delivered to her at work this morning. This delivery also included a teddy bear, some chocolate truffles, and a valentine heart balloon.

The purpose was two fold. First and foremost it was to give her additional love gifts. But secondly, All of the staff and most of the kids at the elementary school where she works are aware of this delivery by now. When asked about it she will relate the details of how she is pampered each Valentine's Day. Now if any staff member ignores the occasion and their squeeze learns of this, it will probably mean that trouble is brewing. Some of the kids will also relate the story at home. I had them delivered today so that she could enjoy them in the presence of her co-workers and to give them extra time to abate their guilt or fear by making hasty plans of their own.

Of course this was conniving, I love playing the cupid role and suspect that as a result of today's delivery there will be a dramatic increase this coming Saturday in the number of happy spouses and lovers among her co-workers. Guys tell me that they hate me when I do this but, I don't think that they are serious.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Love, Spring, and Marjorie the Chick

Today the first of several gifts that I had ordered for Donna arrived. It was addressed to her and it took very little prompting to get her to open it. She seems to like this candy jar full of Hershey kisses The jar is etched with hearts each of which contains a personal message just for her. She then gave me my gift, several boxes of jelled fruit candies from, Liberty Orchards, my life time favorite producer of sweets.

Some of the day was also spent refining our special weekend getaway to a surprise destination. When the kids were little we developed the habit of calling outings to surprise destinations "Mystery Rides". Today she still enjoys the elements of nostalgia and intrigue in a "Mystery Ride". Wondering about this "Lovers Holiday" lead to some quick research to gather information about it.

It seems that Valentine's day is generally believed to have originated as the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, a fertility celebration commemorated annually on February 15. It is said that in 496 Pope Gelasius usurped this pagan festival by creating St. Valentine's Day a Christian feast held each February 14. Which St. Valentine this early pope intended to honor remains a mystery: according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, there were at least three early Christian saints by that name and all three were said to have been martyred on February 14. Most scholars believe that the St. Valentine of the holiday was a priest who attracted the disfavor of Roman emperor Claudius II around 270. According to one legend, Claudius II had prohibited marriage for young men, claiming that bachelors made better soldiers. Valentine continued to secretly perform marriage ceremonies but was eventually apprehended by the Romans and put to death. Another legend has it that Valentine, imprisoned by Claudius, fell in love with the daughter of his jailer. Before he was executed, he allegedly sent her a letter signed "from your Valentine." Probably the most plausible story surrounding St. Valentine is one not focused on Eros (passionate love) but on agape (Christian love): he was martyred for refusing to renounce his religion. When the Catholic Church revised its liturgical calendar in 1969, removing the feast days of saints whose historical origins were questionable, St. Valentine was one of the casualties.

It was not until the 14th century that this Christian feast day became definitively associated with love. Chaucer first linked St. Valentine's Day with romance. In 1381, Chaucer composed a poem in honor of the engagement between England's Richard II and Anne of Bohemia. In "The Parliament of Fowls," the royal engagement, the mating season of birds, and St. Valentine's Day are linked.

By the 18th century, gift-giving and exchanging hand-made cards on Valentine's Day had become common in England. Hand-made valentine cards made of lace, ribbons, and featuring cupids and hearts eventually spread to the American colonies. The tradition of Valentine's cards did not become widespread in the United States until mass-production of them began in the 1850s.

Do you remember all of those cute little cheap valentine cards we exchanged as school tots? This is one practice that has not changed, kids today do the same thing. But I suspect the price has gone up.

Well it seems that spring is in the air here. Most of the snow has melted off. The snowdrops and crocus are beginning to peep out. Hopefully in a day or two the ground will be dry enough to plant my letterboxes. Today I worked on a cache which will house one new letterbox permanently in addition to one or more seasonal boxes. It is "Marjorie's Nest", named for the Atlas Quest chick mascot. I hope to get it finished tomorrow then I can post it as active.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Letterboxing and Stoking the Flames of Love

It's Saturday and I don't know where the week went. After arriving back home on Tuesday afternoon things were sorted out and put away. Wednesday we got 14 more inches of snow. We didn't need that. Donna got the day off and ran errands in it, I don't understand!! Meanwhile I was catching up on choirs and sleep, then getting my new stamps from the "Buckeye Chuck Again" letterboxing event sorted out and posted on Atlas Quest. Thursday it was finishing up by getting my personal logbook pages up to date and doing some preliminary planning for Valentines day.

With Valentines day falling on Saturday this year it would be hard to put together a big surprise dinner for her without chasing her out of the house. Donna and I talked about it and we decided that this year we would go off for a romance getaway weekend instead. So yesterday was spent selecting the place, settling the details, then picking and purchasing miscellaneous presents for her. That kept me busy all day. Exactly what we are doing is to be a surprise so I won't go into it here yet.

Last night she told me that she wanted to drive up and spend this weekend with our daughter near Detroit. So she threw a bag together whole I finished getting dinner ready, then she was off. My understanding is that she will be a laborer in a work party repainting the house. So I am home alone.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Strange Strongsville Super

Yesterday, having taken the easy course by spending a second night there after the Buckeye Chuck event, I woke up in "the middle of nowhere" AKA as Marion Ohio.

I enjoyed the motel's breakfast offerings, followed by a long soak in their hot tub, before packing up and heading toward home. I even looked for another drive by box in the area on my way back. I found the location, but again the snow kept me from getting to the box.

Arriving back home in late afternoon I unpacked, sorted out, and relished a good afternoon "quite time" nap. After a quick dinner out with Donna I started sorting through all of the stamps that I had collected at the meet while she went to a Church Board meeting. With exchanges, personal travelers, event stamps, hitch hikers, traditional stamps, bonus boxes, and etc. it turned out that there were 45 of them altogether. Finally after getting everything posted on Atlas Quest it was into bed. The LbNA site does not list many of these boxes so I have quit trying to keep it up to date, but I need to get my personal log pages updated.

Early this morning the phone rang waking me up. It was annoying to me, but a YAHOO!! moment for Donna. Her employer, Strongsville City Schools, was calling to announce that the schools will be closed today due to weather. I must say that I am amazed at how strangely the school superintendent in Strongsville is reacting to weather conditions this year. A few weeks ago we had an almost historic storm. While every other school district within miles closed down he kept schools open. Now with only a few inches he closed them down and you guessed it.... they are the only district closed in the entire area.

Now it is a little after six a.m., awake and unable to get back to sleep, I will take the opportunity to work on my logbook page, some "honey-dos", and plan for Valentines Day.

Several years back I was off on the big lovers day and Donna was working. I planned and prepared a very extensive special surprise dinner for her... of course she loved it. The following year the dinner was repeated with a different menu, new decorations, and more gifts. Now it has taken on a life of it's own. Each year brings the search for a new variation. Now lacking the stamina to produce anything extravagant, I no longer try to outdo the prior years. It has become difficult to come up with something new that she will enjoy, but the romance is still in it, and I still enjoy doing it for her as a expression of love. It is worth it... It's planning time. Any suggestions will be gratefully considered, just leave a comment or email me.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Buckeye Betrayal

This morning at precisely 7:41 a.m. Buckeye Chuck made his prediction while a crowd, estimated by the Marion Star News to number 150 frigged spectators, looked on.

Although it was overcast, the "official" pronouncement was that he had indeed seen his shadow. Thus he has betrayed those seeking an early spring by forcing us into dealing with six more weeks of winter misery.

After Church on Sunday I drove down to be present for this event. The actual viewing of Buckeye Chucks appearance was not my primary purpose. Following that disappointing event a group of letterboxers gathered for a mini-meet. In the end I don't think it was that small as 14 registered attendees made it including the spouse and two young men of our hostesses, "Songwriter's", household. Her son "Whiz Kid" is among those pictured here. She had tons of great food, which went largely ignored, as we stamped, stamped, and stamped some more. Soon it was past noon and time to diverge. So with reluctant goodbyes we separated until the next time.

I met many new faces as most of those present are from nearby areas and I am not. After the event I looked for some local drive-by boxes but the snow cover kept me from being able to access any of them. Nevertheless, it was great fun and I will try to return next year. I also stopped in nearby Waldo Ohio to sample the famous "Bologna Sandwich" at G&R's tavern, it was very tasty. I am told that they have the bologna that they use specially made.

It is late so I will stay here tonight, drive back home tomorrow, and then begin to sort out all of my new stamps.