We had our first real snowfall in something like 700 days, so naturally we had to get out there and get some sledding in. I sanded and waxed the rails on our wooden sled, dug out the car, and we headed over to the local community college to meet up with the Geblers and get some runs in.
Greased Lightning did not disappoint. I had an envious kid ask me if our fast wooden sled steered; I told him to hit an antique store and get one for cheap.
On my third run or so I ran into a jump someone made, and the sled stopped while I kept on going. Laughing, I picked myself back up and walked back up the hill. Later I realized that landing on the snow had broken the zipper on my jacket and shredded several of the down pockets at the bottom, as well as popped one of the lenses out of my glasses that were in the pocket.
A few runs later, Finn drove our plastic sled directly into a tree and gave herself some mild abrasions on her chin. We returned home to get some hot chocolate and attend to the patient. I went online and found The North Face Renewed, where they repair and re-home used gear. I got a replacement jacket for $100, which is half of what a new Patagonia is going for (and from what I’ve read those don’t hold up very well). I’ve had this jacket for (5? 6?) seasons and it’s been great, so I figure it will be the new work jacket.
We went out for brunch the day before Christmas and had a wonderful time at a new restaurant.
Today we went to Annapolis to have tea. It’s pretty amazing how full you can be from a tray of sweet and savory treats.
Christmas at the Lockardugan compound is behind us, and we all had a great day together. Finn came downstairs late as is their prerogative as a teen, to a lit tree surrounded by presents and a happy crackling fire in the fireplace. As usual, they had the lion’s share of gifts, but that’s part of the fun of being a parent. We lounged about the house for the rest of the day in our pajamas, enjoying the ability to relax. Jen set up a roast and I helped put together the sides, and we sat down for a lovely Christmas meal together at the table.
I bought Jen a second gallette iron from eBay way back in July or so, and finally was able to give it to her. Last year she made a batch but was complaining about how long it took to accomplish with one iron, so I immediately made a note and set up a watchlist on eBay. This one was priced well below all the others and came in the original box, so I immediately pulled the trigger and hid it in the basement for months. The look on her face when she opened it was priceless.
I also got her a new iPad for Christmas because she typically wanders the house with her AirPods in and something playing on her phone. I figured she would enjoy having something with a larger screen to watch while she’s in the kitchen or at her desk, or merely sitting on the couch. We attempted to merge her settings over from her phone on Christmas day, but her iCloud account has been completely jammed full for months now, and there isn’t enough room to back up her phone, so it refused to merge her account information. This meant she needs to clear data off her phone, and we all know how painful it is to do that by hand on a tiny screen. I used a spare drive to back up all of the photos, but we’re going to need to set up the iPad manually, which is always a drag. When that’s done she can use it to go through her photos faster and easier.
On a side note, for months I’ve been wondering why my Keychain passwords weren’t showing up on my iPad, and while I had some time I looked up the solution: signing out of my iCloud account on all my devices, restarting them, and then signing back into each one in the proper order. Kind of a pain in the ass, especially because it forgets all of my Wallet settings—my debit cards and Maryland ID. Once I’d done that, though, all my passwords appeared on all devices; hallelujah.
For years Jen and I have been walking across the street to a Christmas tree stand set up by the local Boy Scouts for our tree; along with being super convenient we were always happy to support the local troop. Usually we were over there in the evening when it was hard to see the trees without the aid of a flashlight, but we got lucky with our choices and for the most part were happy with what we were able to find. This year our advent calendar had us buying a tree on Saturday so we figured we’d buck our trend and buy in the daylight. As it turned out I’m glad we did, because all of the choices across the street were pretty spindly—and costly, as well. Like, the pricing jumped $30 or more per tree since last year, which was a shock. After looking through the selections, we decided to bail on the Scouts and hit some of the other local stands. After checking one stand and being faced with a $200 tree right at the entrance, we hit another one and found a beautiful Frazier Fir for a reasonable price that was a full 3′ taller than anything at the Scout stand. We strapped it to the roof of the truck and headed home.
Back in the driveway I put it in the stand and shook it out with a broom before carrying it inside, and we broke out the decorations Sunday evening to decorate. The house is now filled with the lovely smell of pine, and it feels much cheerier in here.
Friday evening we had the Morrises over to see the Cirque de Soleil production of Twas the Night Before Christmas, which was as amazing—and as French—as you might imagine.
The St. Mary’s County Oyster Festival has been a tradition Jen and I have upheld since the earliest days of our courtship; the first time we went together was the first time I met her parents. Our previous visits have been chronicled here, and it’s one of the yearly events I look forward to with the girls—partially because of the event, and partially because of the food. Southern Maryland cooking is a unique little outlier, and I look forward to fried oysters and St. Mary’s County ham with anticipation.
It was, then, with some unhappiness we found ourselves without any ham. There were a ton of people there, and a wide variety of oysters prepared in different ways, but we walked from one side of the fair to the other looking for a sandwich or a platter without success. Apparently the local grocer who used to make it and supply it to the fair went out of business? The price of oysters has gone up somewhat, which made me glad I’d withdrawn $200 from the ATM and not the $100 I originally intended to, but they were just as delicious as I remember—there’s something specific about the breading used in St. Mary’s County that is better than anywhere else we’ve tried. We tried smoked oysters, served with gouda, bacon, and onion, and Finn and I found them delicious while Jen didn’t like them. We also tried a quartet of fried Oreos, which were good but heavy on shortening.
The rest of the fair was much the same as years past, although the carnival rides are gone, replaced with a huge craft beer tasting tent and more vendors. We brought Hazel with us for obvious reasons, and she did very well walking through the fair—but I suspect that was also aided by the fact that she’s got the bonnet back on: her right ear has opened back up.
When we left the fair we headed back to Bob’s house and visited for a little while before taking him out for some dinner. By the time we got home, we were all stuffed and about ten minutes away from falling asleep.
We’re home from Puerto Rico after a lovely 10-day stay at a fancy resort hotel. This isn’t the first time Jen and I have stayed at a hotel (we traveled to Curacao before Finley was born) but we’re very rusty on how these things generally work. Some thoughts from the trip:
The flight was cheap because the hotel underwrote it to get us to the hotel; Frontier Airlines, while not the top-shelf carrier available, was remarkably clean and punctual, even if they did charge us extra for everything. Baggage and seating were tacked on to the ticket, but it was a direct flight and we didn’t have to cattle-call to get three seats together. The seats were relatively comfortable, and there was plenty of legroom.
Our hotel, the Wyndham Rio Mar, was beautiful. Our room stunk of mildew no matter what setting we had the A/C on, and it seemed to get worse as the week went by. That being said, there were seven restaurants available to us onsite, including two outdoor bars, a huge set of pools, a palm-fronted beach, and most importantly, drink service everywhere on the premises. All in all, not a bad place to stay. Our half was the Wyndham half, and the other side was part of the Margaritaville chain. We did some light investigation and it looked like that side was in better shape than ours was. As would be expected, food and drinks were roughly double what they would be in the outside world, so our final room bill was, shall we say, large.
The hotel concierge is there to help you find things to do, but also to put a hard sell on the not-a-timeshare timeshare presentation to get you to buy into the Jimmy Buffet Empire; we listened politely to the pitch from our sweaty concierge, took his maps, and noped the fuck out of there. I avoided him for the rest of the trip. Sorry, Enrique.
On the first day at the beach, I was out in the surf with Finn having a good time floating in the warm Caribbean water. A rogue breaker hit me from behind while my attention was elsewhere, and I lost my brown Ray-Bans to the gods of the ocean. I had them for over ten years, and they served me well; I’d lost them several times but they always seemed to turn up. I did go to the lost and found twice to see if they’d washed up on shore and were turned in, but had no luck.
The hotel was three miles away from the El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System. After consulting with the concierge, we rented a car and drove up the road to check it out. After stopping to check out several of the sites along the way, we parked our little rental and hiked a mile and a half through the forest along a 650 foot elevation increase to reach the Britton Tower, which, on a good day, offers a view of the water on both sides of the island. While we were there the clouds blew in underneath us and we were treated to a gentle, cooling rainshower. But the air was clear and crisp, and the scenery beautiful. It was worth the pain in my calves and thighs. I should note for the record that I am woefully out of shape.
The Ford Focus we were rented was an interesting comparison to the Explorer I got a month ago; the Focus felt agricultural and buzzy compared to the smooth and powerful SUV. I had no problem with the transmission in the Explorer but it felt like the Focus was constantly hunting for a gear to be in, and I was constantly jamming my foot to the floor to get it to move. Visibility sucked behind my right shoulder; I never felt safe trying to change lanes. It got us where we wanted to go, but I wouldn’t ever recommend one.
Old San Juan was about an hour away using the no-toll route, and it was beautiful. Both times we got there in the afternoon and had to pause for food before we could explore; we were advised to park down by the water where the cruise ships come in, and we instinctively walked up the hill away from the touristy shops to find good places to eat. On our first night we chose an out of the way restaurant and lucked into some of the most delicious food on the trip, as well as the best margarita of Jen’s life. The second night we found a louder place advertising honest Puerto Rican food, and we all chose excellent meals. The city is absolutely beautiful, especially at night; I should have brought a set of Pantone books down to try and capture some of the colors used to paint the villas. If we’d planned better we would have spent a full day there exploring the fort and more of the city, but I think we did really well with the time we had.
Jen had asked some of the employees at the hotel where they would go if they wanted to eat real food, and we got a good lead on a restaurant in a local town, so we made a beeline for that on the last morning we had the car. We found the place off the square of a pretty little coastal town called Luquillo and sat down for some of the most amazing food we’d had on the whole trip. Tostones (twice-fried plantains) are absolutely delicious. The trifongo at this restaurant, served with a fried strip of the local fish, was out of this world.
Everybody we met was amazing. Frankie the cab driver was engaged by the bellhop to pick us up at 1:30PM for our 4:30 flight out of San Juan, but the bellhop got the time wrong. Our room phone rang at 1:45AM for reasons my tired brain couldn’t comprehend, but I woke enough to put it together and realized he’d texted my silenced phone. I sent back a profuse apology and he waved it off, telling us he’d see us at 1:30PM. The car ride out to the airport was friendly and fun, and he told us not to worry about the hassle, but I doubled his fee for his trouble. Everyone asked us how we liked Puerto Rico and we honestly told them we loved it.
I’m acutely conscious of my inability to speak a second language. Somehow, in some way, I’ve got to start learning Spanish without looking like the dad in Barbie. You know, with all the free time I’ve got.