Friday, December 30, 2011

The New Fence

We came home for a few minutes Christmas morning before heading down to Gig Harbor, and right when we walked in the door, the power went out. It was raining pretty hard and the wind was gusting like I had never seen before. As we got our bags ready for the second leg of our Christmas journey, I looked out one of our back windows to find this...

I had to do a double-take, as that isn't a view I was used to seeing. And I immediately thought, how am I going to approach fixing the fence if I've never met that neighbor (after 2 1/2 years).

Well, it turns out my neighbor was out inspecting the damage, so I went out to meet him and talk about how to fix the fence. He was great, talked about when we could start, how we could split the costs and a few other things.

I have never fixed or had anything to do with fencing before, so I knew this would be a challenge. The hardest part for me is just knowing what supplies you'll need, and having the confidence when you go into the hardware store to get the supplies.

My neighbor's son helped us dig out the old/rotted-out post and then we preceded to replace the two blown down sections of fence, and an additional two sections of fence that were probably next to fall victim to mother nature.

Here is a progression of the fence project and the final product. I aim to replace the additional old sections by this summer.

The finished product

My summer project

A truckload goes to the dump

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Charlie's First Present

Since we'll be spending Christmas split between GH and MI, we decided to have Santa Claus stop by our house a little early for Charlie's first Christmas. It was really fun to see his eyes light up when we put the presents in front of him. Of course, in true Charlie fashion, he decided he wanted to try to eat the presents. What a special day to spend with K and C!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Charlie's First Christmas

I've been messing around with Picassa and Picnik, tring to figure out a better way to save photos of Charlie for the future. The collage feature in Picasa is pretty cool. This is what I came up with for pictures so far from Charlie's first Christmas. Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Charlie Meets Santa

We had an awesome Holiday Party with our PEPS group last night, and Charlie got to meet Santa.

Charlie and his Grandpa Santa

Charlie liked tugging on Santa's beard

Family photo with Santa

Emerson and Charlie hanging out

Power Nap!

Why I Don't Bet

Besides the fact that I would never bet on sports due to my job, this is just a good reminder that any fantasy league or pick 'em league (involving an entry fee) is just a waste of my time.

My good friend and colleague Ryan Divish set up a College Bowl Game Pick'em league. It was free (which is the right price for me) and I thought it may make me more interested in the early bowl games that often go unnoticed. On Saturday the first three bowl games kicked off, and I tuned in sparingly to see how my picks went. Well, you guessed it. I was a miraculous 0-for-3 for the New Orleans Bowl (picked San Diego State, LA Lafayette won 32-30), Idaho Potato Bowl (picked Utah State, Ohio won 24-23) and the New Mexico Bowl (picked Wyoming, Temple won 37-15). I have 32 more bowl games to see how I did, but I am not holding my breath.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Family Saturday

Originally today was supposed to be a stay-at-home and just relax day. But when you get clear blue skies and manageable temperatures in December in the Pacific Northwest, you have to take advantage. We decided to head North, get some stuff for our Holiday party tomorrow and visit one of our favorite Seattle spots, Lincoln Park. I got a decent run in through Lincoln Park, a route I used to run a lot when we lived in West Seattle, and enjoyed the family time with the great weather. The best part is didn't even have to take part in the Holiday shopping madness!

Charlie made his first visit to Georgetown Brewing

Charlie enjoying the views from Lincoln Park

The Bookshelf: The Hard Way by Lee Child

Before I get into my latest book review, I should explain why reading is a hobby of mine.

One of my hobbies is reading. My Mom and sister were both avid readers when I was growing up, and while I enjoyed reading, I would have rather been outside. Or for that matter, I am sure Super Mario Brothers also had a little bit more intrigue when I was growing up.

Two jobs and many years ago, I found myself working way too much, and I was getting really stressed out. Some reading this may ask, "what's changed!" In talking with people, it was decided that I needed an outlet from work and to find something to get me to relax. This was before I realized that running/exercise was the cure-all, so I started picking up more books, and it was like magic. I would (and still do) read on lunch breaks, when I get home from a long day of work and before I go to bed.

I seem to stick to the same genre when it comes to my literature picks, not ranging far from the CIA/Legal/FBI thriller. A few of my favorite authors are Vince Flynn, Lee Child, David Baldacci, Michael Connelly, John Grisham and Michael Crichton. Basically, anything with character development gets me hooked, like Baldacci's Camel Club, Flynn's Mitch Rapp or Child's Jack Reacher.

I am currently working my way through Lee Child's extensive list of Jack Reacher novels, and I just finished The Hard Way (#10 in the Reacher series):

#1 Killing Floor
#2 Die Trying
#3 Tripwire
#4 Running Blind
#5 Echo Burning
#6 Without Fail
#7 Persuader
#8 The Enemy
#9 One Shot
#10 The Hard Way
#11 Bad Luck and Trouble
#12 Nothing to Lose
#13 Gone Tomorrow
#14 61 Hours
#15 Worth Dying For
#16 The Affair

A note on Child's website notes that you can read the series without reading in order, but I enjoy following them in the chronological order in which Child penned the series. Child also notes you can read them in the following chronological order:

The Enemy (prequel); The Affair (prequel); Killing Floor; Die Trying; Tripwire; Running Blind; Echo Burning; Without Fail; Persuader; One Shot; The Hard Way; Bad Luck and Trouble; Nothing to Lose; Gone Tomorrow; 61 Hours; Worth Dying For

For the latest review of The Hard Way, it was a fast-paced thriller that took Reacher from outside a cafe in New York City right into the middle of a possible kidnapping. He was hired for $1 million to find the wife and child of the leader of a military-for-hire operation. The twists and turns of this novel take him from being on the inside with the bad guys, to discovering the truths about the a military operation gone bad in Africa, and then finally all the way to rural England where Reacher becomes his usual one-man wrecking crew. And of course, along the way, Reacher meets a lady, and in the end disappears into the unknown with only the clothes on his back and a toothbrush in his pocket.

Monday, December 12, 2011

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

Undoubtedly, the Holiday's are my favorite time of the year. I've always had the luxury with my job to have some down time during this time of the year, and spending time with family and friends is what I most look forward to. This year is even more exciting with our first Christmas with Charlie!

We got our tree the day after Thanksgiving at Mountain Creek Christmas Tree Farm just outside of North Bend, right at the base of majestic Mount Si. It has long been a tradition in Kim's family to cut down the tree the day after Thanksgiving, and this was my fifth trip to the tree farm. And I feel like we got our best tree yet, measuring in just under 8 feet.

This year's Christmas Tree with our first fire of the season.
After getting the tree into the house, the real fun starts for me. I am sure that when Kim and I were decorating our first tree, she had to be thinking that she has never met anyone with more ornaments than me. I think I have every Santa/Baseball ornament ever made, and I am not joking. I guess it just became a tradition for my Mom and Grandma to get me a baseball-themed ornament each Christmas (sometimes more than one) and they started to add up. What is even more crazy, is that we also had a duplicate ornament. We both had the same exact "Baby's First Christmas - 1978" ornament. Now what are the odds of that?

Needless to say, Kim and I combined for a fun collection of ornaments, and have added even more since we met. On most of our trips we try to pick up one ornament to remember the trip, whether it be Whistler, Whitefish, Arizona, Boston or Hawaii, every time we put our tree up it brings us down memory lane when we got the ornament.

Charlie loves reaching into the tree...and he loves the Cookie Monster!
And we had one special ornament to add to the tree for Charlie this year!

Charlie's first Christmas ornament!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Tom Tuttle From Tacoma

A lot of people are not familiar with the movie Volunteers, but have likely come across it on some random channel on cable over the years. I am not a movie critic, but always enjoyed John Candy and really enjoyed this movie. I mean, a guy named Tom Tuttle from Tacoma, Washington sings the Washington State Fight Song, so how could I not like it, right?

What is really funny is that it has been a standing joke in our family that my Dad is basically Tom Tuttle, only from Everett, WA, not Tacoma, WA. He was in the Peace Corps in the 1960's in India, went to Washington State, is known to sing the WSU Fight Song and even bears a slight (sorry Dad) resemblance to Tom Candy (see below).

What I found out just recently is that Mariners broadcaster Ken Levine was one of the main writers for the movie. I work with Ken, and when I found out that Volunteers is one of his many (and I mean many) credits, I immediately e-mailed him to find out the story behind Tom Tuttle from Tacoma, Washington.

This is what Ken had to say about the development of Tom Tuttle:

In developing the Tom Tuttle character we wanted him to be a real do-gooder from an All-American college. The Midwest seemed so over used that we thought Washington State was just off-beat enough. We also thought it would be fun to have alliteration in his name, just to help make him seem that much more officious. We then went backwards. Figured he should be from Washington State. Tacoma sounded right. Thus Tom Tuttle from Tacoma. Neither of us knew a Tom Tuttle. It was all just servicing the needs of the character.
So there you go. The real story about Tom Tuttle from Tacoma, Washington, but I am still going to believe that a small part of the character was based off this guy!

My Dad in action (decked out in Cougar gear) on his last day at the Washington State Patrol (37 years, 3 months, 7 days)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Lunch at Cal's

This is my first attempt at a restaurant review, so bear with me. I'll preface this by saying that we don't eat out that much, so when we do, it is often a special occasion. Today, the family went down to Kent Station and tried Cal's Classic American. We decided this was to celebrate Charlie's half birthday, and my 33rd 1/2 birthday! We had heard Cal's opened near our house, so thought we would give it a try. Here is a look at their everyday menu, and happy hour offerings (hours I believe are 3-6 & 9-close, Sunday-Thursday).

A view of Cal's bar
 Ever since I met Kim, I've had a new appreciation for food and what goes into it. I used to eat complete crap, and I wasn't very healthy. I learned that food is more about quality than quantity. And there is nothing better than a meal with fresh ingredients. We usually cook at home using a lot fresh ingredients in our meals, and like to support local. Our produce usually comes from nearby Carpinito Brothers in Kent and we get our milk and eggs from Smith Brothers Farms.

When we got to Cal's, we realized this restaurant installed a lot of those same qualities in their food. Produce from nearby farms (including Carpinito Bros), bread from Grand Central Bakery and a decent selection of local micro brews. We were pretty impressed from the beginning.
The Fresh Board at Cal's
I'll start with saying that most won't be impressed with the pricing, but it is very comparable to local restaurants The Ram, Duke's and other establishments in Kent Station, and the quality was totally worth it. We split a burger (with onions and bacon), accompanied by some awesome fries. We added a side salad (perfect size for sharing) and it was very fresh with red leaf lettuce and a light vinaigrette dressing. We also split a 24oz mug of Ninkasi Total Domination IPA (from Eugene, OR).

Booth's featuring your own beer taps!
 The service was good, the water came in what resembled an old glass milk jug (which is a fun feature) and the setting was very chill and laid back. Another neat feature that really excited this beer geek was five booths in the bar that featured your own taps. The five tables each had two beer selections (each had a domestic and a craft) and you can pre-pay for up to 32 ounces of beer, then pour at will. The bartender told me the pricing was comparable the normal pricing of beer in the bar (24oz mug was a reasonable $6.50 for a craft selection like Manny's Pale Ale, Mac & Jack's, Lazy Boy Hefeweizen or Maritime Nightwatch Dark Amber Ale), but you can pay as you go. I immediately thought of all those times where I would want a beer and a half, rather than two beers, and the fact you can pour it yourself is pretty awesome. Needless to say, I can't wait to try this feature out with some buddies.

Bottom line is, this is a place we'll visit again (the pizza looked really good), and more than willing to spend an extra dollar for local and fresh ingredients. My only suggestions, and possibly I should post these first so they get read, is to offer some type of specials to lower the prices just a tad (2-for-1 burgers one night a week) and I would love to see them add Kent's Brewery, Airways Brewing Company, to the tap selection. You can also follow Cal's via Twitter and on facebook.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Big Day in Baseball

Today was a big day in baseball, with the Los Angeles Angels signing Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson to big-time contracts. I am not going to get into my opinion on the matter, because that is not my job, but it just amazes me on the money that was spent in one morning at the Winter Meetings. Via a tweet by CNBC Sports Biz guru Darren Rovell, Pujols will make roughly $4,762 per pitch based on 750 plate appearances and 7 pitches per at-bat. Think about that for one second. I am figuring out how to balance the Comcast and Puget Sound Energy bill for next month.

Putting money and everything else aside, I can tell you that I am very excited that the Mariners will be seeing Pujols more next season (just a little bit of sarcasm here) as a rival in the American League West. But it is fun to think of all the match-ups with King Felix and Michael Pineda.

And now think about this. The American League West will feature three of the best players in the game over the last 11 seasons with Ichiro, Albert Pujols and Michael Young. This is a look at the hits leaders since 2001 and their respective stats:

Ichiro Suzuki 2428 1749 7456 1127 280 74 95 605 .326 .370 .421 .791 SEA
Derek Jeter 2080 1640 6738 1164 339 30 162 782 .309 .378 .440 .818 NYY
Albert Pujols 2073 1705 6312 1291 455 15 445 1329 .328 .420 .617 1.037 STL
Michael Young 2061 1665 6786 1006 388 52 169 917 .304 .350 .451 .801 TEX
Juan Pierre 1958 1700 6623 954 232 86 16 464 .296 .345 .364 .709 COL-FLA-CHC-LAD-CHW

Albert Pujols and Ichiro at the 2005 All-Star Game

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lunch Run with Charlie

I've been told that no day as a Dad will ever be the same as it used to be. Today was another first, a lunch-time run with Charlie. Kim had a Dr. appointment, so I volunteered to watch Charlie during my lunch hour. After playing "show-and-tell" around the office and letting all the ladies hold Charlie, I took him for a run around the concourse level at Safeco Field.

Charlie always loves the B.O.B., but today I think he liked it a little more with the baseball field in the background. He even got to see the new Dave Niehaus statue!

Charlie in front of the Dave Niehaus statue at Safeco Field

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Getting the Blog off the Ground

I've decided the enter the Blog world, sharing some of my thoughts, feelings, and wonderful adventures. I've realized that I miss writing, and all of a sudden I have a lot of stuff to write about. So, I am going to spend a little less time on the couch watching another rerun of House Hunters, and going to spend a little more time putting my thoughts on paper (or in the modern world on the web).

My first obstacle was coming up with a name for the blog. My wife had this same dilemma, and creatively came up with Raining Cats and Dawgs, which is a fun play on our household being a divided house (Washington State University and University of Washington). So, I chose Jeff's Journey, which sounds simple enough, but has a fun story behind it.

Ever since high school, I've been captivated by the Hero's Journey, and figured this would be the perfect tie-in to the adventures and random thoughts I'll be blogging about.

So, what will be on this blog? I will write about weekend runs with my wife and son, Charlie, around the Puget Sound region. I'll write about some of the best craft beer in the world. You'll find out that I not only work in baseball, but have a passion for the numbers that often define the minutia of the game. I may even take a walk down memory lane and write about some of my past adventures that I didn't get a chance to share.

I am still trying to figure out the best presentation and working through the Blogger software, but excited to sit down on a semi-regular basis and share a little about myself. I home you enjoy Jeff's Journey!