Getting Baked!

It’s December- that means baking season is upon us!

Yesterday we had breakfast for dinner. My wife whipped together cinnamon roll pancake batter and a cream cheese icing. I cooked them up in our snowflake shaped frying pan. A perfect look and taste to get us sweetened for our next few rounds of baking.

This morning, my wife and I just finished our Costco run. That means we have five dozen eggs, an abundance of sugar, flour, chocolate chips, cocoa powder, and everything else we could possibly need to get started. Now to look at our list, check it twice and find out which cookies are tasty and nice! I cannot wait to fill our Christmas cookie jars and tins.

Are you baking for this holiday season? Any favorite recipes you am have? Please share them with me. I love to bake!

2020 Wrapped

Spotify released their regular update of what you have been listening to for the year. Since this was my first year of using Spotify- it was interesting to see what my style was.

Even though I knew my choice in music is eclectic- having it backed up with evidence proves my musical taste is odd.

I knew before this Spotify list came out what my number one song was. “I Don’t Feel Like Dancing” is a great dance/disco/pop style of song. It ended up being one of my top five songs of the summer.

Even though that song was my number one song, I ended up having Gorillaz as my number one artist. I was also the top 1% of their listeners this year. One of my favorite songs was inductive of the feelings of coping through 2020:

Humility

“Calling the world from isolation
‘Cause right now, that’s the ball where we be chained
And if you’re coming back to find me
You’d better have good aim
Shoot it true
I need you in the picture
That’s why I’m calling you (calling you)”

Watch the video here: Humility on YouTube. It’s a great song with vibrancy throughout. It also made me miss our yearly trip to California. Soon this Covid life will be in the past. But in the meantime, I’m going to see if I can keep enjoying 500 or more genres well into the next year.

What was your 2020 Wrapped? Share your playlist in the comments- I’d love to hear what you hear.

Maki

We adopted our newest member of the family back in October: Foster the Feelings. We gave her a name change that suited our family and would give her a new beginning. She adapted to it really quickly.

Yesterday we finally got her a tag with her new name– Maki. When my son and I were choosing the font, he pointed out one style that reminded him of our favorite sushi restaurant. And since we often call her “Maki Roll” it fit quite nicely. Now when she escapes our yard (she’s done this at least three times already) people can call us and complain return her.

While we were at the pet store getting the name tag- we also picked up an ugly Christmas sweater for her. This is the first dog I have ever had in my life that we have bought clothes for. I hate to say it, but she looks super cute. Time to get some other outfits for her- like a rain jacket.

She has become a significant part of all our lives. I enjoy the fact that her entire rump shakes with excitement when you come home. Or that she knows when to cuddle up to a person who is having a bad day. Maki is practically a support dog for us. She is a great dog and we are lucky to have her join our family.

Stretch

Over the past week or so I have been in a lot of pain. I think stress has caused my joints and muscles to hurt more than usual. My hips hurt right at the socket where my legs meet. I am also experiencing lower back pain that is causing me to be virtually immobile. Plus my neck and shoulders are stiff as well. Ugh.

What I should do is try yoga or stretching exercises. Instead I just pop a couple of Advil every few hours in hopes that the pain subsides. I’m not a very active person these days, so I really should get on that. But it’s so much work… Going to bed and complaining is easier though, am I right?

Because of my height, I have always had back pain. I’ve also been nicknamed “Stretch” by those who are much shorter than me. (Some people called me “Tall Guy” as well.) I never found it offensive or irritating to get a name like that. But looking back, maybe I should’ve taken the advice and done more stretching.

Anyways, enough griping. Time for a cup of tea and a couple Advil. I’ll do stretching tomorrow. Or maybe the next day…

Add To Cart

It’s Cyber Monday in the year 2020. Which is kind of like every other day this year. It feels as though we have been doing more online shopping than ever before. In fact, statistics are showing that the majority of us are doing more online shopping this year than previous years.

Because of all the extra shopping online, we have become very conscious about shipping. Paying for shipping feels like a kick in the face. Free shipping is a favorite, but also one or two day shipping is important. I don’t know why really. Whatever I’m ordering online, I clearly didn’t need that quickly. But hey, if Amazon says it’ll show up by 8pm the next day- why wouldn’t I choose that option?

I sometimes enjoy the surprise of “What’s in the box?” as a parcel shows up on our doorstep. Especially the packages that have taken longer than a few days to arrive. As Christmas nears, we have to be careful not to open these boxes in front of the kids.

I have no reason to do online shopping today. So I’m not likely to get caught up in buying something just for the sake of saving money on it. I save even more money just not buying something I didn’t need. I’m looking in your direction Air Fryer.

So before you complete that transaction today, take a moment and decide if you really needed to “Add to Cart” in the first place. If you’re like me, you’ll probably think about it briefly and question your choice, but then purchase it anyways because it’ll arrive in two days and have free shipping. Because it’s such a good deal.

On a serious note, remember to support small businesses through your online purchasing as well. These businesses can’t always offer free shipping because the volume they sell is no where near Amazon or Walmart. But the joy you give someone by buying one of their items is far greater than you could imagine.

The Death of Darth Vader

In honor of the passing of Dave Prowse- the actor who wore the Darth Vader costume in the original trilogy of Star Wars films- I wanted to re-share some lighthearted images. Originally I had shared these over the years on my social media. They are of Darth Vader being not so Darth.

As a Star Wars fan I always wanted to dress up as Darth Vader. I figured I would be a perfect fit since I have the height. Previously I was Obi-Wan Kenobi, maybe it’s time to join the Dark Side.

I’ve also had my kids grow up on Star Wars. On our trips to Disneyland- they each got to enjoy a lightsaber battle against a evil foe- Darth Vader included. Here’s a video from 11 years ago: Darwin vs Darth Vader.

Reflecting on the impact that a character has had on my life is important to me. The actor behind the mask (both literal and figurative in this case) is also part of the remembrance.

Thank you Dave Prowse for your actions as an iconic sci-fi character. You will be missed.

Chai Concentrate

Recently I fell in love with Chai. My family has enjoyed it for years, but for whatever reason I had never tried it. I had a cup the other week as I have been delving into various teas as a part of my liquor avoidance. My enjoyment of loose leaf tea has been growing.

The other day, my wife decide she wanted to try her hand at making Chai Concentrate. She found the recipe on Tasty Yummies and set to work. She filled the slow cooker with ingredients we never had in the house before. After a few hours, the smell that flowed through our home was absolutely heavenly.

Once the process in the slow cooker was done, our oldest set to work filtering out the chai concentrate. A large pitcher was filled and then another half pitcher. The Chai was left alone to allow more of the sediment to form at the bottom.

We then sampled the Chai in some milk. I was astounded at how delicious it was. My wife has since had about a half dozen glasses and there is plenty leftover remaining.

Besides a delicious beverage to be had, my wife found pleasure in constantly saying “Chai Tea” in order to irritate our 18 year old. Random had to correct my wife by asking why she insisted on saying “Tea Tea”. I was just amused by the banter throughout the process.

I recommend others to make the Chai concentrate- especially if you drink Chai lattes on a regular basis.

Trading Post Temption

Yesterday my wife and I went on a quick date. We went to one of my favorite eateries in Langley- Trading Post. We always do our best to support the small businesses in our community. The only problem was I enjoyed drinking their beers- a lot.

My wife enjoyed a small glass of their cranberry sour, while I enjoyed a bottle of non-alcoholic craft root beer. I had been avoiding this location while I pushed myself into sobriety. I was worried that I would be unable to resist the urge for “just one beer.”

But I did. I’d like to say it was easy. It was in the fact that I was with my wife. Had I been with other friends or coworkers, I may not have had the strength to resist a beer. For the foreseeable future I think I’ll just keep myself out of temptation when out with friends.

Okay, maintaining our core bubble during Covid is helping. So there’s something good coming out of this.

Generational Music

Mama said don’t give up, it’s a little complicated.

I like the song “High Hopes” it has a good beat and I love the lyrics. Our oldest daughter doesn’t always like the fact that I enjoy the music she listens to. But then again, she has been known to enjoy the music I once liked. At one point, my wife had a good bond with our daughters over Katy Perry.

Our son had become obsessed with Green Day: Dookie a couple of years ago when he discovered it on an old iPod of mine. He also has a penchant for comedic songs like I do. So we bond over it.

However, it’s our middle daughter who loves every style of music the same way I do. She also listens to it like I do- in a very eclectic manner. Moving from classical to pop, etc. Her taste in music is similar to mine so we often sing along together. The only exception is she has a closer connection with my wife’s taste in music than I do. Our daughter has snagged the old records and cassettes of my wife’s and plays them regularly.

Music is meant to be shared. I wish sometimes that I was talented enough to write music. Maybe one day I’ll monkey around with it- I always had high, high hopes…

November 25th, 2020

Normally on November 25th I go out and see my father’s final resting place, followed by a beer or two. Not today. Today I will not be drinking a beer for my father. Nor will I share any stories about him. Instead, I’d like to tell you that I hit a personal milestone that I’m genuinely proud of.

I’ve been sober for three months today. I may not have seemed like an alcoholic to most people. Looking at my posts on Instagram and the fact that I have a category called “Alcohol” in my blog- I thought I was just having normal fun- with booze.

I was a social drinker. Hanging out until last call, stopping for “a beer” with friends. Joking that “It only takes me one beer to get me drunk, I’m just not sure if it’s the fifth one or the sixth one.” It’s also one thing to have my friends looking to me as the person who is always ready for a drink.

I would often come home from work and drink a few beers. On my days off I’d drink at least twice as much each day and then finishing whatever alcohol I could find once the beers ran out. Its in my genetics to go way overboard when I do drink. However when my heart is racing after a few beers and my kids are calling me out and telling me I drink too much- I needed to reassess my life.

What started as Sober September this year has escalated into a three month win. A huge victory that I am proud of. The pilgrimage I set upon was only spoken of with those who were close to me. Talking about the burden of alcoholism isn’t easy.

If I could pat myself on the back, I am going to do it here publicly. The next month will probably be the most difficult for me to get through. I always took pride in setting up my “First Christmas Tree” of the season- the booze dispenser. My coffee would be spiked, and the eggnog as well. Not this year. This year is the new me attempting to emerge and conquer the world.

I needed to share this three month milestone. As embarrassing as it seems to be at times. Alcoholism is something I’ve lived with all my life. I have been drinking pretty regularly since I was 17. Making a fool of myself on many occasions and not knowing when or where the limit was. Alcoholism was destroying my health and my bank account. I also had a few negative memories that I left for my children. From stupidity to anger to embarrassment- I was easily losing “Father of the Year” chances more and more frequently.

Thank you for reading. I am trying to live the rest of my life the best way I can. If I falter, I hope to get back up and work towards being a better me.

A Cry Can Feel Good

Sometimes you just need to let out a cry. One of those deep, sobbing, flush your heart of pain kind of cries. During the cry- it sucks. Emotions are suddenly overwhelming every sense in your body.

Afterwards, you feel good- almost empty. And no one hates you for doing it. No one judges you for letting the pain get expelled. We all go through it. Sometimes there is no clear reason as to why the tears kick in. But it happens.

Fighting back the tears doesn’t help. Doing that can make the feelings worse. And sharing why you hurt isn’t always easy. But take solace in knowing you are not alone, even if it feels like it.

Whether you know me personally or through this crazy cyberspace world. I have bad days and need to share sometimes. I also have good days that I keep to myself.

We’re in this together.

Are You Pondering What I’m Pondering?

Again, I was stuck trying to write my blog tonight. I was thinking to myself, “It’s the same thing I do every day…why can’t I just come up with something to write?” That’s when it hit me- Pinky and the Brain are so funny.

They try and take over the world every night. But it was never the plans that amused me. It was the crazy off putting comments that Pinky would blurt out as an answer to the nightly question: “Are you pondering what I’m pondering?”

I just took a break from writing this so I could watch nearly 7 minutes of responses. I seriously snorted a couple of times. If you loved Pinky and The Brain- check out Are you pondering what I’m pondering? Most are ridiculous (and dated jokes) but some were cuckoo crazy.

Even though I didn’t take over the world tonight, I enjoyed the silly hijinks of two lab mice once more.

Hudsucker Proxy

Sometimes in my blog I like to share films that I enjoy. I don’t do any write ups or dissection of the films. Just that I enjoy them and why. Today I am writing about a favorite of mine that I really enjoy watching in the winter. That’s because most of the film is set around New Year’s and the idea of new beginnings.

The Hudsucker Proxy is set in the early 20th century. It has some of the best cinematography I’ve ever enjoyed. The sets are Art Deco, the timeline is flawless, the jokes are quick and perfectly timed. What’s not to love about the film?

The simplicity of the underlying story and the characters that drive the film make it relatable and a joy to be a part of. I enjoyed the film so much, I made a Cosplay of the lead character a few years back. It was such an obscure costume, that when I wore it to three different comic conventions- maybe ten people understood it.

If you haven’t seen the film, please check it out this season. It is a great movie by the Coen Brothers. Check out one of my favorite scenes on YouTube: Hula Hoop.

Mushrooming

My wife mentioned how some of her coworkers go out and collect wild mushrooms in autumn. Today was a perfect day for me to explore our yard for such fungi.

I downloaded an app that allows me to take a photo and it would tell me if it was toxic or safe to eat. I downloaded “Picture Mushroom” and it has a free trial for the week, but costs $29 for the year. So why not try it out since this was my first foray into mushrooming. And I don’t think I will be out in much more of the world to search for ‘shrooms, so after this week, I’ll likely delete the app. (If anyone has an app they enjoy using- please let me know).

The afternoon turned into a fun hunt for my wife and I. We gently collected a variety of mushrooms, keeping them separated so that we could cross-check afterwards just in case. We don’t want a sick family because of a lack of knowledge.

Turns out that we had quite the collection of various mushrooms growing on our property that were good for consumption! My wife and our oldest daughter went to work cleaning the funguses and we stored them away in paper bags until tomorrow night’s dinner.

In our front yard, we also happened to find a smattering of toxic mushrooms. The kind that cause hallucinations. We collected them up and told our teens about them and the effects. Ingesting these types of mushrooms is not on our radar at this time. But we removed them from the yard anyways.

Do you go mushroom hunting? Any good recipes to share? Or perhaps any ill effects happened?

Let me know in the comments. (And no, we are not selling the psychedelic ones!)

Bruno Fenger

Today I was going through old papers- such as bills, taxes, etc… and disposing of the unnecessary ones. I found old paystubs from Chuck E. Cheese, a copy my father’s probate (with an address for My Unknown Half Sister) and information about our current home. The last one is what today’s blog is about.

You see, my father-in-law designed and built this house back in the 1970’s. Bruno Fenger was a brick layer by trade and the workmanship in this house is amazing. He also enjoyed woodworking as a hobby, often selling at various craft shows back in the 80’s/90’s. He is a very talented man who immigrated from Germany many, many decades ago. He decided to build a house and stay in British Columbia to raise his family.

I found rolls of papers from when he designed this house and had purchased the property. The blueprints were all hand drawn. To me these pages showed a commitment to excellence that you probably won’t find in today’s market. It was also great to see how his designs translated into a finished product (such as the fireplace) and some of the changes which occurred during the building process.

As a tribute to his work, I framed the blueprint for the upstairs and hung it on the wall. Bruno’s work lives on in this home through more than just ideas on paper. With his 88th birthday coming up at the end of November, I thought it to be fitting that I show some gratitude to the man who made a home for my family.

Thank you Bruno for creating such an amazing house for your grandchildren to grow up in. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

What Day Is Quarantine Day?

I know that it’s Thursday. I just don’t know what the date is anymore. The world is so confusing right now. It’s probably going to get even worse soon.

We are about to embark on another round of quarantine. This is no time to get lax and visit with people outside of your bubble. My family has been lucky and we have remained healthy. All of us do our part- wearing masks, limiting contact with others, washing hands, sanitizing- all of it. So far it’s been good.

The world is getting worse. So take care people. Keep your bubbles small. And if your sick- stay in solitude. It will help.

Elementary Alternative

Our daughter has been driving our 2003 Honda Element on her own since August 2019 when she got her N. She may not have always sounded happy that she got to drive the car because it wasn’t newer like mine or her mother’s. But she still calls it “her car”.

Recently she mentioned that the Check Engine Light came on. Naturally we asked when she needed her next oil change. She was unsure because she didn’t ever watch her mileage. Turns out she was within a few hundred kilometers of needing it done. So she planned on going in sometime soon. No big deal.

The other day however, her Battery Light came on. That was interesting since we had bought a brand new battery days before she got her N. Turns out that today the car just would not start. My wife drive out to where she was and gave her a “jump”. As our daughter arrived at home, the car died and she coasted into the driveway. Seems like the alternator is shot.

After looking online, it appears to be a nuisance to get this replaced, although rather simple. So now I have to decide if I want to attempt it on my own, or pay someone else to do it for me. I’m leaning towards getting somebody else to do it. Mostly because it’s cold and wet outside and we do not have a heated garage. If it was summer- I’d sure give it the ol’ college try.

So all things considered, it’s only may that this added expense would happen right before Christmas, and right after we have spent a butt-ton of money on gifts. Le Sigh. It needs to get done. Oh well. Time to call a mechanic.

Life Day

If there’s something that you need to know about me, it’s that I enjoy Star Wars tremendously. Let’s be realistic here, you all know I love STAR WARS. I mean honestly, I have numerous blog posts that are related to Star Wars in some way. Today is no different.

A few years ago I showed my children the classic in bad Crossover ideas ever. The Star Wars Holiday Special. The show is severely cringeworthy attempting to watch it. It’s so bad that my kids literally don’t remember watching it with me. But as a fan, I had to view it. I even grew up on those Star Wars made-for-tv-movies: Ewok Caravan of Courage and Ewok Battle for Endor.

Tonight, Disney+ and LEGO have released a Lego Version of the Holiday Special. I am overcome with joy and cannot wait to view it numerous times! I have been excited for months about this show.

Why?

Because LEGO somehow manages to make their stories based on movies or characters campy and fun while still holding true to the original content. So if you have kids- watch some of those LEGO shows with them. They are a ton of fun.

Tonight I shall wish you all an early “Happy Life Day”.

Crisco

Two weeks ago I mentioned how it was getting close to choosing Music for November. Specifically Christmas music. I’m not going to lie, I’ve snuck in a couple playlists since then. Especially on Saturday when we pulled out the decorations.

I love playing music. Over the past few months I have enjoyed Spotify as it plays on all of my devices.

Last night as I was driving home, I wanted my iPhone to play some Christmas music. Only this time it wasn’t in my car or on my phone. My Spotify account was still connected to our home. So my music was being played for my family and not me.

They got to enjoy some Christmas Disco. Or as my daughter has decided to dub it, CRISCO. Probably my most favorite term this year now. And very fitting considering how much baking we do during the holidays as well.

From here on out, when I’m baking and listening to Christmas music- it’s only Crisco for the whole household!

Cleaning for Christmas Season

This past weekend we did a pretty good cleaning up of the downstairs of our home. My wife has been adamant over the years that we are not permitted to put out Winter Decorations until the house is cleaned up. I push every year to start the process in early November.

That’s because I love decorating our home for winter!

This year, my wife was a big part of the decorating process. In fact, the entire family was a huge help and we had fun doing it. Well, maybe not the cleaning aspect… but the decorating for sure! All that’s left is the trees to come out after my wife’s birthday… on December 6th.

Have you already started decorating for the winter solstice or other such celebrations?

Pre-Christmas Online Fulfillments

Holy smokes have we been hitting the online purchases a bit heavy this year. My wife and I were a bit skeptical about the gifts arriving on time for Christmas. So we ordered in advance with plenty of time to spare.

This is the “condensed” version of what we have received so far. Amazon ships far too many packages with one or two items inside. It’s good in a way because we know that we are getting 90% of our stuff in time for the holidays. There’s a couple items set to arrive by December 22nd still. Which feels crazy in a world where we came accustomed to instant gratification.

I can’t really complain because we always choose the “Free Shipping” option. Sometimes it’s the next day, other times it could take a couple of weeks. Plus Amazon is great when you need to return an item or the item does a “no-show”.

All I need to do now is keep the kids out of the boxes and “Archive” the purchases so they don’t “accidentally” see an item that has been ordered. We all know how sneaky kids can be when it comes to finding out their Christmas gifts. I know I was pretty bad at spoiling the surprises for myself when I was younger.

Are you done shopping? Have you even started? Any horror stories of online shopping? Still looking for that perfect gift for your family members? Let me know in the comments.

Creatively Growing Up

Last night my daughter Interviewed me for a school project. She took painstaking measures to create the perfect lighting and backdrop. I took her direction as best I could without asking too many questions. I also did not offer any advice or “butt in” in any way.

It was tough to be a parent and just let her do it on her own. Like the first time your child walks to school alone or rides a two wheel bike without you holding the seat. You want to hold their hand, but the pride you feel when they have accomplished something on their own is far more gratifying.

I’m not going to lie, it was challenging for me to let her be creative and run the show. It was her project and her vision. In the end, she got the footage she desired and is off to the editing portion within the next week or so. Maybe she will let me see the final product. I promised her I wouldn’t critic it. No idea if she believes me. But I believe in her.

Prepping For An Interview

Our oldest is currently in post secondary school studying media broadcasting and film making. One of her projects is an interview where the interviewee essentially monologues about something. Then she will show what they are talking about with some voice over work.

So she brought home her equipment as has decided to interview me. I get to talk about 3D Printing and how I got into it. As well she wants me to show how the machine works. Of course I jumped at the chance to help her out. And I get to talk about 3D printing- my latest hobby/obsession.

It’s not very often that my daughter wants me around. Naturally I am going to be there for her. Tomorrow I’ll continue to share about the experience. As it seems that for 3 minutes of footage it may take us all night to film. Right now she is setting up the lighting and camera. I expect to be sitting on the stool for an extended period.

Wish us luck for getting through this. I have to remember to step back and let her have full control. It is her project and her career path.

Tick Tock

Tick Tock

No not the app. But the numerous Clocks in my house. All ticking away noisily as I sit at my dining room table alone. No one is awake yet. Even the outdoors are calm today.

Listening to the clicks and tings of my home as it wakes up is eerie. The sound of the heat slowly kicking in and a half dozen clocks mark each passing moment. As if my home is one large clock with many tiny clocks inside. And I’m just a cog going ‘round.

All the while these sounds are filling my mind with the idea that I’m flittering my time away. Staring blankly at my phone as I scroll through my latest newsfeed. Passing time until the next moment.

Tick Tock goes the clock.

Coats

It’s getting into much cooler temperatures these days. So that means wearing heavier coats and jackets in order to stay warm. If you’re like my household, the jackets never end up where they belong after being used.

Usually the coats end up on the backs of chairs. Or tossed onto the couch. Of the six dining table chairs- my wife currently has jackets on two of them. This morning, I just walked in and tossed my jacket onto a chair in our front foyer.

I know what you’re thinking, “But Josef, why don’t you hang up your jackets?”

I really should do that. Especially since NO ONE KNOWS HOW TO CLOSE THE CLOSET DOORS. The closet we hang our jackets in is always open. You’d think that we would be able to grab a hanger, put the jacket away, and close the door again.

Nope. Five people in this household and the closet is always open and our jackets are keeping our chairs warm.

I should just get a coat rack and hang up a jacket on it that I won’t wear for two or three years. As well, on one of the other pegs will be a jacket from a visitor, only no one will ever claim it. That’s what a coat rack is for, amirite?

The worst part about my rant today? I’m going to leave the jackets where they are. I’m just as guilty and lazy as the rest of my family. And most likely you are as well. Let’s stand in solidarity as the jackets hang out on chairs!