Sunday, December 28, 2008

Life can't be all fun

We started yet another home-improvement project before any of the others are done. This is the before picture of our fireplace. This is not the original fireplace. Our neighbor's house has an original 1910 coal-burning, beautiful, authentic, small fireplace. Someone, about the time mauve ceramic tile was cool, installed a larger wood-burning firebox and this hideous brass cover.
I pulled the cover off a couple of weeks ago, and yesterday I got busy with the sledge hammer and pry bar while Drew was outside. After an hour and a half, this is how far I got. But we are excited to see beautiful, authentic, original tile under these layers of impenetrable concrete, chicken wire, ceramic tile, and, yes, REBAR! The cat slept through all of this on the couch not 5 feet from the fireplace. We are apprehensive that the original tile is in decent shape, but we'll see (we hope).
Drew was too impatient, or maybe he just wanted to buy a new tool. He ran down to the hardware store and bought a brand new roto saw. He tried to cut through some of the mess so he could more easily pry out the chunks. He only succeeded in coating the living and dining rooms with a very thick layer of concrete dust. On to plan B, when we figure out what plan B is. If plan B doesn't work, there are some new condos going up in our neighborhood.

Happy Holidays at our house

Drew somehow was able to get a trip that had a scheduled Salt Lake overnight, so we invited his first officer to join us at our friends' Eric and Allison's party. Nice, fun, outdoorsey crowd. We had a nice quiet Christmas morning before Drew had to go off to work. I went to Andy and Rhonda's for a fun, friend Christmas dinner. I had to take a rain check (or should I say snow check) on the table tennis because a gigantic snow storm hit the valley. I drove my 4WD truck home at 30 mph on the snow-bound freeway, dreading the shoveling I'd have to do in the morning. Good thing Drew arrived in time to help out.

Thanks to all our generous and loving family and friends who sent us awesome gifts.
We got everything we wanted and more. We even added three more precious pig ornaments to our tree. I have no doubt that by the time Drew and I reach our 10-year wedding anniversary, we'll be able to do a whole tree in pigs.


Yesterday we went snowshoeing up in East Canyon. We wanted to go into Big Cottonwood, but decided we needed to stick to the less steep slopes because of super high avalanche danger. It was awesome though because we scared up a grouse only three feet from me, saw some deer, tons of animal tracks and this guy! A porcupine in a tree. He didn't even move.

Here is Drew getting some some wicked snowshoe action. Ha ha.
Great day.

Two days ago we went cross country skiing at Bonneville Golf Course here close to home. Several inches of fresh powder and sunny skies made my tree-hugging spirit come out.

It is amazing in this populated city on a Saturday we only saw a handful of people on this course. I guess everyone is inside playing with their new Wii games. We'll take the fresh air, thank you.

Christmas poem by Uncle Gray

Our Uncle Gray Eubank, who lives on the Oregon coast, sent this poem on Christmas day. Eubank is the last name of Drew's Mom's side of the family. Sam is Gray's wife. Skype is internet phone.

Dear Eubanks and Jordans where ever you go
Traveling or working or trapped in the snow
Skiing or camping or sitting by fires
There's something this Christmas we'd like to inquire -
We know that you're all of the quiet, shy type
But maybe you're willing, this one day, to Skype?

So dig out your cameras, your Macs and your mics
Put down your new toys, your gadgets, your bikes
And tell us just where in this wide world you are
(But please don't use any macho avitar)
Perhaps about noon - that's Pacific ST
We'll give you a call. It's so Eubank, it's FREE!

If you're not near your PC or Mac's ISP
Than happiest Christmas where ever you be
We're snug in our beach haven, happy as clams
The bearded bald fatman and elf Sam-I-ams
With doggie and fire and new concrete wall
Just wishing a jolly New Year to you all!

Gray Eubank

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The big 4-0

Guess who turned 40 on December 21? Our very own innocent little Drew. With help from friends and Drew's mom, I was able to plan a big surprise birthday weekend. We started out on Saturday, December 20 with a cross-country ski shush on fresh powder at a nearby golf course.This friendly lost dog, Fatty, tagged along with us for a while.

Then, Drew had a nice long massage at Massage Envy while I rushed home to secretly bake a cake. That night, to avoid the cake-smelling house, we stayed at Parish Place Bed and Breakfast located in Salt Lake City.

We stayed in the Enchantment Room. It was very comfortable and old-fashioned.
The next morning, our buddies Jim and Steve took Drew downhill skiing at Alta while I worked on decorating the cake and delivering it to the party location. We went out to dinner at the Dodo Restaurant; the whole time Drew was a little nervous and expectant. I think he knew something was up. After dinner we were to meet the Hales, the Wedges, and the Buzzards at Fiddler's Elbow for dessert and drinks. Little did he know, 30 of his friends would be waiting to cheer, "surprise!" when we walked through the door. We had a great turn out of biking and old-time friends and help from Kelsy blowing out the candles. Stories, toasts, baby pictures of Drew, and presents completed the evening.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Travel to Portland for true holiday spirit

When we last left our two caped crusaders they were gallivanting around Las Vegas taking in shows and enjoying the lights and excitement of the "Strip". December 12-14 we found the Christmas spirit in the small hamlet of Portland, Oregon.

Lucy and I flew up to the "rainy city" on Friday the 12th to meet up with some of our aunts, uncles, and cousins for a festive weekend. The weekend was filled with family visits from Portland to Tangent and capped with a Saturday evening holiday stage production directed by my Uncle Gray.

Friday afternoon we landed in Portland to a mix of rain and sleet. Skillful navigation and pure luck found us at the car rental desk a mere 40 minutes later where we picked up our sporty little Toyota Corolla.

The afternoon was packed with activities. To kick things off we made a bee-line for the Rouge Valley Ale House in NW Portland where we met up with our good friend Sandy Jones.

Lunch always takes longer when you are at an Ale House for some reason?

My mouth was watering the instant I walked in to the establishment and my head was dizzy with all of the immediate choices available to me!

Friday evening we met up with Lucy's cousin Jeanie Braun who graciously spent the next two days escorting us up and down the Willamette Valley from Tangent, where Lucy's Aunt Mary Pat lives on a beautiful grass seed farm, to the bustling streets of Portland where Uncle Gray's theater production was Saturday evening. We toured Jeanie's home/barn/business and met her energetic family. Friday night and Saturday night we stayed with Lucy's other cousin Katie Larsen, her husband Rob, and their two boys Ben and Will. During the weekend we also met up with Lucy's cousin Ruth Ann, her husband Marc, and two of their children.

To better understand Lucy's family structure you should spend approximately one hour on the main floor of Grand Central Train Station in New York City during rush hour. There are more people present than could ever be possibly counted and even though everyone is related they are all going in a million different directions at an infinite number of variable speeds. I believe this phenomenon is known as "controlled chaos"!

Saturday morning we drove Mary Pat down to her farm in near Tangent. Even though it was raining we had a wonderful tour of the farmhouse, gardens, and koi pond. Mary Pat fixed a delicious venison stew and we enjoyed a few hours around the fireplace in the great family room catching up with Martha Knapp, who is yet another cousin of Lucy's.

Saturday evening, seven of us in attended Portland's 14th annual production of The Christmas Revels. The theatrical production originated in England and is now performed annually in several different cities throughout North America during the Christmas season. My Uncle, who has been in theater since I was an "ankle biter," was the director of this year's production in Portland. We were treated to a wonderful evening of song, dance, and great laughs by my Uncle and his wonderful wife Sam. We met for dinner before the show and after the show we caught up with them at a downtown hotel for a few drinks.

The weekend went by quickly and the excitement was just beginning as Sunday morning we awoke to a massive snowstorm. We drove our sporty Corolla through the snow, hitting top speeds of 40 mph on I-205 back to the airport where we escaped on our Southwest jet back to Salt Lake City. Laughing as the wheels left the runway in Portland, we felt sorry for the residents below as the evening settled upon them and the snow turned to ice. Little did we know that back in Utah we had to shovel our own walks and driveway while sipping on Utah state mandated 3.2% alcohol beer. Thank you to everyone in Oregon who made our trip so memorable. We hope that the relentless winter weather will soon let up, and if you are ever in our neck of the woods please stop by and enjoy some of our "peculiar" beer with us.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Vegas, Baby!

Two weeks ago I cashed in on one of the few remaining perks as a state government employee - out of state travel for professional development. I attended the National Ground Water Association (yup, card carryin' member, and proud of it) annual Expo in Las Vegas. Granted, I had to offer to "pay" my own airfare on Southwest Airlines to get there, but my coworkers found it incredible that I was approved to go to Las Vegas. Something about this Mormon state not usually footing the bill for its employees to go to Sin City.
I had an enjoyable week staying at the Las Vegas Hilton. This is where Elvis played, ya know.

But the show here these days is Barry Manilow. Pass.

The hotel was nice, as was the pool on these 72 degree days.

But I spent most of my time in the Vegas convention center listening to talks and going to workshops on topics like: down hole geophysical logging, new techniques in direct-push sampling, dual rotary well drilling, hydrophilanthropy, and my favorite "repair a hand pump, save a life". I'm not kidding, that was the title of the talk. The talks were very applicable to what I do (except maybe the hand pump one) and I enjoyed the convention, but by Thursday night, I was ready to party. Below is a picture I snapped with my phone in one of the talks as I was waiting for it to let out so I could go meet Drew.

Drew flew down on Thursday and met me in the lobby of the hotel with flowers and wine, him still in his pilot's uniform. We felt like we were meeting for some secretive affair. After we changed into Vegas clothes (remember those new boots I got), we took a cab to the Venetian hotel and casino on the strip. The Venetian is really cool inside with a man-made canal that has those skinny romantic boats pushed along by singing Italians. We didn't do that, but instead we had a fine meal at an Italian restaurant. I had beet-filled raviolli. I don't normally eat beet-filled ravioli (who does?), but I was in the mood for something different, and I was rewarded by creamy, tasty pasta. Then, time for Blue Man Group. Quite the loud, rockin', weird, funny two hours of entertainment. They do amazing things with PVC pipe and paper hand towels. After the show, we strolled through the indoor mall, window shopping and people watching, admiring the fancy evening gowns in the windows and poking fun at the urbanites.

Friday I had one more talk in the morning, then Drew took me out to see the crash pad. The crash pad is a house operated by a middle-aged women where men rent a room a few nights a month. No, it is not what you are thinking. The men are all Southwest pilots who stay at the house instead of getting hotel rooms before or after their 3- or 4-day shifts start. I was able to determine that it is all on the up and up and I'm glad Drew has a friendly, comfortable place to stay when he has to overnight in LAS.

I don't normally enjoy places like Las Veags - they seem too fake and wasteful - but the conference was good, I got out of the mountain cold, and Drew and I had the chance to celebrate 4 years of being together there. It was a good trip. Thanks for having us, Vegas.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


Thanksgiving 2008 was really great. Drew miraculously had it off because he spent a good hour or two searching through the bid lines until he found one that gave him Thanksgiving off and that he had a shot at getting with is low new-captian seniority. Our good friends Heather and Steve Hales invited us to their home in Draper, a Salt Lake City suburb, to give thanks with them and their two cute daughters Madeiline and Morgan.

All the thankful people gathered around the Hale's dining room table. This was the first year the Hales have hosted a real Thanksgiving in their home, so we felt special. We were very grateful for their invitation, especially me since the last time I tried to cook a turkey 12 years ago it was still cold inside upon serving.
Steve carved up the honey-brined bird. It was fully cooked and delicious. We had pretty much all the traditional fixings, including sweet potatoes, homemade rolls, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and scalloped corn.And for desert, mmm, pies. I made the color-coordinated pumpkin and apple. I tried lard + butter in my crust this time. I was trying to get away from the hydrogenated oils in shortening, and Mom always made her crust with lard, so I figured that was the healthier, correct way to make pie crust. I didn't realize until later that the lard from the grocery store is made with hydrogenated fats. Oh well, they tasted good. Heather made the fabulous chocolate chip pecan you see here.

Plate o' pie. Three pieces. I felt ill afterward. Isn't that what Thanksgiving is all about? After the men cleaned up, we played Sorry and Whoonu, two fun games for the whole family.
Drew and I are glad to have good friends to celebrate our good fortune with. Happy Holidays, all!