Shawnee and I weren’t able to visit our families during the holidays because plane tickets were too expensive.  So we went to visit them a few weeks before Christmas.

My trip to Florida turned into a sports extravaganza.  My dad and I went to a Tampa Bay Bucs game, and the next day, my parents and I went to an Orlando Magic game.  The Bucs game was interesting, because they were so terrible.  The Bucs had only 15 yards of offense in the first half.  Their first play from scrimmage was an interception.  But we made up for it by showing up early to do a little tailgating (with Jimmy John’s) and then walking around the stadium, which I had never been to.

All in all, the Bucs game was a lot of fun and it was good to go to a football game with my Dad for the first time in at least 20 years (wow, that’s a crazy sentence).

Besides going to sporting events, we went to several great restaurants.  We went to Waltz’s Fish Shack in Madiera Beach.  That place is phenominal–they only cook what gets brought in fresh that day.  The menu is a chalkboard and they cross items off the chalkboard when they sell out.  They don’t sell cheeseburgers, they don’t have kids menus, and they don’t want you to ask for anything off the menu.  They are kind of asses about it, but the food is so good that you learn the ropes and put up with it.  We had amberjack spread, crab cakes, beer-steamed shrimp and lightly fried grouper.  Oh yeah, and they serve 16 oz glasses of wine.  That’s right, a pint glass of wine.  My dad and I made sure that we didn’t let my mom finish her glass.

Finally, we went to a Mediterranean restaurant in Orlando called Cedar’s.  It was surprisingly good.  We ate family style, having beef, chicken and lamb skewers, salad, hummus, babaganoush, tibouli, and lots of great bread.  My parents had never had Mediterranean food before and, although they were initially skeptical, they ended up loving the food.   I don’t think they ever knew the difference between hummus and babaganoush, but who is going to worry about the details.

One last thing, people say that we’re spoiled in San Diego with the weather–well, Floridians need to shoulder some of the blame as well.  My dad acted as if he was about to die of exposure when it was in the high 50’s and raining.  The gulf was 73 degrees when I was there, and you would have thought it was Lake Michigan in March.  73 degrees is the hottest temperature of the year for the Pacific in San Diego.  That being said, I did go for a hike on Christmas day in San Diego wearing a T-shirt.


I wait all week for Sunday

The last couple of weeks at the Barton-Merriman household have been consumed by football.   This is mostly because I was in the finals of my Amarillo fantasy football league this last week and Mike and I are really close to winning some big money in our suicide league.  On Sunday, I actually told him to stop doing dishes and come watch football.  Then, when he pointed out how beautiful it was outside and suggested that we go for a hike, I suggested that we make spinach and artichoke dip and drink instead.  Thankfully, he caved, and we began a day of gluttony.  We ate and watched the early games at home, then when they weren’t showing the late game I wanted to watch, we went to a sports bar, watched more football, and split a burger.  After that, we came home and joyously watched the Cowboys thwomp the Redskins and finished off the artichoke dip.  All the drinking, heavy food, and sports watching had us both feeling like we were living back in Chicago again.  On Monday we hit the gym and had salad for dinner.

Last year I finished second in my Fantasy league, but this year I didn’t have high hopes.  The draft was in Amarillo, which meant that I just got an auto-picked team.  But my totally mediocre bunch of misfits managed peak at just the right time though, and I pulled out a league victory.   I mostly owe my win to Aaron Rogers putting up an astounding 51 points in week 15 and to making a risky last minute  pick-up (Jerome Harrison) in week 16.  Woo Wee did that gamble pay off.

I didn’t do very well in my all ladies league though (another auto-draft hodgepodge), and Mike stunk it up in his office league. But we’ve still got some skin in the game for the last week of regular season NFL football.  There are only four teams left (including us) in our suicide league.  Each week everyone picks one team they think will win, but the catch is you can’t pick the same team more than once in a season.  Everyone paid $50 to enter the pool, and there was something like 55 people total in the beginning.  So, there is some major moola to be won.  Something like 60% goes to first (which is over $1500) 30% to second, and 10% to third.  Fourth doesn’t get paid anything.  Here is a picture of the remaining teams and their picks for this season.

Here’s how I think things are gonna shake out this week.

  • All four remaining teams have already picked most of the favorites: The Colts, The Saints, San Diego, Minnesota, and Baltimore.
  • No one has picked the Denver (13 pt. fav over Kansas City) or The Jets.  The Jets are listed as a 10 point favorite over Cincinnati, but I think that is a funky number.  Cincinnati has played well this season.  Maybe someone is out that I don’t know about.  I’m sure my husband, nicknamed “Mr. ESPN” by my dad the other day, will fill me in on why their edge is so large.
  • Everyone but us can still pick Jacksonville, but unbelievably Cleveland is listed as a 1.5 pt favorite over them.  I think that’s a funky number too.
  • Two teams  other than us can pick San Francisco (7.5 pt. fav. over St. Louis)

My prediction is that all four remaining teams will go with Denver, and we will all split the money four ways-win or lose.  Pocketing $675 or so a piece isn’t bad.  But someone could decide to try win it all by making a deliberately different pick, like The Jets or San Francisco.  I’m torn about whether I think this would be a good thing or not.  I think those teams are less likely to win than Denver, but I also want a guarantee of winning some money, even if it is split four ways.  It would really stink to make it this far and not win anything.  What do you think?

A Tip for Husbands

If you are buying a Christmas tree with your wife, and you notice that the trunk is bent at a 45 degree angle, stick to your guns when you say, “Maybe we should get a different tree.”  Instead, I listened to my wife, who said, “Ahhh,  how bad can it be.  I like this tree.”  2 hours later I was on all fours in the living room trying to cut a tree trunk at an angle with a rusty saw that was about 25 years old.

Some Pointers, Courtesy of Recent Events

A Tip for Christmas tree buyers: If you’re cutting down your own tree, avoid ones that are crooked.  Even if it is the fullest, prettiest tree on the farm, it will not magically straighten itself out in the stand.  I wish I had a picture of how silly ours looked, but our camera is broken.  So, here is a drawing instead.

A Tip for grant writers, from a grant reader: Citing the fact that sanctions, which prevented Jewish families from living in your organization’s neighborhood, have recently been lifted is not a good way to illustrate “diversity.”  In fact, it pretty clearly proves the opposite.

A Tip for infertility support group leaders: If you are trying to lure new members to your meeting with a raffle giving away free IVF cycles, don’t give the panelists telling “success” stories four raffle tickets each, just because you know them and think they’re cool, especially if you are only going to give one ticket to everyone else.  Because when the panelists, who all already have babies, win and keep every one of the $8,000 cycles that they don’t even want or need, it just makes all of us in the audience, who already felt like baby-less losers to being with, feel worse.  And not just a little worse.  I am talking like super-duper, whycan’t I catch a  break, Sylvia Plath is my hero, kind of worse.  Plus, it pretty much guarantees that we will never, ever, ever, not in a million years come back to your stupid meetings ever again.

And finally, a Tip for web savvy gardeners: Don’t give in to the temptation to brag about your garden on Facebook, because the minute you do, a freak storm is surely to sweep in and kill every tomato that you boasted about in your latest status update.